The first days of going back to work are done.
I won't lie and say that I was 100% for leaving my home. Yes, Egypt feels safer now. Last week didn't see mass killings in the street and that's a positive but...the bar is set pretty low if that's all we have to accomplish!
I didn't feel like riding alone in a taxi even if it was through a safe part of town. Watching the news too much makes you feel like nothing is safe. So, I gauged what was real, what was not, and where I stood between the two.
One real deal is that I could leave all together. I had dismissed the idea quickly in the beginning but then the situation got worse so I had to admit that I could make the decision to leave Egypt. Many people were telling me to consider it so I researched the situation from all angles. I made phone calls and looked up flight tickets. Being informed is the best way for me to handle difficult times.
I called one of my former schools. That was difficult. There was a very young-sounding HR Director on the other end. I explained how I was calling from Egypt and thinking about returning to the States due to the problems here. When I referenced the difficulties here a second time, she had to ask,
"I'm sorry but I'm not sure what's happening in Egypt. Is there something going on?"
I was dumbfounded. "Yes," I tried my best to push down my hysterical disbelief and be even-toned, "A thousand people were killed in the last week due to violence following a military coup."
She told me that I could not work at my former school as a classroom teacher any more without a teaching license. I could not earn my full potential. I would be working as an assistant and that would hurt like hell. It would be a financial and emotional drain. I am 45 years old and I have reached a career high so to crash down to where I started at 21 would nearly kill me.
I started to dig around the international job forums like I had in 2009. I could leave to work in another country. However, I really don't want to be out of the frying pan and into the fire. After researching options, I decided that I only wanted to stay within my school's international network of sister schools. I can count on their quality and on Mr. Boo's continuity of education. When I looked at their school locations, I narrowed it down to four then one. Could I simply ask for a switch?
Having found the one I would go to if I felt I have to leave Egypt, I asked a discrete friend about that option. I was told that each school is very autonomous. I can't expect help with a transfer. In fact, I'd be burning a bridge here to do it. For those of you keeping track, that's two fire metaphors within two paragraphs. Well, here's one more: those who play with fire get burned. No, I don't want to ruin my solid relationship here for hopes of another place which may or may not work out.
Does that mean that I gave over to staying in Egypt? In this moment, I am here.
It is safe enough for me to get to work and get back. We've made arrangements to use one good driver we know instead of taking a chance on strangers like we used to. When school starts up again there will be the bus again every morning.
I do feel that all hell could break loose with all the tension in the air. I don't feel good with what's happened to people, churches, masjids and museums---not to mention democracy. It has hurt me to be a part of this country's pain but I think running away would hurt me more.
I am staying through the school year because I signed a contract in good faith, I have a home here and a life that I've been building for four years---though it feels more like 45. It feels like my whole life has been building up to this place in this moment. I have accepted that I'm here and that it's a conscious choice to be here.
I am not a helpless victim in this situation. Letting go of the victim role means grabbing the reins of your life and yanking yourself back to be on the right path. You are capable of re-visioning where you are with a better understanding of where you want to go.
Ask yourself: Do you want to be where you are now? If yes, then embrace it and be grateful for it. If no, then what doesn't feel good? Actively explore those dreams and doubts otherwise they will nag you and pull you down into negativity about where you are now.
We are so used to the Western thought of ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE! No, it isn't. Not everything is possible nor should it be. That engenders insanity. Let go of feeling endless. It's not healthy. See life as having limitations because that's reality.
Islam is a lot about limiting ourselves. Non-Muslims don't understand how accepting our limitations actually frees us to go further than before. I liken it to being rooted in good soil.
Before, I was a seed floating in the air.
I had all the potential for growth but no place to land. Islam gave me that foundation so I could establish my authentic self. I landed in Egypt and I've been successfully putting down roots here. I want to accept and honor that process.
Do you get me?
So, I have accepted where I am. I am in Egypt. I am teaching here this year.
Because this is a very volatile time, I realize there could be a severe emergency in the country at a moment's notice. I have made a "Plan B". I have our passports. I have my husband's OK to leave if we need to. I have AbuBoo's OK to take Mr. Boo out of Egypt if I need to. I have my mother's understanding of what I would do.
Soon, I will get paid for August and I will put aside enough cash for plane tickets. In an emergency, don't count on credit cards. Inshahallah, I will better organize our important papers in case I would ever need to run in a rush. I will also write up lists of what we would take in a couple of suitcases to survive a sudden move. I hope to God we never have to go through it.
The beauty of going through this process of identifying what is real and not, researching possibilities, and planning contingencies is that at the end of it I can release my fears for the future. I am back at work being productive (more or less) and I'm happy to be there.
I really appreciated how my school's administration addressed us in our first meeting. Yes, they admitted, there are huge problems in Egypt now which are long-standing and on-going. It is quieting down and hopefully will stay so. Our job, as educators, is not to solve what's happening outside of the school; we can't. What we can do is to push ourselves back into our roles as shapers of society.
We will be at work every day as previously planned, though the children will not arrive until September 15. That's a two-week delay due to security fears. When they come back inshahallah, we will have to cram two-weeks of material into them by
staying half-an-hour later each day. It is what it is. At least they ruled out coming for 10 consecutive Saturdays! working seven Saturdays and giving up two days from our Eid Al-Adha break. It is what it is.
Our school system was founded in Lebanon. That is a country torn apart by war for 15 long, hard years. Did the schools stop? No. There were bombings and killings AND school. You can't stop education because it is the future hope of a nation. Teaching is a noble profession and making the choice to teach during country-wide chaos is not an easy choice but it is the right choice.
It is the right choice for me.