Memory and time are capricious subjects. As this semester comes to a close, I find myself grappling with conceptions of time. I still have another semester and potentially a summer here in Egypt, but I feel as if time is slipping through my fingers and memories are flowing like hair in the wind behind me. In total I have now spent the majority of six months in the Middle East (specifically Jordan and Egypt), and it astounds me the amount I have experienced, learned and grown. I find myself sometimes reaching out at the intangible memories flowing behind me, trying with all my power not to forget the details. It has been difficult understanding that for my summer experience in Amman, everything is now memory, just as Egypt will be sometime soon.
I am not living the summer moments any more. I am no longer laughing with my fellow Critical Language Scholars before the language partner hour. I am no longer immersed so wholly in Arabic, even though I am in an Arabic-speaking country. The magic I experienced in Jordan is no longer a daily component of my life. This summer in Amman, I fell in love with people and places. I left part of my heart in Jordan and willingly gifted another part to some of my friends. There are not words in Arabic, English or any other language to describe everything that happened and its effects. Something about the experience has resonated with me on a level like no other in my life. I cannot explain the reasons for this. While there were numerous challenges, I would not trade any second. Upon return to America in the brief time before I left for Egypt, I acutely felt post-trip depression (along with reverse culture shock). My ideas of home were challenged. My heart was aching for Jordan and my friends. After two weeks, the feelings started to subside and I tried to focus on my upcoming adventure—living in Egypt.
I have lived in Egypt for longer than I spent in Jordan. However, if I am being completely honest, I still feel more attached to Amman. Perhaps this is because I am currently still in Egypt and am not leaving soon. Perhaps this is because in Jordan every weekend my friends and I would attempt to explore as much as possible. We had the luxury of trotting about the country, camping in Wadi Rum and Dana nature reserve, canyoning in three different wadis, scuba diving in Aqaba, swimming in the Dead Sea, going to a concert in ancient ruins, and gallivanting up and down Rainbow Street (not to mention the plenty of other excursions). We studied constantly and school was extremely intense, but we also made sure to make the most of our time in any way we could. I mainly stay around my neighborhood on the weekends and study here in Egypt. I will probably not see Alexandria before the end of the semester. I will not have even explored the various sites in Cairo. Each weekend I make the excuse that I need to study and I will explore later. I rely on the extended time I have in this country. Although, in doing so, I have found myself at the end of the semester wondering how I have not connected with Egypt in the same intense capacity as I did with Jordan. This begs the question of, do I need constant travel to connect? Was it just the perfect combination of things in Jordan that made my experience so phenomenal? Am I just not removed enough from my time here in Egypt to understand its full impact?
That all being said, I have definitely connected with Egypt. Cairo has become my home. While not traveling every weekend, I have had the amazing (and very privileged) opportunity to travel to Luxor, Aswan, Dahab and a couple of archeological sites. My time here has been filled with great memories with fantastic people. My Arabic has progressed, my appreciation for different ideologies and lifestyles has gained a deeper comprehension, and my confidence and self-understanding has increased. My fond memories of Egypt are intermingling with the memories of Amman and adding to the tangled mess of laughter and adventure. I am astonished at how my time here in Egypt has flown. I know it will continue to do so, and I hope to have a firmer grasp on making the most of my time. I hope to do more research, get more involved and explore more next semester in order to fulfill this desire. I do not want my hands to be reaching behind me trying for naught to relive the past. Likewise, I do not wish to be pining for the future. I strive to find a way to embrace the present and live for the moments I will never have the chance to relive again. While I find reflection an integral part of learning, I equally value a full clasp of the contemporary period, both the happiness and the pain.
I hope to never forget the last six months. I know the emotions have left tattoos on my spirit. My heart is covered with the times of joy and friendship, fights with misery and loneliness, and an overall life of adventure.
Until next semester, Cairo!