Marilyn Shapley

Globe Americas

“I have commuted between the world’s capitals:
Travel is no longer an achievement;
I must begin to do meaningful things.”
Dennis Brutus, I Have Commuted between the World’s Capitals

Thank God there are writers like Dennis Brutus to express the words bottled up inside as I try to describe what this year has meant to me. I know I expected more than just the stereotypical picture by the Sphinx with the pyramids in the background, but I greatly underestimated what I would take away from Cairo.

I’ve taken the hardest classes of my life, and I didn’t collapse. I discovered toilet paper is a privilege, not a right. I found out talking slowly and loudly will not improve my communication skills. I now have a friend to stay with in a lot more countries around the world. I can almost speak Arabic. I can pretend to know a little about refugee issues. I can even shake my hips like a belly dancer if Nancy Egram (an Egyptian singer) comes on the radio.

But, as important and memorable as these things are, they are not the greatest thing I take from my time in Cairo. What I really learned here is how little I know about the world. My dreams have grown exponentially since coming here, and not just in terms of where I picture myself traveling in the future. Being here has forced me to look at my plans for my education, job, even the friends I want to have, and the bar has been raised higher than it was before. I will take back a humble, hardworking spirit. It is a spirit that discovered the world is as big or small as I want it to be, and now I will reach for the stars and not just the sky. “I must begin to do meaningful things.”

Marilyn Shapley
Egypt, 2005-06