Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Reply Hazy--Try Again

Hmmm…. February again. Last year at this time I was sitting in Washington, DC, wondering what would happen in Egypt, whether I would be able to return, how bad things would get. As it turned out, of course, I was back in Alexandria and on the job before the month was out. Everything seemed to be back to normal. That was until Alex was evacuated from Tokyo as a result of the earthquake. Then Steph was sent to London to find out why his heart wouldn’t stop palpitating. By the end of 2011, less and less seemed clear, not only on the Egyptian political scene, but also on a personal level. As I began this new year, the number of questions that I had with no clear answers seemed to be overwhelming, unmanageable and flat out depressing…until I remembered the most tried and true method of predicting the future…the Magic 8 Ball!

Now, I don’t know how many of you have ever actually owned one of these handy prognosticators, but those of you who have understand the awesome power of that black orb with its oracle-like window and multisided die floating within bluish fluid. How did I know that my middle school crush liked me (It is decidedly so) or that I would grow up to be a rich lawyer (Without a doubt)? Just shake the Magic 8 Ball, flip it over and wait for the answer to appear! Whether you wanted to know if you would have seven children (Don’t count on it) or whether you should stay mad at your best friend for another day (My reply is no) the Magic 8 Ball was there to guide you. So why didn’t I think of this before? I just needed to pick up my Magic 8 Ball to predict my future—

Will Steph leave Afghanistan for a new job this spring? (You may rely on it).

After over two years in Maymenah and having seen more than his share of action, he is overdue to leave and find a more peaceful and less stressful career. Not that he hasn’t had some real satisfaction from taking this challenging position, but enough is enough. He is now beginning to crank up his contacts and look into the opportunities for 2012 and beyond. Will his new job be in London, Paris, Florence, Athens, Istanbul or another fabulous European city? (Outlook not so good). Will it have a decent international school for me to teach in? (Cannot predict now). Will it be less developed than our past postings? (Better not tell you now). Will we be back living happily together no matter where it is? (You may rely on it)!

Will Alex graduate from Temple University Japan in May? (Signs point to yes).

While things can always happen to derail academic performance, Alex is well on track to graduate from college this year. As I am sure you all remember, that is both exhilarating and frightening at the same time. He is hoping to stay in Japan a little while longer, with JET or another English teaching program. Will he be gainfully employed in June? (Ask again later). Will we all be proud of him in achieving his goal of graduating from university in Japan? (It is certain).

Is there an internship in a Portuguese speaking country for a sophomore international relations major? (Most likely)

Adrie, of course, is actively pursuing this question without waiting for some stupid parlor game to give her the answer! Her time at the University of Edinburgh has been well spent, but she is impatient to get a “real job”—one that does not involve serving food or pints to tourists and preferably one that does not require her to be nice to large groups of children. Will she find a decent summer job? (As I see it, yes). Will it actually be a paid position? (Don't count on it). Will she keep at it until she finds the ideal job? (Yes – definitely)

Of course, the real imponderables come to me as I finish out my time here in Egypt. It is not so much the issue of where I will be going (see answers to question 1 above), but of where this country I am leaving behind is headed.

Will the Egyptian government take steps toward creating a free and fair democratic society? (Cannot predict now).

With the initial elections over at the end of December, and with no real protests or riots ensuing, it seemed that the revolution last January was finally having some measure of success. Yet, in recent weeks, it is clear that the undercurrent of distrust in the military, the failure to provide any significant economic relief and a growing concern with the potential power of the conservative parties leaves the country without a clear path towards democracy. Will the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafists take the nation down a path of greater societal restrictions? (Concentrate and ask again). Will the relationship with the United States be as friendly as it was during the Mubarak regime? (Outlook not so good). Will the Egyptian people continue to work to defining and redefining the goals of the revolution? (Yes).

Whew…I am feeling much better now that my most important questions have been answered by the source of all wisdom, the all-knowing, all seeing Magic 8 Ball. Will all of these things turn out as predicted? (Very doubtful). Will 2012 turn out to be another exciting, interesting, challenging and unpredictable year for the Smith clan? (Outlook good). O.K, I can’t resist one last burning question….Was there really a shooter on the grassy knoll? (Reply hazy, try again)