Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Revolution = Evolution

Tomorrow marks the one year anniversary of the January 25th Egyptian Revolution. The revolution hasn't ended by any means, but this day began it all. I remember being in Rhode Island, USA. I remember having friends from Egypt who I could not contact because they were banned from internet communication and I remember being worried. I remember spending every day, every night watching Al-Jazeera English and watching as the developments unfolded. Days of great emotion, days of sadness, days of chaos, and days of victory. These were incredible days that, though I was more than 5000 miles away, I felt a part of. I was praying everyday for the relief of the people. I prayed for their safety and hoped that they would recieve what they were striving so hard for. I had managed to convince some of my friends, (some of which were not even Muslim) to pray and fast during this time in hopes that Allah would answer our prayers and protect the innocent. And when that day came, February 11, 2011, and I heard the councilman stand at the post and announce Mubarak's official resignation, I burst into tears of happiness.

All my life I loved Egypt. Since I was a kid, I delved deeply into it's ancient history. To be honest, even in my adulthood I imagined Egypt such a different world from what it really is. I really had no idea what today's Egypt was like. I didn't know much about the recent history, religious history (outside of what I knew of the stories of Moses and Joseph) or any of that. I was mostly interested in what was buried in the sand. But after having met friends through facebook who lived there all their lives, my view of Egypt changed dramatically.

It was Egypt and my love of it, that inevitably lead me to investigate Islam. I learned that the people there were mostly Muslims. My friends from there were all Muslims. And they connected me to others all over the world who were Muslims. It began a chain reaction of life changes for me. And I never imagined, (well I dreamed, but that was as far as I thought it would go) that I would come to live in this country. I had imagined myself somewhere in my 40's or 50's finally having saved enough money to travel here and see all the sites for some vacation. But live here? And at my age? It was clearly destiny. A work of God's will alone.

When I look at how different Egypt is to the USA, I'm astounded by how the people here have managed to keep a good sense of humor and feel pride in their country. They have suffered at the hands of a terrible tyranny that most people could not realize. And this tyranny drove them to feel fed up with how little they've been given from their own governments and leaders. Hosni Mubarak was a bad guy. I don't know if he started out that way, but after he got a taste of power, it corrupted his very soul. The greed, lust, and hording of every good thing in Egypt took him to a level that he could never even realize himself. He horded foreign aid to fund God knows what. He stole, and deprived his own people, the people he was responsible for, of their basic needs. Here the cost of food is so high that it's amazing people have money left for anything else.

Women barely begin to scratch the surface of the working world because there are no jobs for them. They go to school, get an education, go to college, further that education and wind up becoming educated house wives. They have no chance to get out there and better themselves or continue their education because there is no point if there is no job to be had. And it's evident on the faces of the older generation that they are just bored and tired. It's been the same thing day after day, all their adult lives. I see the older women as I pass by in the car, sitting on their front steps with their hands holding their heads as if they've been defeated by time. And the younger women, full of hope and motivation, go out and do their schooling, and hope that they can beat this endless cycle that their mothers before them went through. And now, there is at least a glimmer of hope that they really can beat the cycle and move forward. All thanks to the revolution.

Not only the women, but the men have also struggled too. My husband is a mechanical engineer. He has a good education, good solid career, and yet he doesn't get even half the pay that he should get. The economy makes it impossible for even doctors, lawyers, engineers and other highly educated workers to really get what they work so hard for. And it's all thanks to the lack of what we call, economical trickle. Everything costs SO much money, and people don't get paid enough to handle the inflation. But there is hope, all thanks to the revolution.

When I say revolution = evolution, I'm speaking the truth. The educational systems are not up to the same standards as other countries such as China, USA, Japan, Malaysia..etc. Here the educational system is in desperate need of reform. And for this country to evolve, it needs the support of it's people, working together to aim for the most important things. Education is key. And this revolution has opened up the door for a million wonderful changes, if only the people can maintain their motivation and not give in to threats from the governing military council, and the remaining lackies of Mubarak's regime.

The elections are starting to begin. This is a great great thing! And it will be free and fair! Already the parliament has put almost 50% of the Muslim Brotherhood in the seats. This has been a subject of much controversy and for good reason, but one thing it surely and clearly symbolizes is change! The Peace and Justice party seems to have a lot to say, moreso than most of the other runners up for leadership in this country. And it seems a great percentage of the youth of Egypt supports them. So let Allah decide, I say. If they make it, then it is what is meant to be, just like the revolution itself. For better or worse, God only knows the reasons and God only knows the design. We can only pray for the best. I wish for every Egyptian, the very best and fairest of leaders. I wish for every Egyptian, the strongest of faith. And I wish for them to fear Allah only, not the military council, not the results, not the police, or anyone else. And I pray for a great and opportune beginning to a new era of Egypt's history. Insha ALLAH, Ameen!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Quick Introduction

My name is Shannon Lee Elghandor. Formerly known as some random symbol.... just kidding, that's Prince. I'm also Shannon Lee Hayward (my maiden name.) I moved to Egypt in August 17, 2011. And well, life has changed! And so has my aspect ratio of life and love and the world at large. Believe it or not, I met my husband on facebook. There I was minding my own business in Rhode Island, USA. Just net surfing, when a charming Egyptian guy started messaging me. You know, I didn't even respond to him for like 2 months after I accepted his friend request. But after some time, I started talking to him. And my head started spinning. I kept thinking, "What am I doing, he's more than 5000 miles away, I'm broke, no job, no idea what's coming next in my life which is in shambles, and here I am talking away to this man. What am I crazy???" But did that stop me? Noooo... of course not. The heart wants what the heart wants. And though my brain refused to believe it, though my usual way of thinking was to automatically be a pessimist and strongly doubt the likelihood, I found myself on a plane, landing in Cairo, getting hustled by cab drivers for my American riches (heh, yeah right, I had 35 bucks to my name), and meeting my fiance (at the time) at the front counter of the overcharging cafe.

Of course I had dreamed up the scenario a bit differently. I imagined coming down the escalator and seeing him before he saw me, standing there waiting. And being all a flutter in my stomach with butterflies. I imagined us slowly approaching each other for that first hug. But as fate would have it, his car broke down about a mile outside the airport and he wound up arriving late. I paid some cab driver 10 POUNDS, oy vey, to use his cell phone for 30 seconds to call him and find out why he hadn't arrived yet. And he wasn't sure how long it would take him to get to me at the time. What's more, we road the 3 hours to his family home in that car, which was on a flat bed. The bumps in the Egyptian roads filled with speed bumps and holes nearly killed my stomach which was in soooo much pain, I can't describe from the bad airplane food, my condition of IBS, and of course, nerves. But toward the last stretch, he and his sister road with me in the front of the tow truck, and he put his arm around me, and it just felt like home. And despite the craziness of that night's circumstances, it was quite familiar to me. Because just about my entire life was just like this! Always a misadventure that made for the fondest of memories. And so my life in Egypt began... To be continued.