Saturday, April 5, 2008

Where roads converge

If thou wilt be observant and vigilant, thou wilt see at every moment the response to thy action. Be observant if thou wouldst have a pure heart, for something is born to thee in consequence of every action.

Much have I seen and known; cities of men
And manners, climates, councils, governments,
Myself not least, but honour'd of them all;
And drunk delight of battle with my peers;
Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy.
I am part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethro'
Gleams that untravell'd world, whose margin fades
For ever and for ever when I move.
-Excerpt from 'Ulysses' by Alfred Tennyson

It's hard to believe I've already been in Cairo two months; that my time here is more than halfway done. Sabrina and I were eating dinner together the other night and talking about how as you get older, you absorb more of the world and find more homes away from home. We talked about how it's hard to feel grounded. When you're in one place, a part of you wants to be someplace else. When you're in the other place(s), you want to be back where you've been. Cairo has been amazing thus far, but I miss my water and trees. I know when I get back to the states, though, I'll want to be right back here in this crazy city. I love traveling and intend on doing a lot more of it in the next few decades. But I've realized that part of being a good traveler is embracing the inherent state of limbo. I want to be here, and there, and in between. At the same time, though, if each place latches onto me a little bit, I can't help thinking that I'll become more rooted; that I'll grow more connective tissue between me and the earth. It's comforting to know there's so many places I could belong.

As of right now, there's no doubt in my mind that Cairo is where I'm supposed to be. This last month has just been one long string of it's-a-small-world-after-alls.
Case in point 1:
-When I went to Luxor and Aswan, I met someone named Jack. He also happens to be from Washington State, and goes to Whitman. I only know about five people who go to Whitman, but he knew all of them. He's from Spokane, but knew where Mercer Island is. In fact, it turns out that his aunt, Kathy Morrison, was my Elementary School principal. Go figure.

Case 2:
Before I left for Cairo, my friend from Seattle, Kate, told me her friend Melanie from Kenyon College was coming to Cairo on the same program. I hadn't tracked her down, but talked about her again when I went to go visit Kate in Istanbul. A week later I went to Luxor and was talking to some new people on the roof of our hostel. One girl and I started chatting, and then she said, "Oh, I'm Melanie, by the way." I asked if she was Melanie Butcher (which she was), and then told her I was one of Kate Gunby's best friends from home and that she had told me all about Melanie before I came! It was so weird that I ran into her just a week after I'd flown a few countries away to see Kate.

Case 3:
When I went to Dahab and Sinai last weekend, there was a kid named Marshall in my group. Apparently he goes to Amherst. I asked if he knew Sam Grausz (from my high school), and he said that yes, Sam was in fact his freshman year roommate. Crazy.

Case 4:
There was a case 4, and it was really good...but I forget it. Crap. Maybe I'll remember later.

It's just amazing to me that people who know people from all different parts of my life have ended up here. Not only is it a small world, but it seems like all roads converge in Cairo, at least for the moment. Interesting how little twists of fate set you up for that. Part of me wants to be elsewhere, but for the most part, I know this is exactly where I want to, and where I should, be. It's nice to realize that in the moment instead of looking back in hindsight.


spelperson said...

It ain't Tennyison or even tennis anyone but being on the road can be a strain at times. Perhaps the goal is to find what you are seeking where you are. Or what you are not seeking.

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
by Graham Nash

You who are on the road
Must have a code that you can live by
And so become yourself
Because the past is just a good bye.
Teach your children well,
Their father's hell did slowly go by,
And feed them on your dreams
The one they picks, the one you'll know by.
Don't you ever ask them why, if they told you, you will cry,
So just look at them and sigh and know they love you.
And you, of tender years,
Can't know the fears that your elders grew by,
And so please help them with your youth,
They seek the truth before they can die.
Teach your parents well,
Their children's hell will slowly go by,
And feed them on your dreams
The one they picks, the one you'll know by.
Don't you ever ask them why, if they told you, you will cry,
So just look at them and sigh and know they love you.
Mr. Spelperson