We've been following the rapidly changing scene in Egypt and the impact it's had on Egyptians now living in the Portland area.
For Erica Mandell, a native Portlander, the protests in Egypt have been right out her front door. A 2005 graduate of Lincoln High School, Mandell has been working in Cairo as a teacher and blogging about the dramatic events in Egypt.
Mandell, who left Egypt last weekend, has been kind enough to share her impressions of what's been happening in Egypt. Below is her account:
As a 23-year-old Portlander caught up in the revolutionary fervor in Cairo, Egypt, I basked in the glory of finding myself in the right place at the right time. That said, I questioned my role in what is an intimate moment for Egypt. After getting over the initial blush, I have immersed myself in this historic movement (as a spectator) and shared in the experience with the Egyptian people.
I was raised in Portland and am proud to call the Rose City my home. Yet, after graduating from Lincoln High School in 2005, my academic pursuits took me across the country and then even farther. I moved to Cairo in August where I was hired as a high school English teacher. This year however, I learned more than I ever taught.
The Jan. 25, Police Day protests caught the country off guard, in a good way. An Egyptian coworker told me it was proof that everyone was thinking the same thing, but were not convinced their thoughts could become a popular movement. The sheer numbers then that poured onto the streets emboldened a people used to limiting their political concerns to private conversations.
Even when events on the street were violent (tear gas is worse than it sounds), and burning cars filled the sky with the smoke of self-determination and necessary change, what shone through an often dark backdrop was the shining star of Egyptian community. In response to violent acts, protesters shouted “peacefully, peacefully.” In Tahrir Square, families organized make-shift picnics, offering food to strangers and even setting up a make-shift tea shop.
As a foreigner it was imperative I not wear out my welcome. Monday, Jan. 31 and Tuesday, Feb. 1 I had several people approach me in Tahrir Square to simply thank me for being there. I was humbled by their gratitude and could only ever manage a meager “you’re welcome.” Downtown on Thursday, Feb. 3, however, a distinct shift had taken place. Walking down the street prompted Egyptians to stop me in my tracks and ask for information about my intentions, my destination, and my nationality.
I would like to be optimistic and side with the people in assuring everyone that President Mubarak will step down shortly. Yet, Egyptians are family people. It just so happens these protests come at a time when schools enjoy a nationwide two-week holiday. If protests start to disrupt the school year and families can no longer assure routine for their children, I fear the sympathy of the public will expire. There are however enough committed protesters to carry on the fight for some time to come.
The news analysts are correct in describing the situation here as “fluid and dynamic.” The mood here changes like shadows on a sun dial. Part of the mystery surrounding this pivotal time is that as the mood changes so do the forecasts for the country’s future. Whatever the result, these events will have far reaching implications for the country, the region, and U.S. foreign policy for the foreseeable future.
As a long-time student of international affairs, I initially found the protests thrilling, but what started as an adventure soon became a very humbling experience. It has been both a privilege and a responsibility to witness my Egyptian counterparts fight for rights I already enjoy.
(The photo above was taken on Feb. 4 in Tahrir Square by Taylor Barr of Lake Oswego.)