Well, I lied. Before I came to Egypt, I promised everyone (especially my concerned little brother) that I would NOT go to Tahrir Square. But, the Egyptian museum is there. And Mrs. Lantz is the definition of adventurous. So, on Thursday, we went to Tahrir Square! Needless to say, downtown Cairo was very safe and peaceful on Thursday. All rioting happens on Friday and Saturday. If we hadn’t gone that day, I would not have been able to go because the one-year anniversary of the Revolution is this Wednesday, the 25th, and it will be unsafe after that date. Zach, the Lantzes “adopted” South Sudanese refugee son, arrived on Wednesday so he accompanied us on our excursion!
The most direct way to get to downtown Cairo is by taking the metro. Men and women ride on separate cars, as women are viewed as inferior in the Islamic culture. The stench in the cars made us all want to puke, but we held it together. People pack themselves into these moving pieces of steel. You think the New York subways are crowded…You have no idea.
So, after eight stops we reached our desired station called: Saddat where we pushed and shoved our way out of the door. ”Fresh” air never tasted so good!
Upon exiting the subway, the staring began. Not only am I white, I’m a YOUNG white girl. Zach is clearly a black African boy, and Mrs. Lantz is a white and over-protective momma bear. We made quite the picture! So, the men would stop and check me out as I walked, they came up to me and tried to talk to me, and if they passed me, I could feel their eyes on me. Mrs. Lantz prepared me for all of this, so it didn’t rattle me too much. And, if any of them so much as let a peep escape their lips, Mrs. Lantz screamed “LA!!!” (which means, “no” in Arabic) at them. Zach also went into “big brother mode” on our adventure. It rocked. He speaks and understands Arabic so he was getting really frustrated about the comments men were making about he and I. He never hesitated to reply and make them shut up. I always had Mrs. Lantz and Zach on either side of me. I felt like the President of the United States. Body guards and everything! :)
Standing in Tahrir Square felt so incredible. The spirit of revolution filled the air, even if no visible action was taking place at the moment. As I walked around, I saw buildings I had been seeing pictures of for the past year. I knew I tread where men had died, women raped, and freedom fought for. This knowledge instilled in me a deep thankfulness for the freedom I am able rest in back in the good ol’ US of A.
Tharir constantly teams of action and entrepreneurship. Check out this hot tea stand! The vendor will lug this container around once it’s done steeping and sell it to people by the cup:
We walked to the Egyptian Museum, wandered around the courtyard, and took pictures of the outside of the museum. We ended up not going into the museum because we ran out of time, but here’s a picture of Zach and I in the courtyard! Behind us is an obelisk, the museum, and the Institute of Egypt which mysteriously caught fire back in December.
We took a taxi home so Zach didn’t have to deal with being treated horribly by the Egyptian men for twenty minutes twice in one day.
Here’s one last picture of Tahrir Square I captured as we left:
Turns out my problem of reading too many books at the same time has followed me across the pond…
Went back to FOUND today. My four girls saw me, shouted my name, and hugged me. Such joy. Warmed my heart.
Taught multiplication and mourned the learning gaps and lack of foundational knowledge. Must press on! Baby steps!
Pictures will come soon. Promise!
For the Lantzes, generosity is a lifestyle. It’s become so ingrained into their being that their kids don’t even realize that how their parents have chosen to give of their time and money is radically unusual. Naturally, the parents have included their children in their acts of giving so the kids feel ownership in what Mr. & Mrs. Lantz are doing as well.
About six months after the Lantzes moved to Cairo, Mrs. Lantz and their oldest daughter, Ariel, stumbled upon FOUND, a school in Cairo for Sudanese refugee children. The story of how the connection happened is full of divine prompting and humble listening and obedience.
As a trained Montessori teacher in teaching young children to read, Mrs. Lantz knew she could bring her skills and expertise to the school. However, this is when the battle started. The Lantzes knew they did not want to run the school, simply come along side it. Because in reality, domination holds no hope for future generations and leaves no room for independent stability. So, Mrs. Lantz began praying fervently about which grade she was supposed to teach and what material they should learn. God faithfully and clearly answered her prayers.
Obviously, a school, just like any other organization, requires funding. If funding is not provided, the children don’t get to eat lunch. The sad reality is, for some of the children, lunch is the only meal they get to eat all day. Hunger, as you can imagine, is not conducive to learning and thinking. It leads to weak immune systems and low energy levels.
Yesterday, I went to FOUND for the first time. I loved it. Because there were five of us native English speakers, we got to split the 7th graders up into groups of four and work with them on English. I worked with a group of beautiful girls who were 14, 15, 16, 17. the 14 & 15 year old spoke English relatively well, and the the other two did not. So we kind of scrapped the lesson I was supposed to teach (me going against the grain, shocking, I know!) and just talked to each other. I asked them about their stories, and they asked me about mine. It’s funny how stories provide instant common ground. Everyone has a beginning. Everyone’s on a journey. The hurt in some of the girls’ eyes was heart breaking. But the desire to fight and learn definitely tried to prevail. Light & darkness. Prayerfully, light wins, Christ is revealed, and the darkness is not ignored, but spoken of so healing may begin.
I am going to start with this statement: you are not a brave driver. I don’t care what you say. I don’t care how long you’ve been driving for. I don’t care if you live in L.A. If you live in the US, you are a woos on the road. I honestly don’t even care if you’re a NASCAR driver.
I can say this because yesterday, a BP driver drove me to Maadi from the Cairo Airport.
The highways here have four lanes painted on them. But they’re really just to make the roads look cool. So we’re driving along and I look out the window at one point. ”There’s no way.” I think to myself. So I begin counting. I got to eight. Eight cars were driving next to each other. Two were metro size buses and one was a dump truck. I could have shaken the hand of the guy in the car next to me. However, he probably wouldn’t have seen my hand because they seriously never look before switching positions on the road. Notice I said “positions” not “lanes”. I am convinced everyone here who drives has about eight pairs of eyes. Freaking insane.
Then, there are round abouts. Twelve cars across, persistent honking, pedestrians walking through the traffic, motorbikes weaving in and out, and dump trucks cutting across traffic at 60 degree angles. PURE MADNESS.
Honking=car speak. As you approach any area where a car could potentially hit you/not see you, you honk. If you’re mad, you honk. If you’re frustrated and want to squeeze your car into the inch of pavement that is showing, you honk. It’s awesome. When I go home, I’m going to honk. ALL THE TIME. Just kidding. I’d probably get arrested or something…
Stop signs are few and far between, and if there is a stop sign, it’s ignored. But everybody does it so it doesn’t mess up the traffic “flow”. Yes, quotes. Because “flow” is a stretch for how the traffic works here.
But honestly, if we lived here, we’d do the same thing. We’d make it work. We’re all human. We just happen to live somewhere where people decided roads should be organized and rules should be followed/enforced.
So, walking like an Egyptian is fun and harmless. Driving like an Egyptian is a whole ‘nother thing. I only recommend it if you just robbed a bank and need to make a quick getaway.
14 days. In 14 days, I’ll be passing through airport security in Cairo, Egypt. Before you freak out and condemn my parents for letting me go, give me a chance to explain…
I’ll be living with our dear family friends, the Lantzes, who work for BP. They’ve made their home in Maadi, which is 20 minutes from Tahrir Square (where all of the violence and rioting is happening). BP closely monitors the political situation and as soon as it becomes too dangerous for their workers to live in a country, BP charters planes and gets them (including house guests) out of there. This happened to the Lantzes last January during the revolution.
Now, onto more exciting things! While I’m there, I’ll be continuing school through dual-credit online community college classes. However, a majority of my time will be spent volunteering at FOUND school and a local orphanage. FOUND is a school for Sudanese refugees. The Lantzes are very involved at this school and I can’t wait to join their involvement.
Needless to say, words cannot begin to express how excited I am to leave. As much as I will miss home and everything that comes with it, I feel beyond blessed to have this opportunity. I can’t begin to imagine how God will use the trip to influence and mold me.
Nevertheless, I don’t want the “influencing” to begin and end with me. Enter - this blog. I’ll be posting here at least once or twice a week, sometimes more - if time allows. I will write about my experiences and voice my thoughts. Partly for my sake, so I have some way of remembering the details, in case my memory fails to. But partly these posts will be for you. My prayer is that by reading about my adventures, you’ll be inspired to take adventures of your own. Whether it be across the world or in your community. Regardless of the location or your age, I know God can use you in might ways.
Thanks for reading & much love!
P.S. I know I will witness a lot of hurt while I’m there, so I will also post prayer requests.