We rumbled down the worn dusty road passing families on mopeds, donkeys carrying bundles of grass and battered taxis. The silhouettes of rocky hills and desert dunes stood silently resolute against the clear night sky. The dark road brought us to a small farm village called Al Feshn three hours south of Cairo, Egypt. Driving through the village, we passed fields of grass, groves of banana trees and rows of shacks bordering the tranquil Nile River to the East. On the other side, I saw bright cafes with outdoor tables of old men drinking tea from glass cups and smoking – talking and watching the traffic go by. Numberless nightmarket street vendors pushed their rickety stands while boasting their various goods: fish, bread, watermelon and bananas.
QUARTER-FINALIST 2015 FTF TEEN TRAVEL WRITING SCHOLARSHIP
Down a dirty alley, we stopped before a rusted metal gate leading into a large cement building with clotheslines strung off the balconies and windows. My aunt, cousin and I got out of the car and our driver pulled out a key and opened the gate. It led to the tiny garage beneath The House of Deacons boys orphanage. My aunt and cousin come every year to the orphanage they founded but everything was new to me. All of the sudden I heard the pounding patter of feet down cement steps and we were suddenly surrounded by little boys speaking Arabic and smiling up at us. My aunt and cousin responded remarking at how the boys had grown and how they had missed them and received giggles and high-fives and hugs in return. They introduced me and I wished for the first of many times that I knew Arabic. I had only heard this language spoken among my extended family back home and of this place only in stories. Now I was in the mother land experiencing the life and past my family left years ago seeking the safety and freedoms of America.
The kids accepted me quickly even though they didn’t know me and I realized that I was one of them. Even though I didn’t know the language they still accepted me as family and that week I experienced more love and hospitality than any home I had ever visited in America. I smiled and relaxed as they all insisted on carrying our luggage up the four flights of stairs to our rooms.
As the water in the teapot began to boil and we settled down in the living room with the kids climbing all over us to take pictures with our phones and look eagerly at their work, I began to realize that my home and my family had just grown a little bit bigger. I would find at the end of that life-changing week that the culture I had experienced expanded not only my perspective on the world but also my love for its people and my hope for its future.
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