It has come to my attention that I have been remiss in explaining to many of you (friends and acquaintances, that is) what the eff I’m doing in Cairo. One might even go so far as to call it a “Frequently Asked Question.” So, here it goes: Adrienne, my girlfriend since the Ides of May, 2006, through a sequence of events, the telling of which I will leave to her, was offered a tenure-track position teaching Anthropology at the American University in Cairo. Initially, before this was a formal offer, neither of us had seriously considered moving to Cairo. Again, I’ll leave the details to Adrienne.
However, upon meeting some of the faculty from AUC at the annual American Anthropological Association conference last year (which she is attending a year later as I write this), and admiring their collegiality and lack of rancor, she became more excited about the possibility. She was worried about the antagonistic internal politics found in many Anthropology departments. I was still rather skeptical about the idea, but I secretly wondered what it would be like to live in Egypt and privately sought to learn more about the place to attempt to discern if I could handle it. I became fascinated with the idea and eventually admitted so to Adrienne, having previously expressed some reluctance.
There was some discussion of the perks I would be able to receive if she was a professor at AUC, including free courses at the university, housing paid for by the AUC (they went overboard on that count) and free annual trips back home to the US (or anywhere that would cost the same). After one such discussion, I asked, “So, does that mean we have to get married.” “Yeah…” she said, fearing the reaction. I said something to the effect of, “Oh, well.” Thus were we betrothed (or we “wrote the book” as they say in Arabic). Very romantic, no?
So, after a very fine anti-wedding/going-away party on Angel Island, we went on a “honeymoon”, taking an Amtrak trip around the country, saying goodbye to friends and family we likely wouldn’t see for a while. Then, we did an intensive Arabic course at the Monterey Institute of International Studies, which also allowed me to spend some time with my mom (who lives in Monterey) before leaving the country.
Now, here we are, in Egypt. I’m studying Arabic at AUC’s Arabic Language Institute full-time and Adrienne is teaching what seems like over full-time. In the future, if we last here long enough, I may go into the Middle East Studies program. This also depends on what becomes of the department and its current director, Joel Beinin, who I like quite well. In the meantime, I want to focus on getting to know the language, which is extremely difficult. Even a decade after learning German, I still feel like I know that language better than Arabic.
Anyway, that’s what I’m doing in Cairo.