In just a little over two hours, I’ll be packing up my computer and heading to the airport with my father, ready to embark upon the adventure of a lifetime. The one piece I forgot to include in my (slightly) satirical conversation in the previous post is the question I’m asked every time I tell anybody about my plans: “Why Cairo?”
Amazinly, I have still not figured out a good answer to the question. Usually, I mutter a little hullabaloo about my interest in Middle Eastern politics and how studying in Cairo pertains to my academics interest, figuring that if I go on long enough, the person will lose interest and the conversation will progress in a differnt direction.
The best answer I can come up with is that I know my time in Cairo will be significantly different than any experience I’ve had in my life up to this point. If the purpose of study abroad is to broaden horizons — which I certainly think it is –, it simply doesn’t make sense to me to go to another first-world country in Europe or Austalia where the only difference between there and here is the language (if that).
Will be I frustrated at times in Cairo? Of course, especially since I barely know any Arabic. Will I falter or feel lonely? I’m sure I will. Yet I couldn’t possibly be more excited for the jouney. Why? Because only through frustration and failure will I grow to become a more complete person. I could have chosen a different, more risk-adverse experience that would have enabled me to remain within my comfort zone, yet I did not. Because if I had taken that path, I know I would have regrets and I refuse to let fear control me.
After five semesters at Haverford, I really need a change in scenery. There are many things I love about Haverford, but after spending so much time in a bubble with only 1,100 other people, I was becoming stir crazy. Worst of all, I could feel myself becoming bored and numb over the past semester with the routines I had grown too accustomed to. Therefore, I am ready to savor every emotional peak and valley that will accompany my upcoming adventure.
Because after all, 70 years from now, my grandson Taj Novinson Jr. (named after Stanford basketball great Taj Finger) will be sitting on my lap and he will say, “Grandpa, what do you remember most from being young? What experiences really stick out in your head?” And I want to be able to answer that question without hesitation and without regrets. I realize my memories from Haverford will blur together, and many will fade to dust, and I doubt my sixth semester at the school would fundamentally shape who I am. But I can say with absolute confidence (this promise does not apply if I’m dead of have that I will alzhiemers) that I will remember my time in Cairo and will have some great stories to tell Taj. And it is precisely for that reason that I’m so excited.
At times like this, I think of the 1960′s John Denver song “Leaving on a Jetplane,” perhaps because it is one of my good friend’s favorite songs:
“All my bags are packed, I’m ready to go…cause I’m leavin on a jetplane.”
And even though I know exactly when I’ll be back again — May 30, — don’t forget to kiss me and smile for me!