After graduating from St. Bonaventure University, my father took me to Egypt as a graduation present. We saw the museum, the pyramids, and had many meetings at factories where my dad has done twenty-years of business. This was 2003, years before the Arab Spring.
Jet lag hit me like a truck–at one point I fell asleep in a meeting. Towards the end of our week-long trip, we were invited to a birthday party, and the low hum of the sitar plays while my father and I talk to an old friend. The colleague, a friend of my father for nearly as long as I’ve been alive asks me when I plan on taking over my father’s business.
Dad responds, “No, no. He’s a journalist. A writer."
"Oh!” the colleague responds.
The colleague pulls me over. He whispers, “Egypt gets a bad reputation because of the rest of the Middle East. What have you seen over this week?"
I looked around the room. There are children playing hide-and-go-seek in the living room; mothers and grandmothers in hijabs packing up plates, smiling at their children as they rush around laughing.
"I see people who care more about family than blowing themselves up.”
The colleague gives me a hug, shaking my hand with both hands. “You see us as we are."
When were you out of your context? Far away from the culture you were raised. What did you see?