From the very beginning of our trip, we’ve often dropped a common Arabic phrase into conversation. Inshallah, “if God wills it.” We didn’t hear it in Turkey but in Morocco and Egypt it’s become a part of daily conversation. For us, as for the locals, inshallah can have slightly different connotations. For some of us, it’s an acknowledgment of divine providence in the world. For others it’s a simple recognition that things don’t always go according to plan; life is subject to drastic and uncomfortable change. Nowhere is drastic change more apparent than the Middle East. Just a few short years ago, nobody expected the popular uprisings that have transformed the politcal landscape of this region.
Last week we found out that our group won’t go to Israel from the 13th through the 20th as we had planned. Since we found out, we’ve all grappled in different ways with the sadness and frustration of disappointment. One thing that has helped me is putting my own disappointment in context. Last night some of us saw a performance by the Cairo Choral Society; one of the guest soloists is usually a voice professor in Damascus but had to leave her country to avoid the devastating civil war in Syria. In Luxor, we saw hundreds of frustrated people whose livelihoods depended on the struggling Egyptian tourism industry. Meredith reminded me today that, “Young people, including some of the 140,000 college aged students in Palestine are cleaning up from the recent shelling and hoping that they can get their lives back in order. There are 170,000 college students in Israel who must be hoping that politics and long-range missiles won’t interfere with their dreams for a better future.”
Dealing with disappointment here has reminded us of an important aspect of life in the Middle East: rapid, uncomfortable change. As we spend our last week of TIME writing papers for Mark, studying for our exam and reading about the current political unrest in Cairo we are looking forward to returning to the comforts of home a little wiser, a little more flexible and much more grateful for the relative stability of life in the United States. Alhamdulillah.