16 February, 2012

Of basketball and football

Since I have been in Egypt, I have felt rather isolated.  It's not that I don't follow the news or maintain contacts with friends and family; my interests require that I closely track world affairs and I have daily chats online.  But aside from talking with people about my curiosities, I am at the university library, the gym, and in between I eat and sleep.  How I would really like to set out for the Nile, the dunes, and explore Egyptian history!

But in skyping my mother the last few days, I'm rather relieved that my safety in Egypt is no longer her only concern.  All she can talk about is this Linsanity business in New York City.  Never having much  interest in sports, the mother is suddenly subscribing to New York Knicks cable package and talking about going to the Madison Square Garden for basketball games.  Her answer - Jeremy Lin is Taiwanese.  "Actually," I said to the mother, "Lin is American.  His parents are Taiwanese".      

I have always found the question of identity rather challenging.  Being ethnically Chinese with Taiwanese heritage is a part of me, but not the entirety of my being.  I carry American and Taiwanese passports, I call myself Californian and live in Paris, and my travel DNA thus far include footprints on five continents; I am happiest in multicultural and cosmopolitan settings, but sometimes find my peace in the middle of a desolate desert.  But for many, no matter their citizenship, ethnicity equates nationality.  I wish Mr. Lin success in the NBA, but I much rather watch 6 Nations Rugby with a good pint of bitter.

Protesting AUC students
Since I arrived in Cairo, though my inquiry relates to Egyptian politics, I have stayed away from publicly commenting on the subject.  But Egypt's frustration and anger seem to be everywhere.  This morning coming out of my neighborhood, there was an unannounced police checkpoint, massively backing up traffic and upsetting quite a few motorists.  Just yesterday at the American University in Cairo (AUC), protesting students continued to mourn for the loss of one of their own from the Port Said football violence, and demanded that the military government (SACF) step down.  I asked another student next to me, who happened to be Saudi, and he very politely told me that he is in Cairo to study medicine, and does not want to get involved in politics.

In response, SCAF accused AUC as a tool of foreign intrigue, and charged students and professors of aiming to bring about the "downfall of Egypt".  In the meantime, the wee matter of US$1.3 billion and SCAF's persecution of civil society workers continue to influence the development of Egyptian democracy and Cairo's relationship with Washington.  A proper and lovely mess the world is.          

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