I can scarcely believe that I have finally arrived in the Middle East. I am in the land of pyramids and pharaohs, in a city more ancient than anything I have ever seen. Like the missions of the heroes of old, my journey to the Middle East seemed destined to failure. While I was not hampered by sirens or minotaurs, the obstacles seemed determined to throw me off course and keep me in my land.
It all began Friday morning as I was doing my Arabic lesson on a CD-Rom I had bought to prepare for my summer in the West Bank. For over a month I had been preparing for my internship in Beit Sahour, mentally psyching myself up for such a dangerous but challenging place. Then the phone rang- it was Iain from the Advocacy Project. “Are you sitting down,” he asked me. “I’m afraid I have some bad news.”
He proceeded to tell me that I would no longer be allowed to go to Israel because the directors at MSFS had just learned of a Georgetown University regulation prohibiting students under the sponsorship of the university from going to countries with travel warnings. The State Department travel warning had been issued on April 17 (two weeks before I bought my ticket), but for some reason no one had bothered to check whether this would pose any problems. Instead, two days before I was scheduled to leave, the powers that be discovered this crucial piece of information and threw a wrench in my summer plans.
The next day passed in a whirlwind of meetings and phone calls and discussions until finally the plan became one in which I would use my ticket to travel to Tel Aviv as planned, but stay with my best friend’s family outside of Jerusalem while MSFS and AP continued to look for an internship for me somewhere else in the Middle East. Not a perfect plan, but at least that way I would be in the region and hopefully more certain to get an internship. Options seemed to exist in Jordan and Lebanon, so at least there was a chance.
That night as I fell asleep, I began to get nervous about hanging out in Israel, where there had been five suicide bombings in five days, without the training that would have been provided by the internship. I thought perhaps I’d feel safer waiting around in another country, so I made a reservation to go to Cairo, but upon further reflection decided that toodling around an unknown city, holing up in hotels and whatnot, was not really appealing so I nixed that idea.
Saturday morning arrived and I thought that I had better do the errands that had been sidestepped yesterday. Then I got a call. I looked at my cell phone- it was Iain. Was he calling to tell me that I couldn’t go? This time he had good news. The Middle East Reporter in Beirut might be interested in having an intern, would I be interested? YES! While the details of my job were hazy at best, at least it sounded like a media job, and the mention of working with the international journalist center in D.C. to set up a joint training program for journalists in the Middle East enticed my interest in capacity building and the intersection of media and democracy promotion.
For the time being I will enjoy the cacophony of sounds and sights that is Cairo until I make my way to the Paris of the Middle East on Thursday.
Posted By Courtney Radsch (Lebanon)
Posted Apr 9th, 2007