Two steps forward in the journey of 1,000 miles

November 28, 2011

Dear Seif,

It took a total of five and a half hours for your dad and I to vote for parliamentary representatives; 3 hours for your dad, two and a half hours for me.  Since our voting stations were not in the same school, I told your dad to vote first while I waited in the car.  The last time we voted, it went by like a breeze so I didn’t anticipate a long wait.  Well, there was nothing breezy about this time around…

We approached your dad’s polling station by 8:10 a.m. and found hundreds of people standing in a line that wrapped around the school’s walls.  Your dad parked the car in a strategic and entertaining location for me: I could see the tail end of the line along one side of the wall, and I could see people rounding the corner before reaching the line.  It provided me with comic relief  to see people’s faces change drastically as they rounded the corner and saw the long line looming ahead of them.  Many had the same reaction in terms of body language: before they rounded the corner, they were walking briskly and energetically.  Once they rounded the corner, they would slow down, slap their foreheads and say our famous Egyptian lamenting lines, “Yalahwyyyyyyyy!!!” or “Yanhar abiad!!!” One young man embraced the long line by saying to his friend, “This turn-out is a very good sign.”

I was provided with more entertainment when a large black 4-wheeler stopped right next to me and out walked presidential candidate Amr Moussa.  He walked a couple of paces, then he stopped and searched his pockets.  He had clearly forgotten something very important (his national ID perhaps?) because he stepped back inside the car and was whisked away.  He returned around 20 minutes later.  I was curious to see if he would stand in line like everyone else.  Yes, he did.  People started to huddle around him and a professional photographer with a tripod snapped several pictures of Amr Moussa with the masses.

By 11:00 a.m., your dad returned looking exhausted.  It was my turn next and I was confident that it wouldn’t take longer than half an hour – that’s if any women bothered to leave their jobs/homes to vote.  Upon arriving to my designated polling station, it was my turn to slap my forehead and wail, “Yalahwyyyyyyy!!!!”

Women, women, women, as far as the eye could see along the walls of the school twisting and turning around gardens, pathways, garbage dumps…  I bid your dad farewell, knowing that I would see him thousands of steps and a heat stroke later.

I joined the line.  In front of me was a woman dressed in neqab holding her son’s hand, and behind me was a university student.  I got to know almost everything about my neighbors-in-waiting; God knows, we had enough time! After an hour or so, the woman in neqab and I became chummy and she even offered me a ride back home so that your dad wouldn’t be inconvenienced.  So sweet… and her son is named Seif, too! (But you have much better manners!!!).

The topic of voting came up – people all across the line were discussing who they were voting for and why.  The woman in neqab said she had no idea who she was going to vote for because she had no time to research anything; she only came because she didn’t want to pay the 500 EGP penalty for not voting.  The university student behind me said she studied the options for 5 days and only today was she confident of her vote.  She was going to vote for those who supported the revolution.  One girl close by said she was going to vote for the “salafy” group – she even called it that.  Her choice didn’t seem popular judging by the facial expressions of those who heard – their heads snapped around to check out the person who uttered the word “salafy” and “voting” in the same sentence.

Since I had all the time in the world, I decided to count how many non-veiled women I could spot.  I counted around 26 including myself.  I was a minority.  Even the women dressed in neqab outnumbered us.

Nothing earth-shattering happened during my voting experience.  It was not very organized; we were instructed after waiting for hours to split up into four lines instead of one.  There was a lot of scrambling and jostling.  Some lines moved fast while others were stagnant which caused women to hurl some soprano notes at the military. I was lucky to be in the faster line.

Two and a half hours later, I walked out of the school with a very ugly black ink stain on my pinkie (what happened to cool fuchsia?). But I’m proud of that stain, and I’m proud of all the women that stood in line because they stood for something.  Sure, some were there only because they didn’t want to pay the penalty fee, but many were there to vote for a new Egypt.

Your grandfather always says the following quote to me, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”  Well, amidst all the turmoil and uncertainty, this is our second step forward since the revolution.  I hope that when you are older, you will stride and see things that we could only dream of.

Love you,

Your sore-legged mother, Rania

Published in: on November 28, 2011 at 6:04 pm  Comments (6)  

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6 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. …. That was a delightful account Rania! It allowed me to live the experience vicariously through your colourful description.

    There is an indescribable feeling of solidarity with fellow citizens in a voting line, even if one knows some have opposing views. The respect for freedom of expression, human dignity and the rule of a benevolent and egalitarian law, supersede all other considerations.

    Growth is messy, and democracy requires constant vigilance and participation. No generation can afford to pass the buck if they hope to remain free. When Seif comes of age, he too will jump in the line; but he will have the advantage of having learnt about democracy from a very passionate and enthusiastic Mommy ~^..^~

    • You always manage to put a smile on my face after reading your comments. Thank you for being you.

  2. Thank you

    • Thank you for reading! 🙂

  3. “Nothing earth-shattering happened during my voting experience. It was not very organized; we were instructed after waiting for hours to split up into four lines instead of one. There was a lot of scrambling and jostling. Some lines moved fast while others were stagnant which caused women to hurl some soprano notes at the military. I was lucky to be in the faster line.”

    I get it that voting for a new egypt is giving people hope and I hate to be a cynic and pee on everyone’s proverbial parade but the way I see it, Egyptians need to change their habits and turn complacency into action. Without such change of the fundamental Insh’allah mentality and a population with the habit of having their hand out to the government hoping for help …. you can go through hundreds of governments and never get out of the dark ages.

    I love your blog and I love you. I hope and pray every day for Egypt for it is a country with unimaginable potential populated by great people.

    • Seeing the drive and determination in people from all walks of life after our Jan. 25 awakening has changed the way I view fellow Egyptians. The “insha’allah, bokra, ma’lesh” mentality that used to frustrate me is now changing. The sheer numbers at the poling stations astonished me – it was a first time ever to have so many people voting- especially the elderly and women. What a sight that was! Again, I’m sure many of them were there because of the penalty fee, but so many took the time to ask around to place their vote behind the right member/group.

      We’re still in the dark ages, but now at least we see some light. It’s so exciting (and scary at the same time) to be in the midst of it all! I agree that we have unimaginable potential and great people, and we’re finally taking baby steps forward. It’s still shaky ground, though, so please continue to pray for us!

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