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As I’m sitting here at work, my phone buzzes with the familiar BBC update tone. I’m worldly and classy like that, and I keep myself updated with global news, specifically news from home in Egypt. I glance at my phone and see: “More than 100,000 people killed in Syria conflict, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon says.” Based on my interest, and the interest of thousands of other BBC app users around the world, the story can be tapped on for more reading “at leisure.”

Because clearly this is the kind of news that can be read over breakfast, without breaking a sweat.

My own numbness at the goings-on in my home country and its neighbors is frightening. I go through the motions. “Mum, dad, are you guys okay?,” and I want to know what’s going on. But gone are the days only a year ago when I would literally feel my heart thump, when I would watch the clock tick during class so I could get the hell out and get my hands on the paper, or when I would hide my phone under the table with the Egypt Live Blog running and updating me every minute.

Image from Al Jazeera

Naturally, this frightens me. Here’s the girl who comes on over to college and gets excited by the fact that suddenly it’s easy to make friends, because people are interested by you.

Not in you necessarily, but by you.

“You’re from Egypt?” “So, what’s it like there?” The inevitable questions that I know come from a burning desire to hear from someone “on the ground.” And I spoke, and I told, and I said.

I became an expert on a situation that I wasn’t even around for.

I wasn’t even in Egypt for the revolution.

I’m no longer “on the ground” and this is terrifying. People still expect me to be, and worse, I do too. I speak with authority on things I know nothing about. I speak with authority on mere whim, that suddenly an entire college campus takes as verdict on a situation. I’m asked to do an interview for a college news source. I’m an “expert.”

One of my professors said he didn’t know he was Iranian until 1979 when people told him he was. Forget the fact that he’d never visited Iran. Just a kid, and he was expected to respond to questions about the sentiments of a foreign population. I always thought that he must have had it rough, being labeled as something he didn’t identify with.

But I’m realizing now that it’s just as rough to label yourself as something you aren’t either.

It’s taken two years of college to realize that I’m not on the ground in Egypt anymore. When I go back, I’m on holiday.

I still feel a burning desire in the very fibers of my being to see positive change take place, and see this ongoing revolution become the stuff of glorious history.

But for the first time in my life,

I’m realizing just how far America is from the rest of the world.

And just how difficult it is to remember that those 100,000 people who have died in the Syrian conflict are 100,000 people that I will never meet.


Anushka Mehta is from Cairo, Egypt. She's still trying to figure out how to fit in at a Boston local paper when all she knows is tourist Boston. Suggestions on crazy things to do to help revoke said Tourist Status are welcome.


  1. Shraddha (Fui) Shraddha (Fui) says:

    Totally get this. At the same time, there is this ‘expertism’ that we bring as we have the sense of the pulse in our country(ies), which is not so easy to articulate, at least for me. When people ask me how my parents are, and are they going to leave? I tell them that things are bad, but not dangerous. Even if I am not on the ground, I know that life in Zamalek is the same as ever with subtle differences. Its not time to worry. It does not mean that everything is fine. Either people take my comments as the media is exaggerating and everything is fine and dandy or they don’t believe me. Two extremes. People think I am mad to go there end of August. General consensus is my parents should leave. But my ‘expert’ opinion, which they never accept is that things are still manageable with caution, you would accept it, people who lived there once will get it. But others will not. :-) And yes, America is really far – despite communication gadgets and frequent flights. I have learned that as I come to my 15 year anniversary here! :-)