Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Sudanese house party

I live with two other short American women.

That's my 5-foot-tall roommate Abigail among the ranks of Sudanese teachers she works with at St. Andrew's Refugee Services. Abigail heads the adult education program at St. Andrew's school, and she hosted a going away dinner for one of the teachers, Elwathig, seated on far right, who moved to Dubai in search of employment.

A word about Cairo's Sudanese refugee community: it's huge. Egypt shares a border with Sudan and although no one really knows how many refugees live here, estimates range in the hundreds of thousands. Egypt also hosts Ethiopian, Eritrean, Somali, Palestinian and Iraqi refugees, among other nationalities.

Many refugees are stuck in limbo here, unable to return to their homeland, unable to be resettled by UNHCR (the United Nations High Commission on Refugees) in Europe or the United States, and also unable, in a country where 40% of the citizenry lives on less than $2 per day, to build much of a new life. Now that I am seeing the refugee resettlement process from Egypt, it seems like the refugees I met back in the United States were the lucky ones. America's "teeming masses" flee first to refugee camps, and then to places like Egypt, Syria and Pakistan, where there's not much of a safety net for vulnerable people.

I hope to work on stories about refugees while I am here.

Back to good-hearted Abigail and her Sudanese friends:

We were treated to a mountain of spaghetti...

...original poetry recited by Albino...

...and of course tea. (No gathering in Egypt seems complete without it.)

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