Coming to Cairo there is always the feeling that anything can happen at any time. Last time I was here, for example, on the first day of attempting to cook a meal for the refugees of the school I am volunteering at we attempted to blend something, and were rewarded by the blender duly exploding because of the intense heat. We never got a replacement, and cooking became significantly tougher! This year, well I haven’t started at the school yet, so who knows what could happen there, but I can say that within four hours of arriving in Cairo I ended up having a conversation at the British Council with an eight-year-old about a video game he played in which the aim is to shoot everyone dead, whilst playing Frisbee with him.
That’s right. He decided this was exciting secret information to share with me – that the particular shoot out he played was triggered by a man’s chopped-off head being presented to a couple at a restaurant. I asked what the video game was called, but he couldn’t remember.
The same boy also asked me if I knew who his favourite dancer is. ‘His surname’s Jackson,’ he told me. I thought, ‘Shit! Please don’t say his first name is Michael, and leave it to me to tell him that his favourite dancer has just died’. I decided that I’d proceed with caution and do my best not to put my foot in it – ‘What’s his first name?’ I asked. ‘Michael,’ came the reply, ‘haven’t you heard of him?’
I controlled my response: ‘Yes, I have.’
‘He’s died because there was a problem with his heart,’ the boy explained, ‘It’s very sad.’ He then told me a story about how he had been trying to find his favourite channel Extreme Sports but had ended up on a news channel where he found out the news. So this is the Information Age!
Perhaps I’d better backtrack a bit – how did I end up at the British Council within a few hours of arriving? Well, the family friends I know out there were going to a staff party – a ‘suitable for all the family’ thing. So we went down there and there were tonnes of staff (as you’d expect) but also some kids. After we all took part in the treasure hunt – which consisted of about four clues, most of which one team stole so others couldn’t read it – my family friends’ son was hanging about and I was standing nearby and someone gave us a Frisbee. ‘Aah!’ I hear you think. It’s starting to come together. As for the eight-year-old boy, well he was another staff member’s kid.
I was actually quite pleased with my Frisbee-catching skills, although throwing wasn’t quite so up to scratch. I wasn’t helped by a strong intermittent wind. Another adult joined in, and we took the more ambitious throws. The young boy was still under the impression that spinning around on the spot makes your throw go much further. Ah well.
This on the day I arrive. And again, I haven’t even started back at the school yet. That’s on Monday – I anticipate further chaos and randomness!