Wednesday, April 2, 2008

No Goodbyes Without Hellos

These are some of the kids from the Barat Youth center. They are boarding buses to go Aswan for a track meet. They were excited about competing. I am sorry I don't have more pictures of the kids, for they are the story of Luxor for me. They were the first group that I would meet over the month and also ones in which I had a chance to spend some real time.
Goodbyes are always a little sad, but how much poorer would we be without having had these experiences. And of course if you never say Hello, how will you ever get to say Goodbye.
We are saying thank-you to our guide here. It is a photo album and has a very special and useful addition to the last page.
Mohammed told us a lot about his life and struggles. We were at his house no less than 2 times for tea and met various members of his family. On our last night he will take us down the street to visit the wedding of his cousin. He is it seems preoccupied by weddings, particularly the wish to have one himself. We may have helped this a little.

Coach Abdul Rheem was an almost silent but very strong friend and supporter. He was a real coach and took it personally the achievements of his kids. We are giving him just a photo album of all the shots we took of him and his kids over the past few days. He refused any contribution to his club but willingly accepted a small stop watch that we were somehow able to find in Luxor.

Ahmed Hanza is an important man in the Luxor region. With but a call from his friend General Fahmy in Cairo he dropped everything to help us and escorted us to all our events. Here he has to leave with the track team, but you could see he would love to stay with us until we board our train. We struggled to find a gift to give him in addition to photos. Luxor is not like shopping at your suburban mall. We did find for him a nice leather case to carry some of the papers that he clutched and went through all day long.
This is our driver. One afternoon he had me write down his name and telephone number on a bit of paper. Sadly it has been lost, somewhere in my journey across Africa. What is not lost is his affection. We spent the better part of two days, having him drive us here and there. He spoke no English but a few words. I remember his deep smoky voice and I remember his smile. One afternoon we were driving across the Nile and he simply stopped the car. He turned around and asked that I take his picture. And so I did.

This is deceptive. This photo was taken at Ahmed Hanza's house the night before we left. He had invited us for tea at his simple home and was so happy to show us photos and give us these medals. So much took place over my month in Africa that it sometimes blends together into an undecipherable mess. But when I look back at the pictures; the stories, and memories, and the love for them returns. We have said Goodbye perhaps forever. But I like to remember the wonder of saying Hello.

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