Thursday, May 22, 2008

Ateer Teaches Clay about Perspective

If you read my last posting, you know my son Clay is in Cairo. He's been there all school year studying Arabic at the American University of Cairo.
I asked him to be a guest blogger today.
Clay writes:
A few weeks ago I had one of those good lessons that teaches about the important things in life and how attitude really can make all the difference.

A friend and I were invited to teach an English language conversation class at a local NGO (non-governmental agency) here in Cairo, Egypt. Our class consisted of 18- to 40-year-old men, all Sudanese refugees. After slight hesitation, we accepted and began to be excited about the project.

Based upon my interactions, I have to say that the Sudanese are a wonderful, friendly and loving people. I fell into a friendship with one of our students in particular, a young man named Ateer. We would stay after class and talk, giving him extra time with a native speaking teacher to improve his abilities.

On one occasion, Ateer asked me if I played soccer and if I trained. I replied that I do not play soccer, but that I do train sometimes. He invited me to go and train with him some day; I accepted, and we set a date. I was only slightly concerned by the fact that I hadn't run in about a month. We met up early on the set morning and headed to his normal training field.

That morning I learned several things about Ateer. I learned that he came to Cairo three years ago as a refugee and that he is originally from Darfur, the area in west Sudan we know all too well from the news. I also learned that, after losing his parents and other family to conflict at eight years old, he had spent his time in camps and then came Cairo on refugee status. Now at eighteen years old, he lives here in Cairo with friends.

Our conversation moved on to other topics and, after getting to the field, we started running. Somewhere in the course of the run and conversation—I think we were talking about books—Ateer made a passing comment. He said, "You know, Clay, I am happy. Life is good. I could complain if I wanted to, but that wouldn't get me anywhere. I choose to be happy, and I do things that make me happy, like read, go to school, train, and be with friends like you."

Ateer hadn't told me this in response to my questions about his refugee status; it came up in the natural course of our conversation. I've thought about it a lot since then. My year in the Middle East hasn't been the easiest. In fact, in a few ways it's been rather difficult, and as I try to figure things out as far as what to do with my life career-wise, I often get frustrated. My friend Ateer taught me a good lesson about perspective and about how the way we look at, interpret, and label the events in our lives has a direct effect on our happiness.

1 comment:

Whitney said...

Nice job Clay - I think Ateer misses you. :)