An Orientation

Orientation 1: Welcome to Cairo

All day, I was attending the official Fulbright In-Country Orientation. The Fulbright program between Egypt and the United States was launched in 1949; it is the largest and oldest program in the Arab World.

Marc J, Sievers, Deputy Chief of Mission, U.S. Embassy Cairo told us that this year here has been the most difficult in his diplomatic career. He said that last week’s events felt manageable but also called on us to “clear up this fog of fear and hostility that ways us down on both sides.”

A Foreign Service Health Practitioner, gave us the numbers for the ambulances and hospitals then reminded to us to wash our hands for 45 seconds every time, paying special attention to our thumbs and finger tips. Research shows that the thumbs and finger tips are the most neglected. He also suggested that when we get Mummy Tummy aka The Pharaoh’s Revenge, to buy some Rehydrant packets from the pharmacy.

A Special Agent from the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Diplomatic Security recommended the buddy system, reminded us how volatile large crowds can be, and told us to follow our own level of comfort with this society.

We were told of opportunities to speak at an embassy event or with the Consulate in Alexandria, join the Egyptian Artists Circle of the Fulbright Alumni, attend cultural events. Most exciting, we were invited to a reception with Ambassador Patterson at the residence inside the U.S. Embassy. Date to be determined.

Then a former Fulbrighter told us about HarassMap and reminded us of the joys of living here.

We watched a video which has enough inspiration to overcome its cheese, Sout Al Horeya.

And the day concluded with a delicious traditional dinner at Al Azhar Park, one of the world’s top public spaces, built on a former garbage dump about 8 years ago as a charitable act of the Aga Khan.

AL Azhar Park


Orientation 2: Welcome to Chemo 

Last night, I got the news that someone very close to me has breast cancer. In both breasts. I cannot tell you who she is because she is not ready to tell the world just yet. But as she begins the 16 weeks of chemotherapy then double mastectomy then radiation, I thought I should spend some hours online getting orientated with the disease.

Every and every day  in America, an estimated 628 women and men are told they a cancerous mass in their breast. Two of my aunts, and many of my friends’ mothers have faced this certain beast. But I needed to more information. I’m going to be monitoring a cancer battle via Skype from Cairo.

I am also limiting my own level of worry as well as hers. The research for this type of cancer is well funded. The doctors are ready. So is she. The only concerns are that the chemo may effect any heart condition and, even though we know the cancer has not metastasized to the colon or lymph nodes, the word is still out about other areas.

An Orientation to Chemotherapy: The side effects of chemotherapy depend mainly on the drugs a woman receives. As with other types of treatment, side effects vary from person to person. In general, anticancer drugs affect rapidly dividing cells. These include blood cells, which fight infection, cause the blood to clot, and carry oxygen to all parts of the body. When blood cells are affected by anticancer drugs, patients are more likely to get infections and bruise or bleed easily, and may have less energy during treatment and for some time afterward. Cells in hair follicles and cells that line the digestive tract also divide rapidly. As a result of chemotherapy, patients may lose their hair and may have other side effects, such as loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, or mouth sores. [National Cancer Institute]

Please send her some bouncy good positive hopeful prayerful vibes her way.


Orientation 3: Welcome to Miss D

Today on Huffington Post, Donna’s mother describes the part of the story where she walked into my dance classroom and into my life. If you haven’t been orientated to Donna’s story, I encourage to do so now. Even if you have read about her in past years, I encourage you to re-read, to get closer to her. An amazing gal. How lucky I was that her parents trusted me with 45 minutes of their daughter’s time every week. How lucky I was that she and I got each other. How lucky I was to have her as both a student and teacher. Sheesh. It is still amazing. Always.

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Please be aware. And please check out my post on this subject.

Donna Quirke Hornik and I at Performing Arts Limited studio in Chicago, IL. 2009.

1 Comment

  1. Bev

    beautiful words Shawn in all your stories, you are amazing, love you, I thought some boucy good vibes today and sent them on their way. I loved the picture of the dinner place Al Azhar Park, very nice

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