The Africa Conundrum

by - Monday, February 11, 2013

Alright, if you read this blog (and are therefore a member of my family or a close friend) you probably already know that 2013 is the year of Africa. My goal is to get my PhD and go to the 6 main continents before I turn 30. This year, I turn 27, and I have 2 continents to go, so it is time to get things moving. The Boy and I have always, since the beginning of our relationship, wanted to go to Egypt. Africa seemed like the easiest continent, because we wanted to see that old stuff most of all the old stuff. In 2011, we were planning on going when political conflict broke out and there were riots against Mumbarak, so we decided late in the game to go to Peru instead.

Of course, now Egypt is totally peaceful (or not so much). I don't want you to think that we only care about Egypt is for our own adventure, but I think because we have been dreaming of this trip for ten years, we are constantly reading about the political situation, which is genuinely sad. Nick's friend Mohamed is Egyptian, and he says that these political conflicts between the new highly conservative government led by president Mohamed Morsi and the more progressive students and political parties don't effect the experience of the tourists, because they are well-protected. The protests mostly all take place in the same square in Cairo, and though this square is at the foot of the Egyptian Museum, it is easy enough to gauge whether conflict will take place on a given day. I honestly think it would be fine, and back in January, after receiving the harsh truth from my adviser, we agreed that we would go to Egypt in November.

Then this week, more reports about Egypt suggested that they were cutting off access to youtube and other websites used for communication and politics. I don't know why this changed my attitude, but it did. This, to me, is a sign that things are getting worse, that the deeply entrenched differences were escalating. Censoring people, to me, does not seem like an effective way to try to avoid political protest, and it is difficult to predict the political climate as it is, but I am just concerned about how things go from this point.

The self-centered part of this is that we need to figure out whether Egypt can happen sooner rather than later. This trip is supposed to be our (slightly delayed) honeymoon and probably the last big trip we will be able to take in a long time. If Egypt is off the list, then we want to go to Kenya. Nairobi would be awesome because some of my family lives there and it would be so neat to visit them. Our thought is that we can do Kenya and have a stop over in Europe somewhere (London keeps coming up, because at least we could go to the British Museum and see some colonialized Egyptian stuff). The issue is that my cousin Christine is graduating from high school in June, so if we were going to go to Kenya, it would have to be in April, which is much sooner and could be a conflict with my current intellectual breakdown and the fissure of my career as an academic.

These are some serious rich people problems, but we won't always be young, childless, reckless, and renting. We are very committed to keeping up with our adventures and to seeing the world, because you can't predict what will happen in the future. Seeing the world is really important to me. So, we could gamble and wait to see how things look in November, or we could take the risk and go to Kenya in May, which is a bit of a gamble in terms of school. Neither is exactly a perfect option, but what can you do? If you wait for circumstances to perfect, nothing great will ever happen. What would you do in our situation? Kenya in April or wait and try for Egypt in November? 

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