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UC student David Wakins in Egypt, Morocco

Excerpts from David Watkin’s blog about studying and traveling in Egypt and Morocco with the UC Honors Program in February 2011.

Feb. 5, 2011 —evacuated from Egypt

One week ago yesterday I was evacuated from Alexandria, Egypt with 11 other students and our program director. I eventually made it back to the U.S. and have spent my time visiting the people I care about, my friends and my family. I imagine it will take me some time to fully digest and reflect on my time in Egypt.

It's something I never hope to experience again. At the same time, it puts a lot of perspective on life here in the U.S. Many of the things we take for granted, like being able to call or email loved ones, can represent a daily battle in the confines of such an oppressive state. I definitely have a new appreciation for the communication aspects of the Internet and the ability to pick up the phone and talk to loved ones.

I've not only received a new perspective on life in the U.S., but life in general as well. In my room in Cincinnati, I had a poster on the wall that said, "Live like you'll die today but dream like you'll live forever." I've always thought it was a nice saying and something to work towards but never in my wildest dreams did I think that particular saying would hit home so hard.

That saying filled my mind as I was confronted with the most dangerous and terrifying times of my life. Clearly, such an experience leaves a mark. Some changes may be obvious, others more subtle, and still others that may not be discovered for some time.

I certainly learned a lot about myself and my ability to survive under the pressure of extreme circumstances. Nothing like a revolution to force one to grow up. One thing is clear, though, I'm never going to take tomorrow for granted again.

Feb. 17, 2011  — living in Old Medina, Casablanca

There's been quite a bit of culture shock. My host family is not well off. In fact they are rather impoverished. However, they are very nice and feed me the best food ever, even if it is pretty meager.

In our home there really isn't an "inside." Everything is kind of outside. So, when it rains, it rains "in" our house, as well. I walk out of my room, and it's raining. Our clothes are washed in the sink and hung out to dry on the terrace.

Aziza and Hesna (host mother and sister) essentially wear the same clothes everyday because they don't have any others. Which made me feel really bad when Hesna was helping me unpack my suitcases full of clothes.

 

March 2011 — in the Sahara Desert

We all wrapped our heads and faces in scarves and donned our sunglasses as we headed to where our camels were waiting. I was toward the front of the group.

As we approached the camels, there was one in particular that was not happy. He was growling and yelling and wouldn’t stay still. In fact, two guys were trying to hold him down. Of course, one of them motioned to me and told me to get on the camel. I thought this is crazy.

As I approached this crazy camel, he jumped up before I could get on. After much back and forth and yelling on the part of the camel, he came back down, and I prepared to mount. Literally as soon as my weight touched the saddle, the camel jumped right up and kind of pranced around.

The guys near me got him (and me) under control, tied us to the camel in front of us and apologized to me saying, “He’s a young camel.” Wonderful. Throughout the rest of this two-hour trip into the Sahara, at our campsite and even the next morning, my camel was growling, yelling and just generally not happy.

LINKS

See David Watkins entire blog.
Read about his State Department internship.

See special online supplement to UC Magazine international issue