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Awakening

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My surroundings began to shake; the speaker sounded overhead. “Buckle your seats and prepare for liftoff!” As the last few passengers took their seats, what seemed like a small lunge forward startled a few unsuspecting people on-board. Finally, we had begun to move. After a few popped ears and a thankful proclamation of, “Thank God for Wi-Fi on planes,” I looked past my mom out of the plane’s window and stared down at the dazzlingly lit ocean that we were now venturing to cross. I sat back more comfortably in my chair, rested my head on my peanut-sized pillow, put on my headphones, and escaped into a world where the only voice I could hear was Beyoncé’s. However, slithering behind her swooning voice were my dreams of what this vacation would be. The ideas and images of the country of my parents’ birth swirled inside my head until I drifted off into sleep.

I was traveling to the most northeastern tip of Africa, to an ancient country whose origins and myths include the all-powerful pharaohs and the ancient Pyramids of Geza. Not only was I journeying to visit my cousins and explore the country of my heritage; I was traveling to see one of the Seven Ancient Wonders of the World. I planned to witness the last standing wonder in a country of which I couldn’t be more proud to be a part of.

My Egyptian culture has defined many of the opportunities that have been presented to me in my lifetime, and thus, the actions I take concerning them. Because my parents arrived to America from Egypt with no companions, they took to attending a Middle-Eastern Protestant church that they found included many other Middle-Eastern immigrants, among which included people of Iraqi, Jordanian, Greek, and Egyptian descent. The bonds that I have developed in this church will last forever and the opportunities to serve this community and those in it have become a significant part of the person that I am and that I aspire to be.

When our pastor calls the youth to a meeting, I normally know what’s coming. Every year my church hosts a Vacation Bible School Program in the summer and a Fall Festival in, well, the fall. The pastor asks for volunteers, and while few people shrink from this responsibility, I try to volunteer every time that I am able to. I believe showing compassion for some of the poverty-stricken children of Jersey City is a way that I can make others happy and make myself happy in the process. I take part in these two non-profit programs by ways which range from creating a menu and cooking, setting up games, memorizing and performing plays, and simply interacting and learning about the kids who have come. Children that are Indian, African-America, Hispanic, and Middle-Eastern all playing and laughing together is an act that I see as beautiful. Seeing these children interacting with such ease inspires me to move past the ignorant cultural stereotypes that have been hammered into my mind.

I am a small child who plays basketball, a boy that has taken piano lessons for twelve years, a worship leader who performs in church, a cook that enjoys delving into other culture’s cuisines, and a friend, a son, a brother, and a man that prides himself on his diversity.
Sadly, dreams that one encounters in sleep don’t last forever as some in the waking world do. My surroundings began to shake and the speaker once again sounded overhead. “We have arrived safely to our destination.” This time it was my mother who shook me, saying, “We are in Cairo!” My journey had just begun.





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