Distance walked: Approx 6.5 km
Blisters: still 2
Sore feet: still 2
Time in meetings: 3.5 hours
Time walking to/from/between meetings: 1.5 hours
Bellies of Beasts entered: 2
Demonstrations encountered by chance: 2
Parliaments opened: 1
Well, I didn’t open the parliament, but it somehow managed to get itself opened without my help. You can tell it’s a real parliament with some power, unlike any in the past 60 years, because: 1) Egyptians actually watched the opening on television, in cafes and offices, interested for a change; 2) newly sworn-in MPs yelled at each other, quite a lot; 3) many 100s of people marched from at least four different meeting points toward parliament demanding that it do something about real issues.
I crossed the path of one such march en route to a meeting at the British Embassy:
I passed another demo later on my way back from a meeting at Al-Ahram, home of Egypt’s largest official (government financed) newspaper. There were loud chants against the regime and the mushir (Field Marshall Tantawi).
So, about those beasts and their bellies. I didn’t really realize until I left diplomacy what being part of a large bureaucracy had been doing to my brain. I had some inkling, but getting out and doing something new, reading a lot of challenging new material, writing more creatively, all of this woke up parts of my mind that had been under-used or repressed. I don’t think that’s everybody’s experience, or inevitable, but that’s what it did to me. So I am wary of such organizations these days. Of course, being a visitor is a very different experience. I had interesting, productive meetings at the Embassy and at Al-Ahram’s Center for Political & Strategic Studies. A couple of my former colleagues among the Egyptian staff members of the Embassy remembered me, telling me I hadn’t changed much.
Well, they couldn’t see my post-bureaucratic brain.