Saturday, March 22, 2008

A walk with Dr. Moustafa

Last week, my tutor Dr. Moustafa walked with me after class to my bus stop. He began by asking me if I know of any Korean women. “I want to marry a Korean woman. I think they are so beautiful. That way, I can work and study in Korea. What do you think of my idea?” He asked me. I told him that Korea is a good country. I would inquire with my Korean friend Min about any available Korean women in Egypt.

Dr. Moustafa then turned serious. He explained that his wife is a very loyal woman. “She told me that ‘I am willing to go wherever you go. If you go to hell, I will follow you to hell.’” He has discussed with his wife his ideas of taking a Korean wife. She approves. “I love history. Especially ancient Persian history. Sometimes, my wife tells me that I dream about Persian history and speak Farsi in my sleep.”

When we reach Midan Galaa, where I wait for my microbus, we sit down on the edge of the flower bed. Dr. Moustafa will receive his Master’s degree in three months. He explains that he has a deep desire to travel abroad. To study and to work. When I ask him what his timeline is, he thinks for a moment and replies, “Within a year. I cannot--cannot continue to stay here for more than a year!” His face seemed to writhe in pain when he says this. Dr. Moustafa put in 240 hours last month. That’s about 6 weeks of full time work crammed into one month. He gets paid about LE 800-1000 a month, depending on the number of hours he works. That’s about LE 4 (80 cents) an hour. It is unfortunate that a man of his talents, intelligence and education is paid such a paltry amount.

What he really wants to do is to start his own language center. Across the street is a small sign advertising an office for rent. He says this would be an ideal place for a language center. However, the rent would be very expensive. He asks me if there are any opportunities in America for a speaker of Farsi, Arabic and French. I tell him there should be, as the US has a shortage of good Arabic and Farsi speakers. I will inquire on his behalf.

“I want to have children, but children are expensive. So, I must wait until I can make more money.” I see Dr. Moustafa as a professor at any of the top universities in Washington, DC or New York City pulling down $100,000 easily. There must be a place for him somewhere that can use his language and teaching abilities. I feel a special responsibility to help him find something better than his current position. About two microbuses stop, pick up passengers and leave in the time we talk. When the next microbus arrives, I board and bid the good doctor ma-esalama until the next class.

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