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Now Back Now What.

IMG_0166January 27 — Clashes break out between police and a small group of opposition protesters in Cairo’s Tahrir Square.

 

I left Cairo the day the military rolled it’s tanks and troops out on the street. A few hours later, President Morsi was under arrest at an undisclosed location.

My plane landed in Heathrow the next morning to a different world. I wasn’t supposed to be in Cairo for more than a few months. How a few months turned into more than a year is a long story—one I will write about at a later time, if it needs telling at all.

While in the UK I took part in a hostile-environment training course. Learning in reverse. My education on how to successfully survive hostile environments was gained, first, last November and was continually tested until my last day working in Cairo.

After a quick trip to England, I was off to Holland to cover a symposium on post-conflict transition and international law. It was a month of photographing people in a totally peaceful and stress-free environment. Still my mind and body were set to a hard pace.

I am now back where I started. If my original plans had stuck, I would have been back in Washington, DC, a year ago this August.

People often ask me if I have culture shock. There are plenty of large grocery stores, shopping malls, movie theaters, and department stores in Cairo. The experience of everyday, city life is similar here. The shock comes from other aspects of life in Cairo— but transitioning from the inexplicably intense pace of my days abroad is difficult to express.

Those who have experienced great transitions in life may have an understanding, in their own terms, but the exact feeling is left to float around just beyond the reach of any curious passerby.

Will I return to Cairo and places like it? A resounding yes. I am not a war junkie. Or a vulture; or anything more than a person trying to tell stories that connect people to the world around them. But if I were either one of those things, so what? So what if I am addicted to making solid images, to the deadline, to being part of a community that gets stories out to the world?

The drive to produce images and writing from the font line of transition or disaster comes from the same place that pushes people to explore uncharted territory, find a cure to terrifying diseases, teach young children to respect each other and the planet, or give courage to a movement trying to stand up against noxious regimes. All of which, at some point, could be interpreted as misguided or lost causes.

The moments I was witness to in Egypt will always be with me. While difficult to capture, each one was totally worth it. And I will continue to do the work that inspires me.

It’s been a little over a month since I left Cairo. The transition from there to here is ongoing. At times challenging, it is one I am enjoying trying to navigate. I do not know what is next. I have a few ideas on the types of projects I want to work on, and some will take me to places difficult to move through and on from.

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