The heat in Cairo is brutal,
Combined with the convined space of a Metro car,
The body heat of a dozen other people, many of which failed to apply their daily dose of deoderant, (which should be illegal here)
And the constant stares of those around you and I began to think that this was some form of incarsoration.
It took only a moment to realize the insensetivity of my thoughts...
Plans in Egypt can change in a heart beat, ma'leesh T.I.A
When I went to bed last night I had a plan for today,
When I woke up this morning, the plans had changed, I just didn't know it yet,
I arrived at the church, ready to head to a maximum security prison,
I was met by an old friend, and told that we would now be heading downtown instead,
...reenter the methodical clacking of train tracks, which is always followed shortly by a pushing match at each station.
It's almost a sport, before the doors open, everyone in the train jockies towards the doors, mirrored by those on the platform, and as they slide open, the onsault ensues,
Like a giant game of red rover, dozens of people push and shove, trying to make it in or out of the doors before they close, which seems to also be a game for the conductor, who will close them at random intervals,
Now safely on the platform, we snake our way through a maze of tunnels, slowly pushing toward the surface, and there it stands, The Mogamma,
Blocking out the blazing sun, The Mugammas shadow looms over the main median downtown Cairo,
Inside what seems like thousands of Egyptians flutter through the halls, trying to make sense of mounds of papers, with little to none organization,
This is where Egyptian bureaucracy is implemented...or attempts are made at least.
No cameras please
Placing my bag on the x-ray machine and I walk through the metal detector, dreading the inevitable; leaving my camera in a "guarded" cubby hole,
But the drowsy guard finds nothing, so onwards we proceed, through the halls,
Frustration is etched on almost every face here, disorder seemingly has the upper hand,
Another check point, another metal detector, another bag x-ray,
This time I'm flagged, busted!
"Open the bag please sir,"
I nod in reluctance and do as I'm told,
The guard reaches in a pulls out my box of granola bars,
"What is this!" He asks, nervously examining the box,
Resistance every fiber of my being, I answer properly, avoiding the witty remarks, "Ackel, enta aize?" (Food, want some?)
He shakes his head and places them in my bags, and with that me and my explosive granola bars are allowed to pass.
Still the maze continues until we finally snake our way to room full of guards,
This is where the prisoners are held, those who entered the country illegally, stayed past their visa, or are waiting deportation,
The guys that we are here to meet have just served a twenty year prison sentence,
The men that we are here to meet sit amoungst the sixty others here, in this dark and gloomy little holding cell, yet these two shine,
Two men, who twenty years ago, made a foolish decision which they have been reminded of every day, for over 7,300 days.
It has been their thorn in their flesh, yet they have persevered.
"Do we look old? Do you think we have many years ahead of us?" ask the two men almost in unison,
It feels like I'm walking into a trap, but the worried sincerity on their still young faces tell me otherwise,
"You have many years left my friends, a sentence and some,"
This a country where murder will get you 3-5 years, drug charges 15-30.
A country where foreigners in prison, must quickly learn to get along,
A jail sentence here can steal a mans identity, can steal his willingness to go on,
"When we started, we were overwhelmed, at times we thought, 'How can we go on,'"
As I try and think of what it equates to, my mind can't fathom my life minus a year behind bars.
"I can only imagine, but I don't even want to do that," comes an insensitive yet honest answer from my lips,
Again they smile.
"God has given me everything I have needed, and I have used it, courage and patience"
Patience to sit amidst the doubt, the taunts and seclusion, to wait.
Courage to stand firm in the God who has found them in those cells,
The joy on their faces, as they speak about families back home in the Philippines, a world that has changed so drastically in the two decades they have been hidden away.
The anxiety of paper work to be processed, hands still cuffed, is none existent.
They stand humble in front of their shackled peers, as they ready for transport to the airport.
I comment on the love that they exude, he turns to me, smiling brightly and eyes beaming,
"That is my verse, 1 Corinthians, that is my verse, for my life, thank you so much"
As they walk down the halls now, there is a strength about them,
Two men who spoke of looking old, now look like children on their way to Disneyland
And when the sun finally hits their faces, a wind blows across the court yard.
"It's a wind of change, a wind of freedom, true freedom"
From here they make the journey home together,
They board a transport which, will eventually put them on their plane home,
They're traveling light, no bags in tow, only a spring in their steps and a power testimony in hand.
Suddenly, the Metro ride home doesn't seem so bad,
Grace, Peace and Blessing,