Unlike the majority of participants and PNJ-members involved in the international workshop (who’ve recently met), there’s two journalists who’ve – successfully – been having a word with each other for some years.
After spending almost two months in Berlin in 2009, I felt I did not meet enough German journalists. The colleagues I met during the fellowship were mostly internationals.
So, where can you meet a German journalist in Berlin? For a non-German speaker, I thought maybe I can try Couchsurfing. I searched for journalists nearby and found few. I don’t remember why I liked Tanja’s profile, but I sent her a message asking her to meet for coffee. And we did.
The details escape me today, since it has been almost seven years since our first meeting. But over the years, we met few times between Cairo and Berlin. I got to meet her small family, including her son. I saw him few months after he was born and was really surprised when she said he was almost four now. Years go by so quickly, and though we meet for few hours every few years, we manage to stay in touch and keep track of how our personal and professional lives are changing.
The only thing I remember from our first meeting was that I hoped we stay connected but was not sure how possible is it. And I am truly glad it is working out and I m sure we will meet again few years from now, sometime … somewhere!
The present matters.
„The rest is history“ is an expression being used to cut a long story short. It is cutting down the number of words on a condition which is obvious. Nevertheless, it does not help to describe how the world(s) have changed ever since my Egyptian colleague Nehal and I have initially met. Especially her world did. But mine seems too.
In 2009, my idea about Egypt was scarce. I’d never been there before. I knew it was the country of the pharaos and there was a queen named Hatschepsut whose temple had been the site of a terrorist attack in 1997. Terrorism however was a threat out of reach to me. My world being targeted seemed absurd.
In 2009, I had joined the PNJ. I had recently started working as a full-grown journalist. And I was happy to meet Nehal during her stay in Berlin, due to her work at the German press agency’s office. I remember we talked about everything but Hatschepsut and the pharaos. It was one day in December. The present mattered.
Two years later, I became involved in the PNJ’s bilateral exchange program with Cairo. This was the year of the Arabellion. Naturally you pay a lot more attention to headlines about changing conditions in a foreign country if you know people there. I knew Nehal in Cairo. I knew her office was not too far away from the city centre. I wasn’t familiar with Tahrir, yet I was.
My first visit to Cairo was in 2012. The year following up the Arab spring. The revolution seemed to have had a huge impact on society. People were on the move. People lived their common spirit. I remember Nehal showing me around her office in Cairo. I was surprised how small it was. Yet filled with a fresh breeze.
She came to visit me in Berlin the same year, shortly after my son was born. A visible change on my side too. We kept on moving. I returned to Egypt in 2014. So did she to Berlin. This time, we were discussing the post-revolutionary Egypt. I remember we had coffee at the library’s cafeteria. It was cold outside. Spring had not yet arrived. Or – left?
Now it is 2016. Springtime, again. We are here in Bonn. Life in both of our countries isn’t the same. Europe faces a demand for change this time. Europe has been targeted. I am afraid it will be losing its common spirit. The rest is not history I figure.
Text & Foto: Nehal El-Sherif/ Tanja Kasischke