He drove absentmindedly, with an automated mechanical rigour that reflected his muscle memory rather than his consciousness level. Buddha bar music filled his car as he changed lanes following the beaten path to the office. He circled the block in Garden City looking for a suitable parking spot. A familiar face among the crowd, the area parking attendant in the knock-off Levis shirt and skinny jeans waves him over to a seemingly tiny spot. After some tricky manoeuvring he parks his Citroen. He locks his car and strides towards the embassy.
As he turns the corner he is greeted by a familiar sight, a long organized queue of individuals that goes around the block. So many hopefuls from the different walks of life, they had all waken up early, dressed to the nines and have come to stand in queue, in the hope that today would be the day where their dream would be realized. Funnily enough the embassy only let you in when you have an appointment, yet there remains the conspiracy theory mentality that you have to be there early to guarantee access. He walks past them and runs his security clearance card through the digital lock on the exterior door. He was in.
Caffeinated and dressed up, she was good to go. She took a deep breath and uttered the daily car dua’a as she shifted into second leaving their underground garage. She was a mix of terrified and excited. She had told a whopper of a lie the previous day for this errand to even be possible. She thought back to that fateful phone call a week earlier. “Ms. Inji ?”
“This is Nevine from the IFC, you have an interview at our premises on Monday at 10:15 am. Is this timing good for you?” She could feel the wind escaping her lungs as her brain froze for a couple of seconds. She couldn’t believe they were calling. She managed a hasty reply and listened to her absentmindedly as she gave her directions to their office.
She had applied to a vacancy posted on their website at whim a couple of weeks earlier. The IFC to her was a distant dream; her answer to the question of where I see myself in 10 years and more significantly the institution that embodied all she holds near and dear and the sciences and applications which she excels in and values. Her heart was doing more beats a minute than that of a terrified rabbit as you held it up against its will.
She sat in the back seat of her car as her driver made his way to the interview destination. He flipped mindlessly through the FM channels before asking “Fairouz?”. “Mounir” she replied as she sought to hype herself up for the interview. She couldn’t believe how much she was paying him for the amount of work he put in each week. She felt completely ripped off yet completely unable to drive just yet. A severe car crash in her family’s recent history had rendered them all driving-phobic, the creative nature of driving in Cairo was in no way an added incentive.
Today’s interview was the culmination of month of efforts. She had written to universities, compiled an insane amount of documents, filled countless forms, written statements of purpose and intent, collated recommendation letters and taken the GMAT and TOEFL exams. She had run errands left and right, pulled in favours and studied feverishly. She had scoured university websites, evaluated programs and sought the advice of the more experienced. She had been accepted by the top university in the world, the London School of Economics. Moreover, she’d passed initial screening for the Chevening scholarship offered by the British council.
She chanted her mantra in her head as she crossed the British council security checks. She had learned from past visits to avoid heavy metallic objects in her clothing and in her bag contents, that pens sometimes appear to be knives and that no matter what some idiot will forget spare change in his pocket and end up patted down at the entrance holding up the entire line. She was early, punctuality being a trait she was raised to have and which had proved to be a liability living in Cairo.