Meet Guitar Freak, the latest addition to my team.
A young engineering AUC graduate. The AUCians amongst you might recognize him. He was a brilliant IGCSE student, a talented guitarist, an active campaigner, a hit fund-raiser, king of the activities and overall nice guy on AUC campus. His versatile profile inspired his professors to nominate him to the KAUST (King Abdullah University of Science and Technology) Discovery Scholarship.
Following extensive screening, writing personal statements, sitting in for interviews and competing aggressively Guitar Freak was shortlisted for this scholarship. Following that, KAUST has paid his AUC tuition, a monthly stipend, gave him money for a state of the art laptop, etc.. Basically they have been making some serious investment in those chosen ones who were later to go study at KAUST for a masters degree.
Guitar Freak was cloud nine, he had his entire life mapped out for him and he felt happy with the direction it was going. Earlier this summer, his older brother, an ex-employee of mine gives me a distressed call from Italy. He asks if I once again was in a position where I needed engineers as part timers to work on a consultancy project over the summer? At the time I had nothing in the pipeline. He tells me that Guitar Freak is in shambles because he was told that he was not eligible for a postponement of military duty on account of that masters degree; that this particular article in the law applies only to those already studying abroad. That he had to wait in Egypt and find out whether or not he would get drafted, possibly getting drafted for up to 3 years.
As luck would have it, I did close a deal this summer and am currently working on it with Guitar Freak (didn’t bother interview anyone else). Needless to say the boy had a broken quality to him; one unusual at his age; but one which made perfect sense given the background. I could feel his tension, disappointment and frustration. He made countless efforts, knocked on doors, pulled strings and asked for favours; all to no avail.
Thursday he comes flying in, his feet barely touching the ground. Every ounce in his being screaming out with joy. He says “I have some good news and some bad news.” I smile, “You fixed it, you are leaving!”.
He nods emphatically, he starts telling me how after AUC intermediation to solve the boys’ problem had failed, the KSA parties decided to get involved. I’m unsure on the details of how things worked, but basically what I understood is that his Royal highness somehow interfered, the KSA ambassador in Egypt was involved, there were extensive negotiations with the Egyptian MFA and military. Finally the boys emerge with a “tasree7 saffar” i.e. a document allowing them to leave the country. Kindly note that they didn’t get exempted from military duty, it was just postponed till their return to Egyptian soil, if they ever do return.
I’m grinning from ear to ear at this point, partially infected by his own inner happiness, and partially because the cynic in me found it extremely amusing that the problems of Egyptians on Egyptian soil are being solved by the KSA government, wa 3agaby!
“So where is the bad news?” I ask him. “I’m leaving on Tuesday, so I feel bad about abandoning you mid project”. I mean seriously, how sweet is this boy?!! I assured him that I’d be fine, he offered to bring in a replacement. Meeting new guy on Sunday.