As the pressure was being put on to get my application in to the American University of Cairo, I started to think about the money situation. I would have to spend everything I have saved AND take out a sizable student loan in order to pay for a year there. Granted, it would be one hell of a year, but I decided to do a little more looking and see what else is available. There are several other language schools in Cairo, and they’d offer most of the advantages of the AUC (being in Cairo, learning a common dialect, etc.) but are far less expensive. I then took a closer look at some other places that I had glossed over before. WOW! There are a handful of programs that caught my attention in Morocco, Tunisia, and Yemen.
The ones in Yemen have piqued my interest on several levels. First of all, there are some great language schools there. There are 3 or 4 that have excellent reputations (are affiliated with Cornell and other really good schools) and are very very reasonably priced. A big savings comes from the lower cost of living there. Yemen also offers a cultural experience that is less affected by western influences. Both Cairo and Tunis are filled with nightclubs and Europeans. I really do want to know what it is like to live in an Islamist state, with little in common with where I’m coming from. I could almost afford to go for two years there (I could make it happen hook or crook), it’s that much less expensive.
Of course there’s the whole safety thing to worry about. Yemen has the reputation in the western press to be a lawless, wacko country that hates all westerners (and especially Americans). The state department suggests not going there, especially to the port of Aden. I have several relatives urging me not to go there. Here’s the trouble, the people that have gone, or are there right now don’t see what the fuss is about. Yes, it is a conservative Muslim country, and yes, there are parts of it that are dangerous, and not only to Americans. But in general, they seem to feel very safe there (in the capital of Sanna a’ in particular). The incidences of common crimes that we are used to are much less common over there. Muggings, murder, etc. are very unusual both because of the harsh punishments and the justice that rival tribes are likely to dish out…
It got me to thinking about people visiting the US. How many tourists are the victims of crime here in the US? I don’t really know, but my gut feeling is that there’s quite a number of muggings, and perhaps even some of the more serious crimes like carjacking, murder etc. It wouldn’t surprise me if some countries considered the US to be a dangerous place based only on what is seen in trouble spots in certain US cities (including our nation’s capital). In any case, I’m looking into it. I’m not convinced one way or the other yet, but one thing I do know is that I cannot afford what was my first choice, so Tunis, Morocco, and Yemen are all possibilities, I’ll let you know what I come up with..