Last week I was standing in Tahrir Square in Egypt, surreptitiously taking pictures of the dozens upon dozens of central security forces surrounding the square, preventing protesters from taking it over again.
And the day before yesterday, I chilled by a waterfall, watching little blond children ride bicycles amongst the trees, and parents throwing Frisbees to their kids. I listened to a blues singer at Famous Dave's and I ate cookie dough ice cream.
And a few days ago, while I was sitting on a swing overlooking a gorgeous lake and being bitten by mosquitoes, the former president of my country was getting ready to enter the courtroom again -- on trial.
This is my first time in the United States. I'm Egyptian, and have lived my whole life in Egypt.
While I was dithering at the apple counter at Whole Foods (15 kinds of apples? Really?) and trying to figure out what the difference was in the many, many categories of eggs that looked exactly the same to me, the military back home was arresting Asmaa Mahfouz, the Egyptian woman credited with creating the video that called on Egyptians to protest on Jan. 25, thereby starting our revolution.
There was talk that she might be up for a military trial. While President Hosni Mubarak and his sons get a civilian trial.
Americans are always criticized for only caring about what happens in their own backyard. If something happens outside that backyard, they'll only care if it somehow directly affects them. I've always thought that was slightly unfair, though: It's easy to care about international news when it affects you, as it often does in Egypt. And it's harder to care when not only does it not affect you, but it's so far away.
I've only been here a week (and in that week I've learned more about Michele Bachmann than I ever expected to), but I realize how easy it would be to tune everything out. Life here is so laid back. Quiet and green and relaxed. No chaos, no mess, no homeless people. I'm amazed at the number of dogs I've seen. The luxury of owning a pet is rare back home. Forty percent of Egypt's population of 85 million live on less than $2 a day. If you have money, you feed and clothe your children.
I'm still getting the news: Six Egyptian policemen were killed by Israeli gunfire the other night. Three hundred people protested outside the Israeli Embassy, asking the military to kick out the Israeli ambassador. And even though I'm Egyptian, and I care, I realize how much easier it is to care when you're there. Where the news is in your face every minute of every day.
From our ivory towers, it's easy to judge the American voter or student or average citizen. They may not necessarily be the most aware of what's happening in the world. It takes a lot more effort for them to be aware than it takes us. But we all have to be aware, or become aware. We no longer live in an isolated world -- we live in a flat one.
I'll get up to speed on the news again soon. As soon as I decide what kind of eggs to buy.
Ethar El-Katatney is an Egyptian journalist. She is the author of "Forty Days and Forty Nights in Yemen," on Sufism in Yemen. She is visiting Minnesota as a fellow with the World Press Institute.