Fellows' Reflections: Tonia Bartlett

I wish I could capture the dynamic energy this city holds, all of its complex simplicity. I’ve never felt a city so alive as Alexandria, in its constant hurried ease. So often this city feels like a living and breathing contradiction: full of strangers who already consider you family; forever moving at the pace of a relaxed rush; a concrete jungle nurtured by the sea beside it. 

Sometimes I also feel like a contradiction here. I call a city that does not belong to me my home; using my broken Arabic to navigate streets, requiring patience from everyone I meet. As I slip into my life in Alexandria, it feels like everyday I’m humming along to a melody that I’ve never heard. There are just no quiet moments - in my head, or on Alex’s streets. 

The contradictions in Alex remind me how beautiful it is to be alive and full of imperfections, just like the urban giant around me. It reminds me that I can have a place here too - working in this region, living on this Earth. It reminds me of how much grace there is in allowing yourself to be in a foreign space while trying to make sense of what “home” means. I guess most of all, it reminds me that the world, and we as people, are so much softer and simpler than we make ourselves out to be. That in the midst of contradiction, we too are doing all we can to welcome the strangers we collect along the way.