In Egypt the Revolution was televised…

Standard

So Mursi is out and the Army is in?

Many (most) of the Egyptians I know are happy with what happened, and I am resigned to the fact that Gazelle has no control over anything.   Hoping for the best, I guess.  After all, my Coptic friends seem to be relieved that the pending encroachment of political Islam on their lives has been stemmed.  As for most of the Muslims that I know, they didn’t vote for Morsi anyway and have been dissatisfied with his leadership style from the get-go.

Many are hopeful that the army’s takeover means implementation of the real transitional plan that the January 25th Revolution was supposed to achieve.

This is all anecdotal of course… but then again, so is much of what is being said IMO anyway…

Viva la Revolucion?

yes, what perhaps is more interesting to me is the plethora of pundits, intellectual bandits and news media people who all have something to say. Much of it is the same thing over and over.  Some of it is randomness.

Let’s face it, Egypt is the story of the hour.  A few weeks ago, it was the Tsarnaev brothers, week before last I guess it was the birth of North West….

No doubt this new chapter in Egypt is going to have long-term implications for foreign and perhaps even economic policy.  But, I wonder what good much of the different commentaries I have skimmed through and heard over the last 48 hours, will be to anyone?

How much of it is just blasting hot air?  How much of is just random people at think tanks who just want to be the ones who called “it” what ever “it” is, first?

I’m not going to point any fingers.  Anyone can Google Egypt right about now and find a plethora of random, organized and not-so-organized thoughts.

Besides, this is not what this post is about.

I fear MB reprisals, news of their tv stations being closed and their leaders being arrested is everywhere.  I also have a friend whose family member, she says was gunned down for being Ikhwani (Muslim brotherhood).

This divide is unsettling. I don’t know if MB leaning people are over reacting or if people who wanted Morsi out simply don’t care about what happens to the MB.  (A big mistake and pretty darn undemocratic IMO)

The Egyptian Experience continues to be the gift that keeps on giving.  In general my attitude towards politics is that

أنا ماليش دعوة بالسياسة

But something tells me that I will be following the ramifications of the newest chapter in the Egyptian Revolution, if only through my Facebook Contacts.

Something tells me the fight isn’t over

This Revolution even had me re-open my personal Twitter account (the password for which I never remember).  The last tweet I had was a reference to my then confusion as to which country I would be spending the second year of my Masters program in. (circa June 2011, to give you and idea of how long it’s been).

While there I stumbled upon this gem of a quote that someone else had tweeted:

This is not a coup d’état; it is a peaceful revolution.” -Colonel J.D. Mobutu, Sept 5, 1960.

Of course, I don’t think Mobutu came in with the kind of popular support that the army has come in with.  Plus, at least technically the army is not the head of state, the interim president is. In many ways this quote is like many others, being thrown out there about Egypt, despite the unique nature of the Egyptian context.

On the other hand, it would be kind of scary to see it ring true. I’m praying Egypt doesn’t rue the day that Mohammed Morsi was kicked out of the presidency.

 

Questions still unanswered

Standard

I am watching (because I have no choice) the special report declarations… the surviving Boston bomber suspect has been apprehended alive.   A life saved and wasted all at once.

I say watching because I have no choice because the answers to the questions that I am asking will not be resolved in the near future.  Some weeks, or perhaps months down the line, there will be reports giving us an accurate, clear picture of why this happened.  I want to know why, so that it doesn’t have to happen again.

We can go through the chicken and egg arguments, pontificate about American hegemony or lament with our 20/20 hindsight about the realities that may have contributed to the loss of life and maiming that happened on Marathon Monday 2013.

I think about the Chechen kids who would never have done such a thing, had they been given the opportunity for a better life in the USA, I think about how people with such seemingly promising futures extinguished their own lights the moment they left two pressure cookers as a crowded event, hoping (I suspect) for optimal   impact.   I think of entire communities moving in fear and all those forever maimed physically and emotionally by all that happened.

And it’s heavy.  It’s  relief that this part of the nightmare is over, but there is still so much more to be done, to be revealed.

What will be the effects of these events on American society?  There is an article running in the Onion, something to about Americans being too ignorant about Chechnya to stereotype anyone… ha, ha?… to be honest it’s a thought that came across my mind:  Thanks goodness the perpetrators don’t fit the stereotype.  I wonder if that really makes a difference to anyone.

But we will see how this all goes and how it unfolds.

The Cost of Street Harassment!

Standard

I have had it up to here… from here on out anyone that says sexist or racist things to me, is going to get an earful!

I am so sick and tired of being a society where people are devalued and depreciated.  I am sick and tired of being viewed as a thing that is here purely for the amusement of others.  I am sick and tired of people’s ignorant, racist, sexist selves rearing their disgusting heads and attacking unsuspecting people for no reason.

I don’t want to blame an entire nation or culture for a problem that at least some people acknowldege.  But it really gets hard to do when you have to deal with bs all day every day. And to be honest I really don’t.  But every once in a while, the comments, the stares, the taunts add up and I ready to cuss someone out.

The funny thing is when I point out to these random gawkers and harassers the fallacy or irony in their statements, their not even able to understand what I am getting at… and that has nothing to do with the fact that I am speaking Arabic! …. it reminds of a saying in Egyptian Arabic

هم يضحك هم يبكي

it’s those situations where things get so bad that you literally start to laugh.

A few weeks ago some construction workers decided to start yelling Africa and hey dark-skinned girl as I walked down the street with some friends.  I stopped and asked them “What continent are we in right now?  What continent do you think Egypt is on?”  …. their responses were priceless “We’re in Alexandria”  “Do you need directions or something”…. Wasted my breath, and I couldn’t even be mad at them… I was mad at myself.  I just laughed at myself.

One of my friends who was with me, who is Lebanese, and so I think a little more daring and hardcore in her harsh analysis of Egyptian society and Arab society in general simply said “Gazelle, why are you wasting your time on trash? don’t waste your breath on trash… it’s not worth it.”

ouch! Was she right?

Those same guys who thought nothing of hassling me, were ready and willing to give me directions as they thought I was lost…. Just a few days left and this country still does not cease to amaze me.

What brought on the latest wave of having it up to here with street harassment?  I had a wonderfully tasty meal at the home of my language partner.  She’s 100% Egyptian woman, doesn’t even speak English, veiled, from the villages not too far from Alexandria and yet we click!  she’s so open-minded, doesn’t judge Americans by her Egyptian cultural scale and will blatantly acknowledge all the things that are wrong with this society, while pledging her love to her homeland.  I really respect her for her genuine friendliness and curiousity… she might just be the first Egyptian that has said “you are like a sister” to me and actually meant it.

After meeting her mother and brothers I really like her all the more.  It was a wonderful 4 hours at her house (and did I mention tasty?  I haven’t had a home-cooked meal in weeks…. Allahu ‘adl wa kareem, that meal was just what the doctor ordered…. I’ve never eaten so many stuffed grape leaves in my life… yum!)

But as I walked to the Cornish to catch a microbus, and as I walked to my friend’s house to work on some test prep and as I walked home after meeting her, I just got fed up with all the racial and sexist comments.  Sometimes I wish people would SHUT THE HECK UP!

Nothing will make you sick of Egypt like the vast majority of your interactions with random Egyptians will.  And it’s even worse when it’s the way you end a day of great chemistry/interaction with some of the few Egyptians that you do know well.

This is what annoys me… I’m almost certain that if I personally knew most of the men that say nonsense, they would never address me that way.  But because of this lack of personal interaction they think it’s ok to taunt, jaunt, threaten and belittle me?

nothing less than f*^&@ up… sorry no other word for it. I hate to say it, but sometimes I do look at the Egyptian men that I know, that treat me with respect and wonder, does he harass women? Did he ever at some point in his life harass women?

And I still haven’t found the answer to what do I do in the meantime? I’ve decided to walk around with my hand in a fist ready to strike, and my tongue sharpened with well prepared comebacks such as

“oh look! and Egyptian!  and Arab!” whenever someone says “hey black girl ” or yells out the name of some random African country (they love to say Burkina FAso, apparently because Egypt won a match against them decades ago) or Jamaica.

“oh look it’s Nancy Ajram!” (she’s a famous lebanese singer) whenever someone calls me Shishkavella (the name of a popular African footballer who for whatever reason plays on an Egyptian team… ha, ha.. I wish I was a shishkavellla, I would be living in the lap of luxury and not have to deal with this daily b.s.)

and my personal favorite, for the numerous rude Egyptian women who just stare, and stare and stare at me “why are you looking at me?  is it because I’m cuter than you?” انت بتبصي عليا كده لي؟ عشان أنا أحلى منك بكتير ولا أيه؟

ha, ha…. trust me they all sound much better in Egyptian Arabic… especially people aren’t neccessarily expecting you to say something…

But this won’t happen all the time, I can’t fight every battle…. I know that….In the words of one woman who had enough and a very scary encounter with some Egyptian men who literally tried to put her in their car “I can’t taze a whole country!…. I’m going home!”… yup.

16 days and counting.

On Mubarak Must Go! or Mubarak must go?— Egypt-less Arabic Study Abroad Options

Standard

Yes, but for what?

So, in light of what is going in Egypt I am thinking about another, issue.

If there is a regime change, what will be the fate of all the study abroad and language programs in this Arabic education hot-spot?

Off the top of my head I know that there is a Middlebury College and Arabic Flagship programs in the University of Alexandria, the ALI, CASA and ILI in Cairo and a slew of other international programs.

Egypt, up until now has been a bastion of relative peace and stability.  Unfortunately the opportunity to study Arabic in the Arab world feels like it is slowly diminishing…  sigh.  I don’t lament this for selfish reasons.

But rather I am thinking of the larger implications as Egypt is “Kind of a big deal”.

Case in point, about half of the students in my program have studied in Egypt.  Want to know why?  simply check out University websites like the University of Michigan  for a  list of study abroad programs:  http://www.umich.edu/~neareast/arabicstudy.html

Surprise, surprise. There are significantly more Egypt programs than there are anything else.

The reality is there just aren’t many alternatives…

My beloved Morocco is scoffed at by many who (with good reason and without good reason depending on how you look at it) just don’t want to deal with the Moroccan dialect.

Yemen, although IMHO one of the best places to learn Arabic is a hot mess (I am happy that I got to study there when I did).

Tunisia (which was never a real big Arabic language learning destination, is wobbly right now anyway.

Lebanon is always tip toeing around one political upheaval or another.

Saudi Arabia is just way too conservative.

Sudan is off limits — for most Americans anyway and Libya tooo for that matter.

Algeria— well, although the situation is stable there, the blot of its long, drawn-out civil war plus its North African dialect makes it not a contender.

So who is left?

Qatar/The Gulf region(minus SA of course)— good luck finding people who speak Arabic!  if full language immersion is what you’re looking for, then the Gulf is definitely not it.

Iraq- Are you serious?

Of course there are other places like  Somalia, Djibouti, Mauritania and Niger… but let’s be real, I find it hard to believe that any of these places will take Egypt’s place. Sigh.

The way I see it the only viable options are now,

Syria— Awesome, great programs, great Arabic and tentatively unscathed.

Jordan-— They’ve go some really good programs, but perhaps not nearly enough to hand the demand.

Oman — over looked, but stable possibility as far less oil-infused Gulf Arab state.

Israel* — I think the caveats go without saying.

But I don’t know if these places can handle the overflow.

At any rate, it looks like change is coming… so here’s to being along for the ride.

 

The Egyptians mean business

Well this is it for me and Egypt… I am tired of all the ME heads referencing it on Facebook and blogs and the newspapers… my two cents have been shared.

On Being American– Conversations I Don’t Want to Have

Standard

There is nothing like going abroad to make me realize how protective I am of America.  yes, when I’m home I complain about x, y and z.  But now that I am here, you better not talk trash about my country…lol..

Case in point I let myself get dragged into the dreaded Israel-Palestine argument. I’A that will not happen again. I don’t like it because it’s usually like talking to brick walls.  In my defense I didn’t start it, this girl in the cafeteria did, by saying that American foreign policy never changes and that Obama hasn’t changed the agenda much at all and that “the Jews” own and control everything. Not the Jews as  individuals  or corporations mind you, but rather… well I don’t know what she meant by that…. I think she was implying that they were their own branch of the government… I think.

At any rate, that’s nothing that I haven’t heard before. But she then goes on to tell me that there is nothing for Palestinians to learn from the US civil rights movement because black people were trying to get integrated but “Palestinians are not integrated at all”…hmmm I guess she didn’t understand that the point of the movement for integration was that the black community was not integrated into the white one (and it still isn’t sometimes…but I digress).

Her main point was that Palestinians were 100% right in whatever they do and that they should keep on with their attacks until they win.

hmmm what else? Oh yes, the most important point of all, I don’t understand Palestinian suffering because I haven’t experienced it by living in privileged America.

That’s just about the most ridiculously patronizing thing I have heard in a while. Even after I broke down for her that I’m not some American that has never left US soil, that my family is from Sierra Leone and I could tell you some things from what’s happened to them that would make you shiver, her response was well, I live in the Middle East and have experienced it.

Which Middle Eestern country you might ask?…. Bahrain! freaking Bahrain!  Yes, she is practically in the Gaza strip :(…

Never mind my 2 degrees in Middle East Studies— I don’t live in Bahrain, so I have nothing of value to say.

—- Hence why I almost NEVER discuss this issue— but it wasn’t my fault honest….

The summary of how the discussion/argument went is a bit choppy, but I really didn’t totally disagree with her.  I just didn’t agree with half the stuff that she was saying, and ask people to qualify their statements— which she didn’t do all the time.

At any rate, we don’t have to agree all the time, this is normal, heck we don’t have to any  time.

I really am  tired of trite diatribes and people sounding like parrots…  Maybe it’s just me, but my worldview is all about practical, objective ways to resolve issues…. maybe that’s why I don’t run anything, not even my own life…lol!…

But seriously I think there  is a bit of language barrier going on too, her English is perfectly good,  but sometimes I think messages get cross wired somehow— I know I do that in Arabic too, you sort of latch on to one meaning, perhaps the main meaning of a word, and when someone uses it outside of that context you misunderstand the message. Or maybe it’s just a very different format for argumentation than I can understand.

I don’t know if that girl and I will talk anymore….the conversation did get pretty civil after that.  Although, oh well no free homestay in Bahrain for me…lol—-

My Bahraini is entitled to here opinion, and in the end that is exactly what I told her.  Well I also said that she shouldn’t expect me to accept her point of view as my own.

———————–

This conversation is symptomatic of many things:

I really hate it when people who have never set foot in the US try to tell Americans what America is and what it isn’t.  What US politics is and what it isn’t.  It’s happened in every country I’ve been to and it really makes mad!

I’m not sure whether to roll my eyes or just ignore statements like:

“America is a very unsafe place”— how the  do you know that?— and what does that mean?

“Americans are all fat and eat Mcdonalds all the time”—- Um do I look fat to you? because we’re the same size.

I know Americans get a bad rap for being ignorant.  But I have met plenty of people ABROAD that give the most ignorant Joe schmo a run for his money.  At least Joe accepts the fact that he’s ignorant, heck he may even revel in it.  I think it’s worse to make authoritative, blanket statements that aren’t really rooted in much besides what you think things must be like. Or worse still, tv shows and movies.  I am not one of those “Flavor of love Girls“…. and I don’t hang out with Ross and Rachel in the part of NYC where apparently no black people exist… and I am not afraid of Arabs or Muslims (yeah get that too).

I hate it when people try to define who I am, my society, and what my life experiences must be.

I don’t live, have never lived and will probably never live in Saudi, and as such certain things are off limits in my mind at least, as to what I can say about it. But everybody wants to talk about America and tell Americans what it is, isn’t and should be. Sigh…. too many bad memories of stupid arguments.

I really do hope no more Israel-Palestine— but I can’t always sit by and let people make blanketed, ignorant comments…    that’s just how it has to be.

—–

and another thing, that strikes me as a  bit weird, why is what religion are you/are yo Muslim like the first question after what is your name?—lol… It’s weird from an American perspective, I guess because religion is a more private affair than it is here…. hmmm maybe this warrants an entire blog entry in itself.

It’s just not a question that I would ever ask someone off the bat.  Maybe after getting to know them for a minute… but different strokes for different folks.

— and another thing… Don’t ask me who I voted for! That’s nunya!

———————–

Wow, this post is more like a streak of grievances with living abroad.