La Dolce Vita: Gazelle Went to Italy Ya’ll

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Italy, Italia… however you spell or say it, wow! That place was nice.

Going to Italy made me realize the need for balance in my views on non-Western cultures.  With good reason, I didn’t focus on Western Civilization in College or beyond: There was so much that I didn’t know about the Arab World, Africa and Asia (so much I still don’t know). I can’t even begin to fill the pot holes on the road of knowledge about Latin America.

And yet, this trip left me in awe and amazed at…..drum roll please…. Western Civilization! ha ha…

It is a strange thing, I think. To be in awe of Italy and particularly Tuscany/Florence, where I went, the extent to which I am is weird. Yes, for me it’s weird.

I am not unfamiliar with Michaelangelo’s David.

Look at him. He’s beautiful.

But I wasn’t aware of not just how amazing it is to see this in real life, but to understand something about the amount of work that went into carving this.  The statue is anatomically correct (including the muscles and veins!)… Michaelangelo didn’t even get to pick a choice block of marble for this: He had to carve the David out of crappy product, making this feat even more amazing.  But the real kicker is how old he was when he did it: 27 years  old!

And um, yeah, here are the masterpieces he completed by 15 or so:

Yup 15

Yup…only 15!

But you know what, I could gush and gush about him forever… so let’s leave it at that… ha ha…

This trip just helped connect a lot of dots in history… I saw a shrine dedicated to Galileo (Florentine). I also saw the graves of ….. Leonardo Da Vinci (Florentine), Dante Aligheri (Florentine), Machiavelli (yup… Florentine) and Michaelangelo himself.

I saw some of the great works of artists whose names were familiar and unfamiliar, but their works pieces I had scene as I rustled through pages of white-washed history books.

It was amazing, exhausting and humbling. I have never really cared for visual art or museums. And I am surprised by the extent to which I connected emotionally with the pieces I saw (and most of which I could not take pictures of! Ugh! museum policy, but yeah I bought a book about MA’s masterpieces… ha ha…). And I don’t just mean Michaelanglo’s stuff either. Look at this…

I actually saw the finishing touches of the restoration of this altar/chapel... amazing, the time and effort it takes

I actually saw the finishing touches of the restoration of this altar/chapel… amazing, the time and effort it takes

 

When I say amazing to see in person, I mean, Amaziiiing! …. my photos don’t do it justice, but this one (from the web) at least let’s you see the entire piece.

 

 

 

 

Seriously, and experience like this 12 years ago, might have turned me into an art history major….. (…. no comment).

 

 

 

 

and yeah, if anyone was wondering, the food was awesome… and I say this although I got sick (and don’t think I will ever eat Lasagne again!… ha ha…)and never actually tasted pizza in Italy 😦 …. I guess that means I ought to go back?…. ha ha….

Anyway, here are a few more snippets of what I saw in Italy.

IMG_00000570 IMG_00000607 IMG_00000581 IMG_00000609 IMG_00000588 IMG_00000605

 

So yes, I completed an art history on crack tour… and am so grateful for the experience. Would I go back?

Sometimes I think when you back the magic is lost. But, you never know…  Italy will never be Spain to me… Barcelona will always have a special place in my heart… ha…

 

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In Egypt the Revolution was televised…

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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.

 

Extra Prayers and Hugs for Egypt

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I am tired and about to go to bed, but I’m throwing a prayer out there for peace and stability in the land that I called home for 9 eventful months.

When the Arab Spring caught up in Egypt, I was like most people, watching from the outside.  I had never been there and so, had nothing personal or tangible to link the events that were unfolding to.

But now, everything has changed. That American that got stabbed in Alexandria?  No, I didn’t know him, but I do know his Egyptian roommates (both great guys who warned him not to go out the protests,  but that is another entry for a time when I am not so sleepy—- Egypt in general was still not as turbulent as this incident might lead you to think, I know… I was there).  Moreover, Egypt is now a tangible place, with names, and back stories of conversations and kindnesses paid to me.  The program I was lucky enough to complete is going to be evacuated, or so I hear. They will probably be transplanted to the program center that I was in while in Morocco. This is all surreal.
And yet, it’s not terribly surprising.

BUt, I will leave the political posturing and ruminating to others.

Right now all I can do is write this blog entry.  And of course,

Yes, indeed I will

I pray for peaceful resolution to this political showdown.  I guess, since it’s my blog I can say what I really think:  Mursi is not the greatest, but he was elected democratically and should be allowed to complete his term.

That’s not what a lot the Egyptians that I knew in Egypt think though.  Allahu ‘Alim. I fear for Egyptian democracy and what will happen if/when the army takes over.  Will they be like the Turkish army, weaving in and out of the direct control of government as need be? I doubt it.

I am helpless to do anything, of tangible effect. No one knows what the end result will be. Somehow it seems that people are making bold declarations,  but I just say Rabna yastur (God help us).

Yeah, more in-depth (apolitical) analysis coming later.

You get the picture, no translation needed…

I can’t count the number of time I  or someone else intimated that Egypt is going to hell in a hand basket (most recently a group of Egyptians told me this).  And in many ways, I still feel like so many indicators point to this being true.  But, as all interested parties are bracing for the worst, and hoping for the best, I will too.

 

Questions still unanswered

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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.

I love Beantown

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It’s  sad marathon Monday indeed.  It all seem so unreal.  on Marathon Monday in 2003, we discovered a real tragedy on campus- a Wellesley student was found dead behind her dorm.  Later, it was ruled  suicide.

a Few years later, in 2006 the same thing, only this time it was a girl in my dorm, the level below me. An Asian girl, from what I can remember, the only child of her parents.  She had announced her plans in a chat room a few days before, but her warnings did not reach our Resident Director in time to stop her.

So yes, marathon Monday has always had this weird, eery feel to it.

It’s never been a favorite holiday. This is what I think about today, as I reflect on the happenings attacks/bombings whatever it turns out to be, on the city that holds a special place in my heart.  The city where I came into adulthood. The city I hated when I was there, but came to appreciate its idiosyncrasies…

But this is isn’t about me.  Prayers go out to those hurt today.

More than I realize.

On Christian Egypt: RIP Pope Shnouda

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RIP ya Baba Shnouda

Baba Shnouda or Pope Shnouda, the head of the Coptic Orthodox Church died today… he was 88 years old and in failing health… but it was still a surprise.

He played an important role in fortifying the Coptic Church during some trying times as well as had been pretty active in encouraging cross-sectarian dialogue among different Christian groups.  I know I said I wanted to post about Christian Egypt, I guess quite a few more will follow.

Baba Shnouda’s death to me, feel like Pope John Paul’s death in 2005 I was in Morocco at the time, and although I am not Catholic, he was the only leader of the Catholic Church that I had grown up with.  It was sad.  Similarly as I have bee looking at Egypt and Copts Papa Shnouda figured into my image of the Coptic Church in particular.

I am wondering how long it will take to pick the new Pope, and how all this fits into lent season.  Wow, what a time to be in Egypt indeed. Absolutely everything is in transition.

May his soul rest in peace.