Another year!May 2, 2010 at 9:53 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
Last night Scott and I rushed out to a Drinkies, bought some Heinekens and cracked them open in a dark back alley off the corniche at 12am May 2nd. It was the best birthday midnight ever!
What happened this week? Last Monday night a ton of us went to another Wust al-Belad concert at the Library of Alexandria patio, part of the Library’s spring concert series. It’s always a little bit of experiment going to Arabic-language events (plays, concerts, lectures) because one can’t be sure he’s understanding everything. But they sang the 4 songs of theirs that I know, best of all “Magnoun” (“Crazy”) which addresses world peace etc. Our hearts bleed, as Jahd pigeonholes me.
I joined the amiyyah classes at their teacher Sara’s apartment for our second movie night. Our first was a month or so ago and documented an old Egyptian woman finding extended family in Israel AND Palestine and how these cross-cutting relationships impacted her friends and family in Egypt who de facto oppose Israel. Super fantastic interesting film. This time the movie was “Four Women in Egypt” and did that – four elderly women related their experiences and opinions of Nasser and the “revolution” (I put it in quotes because some Egyptian scholars argue the peaceful nature of Naguib’s coup shouldn’t be considered a revolution, nor should Nasser’s assumption of the throne government). Their opinions ranged HUGELY and it was hard to believe they were best friends – they’d been very politically active, imprisoned etc. One eventually chose Islamism and hearing her rant reinforced my strong distrust of religion’s role in politics. Another, also Muslim, related a conversation with her son when he asked what “God” was. She said, “Some people say God created everything there is. Some people say God is inside you. When you want to, you decide.” She spoke out very strongly against her Islamist friend. She was my favorite, for obvious reasons. Most peculiar about these women was they all criticized Nasser pretty unforgivingly while simultaneously acknowledging his redeeming qualities and what made them love him. They even claim to still love him! Very fun and nuanced discussions between them. And Sara gives us Snickers…
Friday was the second America – Egypt soccer game (I was in Israel for the first one) and we lost. The circumstances of the game provided a nice cultural discussion between Kremer, Scott, and me on the one hand and Nehad on the other. The game was originally scheduled to be played at the field at the men’s dorms, and the “mudeer” (supervisor) permitted the girls to come and watch but not play. When this became known, blood boiled and we simply said we won’t play if the girls aren’t allowed to play. So Nehad and Khaled found another place for the game and everyone got to play, and in fact the few hours of injustice riled up some of the girls, compelling them to play when they otherwise wouldn’t have. It was the most fun soccer match I’ve had in Egypt! We had a great discussion with Nehad. Kremer’s, Scott’s, and my points varied slightly but as far as I was concerned I wasn’t looking (necessarily) to protest an Egyptian societal norm (gender discrimination) at this particular juncture, but rather an American program’s violation of its and our American values (of utter nondiscrimination), through its complacency with a contradictory Egyptian norm. Great discussion about negotiating cultural differences and cultural relativism and where it ends – Scott, Kremer and I ate lunch together on Thursday and continued arguing for about two hours.
After the match Friday we grilled up burgers at the men’s dining hall / kitchen. It was beautiful. The staff there was very insistent about “how to do it” but our entire point was that we wanted to do it OUR way, American-style, not Kofta-in-the-shape-of-a-patty, so it was a huge exercise in patience and a little compromise to preserve the American dream of beef, rolled into burger patties with some garlic and onion and ketchup (there wasn’t any Worcestershire sauce around [probably in the Middle East]), a slice of heavily processed and individually packaged cheese, a crispy bun, some watermelon, some chips… We did triumph in the end, but I was a little annoyed. We appreciate the staff’s enthusiasm to share their ideas, but when they say, for instance, “you have to put salt and vinegar on the onions before you use them” and we say “no, thanks, but we think it’s better just fresh up on the burger” and they say “No, you have to” and we say “it’s cool, we do it this way all the time back at home so we’re just gonna try it this way” and they say “You’re Wrong,” all my hippie convictions get swept under the rug and I become the closest I ever get to tattooing an American flag on my chest and listening to Kenny Chesney and condoning Americanization of the backwards, hamburger-ruining natives. I do like Kofta. It’s just simply not a hamburger. And be a little more patient and accommodating of our revolutionary burger convictions, Medina al-Gamayiah kitchen staff, particularly after you agree to host an American Barbeque Day. Thanks.
Can you tell I’m getting itchy for New England these days? Public consumption of alcohol with Scott last night felt good on more than one front…
I’m a little under the weather. A beast has taken up residence in my throat and manifests itself through green vomit in my ears and a accursed sodomization of my voice. I only had Fosha today, so I went back to the dorms and took a nap. Tonight, Jade and Scott planned some sort of event for SF and me, as we celebrate the end of my 21st birthday and the beginning of her’s at midnight. I plan on kindly disregarding the Throat Beast and focusing solely on the liver, making sure it’s working for its keep. (Don’t worry mom). Jade got me this beautiful cotton button-down for my summer adventures in Oman, where the temperature and cultural norms are at direct odds. I’m instructed to “clean up” for tonight (which remains a mystery, but I will blog about what I remember), so adding this nice shirt to the cotton pants I bought a couple weeks ago, I’m what Sabry calls “Fafy” – originally understood as “wimpy” but more recently discovered to have classist implications. Those who are rich and don’t have to struggle for a living, and who wear cotton “bro” outfits, for example, qualify as “fafy” in Egyptian colloquial, regardless of their cajones. Whatever man, these clothes are SEXY.