Category: The “Other” Category (page 3 of 3)

It’s Almost 9/11. The Liberal of the Family is Reaching Out.

“You must feel great to be outta there.” That was said to me tonight. Not even a question. It was the pure assumption that America trumps, that living in Middle Eastern or African countries has no value, that I am safer on American ground. You are wrong. I don’t feel great. I feel good sometimes, yes, but it is tug-of-war.

Pro: Being out of a country with the promise of revolution now wriggling inside the grip of hero-worship, corruption, a military-driven economy, and autocracy.

Con: Ann Coulter at a Trump rally.

Pro: I can wear shorts in public with anonymity.

Con: The “Brazilian Butt Lift” infomercial comes on and I am unconsciously concerned about the lack of lift in my butt.

 

Pro: The freedom to say what I want.

 

Con: Rejoining another military-obsessed culture where police become abusive more often than tolerable.

Pro: Fresh air and more tolerable temperatures.

Con: The amount of air time spent on celebrity news.

Pro: Being around family.

Con: Being around family.

 

“Is he radical?” That is an actual question asked by one of my great aunts regarding my Egyptian husband. The inquiry was about his religion, not his artistry. She was asking my mother, who promptly replied in the negative and ended the conversation.

My great aunt is white and in her 80’s. I love her. I try to never disrespect her. She is a matriarch. And then she says things that I understand to be completely racist when watching Hurricane Katrina coverage ten years ago. And then she worries for the morals of the family choosing to watch a baseball game instead of Fox News. And then she asks my mom if my husband is into radical Islam.

And there is to be no comeback, no challenge to this generation of the family. She is coming from a place of protection. She is a momma bear. She is solid, unchanging. Secure in her wisdom.

There are second cousins of younger ages who also hold her views. They post things on Facebook with comments that include, “I want the women-hating and children raping political cult called Islam banned in America!” I cannot hold my tongue in these cases and have decided to unfriend them for my own wellbeing.

The following is dedicated to this section of the family. This is a list of things they might not know about their liberal cousin:

1. I agree with prayer in schooltime.

2. I agree that America should never forget 9/11.

3. To me, Islam does not have an Arab face.

4. I think many Muslims are wrong.

 

I Agree With Prayer in Schooltime

Law says public schools can “accommodate their schedules to a program of outside religious instruction.”

  • Classes must not be held on public school property,
  • Religious instruction may not be financed by public funds,
  • Students must have parental permission to be released from public school for the purpose of attending religious instruction.

“Across America today, about a quarter-million public school students from kindergarten through high school are enrolled in religious education through released time programs, according to The Fellowship of Christian Released Time Ministries. Christian instruction is the most common, but there are Jewish programs in New York, Mormon programs in the West and several Muslim programs across the country.”

I find this to be an awesome option. In my hometown school in Hemlock, Michigan, kids can opt to attend bible study for two hours per month. When/If I have a child, I would love to have him/her in public school and able to access a dose religious education monthly. Ideally, this education would include all three Abrahamic (Christianity, Islam, Judaism) faiths equally as well as exposure to and general respect/knowledge of Hinduism, Buddhism, Shintoism, Sikhism, Mormonism, and Agnosticism.

A post from 2004 puts it well, “Whatever the approach, school districts have a civic duty to look for a solution. In the current climate of anti-Muslim rhetoric, how schools — and all sectors of American society — respond to the growth of Islam in this country is a real test of our national character. Let’s not forget that many Americans failed this test in the 19th century when the Protestant majority greeted waves of Catholic and Jewish immigration with widespread nativism and discrimination in schools and elsewhere. This time around, let’s do better. If at all possible, no Muslim American — and no American of any faith — should have to choose between following conscience and enjoying the benefits of a public education.”

 

America Should Never Forget 9/11

I think the most beautiful response to that terror of 9/11 is to build more mosques and support our Muslim neighbors. Respect in the face of hate. This September 11th, in 2015, as ISIS is threatening people and cultures around the world, we should learn about real Islam and its incredible value. Education in the face of ignorance.

America cannot stay stupid on Islam.

 

I have never had a Muslim at my doorstep, only the Church of Latter Day Saints. I wish they could, though. Imagine our Muslim neighbors going door-to-door providing information and resources on Islam. Many people need that education. Building more mosques in America is one alternative. Islamic Centers provide community, charity, outreach, education and more.

Islamic Center of Saginaw (Michigan)

Islamic Center of Saginaw (Michigan)

One study of mosques in America was created by Ihsan Bagby, Ph.D. from University of Michigan, professor at University of Kentucky. His research says that there were 897 more mosques in 2011 than in 2000. The establishment of new mosques could be attributed to the increased number of Muslim refugees and immigrant groups (Somalis, Iraqis, West Africans and Bosnians) establishing “their own mosques where they can feel more comfortable in their own language and cultural environment.” In 2011, 28% of mosques were located in suburbs.

Mosques By State (2011)not including Muslim Student Association centers on college campuses and interfaith prayer rooms

Alabama . . . . . . . . . .31

Alaska . . . . . . . . . . . . .3

Arkansas . . . . . . . . . .13

Arizona . . . . . . . . . . .29

California . . . . . . . .246

Colorado . . . . . . . . . .17

Connecticut . . . . . . . .36

District of Columbia . . .7

Delaware . . . . . . . . . . .5

Florida . . . . . . . . . .118

Georgia . . . . . . . . . .69

Hawaii . . . . . . . . . . . .2

Idaho . . . . . . . . . . . . .6

Illinois . . . . . . . . . . .109

Indiana . . . . . . . . . . .33

Iowa . . . . . . . . . . . . .17

Kansas . . . . . . . . . . .21

Kentucky . . . . . . . . . .27

Louisiana . . . . . . . . .27

Massachusetts . . . . . .39

Maine . . . . . . . . . . . . .5

Maryland . . . . . . . . . .54

Michigan . . . . . . . . . .77

Minnesota . . . . . . . . .45

Missouri . . . . . . . . . .39

Mississippi . . . . . . . . .16

Montana . . . . . . . . . . .2

Nebraska . . . . . . . . . . .8

New Hampshire . . . . . .3

New Jersey . . . . . . .109

New Mexico . . . . . . .10

Nevada . . . . . . . . . . . .7

New York . . . . . . . .257

North Carolina . . . . .50

North Dakota . . . . . . .3

Ohio . . . . . . . . . . . . .60

Oklahoma . . . . . . . . .17

Oregon . . . . . . . . . . .12

Pennsylvania . . . . . . .99

Rhode Island . . . . . . . .6

South Carolina . . . . .21

South Dakota . . . . . . .5

Tennessee . . . . . . . . .38

Texas . . . . . . . . . . .166

Utah . . . . . . . . . . . . . .9

Vermont . . . . . . . . . . .1

Virginia . . . . . . . . . . .62

Washington . . . . . . . .37

West Virginia . . . . . . . .7

Wisconsin . . . . . . . . .23

Wyoming . . . . . . . . . .3

This is how we never forget 9/11. Welcoming more mosques and inter-faith centers. Continuing pursuance of respect, empathy and knowledge.

 

To Me, Islam Does Not Have an Arab Face 

According to Pew Research Center, “While Muslims are found on all five inhabited continents, more than 60% of the global Muslim population is in Asia and about 20% is in the Middle East and North Africa. Of the total Muslim population, 10-13% are Shia Muslims and 87-90% are Sunni Muslims. In four countries – Iran, Azerbaijan, Bahrain and Iraq – Shia Muslims make up a majority of the total population. There also are a few Muslim groups that are difficult to classify as either Sunni or Shia. These include the Nation of Islam movement in the United States…”

According to PBS, “Estimates range that between five to 12 million Muslims live in the United States. About one-third of them are African-Americans. Another third are originally from the Indian subcontinent, including Pakistan, India and Bangladesh.”

Mosques in the U.S. by Racial/Ethic Identity or Majority (Bagby)

South Asian . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .33%

Arab . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .27%

African-American . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .24%

African (sub-Saharan) . . . . . . . . . . . . .9%

European (Bosnians, etc) . . . . . . . . . . .2%

Iranian (Persian) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2%

Caribbean, Southeast Asian, Latino, Turkish, White-American . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1% each

 

According to the 2010 U.S. Census, “There are 1,697,570 Arab Americans in the United States. The largest subgroup is by far are Lebanese Americans followed by Egyptian Americans, Syrian Americans, Iraqi Americans, Palestinian Americans, Moroccan Americans, then Jordanian Americans. A number of people from predominantly Arab countries living in the United States are not classified as Arabs, including; Assyrians, Greeks, Jews, Kurds, Turks, Armenians, Iranians, and Roma.” A large percentage of Arab Americans (and Americans from Arab countries) are actually Christian, Jewish, or Non-Religious.

Arab-Americans live in all 50 states and in Washington, D.C. – and 94% reside in the metropolitan areas of major cities. They are legally considered white, but many Arabs reject the U.S. Census classification, arguing that they are not perceived or treated as white by non-Arab Americans.

 

Some Muslims Have it Wrong

Muslims, Jews and Christians are monotheistic, believing in one God. They are all children of Abraham. They all tell of the prophet Moses. Muslims and Christians celebrate the birth of the prophet Jesus/Isa. Jews and Muslims agree on the oneness of God. Christians, on the other hand, believe in a holy trinity. All believe their beliefs and practices are right.

Yet, I think some Muslims, Christians and Jews are very wrong, especially in their persecution of homosexuals and trans people, even homosexuals and trans people of deep faith. I think they are wrong when they shut their ears and shut their doors, when they discriminate. I think some Muslims, Christians and Jews are wrong in the practice of genital mutilation. I think all three can be very wrong in their fundamentalism, corruption, fear-mongering, political or legal interference, and terrorism. I think Muslims, Christians, and Jews are all wrong when they say God blesses certain nationalities and borders over others.

I believe in a God of love and of full human experience including science, critical thought, sexual pleasure, intimacy, family, faith, progress, choice and artistry.

 

This September 11th, I am trying to bridge the family. This is where I start.

 

How Relationships Are Made, or Unmade

People meet. A majority couple-up during their lifetimes into partnerships, marriages, and relationships of all kinds. The “How We Met” stories bring smiles, but I often I learn more from the stories about how people’s relationships are really made, or unmade.

 

Grocery Store

 

BK (before kids), our relationship was built during our trips to the grocery store. He made the mundane fun.

 

AK (after kids), it was the moment I came home from the grocery store to find him playing the guitar for her; and I describe the look on her face as dadoration.

 

And This Time By the Women

 

I tend to think that my relationships have been a bit unconventional for an Egyptian woman.

My current relationship is “impossible,” as my mom puts it. He and I been together now for almost eight months.  I bumped into him in the streets of Alexandria. He was a tourist from a Western country, but (thank God!) not from a first world country. We became friends  quickly. Our conversations were mind blowing (they still are). I had never thought back then that it’d come to anything. He is an atheist, though. I am not a religious person, but I do see God everywhere while he was never able to see God anywhere. We had so many wonderful conversations about that. It’s like the ebb and flow of the sea.

In the end, I realized that all my previous relationships had one goal in the end: marriage. I questioned, and I am still questioning the idea. Now I also question interpretations of my religion that made women get married only exclusively to Muslim men, while men can get married to women of other religions. I question how religion should be this guide that brings people together, but it sometimes ends up building walls. Long story short, I think Islam needs to be reinterpreted, and this time by women. 

When he came to Egypt, he was planning to stay for ten days. He ended up staying for seven months. We are still together, but now it’s a long distance relationship. There’s a lot of pain and joy in this.

 

The Sh*t Makes You Stronger

Our relationship was made through gritty conversation. When he told me he had cheated with three other women, I was shocked to realize our relationship was unmade months beforehand. When exactly? I didn’t know. Maybe it had been unraveling for a while. More likely, it was never made to begin with. My younger-self assumed that I would walk if ever in this situation. Of course, I would walk away. But this is when life surprised me.

Our relationship was truly made in those six weeks of vulnerable, raw, angry, hurt, honest, forward-thinking talks. It became a beautiful and sustainable thing. I am so thankful for him and what we have. Surely changed my life for the better. Turns out, the sh*t makes you stronger.  

 

Where Do I Know You From?
How we met…
New York City = busy & crowded. St. Patrick’s Day in New York City = even more crowded & drunk. On that night, he walked into the bar I was in and the crowds actually parted. He walked right up to me and after two minutes I not so subtlety let him know that I had a boyfriend. I then proceeded to keep talking about my boyfriend for the next hour until we parted ways. He kept saying to me “I know you have a boyfriend, I just still want to talk to you.” No strings. I never got his name and he never got mine.

How our relationship was made…
Two years later and single, I would often think of that St. Patty’s Day Guy and wish I knew his name, but it was New York – the land of 8 million people. Imagine my shock when I walked into my first day of work and he and I had one of those “where do I know you from?” moments. We quickly went from laughter to friends to love. If it’s meant to be, it happens. I got my second chance and it changed my life.

Thank God it Has Ended
Our relationship was unmade because simply I don’t feel secure when my man has a strong relationship with some girl he used to have feelings for and insists on having her as a close friend, disregarding how I feel. Most of our fights were based on this insecurity. I can say that his selfishness led to instability, causing many fights.

I thank God it has ended because I do not have the  nerves to take this kind of man. I should be the one and only.

————————————————————————————-

 

How was your relationship made or unmade?

She and I: A Toast to the 19th Amendment on it’s 95th

My paternal great grandmother, Bessie May Schuster, was born in 1897 and was mighty short.

The family record says her grandfather was “always a Republican but has never held office, nor was he a member of any church.” In 1904, when she was 7, her young mother died, I think of disease. Bessie May had a rural education and the books say she “worked out” until her marriage.

Bessie May Shuster Lent and John Lent

Bessie May Shuster Lent and John Lent

In 1916, at age 19, Bessie May Schuster married John Lent, a member of the Church of Latter Day Saints (Mormon) and a farmer who was much taller and 9 years older. They created a life together on a farm in Mid-Michigan.

On August 18, 1920 (95 years ago today), at age 23, Bessie May got the right to vote through the passing and ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Bill of Rights.

In 1921, she had her first child, who died a few days later. In 1924 and 1926, she gave birth to her two living children, including my grandfather, who quit school after eighth grade to work the farm.

In the 1920s and 1930s, she kept voting and cutting out excerpts from the newspaper including…

Married in gray, you will go far away.

Married in black, you will wish yourself back.

Married in brown, you will live out strong.

Married in red, you will wish yourself dead.

Married in pearl, you will live in a whirl.

Married in green, ashamed to be seen.

Married in yellow, ashamed of your fellow.

Married in blue, he will always be true.

Married in pink, your spirits will sink.

Married in white, you have chosen right.

and Depression-era economic news:

Ordinary business prudence suggested that the causes be definitely located. / Recent investigations have shown that the two great sources of loss to the postal revenues are second-class mail matter and rural delivery.

In 1942, Bessie May’s daughter got married, and a year later, her own father was accidentally killed while crossing the street.

In the 1950s-60s, her son and his very-Catholic wife moved their family to the inner-city because of his work at the automobile plant. Young Stevie Wonder was the neighbor. Bessie May’s grandchildren (including my father) became among only a handful of White students at a predominantly Black inner-city school.

Bessie May and John remained out at the farm. She never used a bank again, and kept the family dollars and bonds stuffed in boxes, mattresses and whatever she could hide well. Her grandboys (my dad and uncle) would return every summer to work the fields.

The grandkids grew up, some graduated high school, all married and moved as close to the ‘burbs as they could afford. In 1966, Bessie May and John had a big hoopty-dee-doo for their 50th anniversary.

Happy 50th!

Happy 50th!

In 1976, John  died and she stayed independently at the farm and hired local guys to plant and harvest the corn and beans.

In April 1978, two months before I was born, Bessie May (age 81) clipped this from the local paper and kept it in her scrapbook, pasted among the hundreds of birth, death and marriage notices…

As a farmer’s wife, I wish to express my thought’s on high food prices. The first point I would make is — the farmer does not have a word to say about the price he receives for the products he raises on his land. Supply and demand is one factor and weather and sales to other countries are other factors. We cannot say “I want such and such a price as I have this much money in invested in producing whatever I have for sale.” We take what is offered. This may be only the beginning of what is to come. How many of our young boys will stay on the farms? Food companies have already gained control in the broiler and egg industry. Huge feedlots are forcing small feeders out of business. / There must be a way to live in harmony. After all, we are all cogs in the wheel which makes our existence possiple. – Mrs. John Bohil of Oakley, Michigan

In the 1980s, rumors started to surface of abuse inside the family. Sexual, physical, or mental, I was never sure. We saw this side of the family rarely, but I did like “Little Grandma” very much. There were struggles with finances and trust amongst my dad’s siblings and parents, which would start to heal during the weddings and funerals to come.

In 1987, at age 90, Bessie May hoped to attend the Michigan Peace March for Global Nuclear Disarmament.

The Michigan Peace March for Global Nuclear Disarmament (from Sault Ste. Marie on May 31 to Detroit on August 9) is not a spectator event! We need the participation of everyone who wishes to stand up and be counted. We are asking for 1. Test Ban, 2. Nuclear Weapons Freeze, 3. Reduction to Zero, and 4. Economic Conversion. No one is more intereted in protecting you and your loved ones than you are. Your particular view of the world, the things you can do, the people you know, your work — all make you able to work for global nuclear disarmament in your own special way.

In 1988, when I as 9, her Alzheimer’s became severe. I didn’t know much about her and thought her to be a poor farmer, probably uneducated, definitely not political.

My grandparents moved back in with Bessie May at the farm. Together, they became hoarders to a jaw-dropping level. My grandparents had her join them in the National Campers & Hikers Association -Family Campers & RVers (FCRV) and Golden Agers Club.

In 1996, she walked away and roamed the countryside looking for her cows. She was found down the road, curled-up, nearly naked. I was a freshman in college out-of-state.

They put a bell on the door to hear if she ever left the house again.

In 1998, at age 100, Bessie May Schuster Lent died.

In August 2015, I found her scrapbook unearthed a treasure of inspiration, thanking the 19th Amendment for what it unearthed in both our lives.

Bessie Mae and a bottle and a friend.

Bessie Mae and a bottle and a friend.

Treasures from Bessie Mays Lovingly Unorganized Scrapbook

Treasures from Bessie Mays Lovingly Unorganized Scrapbook

Great great great grandparents: Sophia Frank Runyan and Samuel Runyan

Bessie May’s grandparents: Samuel Runyan (1833- 1915) and Sophia Frank, who outlived her husband and lived 12 years of her mighty life with the right to vote.

 

 

Rediscovering America: The ride of Re-entry

A beautiful butterfly (which I haven’t seen one in years) landed on me, but it wasn’t the graceful scene you imagine. It smacked me in the neck. This is re-entry.

Jehovah Witnesses came knocking when I was home alone. I haven’t encountered that in years and was excited to have a conversation on religion. They were incredibly nice, but I could not work the lock on my parents’ front door to even graciously send these ladies on their way. This is re-entry.

A recent article says,

“Homecoming can be more challenging and emotionally straining than the initial move abroad.”

My mom battled breast cancer in both breasts in 2012-2014 while I was in Egypt. The intense treatments and surgery left her with no evidence of disease this past year but also permanent neuropathy.  Thus, her bike has no hand brakes, just one speed, no gears.

Mom's bike

Mom’s bike

I took her bike for a long ride on the idyllic Saginaw Valley Rail Trail.

Photo by mlive.com.

Photo by mlive.com.

The Saginaw Valley Rail Trail is free and covers miles of abandoned rail corridor in Saginaw County, Michigan. It incorporates a number of natural features including seven bridges over various rivers and creeks, wild game and wetland areas. It is beautifully landscaped and also offers an equestrian trail, trail shelters, restroom facilities, parking lots, flowers, viewing platforms and benches.

This ride turned out to be the perfect metaphor for re-entry.

I have never ridden a bike like this. Manual. Uncomplicated as a system, but complex in your head. Awesome and frustrating at the same time. The pure challenge and momentum of a natural hill. You have no control, other than hard work and steering.

Several riders with proper racing gear passed me. They knew how to leverage each other’s head wind and go farther as a pack, a network.

I actually fell trying to navigate a sharp turn and back-pedal to slow at the same time.

My dad, an athlete who can no longer run due to a snapped and unrepairable calf muscle, a man who has lived his entire life in this  town, met up with me after riding a full hour before me. He helped me along the way. Family support.

Yup, that ride was re-entry.

I gotta enjoy this ride and this country.

In rediscovering America, these are the things that stand out in this frist week:

  • Shopping. So much of life is centered on shopping and sales and trends.
  • Local news. Local weather.
  • The beauty in seeing so many more interracial families, mixed race children. The love increasingly growing across race and religion.
  • Small town life with people walking to the local Lutheran church down the street on Sunday, congregating at the new massive non-denominational Christian church Hopevale, or driving to the mosque on Friday.

The Islamic Center of Saginaw

  • Country music and media solidifying the idea that the military is saving our butts and defending our freedom.
  • Justice through lawsuits. Judge Judy. People’s Court. Divorce Court. TV commercials telling you that you can get what you deserve. Thanks to a Ms. Carrie Couser who filed a lawsuit against autocalls, I got $14.28 of the $8.5 million settlement this week.
  • The disturbing find on the cable guide for TV shows named “Jihad Watch” and “Jesus or Mohammed” along with the misinforming Jack Van Impe commercials every day, claiming a crusade against Christians, with Egypt as a key example.
  • The unnecessary level of convenience to our Do-It-Yourself culture.
  • Small town life with the free parking and riding trails, but almost every other thing having a price now.

And price is a big concern of mine. One of the reasons I wanted my husband and I to try life in America for awhile was financial. I did not have the expat package in Egypt. While our Egyptian Pound salaries were decent for the cost of living in Cairo, there was no way to keep up with my student loans and credit card bills in US Dollar. We have some contract work secured here, but not enough for rent and health insurance. Is it too late to sign up for Obamacare?

As the American in our relationship, I feel the pressure is on me. Do I take on a job-job for which I am overqualified and possibly unhappy in order to obtain that steady income? Do I hold out for the great career step I know is possible? Can I stop the “job search” and rather piece together a life on grants that pay me as a social practice dance artist, writer and facilitator at the $60-70K level I should be at by this point in my career?

I had high expectations of finding a job quickly, as I highly value my skills and experiences. Turns out, this is a rough road with depressing bumps on this front as well.

11872313_10153399541406084_8825497352405657953_o

The black skies of a stormy Mid-Michigan.

That recent article goes deeper.

“Three quarters of returning employees are likely to experience the psychological discomfort of re-entry. In fact, the distress of repatriation can reach clinical levels since the unexpected challenges take many repatriates by surprise, leaving them vulnerable and defenseless in face of the difficulties. “

It feels good to do the things that I love, that come naturally, like riding a bike in shorts and a tank top. Yet, the bike is different.

It feels refreshing to hear and see English around me, but I miss the challenge of learning Arabic. I miss the stimulation of being immersed in another culture that is wondrously becoming part of my own through a new family.

It feels good to be back in my hometown, but I struggle to live in an America that doesn’t want to look out.

 

Post-script: If you hear of a possible project or position in any of the following areas:

  • cultural diplomacy
  • intercultural training or exchange
  • arts and society (terminal disease, urban crime, intercultural or inter-group experiences, helping insular or divided communities…)
  • international education

I would be beyond grateful if you could contact me or send them to my CV/bio page. Aiming for Chicago, but could be flexible.

 

Goodnight Kiss

If you read one of my first blog posts on here, in response to Mr. Akin’s comments, you know I am fairly open with my experiences. You also know that I came to Cairo with a defense shield around my heart, and my body.

Well, a bit of Culture Shock recently. Not so much shock, more like culture confusion.

I went on a date . Wasn’t sure if it was a good idea to even go in that direction, was determined to be focused on my work here, volunteering, learning, representing my country, being a respected face, a role model, etc. But then I got encouragement on Twitter from one of my heroes and friends Mark Pollock to say yes to new experiences and things that bring me joy. (If you read about Mark you will understand why his perspective and advice mean so much to me, and why he was selected to carry the Olympic flame.)

But after the Egyptian date (which went quite well) I realized I didn’t know the answer to an important question: How does the post-date, goodnight kiss happen in a conservative country like Egypt? 

Does a person here kiss in public? I sure haven’t seen anyone doing so. Witnessed a few young couples with a quick peck while cuddling on a park bench. But not many people who do so are my age. I guess those here in their mid-30s are already married, and they wait til they get home for any kissin’.

Although most everyone in Cairo strolls arm-in-arm (men with men, women with women, men with women), what Americans consider PDA doesn’t occur much at all. Yes, I have seen a few couples more wild than I making-out in the clubs, but this is limited. I have my assumptions that this cohort is comparable to the co-eds in American colleges. Or my life 8 years ago.

People do drink here in Cairo. People party here. Mostly indoors; and all the late-night outdoor cafes sell more tea than booze. Islam forbids alcohol, but not everyone is a practicing Muslim. There are all types of folks here. All out at all hours of the night, drinking tea and coffee and cinnamon with milk, smoking sheesha. I don’t think a costumed pub crawl would ever exist here, well not for Egyptians, and not for a good long while.

So, what about the end of a casual date? If you do not want to invite a guy in to your place but you enjoy his company, do you kiss him in front of your building, right in front of the door guy? In front of the police on every corner? And if people already have an “easy” stereotype of foreign women?

Huh.

Dating in your mid-30s is interesting, my friends, no matter your country or culture.

As I’m writing this, it is International Day of the Girl. I feel very much like a girl. Finding the balance between independence, curiosity, self-protection and romance.

Secretary Hillary Clinton is on my tv speaking about the attack on Malala Yousafzai. Another hero of mine. A child but a role model. “She was attacked and shot by extremists who do not want girls to have an education and do not want girls to speak for themselves and do not want girls to become leaders, who are, for a variety of reasons, threatened by that kind of empowerment,” said Clinton.

We girls fight battles big and small.

We  sing about feeling like we’re “the only girl in the world.” But in all corners of this world, we kiss and are kissed. We are each are own. But some girls, like Malala, remind us all to help hold up our corner of half the sky. To fight like a girl. To love like a girl.

Thank you, Malala. Heal soon.

Goodnight Moon. xoxo

A walk along the Nile.

Don’t Touch Me, Mr. Akin.

If you’ve had the privilege to date me, you know I’m weird, lovely but weird. Not a hand holder.

I’m the survivor of sexual assault. I don’t use the word rape because I feel guilty. Not an innocent victim. Went reluctantly but not-forcibly to the hotel room of a Navy man years ago. Was inebriated enough that I fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow. I got myself into that unsafe bed, and as I was being pushed face-down into that pillow, my body propped into a position I know I didn’t put it into, and my limbs were unable to put up any fight at all, I remembered the PSAs I grew up with. For some reason, I thought if I could only manage to get out the word ‘No’ it all would stop. When that ‘No’ didn’t work, I just laid there and cried.

I walked home from that hotel room alone and quivering around 3am. I recovered quickly. That Navy man must have went back to Florida, unreported. I finally told someone about it three years later. And now I am writing it in public and for the young women and parents out there.

I am guessing what I went through Mr. Akin would consider “illegitimate.” I guess there were other times I should have said no to other men. Should have had the confidence to say no, make them wait.

I should not have walked into that essence shop in Cairo alone last year, where an older gentlemen would proceed to press himself against me.

Speaking of Cairo. That’s also why I’m writing this.

I am headed there next week. And will stay for 5-8 months. This city is known for sexual harassment. Once read that 98% of foreign women report some sort of sexual harassment. Egyptian women are themselves fighting for their rights while also fighting for their freedom. I will join them in my capacity as a foreign woman trying to hold her own independence, strength and worth.

I am sexy. I am an amazing and caring lady.

Costa Rica 2011

 

I am also a dancer who spent her entire childhood looking into a mirror. Was so self-conscious about my fat thighs. Hated much about my appearance. Like most gals I knew.

Last Thanksgiving, I went to Costa Rica. I asked a stranger to take a picture of me in a bikini and I posted it online. Not a huge deal. Others post images of them in less, as performers, as artists, as vacationers. But this was an achievement for me. This was when I felt comfortable with my body. The moment I felt I could be a nice girl and a proud woman at the same time. I didn’t post the picture so that men would react. I posted it for me. To feel strong. It felt good.

It was a long journey after that Navy man; to be able to love and to be able to be left. To understand that my body was mine.

When someone tries to define rape into categories, my guilt pops back up and hounds me. Am I the “illegitimate” one he’s talking about? Should I cover more or less of myself when in Egypt? Does anyone care if I am really proud of shoulders and calves, prefer not to wear sleeves and long skirts all the time? Do I not have a choice? Do I respect their culture, or do I respect myself, or do I have to struggle to find a balance?

If I cover myself every day, will I lose confidence in my body?

My standard of being a decent woman is not a Muslim one. Or a Christian one. My standard of goodness is self-inflicted. As part of humanity. As a teacher and role model for others, of all genders and sexualities. As a dancer.

I will go to Cairo. And I will be amazing.

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