Tag: Egypt (page 1 of 2)

Best Kitty Ever: A Tale of CH, Western/Middle Eastern Identity, and Determination

My husband spotted him under the tire of an abandoned car. He was stick-thin tiny, big eyes, distraught, tremoring and covered in street filth and his own feces. I thought he was a Middle Eastern rodent. We bent down, got closer and saw he was a wide-eyed kitty. Completely malnourished. At death’s door after only 1-2 weeks in this mighty world. Barely visible in the shadow of a car tire.

It was in the hot July heat of Cairo, Egypt during Ramadan. All the stores were closing for Iftar. There’s no way we could have left him there. We called a vet and begged him to stay open until we could get there so that he could put an end to this kitty’s misery. So we gently, gently slid him onto a piece of cardboard, using a rolled-up newspaper, and got into a cab. He lay still during the ride except for a pronounced tremor. His legs were unbending. I didn’t want him to die without a name, so we named him Lamar after the juice brand advertised on the billboard outside the taxi window.

At the vet, they gave him a bath and discovered the kitty was white and a Lamara, not a Lamar. An x-ray determined that nothing was wrong with her structurally. The vet said she probably had nerve damage from a strong kick or long fall. She didn’t appear to be a breed of street cat, so a human with no heart had probably threw her out. The vet said that with good care  and a few prescriptions, she would be walking in 2-4 weeks. We agreed to take her home and get her to the point of walking so that she could find an owner or shelter. After 4 weeks, she was healthier but no success on the walking front. She still had to be held to drink and eat (which she does ferociously), and lied down to go potty (which can get extraordinarily messy for a long-haired kitty).

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A friend kitty-sat for us and took her to the international vet who gave the official diagnosis. Turns out Lamara was born with Cerebellar Hypoplasia (CH), which is similar to ataxic cerebral palsy in humans and looks like Parkinsons. Cats with CH have a normal life expectancy and are usually not in any pain, other than from falls. Many wear helmets. We considered it, but she hates things on her. Kitty diapers and “wheelchairs” were also a no-go.

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My husband spoke to her in Arabic, and I learned the basics of the language. Her breed seems to be Siamese / Persian / Himalayan mix, but she is an Egyptian gal to the core. She may or may not be Arab, but she is Middle Eastern.

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And she is making her life.

She says no to nothing.

With her moderately severe CH case, they said she wouldn’t ever really walk. At four months old, she took her first consecutive steps.

Then she taught herself to drink sitting up. My husband coaching her through every sip.

Then she taught herself to climb, all the way out of her crate.

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Then, we thought it would all have to come to an end. We became so busy with battering life in Egypt, barely able to take care of all her special needs. She was not taking to any lesson on being house-trained. We tried everything and our flatmates had become fed up. It broke my heart just thinking of alternatives to her not being there. We persevered and looked at life one week at a time.

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At 11 months old, we caught her in the other room practicing trying to stand on all four legs. Balancing lessons. She had taught herself to sit when she was about to fall, rather than fall to the ground.  In addition, she decided to teach herself how to scratch her ear with her back paw. No luck. But she kept trying and trying for months. We would assist her by guiding her foot or holding her head up for her.

She enjoyed her first birthday in the intense Cairo summer heat of the El Sisi adminstration.

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Then she decided she would immigrate to the U.S. This must have been her decision, because I cannot remember my husband and I ever discussing it. This was a given.

She got her vaccinations, passport, paid her fees, and got into a carrier for eighteen+ hours including a layover in Paris.

She came to America and breathed the fresh Michigan air.

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She saw grass for the first time.

She saw birds, frogs, bugs and went on her own version of an uncoordinated backyard stealth attack. Her vertical leap grew to an impressive 2 feet and she “stuck” the landing often with her face. My dad generously constructed her a wheelchair, feeder to help hold her up, and steps to get on the couch. She never decided to use any of these devices the way they were meant to help. But he did teach her to use litter inside a boot tray!

She was making quite a mess of the back room, so we made her a special walled zone in the basement. Well, in the morning, we found her sitting at the top of the stairs. We all thought one of the humans in the house must be a prankster because it was impossible for her to scale a wall and climb an entire flight of stairs.

So she demonstrated once more…

I am one determined kitty. I made it up

Posted October 10, 2015

 

Recently, the three of us moved from small town Mid-Michigan to Chicago. Back to the big city life for our gal. But when the temps reached 66, she gave me a demanding look towards the door.  So Lamara took on the public park.

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Definitely the only cat people had seen in this setting. No fear, and having a blast “chasing” squirrels and diving in the leaves. I stayed near her, on dog and bike patrol, and she had happy exercise and fresh air for 40 minutes with soft grass to fall on. Getting stronger and more coordinated.

She is not the dog we discussed and were planning for, but Lamara has changed our lives. She does the unexpected, every time. She is borderless, bilingual, and won’t be defined. My love. With every butt wipe and every death-defying leap off the couch, she inspires me. And this is only the first 1.5 years of Lamara’s story. Stay tuned.

 

 

If This Dancer Was a Police Officer on Duty

If I were a police officer on duty, in any country, I know I would often be scared for my life. I would be worried that my handgun would not be enough, that my head and chest are often exposed. I would try and make myself seem as secure as possible. I would worry for my family if something should happen to me. I would also worry about what my family and I would feel if I were in the situation where I hurt or killed a citizen. I would want as much training and research as possible to not be in that situation.

But I would also be brave.

When I lived in East London September 9, 2001 through to 2003, I was there in a youth worker role. The community is mostly Bengali, Pakistani, Afghani, Indian, Muslim and Sikh. I was the only American around. It is a economically disadvantaged neighborhood on the far East End.

As a youth worker, once, I alone disarmed a young man I knew, getting him to put his large knife down at a heated moment of retaliation as he stormed in a rage down the street. Once, I pulled a 16-year-old from a burning, stolen car as his friends had left him there injured when they ran from the impending police. This was late at night and I was the only person there, locking up the building when I heard the crash and ran outside to help.

Twice, I held young men’s hands and wounds as they bled from knife injuries and waited for the ambulance.

Often, I worked with the police to report the thefts and drug sales these young guys were involved in.

I am 110-115 lbs and 5’1″ and only know what I know.

 

Every day, I trusted these same young men with equipment and musical instruments, with tasks to help me in the community center, and with my own body when playing football with them in the parking lot at night or in a leap during theatre/dance/writing workshops.

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I’m the lady in the tree.

The neighborhood stayed relatively safe and these guys’ lives changed for the better (most eventually married, found jobs, grew more spiritual in their faith). As did mine. I was privileged, that is true, because it was a deep privilege to do this work and be a small part of their lives.

Reunions in 2009.

Reunions in 2009.

Reunion with a colleague in 2009.

Reunion with a colleague in 2009.

We did our jobs barehanded.

There I wasn’t brave. I simply was empathetic, open yet smart, curious and caring. Like my colleagues.

It didn’t matter that I was a White American and these were Muslim South Asian/Arab young men, and this was the aftermath of September 11th. Well, it did matter in one big sense: we trusted one other enough to listen and learn from one another about race and religion and theories on both ends.

In Chicago, the Ceasefire/Violence Interrupters do more than I ever did. They deal with the strong epidemic that is gun crime on our American city streets. Cure Violence is an amazing organization. They also go out unarmed into dangerous situations. In East London, there are no guns, so crime was restricted to knives.

And now I am in Egypt where all police officers on duty are men and are heavily armed with outdated weapons. They have been responsible for some real atrocities, killing thousands in the last few years, arresting and holding in mass without due process. They have shot down friends of friends. They have wounded those closest to me. I have been in the protests here 2011-2013, but when the police showed up it was always time for me to scram. And this week Egypt have put out a statement and video telling the U.S. police to show restraint. The police are not military, they remind us. Laughable.

Side Note: I have had the idea that the police would be much more effective in Egypt if they hired women to be on the beat and were more mixed in background. Same goes for America, come to think of it.

In Egypt, they are following the story of Ferguson. It feels so close to home.

Two pictures: Egypt. Two pictures: America.

Two pictures: Egypt. Two pictures: America.

We here watched the video of the police killing of Kajieme Powell in St. Louis, Missouri after Ferguson, and were brought to tears. This whole thing got me thinking about the training of police officers. I Googled training options in Missouri and found this:

At the Law Enforcement Training Institute, we offer a Class A-certified 600-hour basic training academy that exceeds Missouri’s minimum requirements for peace officer certification. You receive real-life, hands-on training — from how to protect yourself, to how to take notes, to how to conduct an arrest. You learn practical application of law enforcement techniques as well as gain access to certifications not typically provided in other academies’ basic POST-approved courses.”

A peace officer? Not sure if that is intentional or a typo, but I love it.

I have been increasingly horrified by UN Peacekeepers who have been perpetrators in sex trafficking, by the so-called Peace Walls that keep peace by separating peoples for decades, and other harmful peace initiatives. Sometimes peace-related activities truly suck.

But right now, the concept of a peace officer feels so needed.

Just imagine.

A Dancer, Two Hostage Governments, and a Pizza Place

So thanks to the Binational Fulbright Commission in Egypt, this week I am attending the 36th Annual Fulbright Conference in Washington D.C. The conference is taking place near Capitol Hill. And the government is shut down. Not a lapse of appropriations, but an actual government shutdown. Only other time that happened was 1995. And this is the first time it is happening by a refusal to fund passed legislation.

With The Sequester, Benghazi, plus The Shutdown, the US has closed 19 diplomatic posts in the Middle East and South Asia. Fulbright program has been cut by 1/4th. United States Institute for Peace (USIP) and Wilson Center have been zeroed out.

Heart. Sink.

Public employees and civic heroes across the land are working for no money. Places and services severely hindered or completely unavailable. No museums or parks. But the DC Jumbo Slice experience is hot and ready 24 hours.

In today’s opening session at the conference, Congressman Jim Moran (VA) spoke generously, and then he rushed back to the irrational Hill. He started out by apologizing for the government and said that what was happening was inexcusable. As he was speaking and I was taking notes, the lines between Egypt and America started to blur in my mind. I knew he was talking about one country, but his ideas could easily be describing the other.

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  • Our government has ground to a halt on the basis of ideological fundamentalism.
  • Should we make the Presidential election the referendum?
  • A conservative fraction that is inexperienced politically
  • They cannot be challenged electorally. They represent an ideological point of view and the more extreme you get, the safer you are.
  • Taking the government hostage
  • Isolationist and anti-government
  • The military industrial complex
  • How to appropriate the funds from the spoils of war
  • Military funding strong but diplomatic efforts stripped
  • [Speaking to the Liberals, Artists and International Scholars] “Thank you for being who you are.” “You got to engage! Get out of your comfort zone. You are more numerous than you think. We need you. desperately. now.”

Now you might ask what a dancer is doing writing about governments or politics. You will understand in a minute. Keep reading.

At the conference, we are talking about Education. Brandon Busteed of Gallop explained that the top two reasons people say a post-secondary degree is important are…

1. To get a good job (however you define “good job”)

2. Make more money

*Note that in the mid-1960s, the top answer was “to develop a meaningful philosophy of life.”

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There are many ways to define a “good job.” Dr. Angel Cabrera, President of George Mason University, told us he defines a good job as one you would want your children to have. I thought of my parents. They would probably at-first say they want me to have a good paying job, financial security, health insurance. I am currently uninsured and was for years earlier in my career. Luckily, I live in Egypt and have access to affordable care.

Beyond the salary, my parents they would probably add something about a job that makes me happy, puts my talents to use in the world, offers opportunities they never had, keeps me dancing, and keeps me physically safe. And to be on that road to a good job, I had to go to college. I was the first person on either side of my family (and remain the only one) to attend a 4-year university. The only one to graduate. The only one two live abroad. Twice. The only one with a Masters degree. I am the only one in the arts. My family contributes so much to this world and their paths are all different (community leadership, nursing, technical training, sports, retail, faith, parenting), but Academia and the Arts Academy haven’t been a part of their lives.

I am not here as a representative of Academia or the Arts Academy. And I am not talking about the arts conservatory model. That’s not my interest. I’m not talking about e-learning, or blended learning. Or a form of education delivery that can often morph into something elitist, expensive, pretty, insular, history-focused, antiquated, and disengaged from the real world. I’m not talking about what Dr. Cabrera referred to as our “romanticized” ideas of the liberal arts classroom. Because many of our classrooms and conservatories have little to no quality human interaction in actuality.

I am responding to Congressman Moran’s call for agency. “Thank you for being who you are.” “You got to engage! Get out of your comfort zone. You are more numerous than you think. We need you. desperately. now.”

And the idea I am speaking about is  redefining a “good job” both in Egypt and the US. Helping families and students define it for themselves. Help governments, investors, entrepreneurs, educators, and funding bodies create “good jobs” and “good education” to match. Appropriations and programs to match. Especially in the arts, in dance.

I am saying that if we focus on Dance History , we also need to offer Dance Present and Dance Future, Dance Diplomacy and Dance Civics.

Someone needs to start fixing what’s broken in our two countries. It might as well be dancers.

 

 

P.S. Getting a replacement camera next week. Next blog post will have pictures.

 

 

 

We hoped it wouldn’t happen

Last night was nice. I attended a great conversation at the Opera House cafe between a journalist/former US ambassador and a group of the Egyptian artists active in the June sit-in at the Ministry of Culture. We discussed how the artists’ occupation of the ministry evolved and how it connected to Tamarod and the National Salvation Front. We talked about artists as documentarians, historians, catalysts and change makers. Americans and Egyptians alike talked about how the United States has had a “lack of imagination” when dealing with the revolution here and addressed various conspiracy theories and definitions of terrorism. We all had different opinions of the military under General Sisi’s leadership. Some artists told horrific personal stories of the violence by the SCAF in 2011 and 2012. I reminded them of what I had learned about Basiony‘s story. Some artists showed evidence of recent violence by the Muslim Brotherhood/pro-Morsi protestors, kidnapping a friend of theirs and torturing him at the Rabaa site the day before. The discussion was above-all passionate and ended with friendly goodbyes and and a shared bill.

This morning I awoke to a friend saying to turn to the news. The pro-Morsi sit-ins were being dispersed by force. We knew it was going to happen. We also thought it might not happen, maybe not. We hoped it wouldn’t happen. We hoped that if it did happen, my friend’s family (Salafi, MB supporters) would not be there. We had hoped that if it did happen, it wouldn’t be like this. We didn’t know it would be today. Even though we disagree with the pro-Morsi protestors, we think they have a right to be there. And them being martyred is a tragic, awful, sickening and stupid strategy by the military and interim government.

Some say all the protestors were unarmed. Some showed pictures of them with machine guns and homemade weapons. ON TV showed ammunition-filled suitcases and other weaponry that had been confiscated. State TV showed a different story. Some say there was no warning and no safe exit for the protestors. Some say there were bulldozers being used as weapons, protestors burned in tents, police in armored vehicles, tear gas, live ammunition on both sides, and mass arrests.

All I know for sure is that pro-Morsi protestors started to set up camps and march in other places in the city, including near my apartment in Mohandaseen. My boyfriend went out for a few much-needed groceries and found the main street where I had danced with happy Egyptians during a street party on July 3rd, now void of traffic and peppered with brick barriers, marchers, tires on fires, tear gas. All my flatmates and myself (Egyptian, European, American) received calls that we had the day off from work. For a big city usually abuzz with life, today was eerily quiet on the streets other than the pops of gunfire. I live off Gameat El Dewal and for the very first time during my 12+ months in Egypt in the past three years, I was concerned enough to obey my friends’ warning not to leave the apartment.

I turned to Twitter. People who supported June 30 were saying today was the real coup. Some called it a massacre. Some said the military had to do something. Some showed a photo of a police vehicle pushed off a bridge, with officers inside. Some say Islamists had retaliated by burning Christian homes and 18 Coptic churches, including two of the oldest in the nation, killing a 10-year-old girl. Some say dozens of police officers were killed. Officials said 149 people died. Muslim Brotherhood said 2200 were murdered near Rabaa alone. Journalists were going into mosques, morgues and field hospitals, reporting their own counts of bodies.

The images on TV and Social Media were graphic.

Despite my far less important personal battle with cabin fever, I stayed home and kept on the phone and online.

@rabihalameddine: If I go back to bed, can we rewind to the night before? What happened in Egypt is horrifying, confusing, and utterly familiar.

@Ikhwanweb: #WeStandTogetherForEgypt show your support for the #AntiCoup #Prodemocracy movement in Egypt under attack by own military and police

@KLF33: A call to all Muslims. We will rebuild our churches.  Yes I said our.

@AhmedKadry: Churches burning down, Egyptians being murdered, journalists being killed. Not “the revolution continues”, it has yet to start.

@monaeltahawy: I repeat: I do not know whose death toll figures to believe. That’s how meaningless truth and accuracy are in #Egypt today.

@Amiralx: Rejoice for interior minister has promised no more sit-ins anywhere ever and a return to pre-2011 revolution security. High fives all around

I turned to @MadaMasr for translations of the speeches.

Reports confirmed the killing of the daughter of a MB leader and the arrest of 8 senior MB members. Reports confirmed the deaths of journalists.

I Tweeted my personal experience of ballet class being cancelled and being afraid when my friend just went out for bread, milk and sugar. Somebody read what I wrote and decided to publicly call me a [email protected]%kwit because of the triviality of my post.

I just know I felt things feel so wrong, so sad.

Then a State of Emergency was declared, with a 7pm to 6am curfew for a month at least. My friends and flatmates, having been through this before, took this news in stride. Naively, I don’t know what this means for my dance classes scheduled  for the evenings and for my commute home afterward. I wonder what this means for those who work late shifts. I wonder what this means for the economy and healthy public dialogue that are generated by night life activities. I wonder what this means for human rights. I wonder what this will mean for the few American artists headed to Cairo in the next couple weeks who have reached out to me to show them around when they get here. Evidently, after a couple days restaurants and cafes will stay open and people will simply be asked to go directly home after a night out.

As the 7pm (turned 9pm) curfew approached tonight, I worried that my friends would go home in time. I also realized that I wouldn’t be able to go to the grocery store for four days because I don’t have cash and today was the day I was supposed to go pick up my replacement ATM card. And all banks are closed tomorrow; then it is the weekend. Guess we will turn to ramen noodles and prayers for the nation.

My flatmates and I are now taking a break from the news, watching a Dwayne Johnson movie on tv instead. I turned online one more time before logging off for the evening…

VP El Baradei has resigned because he “couldn’t accept the responsibility of decisions he did not agree with.” The photos of the cloaked bodies started appearing everywhere, Morsi supporters turned into martyrs.

@MagyMahrous: Despite curfew, I can still hear ikhwan sit-in from my house! #Maadi

I can’t keep up and will just stay close to friends into the quiet night and through to see what tomorrow will bring. Somehow the goodness that went along with the artists’ movement and June 30 and the mission of the 2011 revolution must burst through this darkest of days.

Please read this on the 4th of July

Imagine if a year after Hitler was voted-in to power, the German people had went to the streets to demand the removal of his increasingly authoritarian, divisive and xenophobic regime.

For some people, that is akin to what happened here this week in Egypt.

I have a friend and senior colleague who voiced her concern that the actions of the presidency and Ikhwan (against the hospital, the NGOs, religious minorities, and cultural institutions especially) were Hitleresque. “This is how Hilter and his Reiche started. Same sort of moves.”

Sounds dramatic (and it was extreme for me to hear too), but it was becoming more of a widespread belief. And after months of anti-Shia hate speech led to the lynching of four Shia and outraged the nation, and the President failed to even mention this during his nearly three-hour speech, I started to see what people were talking about.

So last night when, when General El Sisi, Grand Sheikh of Al Azhar, Coptic Pope, and liberal scholar and diplomat ElBaradei all came  on television together to announce the power of the people, the end of Morsi/Ikhwan rule and a collaborative road map forward…the nation burst into applause and fireworks.

My living room burst into happy man tears, hugs and shouts of THIS IS AMAZING.

My living room burst into happy man tears, hugs and shouts of THIS IS AMAZING.

Morsi and the MB were not only incompetent, they were thought to be getting dangerous by many.

Newspaper in November 2012

Newspaper in November 2012

 

And people like this sought to do something about it.

Tamarod petitioners

Tamarod petitioners

 

And the Artists. They created the spark. Read a great article about that here and in my last few blog posts.

As both a Democrat and a democrat, I have been deeply inspired by my Egyptian friends. The people here demanded all of what democracy and liberty are for a nation, not resting on elections and so-called legitimacy.

Reem Saad: The true essence of liberty has triumphed over the mere form of democracy

Twitter Post: If democracy reduced to unaccountable power by whomever wins an election, it sinks.

Ben Franklin: Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote.

Yes, the military were necessary here to carry out the will of the people and remove Morsi and all his Ikhwan appointees from power. There was no good system in place for impeachment. And the country, the sham of a constitution, the reshaping of political parties are not ready for elections that would have done much good. Replacing one figurehead for another was not the way to go. This, the action of the people to hold Morsi accountable and demand democratic leadership, this was a mighty healthy re-awakening in my opinion.

And because people lived through the disaster of military rule last year, I do not think they will stand for it this time around. Lessons have been learned. And these two rough years have indirectly brought about mass civil education.

The democratic road map announced last night is intended to guide the country into a new constitution, parliament, and presidency.

Headline

Headline: It’s a Revolution…Not a Coup, Mr. Obama

There’s also a “Not a Coup” Facebook page that is gaining momentum.

Please understand that under all the elation is an acknowledged hesitancy. Will the MB be allowed to remain a political party, as inclusion and democracy would demand? How long will pro-Ikhwan, anti-Morsi groups and police fight and kill each other in the smaller towns, Cairo University, etc? Can the military provide security during this transition without being revengeful or abusive? How can we stop all the sexual assaults? How do maintain a freedom of the press and human rights? What would happen it the U.S. pulled its support and aid?

And the biggest question of all…

Can we actually pull this off?!? It would be amazing and unprecedented.

I was supposed to go back to work today teaching dance (one day off for the revolution was all that was necessary) but I have to spend the day saying goodbye to my American Fulbright friends who are facing mandatory evacuation. Sad to say goodbye so suddenly. Their grants will be suspended for a minimum of 30 days and then most of them will return. Some are spending the month on vacation, visiting family, or even joining the demonstrations in Istanbul. My situation is different. My grant ended in January so I am officially a Fulbright Alumnus and am allowed to stay. No other country seems to having as drastic a reaction as ours. I’m guessing it is a response to Benghazi and political pressures. If anything crazy happens this summer in regards to personal safety, I will go. But leaving right now would break my heart.

Side Note: Two different Egyptian friends sent me messages telling me not to worry for my safety, that the U.S. State Department is often precocious. I know they meant pre-cautious, but it certainly made me chuckle.

For now, the Egyptian people are celebrating their well-earned Independence Day simultaneously with us Americans. We in the States might make pies and parades and thank our soldiers and dress like the Statue of Liberty; but when you witness millions  of beautiful people, young and old, Muslim and Christian and secularists, artists and street cleaners, pop stars and the poor, all demanding real liberty as I have witnessed here, you see that word in a new light.

Some of my modern jazz dance students out on June 30.

Some of my modern jazz dance students out on June 30.

 

***The views and information presented in my blog are my own and do not represent the U.S. Department of State or the Fulbright Scholar Program.

Egyptian Countdown Party: Happy? Independence?

As I was sitting the “PUBLISH” button on yesterday’s blog post about the largest political demonstration in human history, General El Sisi was coming on TVs across the nation. His message: Morsy and the Muslim Brotherhood (Ikhwan) have exactly 48 hours to respond to the demands of the people or else there will be military intervention.

When I was speaking to someone writing for CNN last week, I honestly said that I didn’t think the Egyptian people would take down Morsi and the MB. I said that there might be major shifts of power on lower levels, but not the entire theocracy. Well, June 30 thru July 3 may prove me wrong.

Now remember that the military are the ones who took over when Mubarak was ousted. And the military (SCAF) were the ones responsible for the atrocities at Maspero, Mohamed Mahmoud Street, etc. Blood is truly on their hands. People say that the Tamarod campaigners were used, a tool for the military to stage a soft coup.

But the SCAF is not the entire military, and El Sisi is not Tantawi. And maybe there’s a little inch of hope that the “road map” El Sisi spoke of will be one of progress, civil rights, diversity and equality, minority protections, balance of power, a real constitution, healthy political party formation, professional development for potential candidates of all ages and genders and religions, citizenship education initiatives, security, freedom of the press, and THEN fair elections.

Venturing out for a sandwich last night, I saw Cairo was electric! So happy. Imagine your city winning the World Series, World Cup and Stanley Cup all on the same day. There is even a Morsi Timer countdown. I was initially hesitant to join the community dance party on my street, afraid there would be sexual harassment. Some of the guys seemed to be giving me the eye. But no, they were great. I had some great conversations with strangers and even exchanged numbers with two people.

  • Imagine members of a community setting up speakers in the middle of a six-lane street in order to prep for an impromptu street party.
  • Imagine a line of men standing on motorcycles in the road, creating ‘flag bridges’ for cars to pass through.
  • Imagine the incessant and loud honking.
  • Imagine a long line of veiled women on the side of the street clapping.
  • Imagine passing motorcyclists nearly crashing but then just stopping, laughing and sharing a hug.
  • Imagine the couple next to me telling me that they brought their newborn daughter to the street party because they wanted her first word to be freedom.
  • Imagine military helicopters flying over the city with large Egyptian flags and people cheering them from below.
Photo by Meir Walters

Photo by Meir Walters

  • Imagine that the people celebrating the fall of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt range from young dudes in bright orange shorts to women in full niqabs.
  • Imagine that the people celebrating the fall of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt range from street kids with no shoes to a young gal in a sequined ”Eye of the Tiger” top and high heels.
  • Imagine an older woman ceremoniously draping each passing car with her flag, sort of a cross between a carwash and a knighting ceremony. She did this for hours.
  • Imagine an open jeep packed with powerful, bold, independent and sexy Egyptian women wearing black and waving massive flags and catching the jealousy of every guy standing there.
  • Imagine small boys riding on the backdoor ladder of a mini van, waving as the vehicle goes top speed down the highway.
  • Imagine a performance where live streaming images from Egypt are being projected onto dancers in New York City. (Collaboration by Ximena Borges, Sarah Cameron Sunde and Dalia Basiouny for CultureHub)
Photo by Nathan Eames

Photo by Nathan Eames

  • Imagine a two-year-old girl in a pink halter top at the street party last night giving me the peace sign.
  • Imagine an all-out dance party erupting every time a police vehicle came by.
  • Imagine one woman, veiled in red and black, whom I had met at the beginning of the party and had exchanged numbers with, calling me later because she didn’t see me there anymore and wanted to make sure I got home safe. So happy I didn’t heed the U.S. Embassy’s warning to avoid crowds, especially alone. If you fear the world and stay in your apartment, you will miss out on what this world has to offer. Egyptians are amazing.

I don’t know how the Egyptians do it. A revolution seems like a second job. Mentally, physically, emotionally, and socially exhausting. I cannot imagine being in this state for two and a half years. And then also witnessing the death of a friend or family member by your side. Or taking a couple bullets yourself to the leg or the eye. These are all-too-common stories, widespread trauma. My close friends included. These revolutionaries say they are now starting back at zero. See you on the 3rd or 4th of July. Happy? Independence?

30 June in Egypt: Artists As Catalysts

I was afraid of June 30. Afraid that the hate and volatility would erupt. Afraid of chaos and looting. Afraid that Cairo would feel epically dangerous. I was afraid that this fear would be pervasive and women and children would stay home: the numbers of protestors would be low. Myself, I didn’t go out alone for the two days prior as I had a new sense of fear I haven’t had before here in Egypt. And I was not alone: after the U.S. put out it’s new travel warning for Egypt, 68,000 people left the country in two days. There were actually boats positioned in the Red Sea to evacuate American citizens if needed.

But then I had a dream last week that June 30th would be a celebration, with happy families and balloons and artists. I told my Egyptians pals about my dream and they said I was crazy.

As my friends and I joined the march yesterday from the artists’ sit-in at the Ministry of Culture (which a handful of artists stayed behind to protect) through the city for hours and into Tahrir Square, I realized my dream was coming true.

The crowd seemed to be 50% women and children. I saw at least five pregnant women. And many, many elderly. There were also marchers in wheelchairs, on crutches, and with special needs. At the front of the march were the artists from the sit-in, including famous actresses, my dance colleagues, and pop singer Ahmed Saad. There were men and women leading chants. And there was a group of large men on Harleys wearing safety vests with a handmade symbol saying ZG (Zamalek Guardians) protecting us marchers. A group of uniformed police officers joined the march along the way and the crowd cheered.

The march from the Ministry of Culture to Tahrir Square.

The march from the Ministry of Culture to Tahrir Square.

Some people carried posters with an unflattering cartoon of Ambassador Patterson and the Arabic version of the b-word. She recently made some statements supporting Morsi and condemning the protestors before they even started. Find out more about her statements in this CNN article by my new friend Cynthia Schneider we were able to put into motion. Plus, many Egyptians believe the Muslim Brotherhood wouldn’t have so much power without the financial and political support of the U.S. In any case, there was no anti-American harassment in my direction. One older woman refused to take the red card I handed her. She looked suspiciously at me when I said I was American. She asked right away if I supported the Muslim Brotherhood. All I said is that I teach at the High Institute of Ballet. She gave me a smile and a big hug.

When we reached Tahrir Square, I first noticed all the neon yellow safety vest of one the “Tahrir Bodyguards.” She was a young Egyptian woman in jeans, calm, with a pride in her eyes as she looked over the joyous crowd. I will never forget her face. Later I saw many more young women as guards, veiled and unveiled.

We passed a large group in white t-shirts, men and women, young and old. This was the sexual harassment response unit, and they had no work to do. There were fireworks, corn on the cob, ice cream, flags flying in a brilliant breeze made for flag flying, toddlers bopping to the national anthem… If you blinked you would have thought it was the 4th of July, but massive, and in wartime, in Egypt.

There were also kites. People were actually flying kites. Both in Tahrir and at the Presidential Palace.

One rumor had it that a woman gave birth in Tahrir Square and named her new daughter Rebel (Tamarod). Even if untrue, it is a great story.

And to be honest, sharing this day with my Egyptian friends and witnessing their faces brightening with amazement and pride made me fall in love with them more. One friend just kept saying, “This is incredible!” It reminded me of being in Grant Park the night Obama was elected, but bigger, and instead of celebrating success we were starting something, promising to stand by each other’s side. The pride, peace, and power were immense. The only time we saw a group of people running was when Bassem Youssef showed up. There were rumors that the Muslim Brotherhood were making an attack, but that was a false alarm.

In total, it much larger and joyous than the 2011 revolution. There were demonstrations in many parts of Cairo and in 18 of the 27 governates throughout the country. Protests of support were happening around the world as well, from Chicago to Vienna. BBC and CNN were both claiming it was the largest political demonstration in human history. Depending on how people count and report, there were between 17 and 30 million people on the streets on the 30th of June, 2013.

Photo credit unknown at this time.

Photo credit unknown at this time.

Why? My opinion: Egypt cannot take much more of this one-party rule which is on the verge of religious fascism. The economy, cultural and arts institutions, diversity, women, NGOs, education, water politics,… They cannot take it. Morsi and his Ikwan brothers may have been “voted in” mostly due to name recognition and circumstances last year, but they are quickly derailing the Jan25 revolutionary democratic train. Doing so much more harm than good that three more years would be unthinkable disaster, nationally and regionally. We must support the artists and activists willing to step up and pull this loving country through the cloud of Islamist colonization. But note that religion is not the divider here. Islam is on both sides. But one side also includes Coptic Christians, Agnostics, secularists, Shia, and embraces diversity. The MB are dangerously xenophobic. That’s what the country is facing down. It is just my opinion, coming from a dear friend of Masr.

The title of my Fulbright project was Artists As Catalysts. That certainly was the case here. While the inspiring and intergenerational Tamarod movement (which claimed to have collected 22 million anti-Morsi petitions) inspired the most participation, it was the stories of the ballet dancers on strike and the poets and painters occupying the ministry that made people understand what the Muslim Brotherhood were trying to do to their country. The Bortherhoodization of the Arts, of civil society, of Egypt and the region.

Remembering those who died for this freedom.

Remembering those who died for this freedom.

After we got back to the Ministry of Culture last night, there were reports that 7-10 people had died today and there were clashes as protestors stormed the headquarters of the Muslim Brotherhood. While sad news for sure, for a nationwide protest with millions, this was not the violent chaos we had so feared.

There were also reports of 46 sexual assaults in Tahrir Square. From the environment I witnessed there yesterday, I cannot fathom how these occurred; and I am outraged. But these reports have brought many, many more volunteers out to make sure it doesn’t ever happen again. I hope with all hope that these assaults stop.

Now what? Heard on the street and in Twitter-ville…

  • The EU and US need to see 3 consecutive days of mass protests before they will back the impeachment of Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood.
  • The opposition will give Morsi until 5pm Tuesday to resign or there will be wide-spread civil disobedience.
  • People will continue to “occupy” the 3+ major government buildings where sit-ins are now occurring.
  • There is a call for a general strike this week.
  • Protests and marches will continue whenever possible all the way till Ramadan, which begins the second week of July. This may include my idea that I proposed to the Ministry of Culture sit-in organizers, an ART MARCH with musicians, dancers, painters, poets, etc. We’ll see.

My boyfriend is trying to manage both artist activism and meeting a deadline for a video project. As for me, I go back to work tomorrow: teaching ballet to children in Maadi, leading dance activities at 57357 Children’s Cancer Hospital, planning a presentation and trip to Greece at the end of the month, needing a haircut, trying to find a job in the world, paying credit card and student loan bills, waiting to see if I passed the FSOT, and attending a meeting for a TEDx Talk I am supposed to be giving here during Ramadan. And if I’m needed to support the Egyptian artists, I will be there.

I have never had a wedding or had a child, but I can tell you that June 30, 2013 will always be one of the most beautiful days of my life.

Sitting during the Egyptian artists' sit-in inside the Ministry of Culture. Photo by Sayed Hewedy.

Sitting during the Egyptian artists’ sit-in inside the Ministry of Culture. Photo by Sayed Hewedy.

 

***Previous posts on the Egyptian Artists’ Sit-in:

How to Make An Attack on the Arts, Egyptian style

Your Arabesque May Require a Helmet

 

Driving a Jet Ski in Saudi: Happy IWD! اليوم الدولي للمرأة

Happy International Women’s Day! اليوم الدولي للمرأة

Well, it is actually next week but it’s time to start getting revved up.

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This is a chalkboard from an all-male Qur’anic school (Islamic theological seminary) in Morocco. History or English class; I didn’t understand which. I was with a group of Americans and Europeans visiting the school on March 8, IWD in 2010. And this was on the board.

IWD

The International Women’s Day, March 8th

feminism 1960s

We didn’t discuss the chalkboard. As visitors, we were just popping in to say hi, but I found myself compelled to take a quick picture. A class full of future Imams and Islamic scholars were studying International Women’s Day and feminism. Hmmm. I didn’t have enough information to determine if this was awesome or sad. I lean toward the side of awesome. (But this is the same school in Morocco where the headmaster told me no young women are admitted because in order to progress to a certain level, the young men have to memorize the entire Qur’an; and the female brain does not have the capacity to do so.)

The list of can nots, should nots, and never coulds is long in many cultures, especially for women and girls. I admit it: I’m a stubborn gal and these irk me.

While chatting with my good friends from Saudi Arabia last year in Chicago, I mentioned how much I was interested in visiting the Gulf country. To “paint the Riyadh town red” while avoiding arrest. Knowing cars were out of the question, I joked and asked them if women could drive Vespas there, or even electric bicycles. They said probably not, but confirmed that women could drive jet skis. Awesome. I would love to drive a jet ski in Saudi, wearing a sassy little burk-ini.

People ask me all the time, “What is life like for women in the Middle East nowadays?” Firstly, it is difficult to generalize. Every life is unique. Every culture and family is unique. Saudi is different from Egypt which is very different from Lebanon. In addition, my experience as a white American female is not comparable to that of a contemporary Arab female. Egyptian women seem always ready to speak out in a stronger, more direct voice then mine own. They have a powerful character, yelling out against injustices, demanding the things they desire. Yes, even the more conservative, veiled Egyptian women I have met step up and speak their mind. Demure being only one trait in a multi-faceted lifestyle.

Then there is the way Egyptian women can dance.

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Samia Gamal (Zainab Ibrahim Mahfuz). Courtesy of rakscandi2.

I ask you to click here and promise to watch at least half of this video. Go to  anywhere in Cairo, from a nightclub, to a children’s cancer ward, to a seedy cabaret, to an esteemed ballet institute; and you will see women and little girls boldly shaking their hips in intricate patterns and flirting with their eyes and hands. I was told it was mostly about the hands. Some women dance for tourists, some dance socially with men, some whip off the niqab at home and dance for their husband,  and some dance freely but only with other women or children. Men also bellydance but more often hop, kick, clap, and in those cabarets, shower the lady in cash money.

Last night, I and a large number of my friends watched Makers: Women Who Make America on PBS. Loved this program. It swept me up in inspiration, and reminded me of the revolution already in my lineage, as an American woman, a fine woman says my boyfriend. I’m dating an Egyptian man and am certain to do no more than 50% of the housework. And to be honest, I probably do less than that; closer to 40/60. In love and life and dishes, we agree to meet each other half way.

My belief is that the Arab Spring and the Arab Women’s Liberation need to be simultaneous, not sequential. As new constitutions are drafted around the region and coalitions created around shared values, now is the time to address the issues that effect all of society: an end to sexual harassment at the workplace and on the street, legal and socially-accepted age for marriage, healthy family planning, abortion, equal pay for equal work, desegregation, equal opportunity and more choices, the right to sexual enjoyment, legal and physical support for women abused, divorce, adoption, education, mobility and freedom to travel, campaign support for female politicians, education, women in the police force and active service in the military, transgender and homosexual rights, microloans for female entrepreneurs, on and on.

What we in Cairo undeniably share is a problem with harassment. Mostly verbal, but in many cases devastatingly physical. To the point of sexual assault and rape as weapons of intimidation both to the individual women but also to the movement. We can take this on together. We must.

It’s a balance between respecting culture and religious choice, (for me, agreeing to not touch a man in the Qatar Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a picture)…

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and taking charge of your sexuality and your self.

Fearless.

Have a Happy International Women’s Day! اليوم الدولي للمرأة

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A group of friends: Egyptian young women and myself.

 

A little love in the middle of a Cairo winter.

“Hello, I’m calling about the studio apartment in Zamalek. Is it still available?”

“Yes, it is.”

“Great.”

“Are you single? Where are you from?”

“Yes. Chicago. U.S.”

[in a very rude tone] “There are absolutely no male guests in this apartment. Do you have a problem with that?”

“Ummm…. yes, I have a problem with that. Shukran (thank you).”

[end call]

 

Apartment hunting in Cairo is rough, especially for dating heterosexual couples. Few places allow co-habitation. And the bawabs (door guys) monitor who comes and goes. They are notorious for invading privacy and being in tenants’ business. During vacations, it is also the law in Egypt that unmarried guys/gals have to pay for separate hotel rooms, even if the room has doors and walls separating beds. So frustrating.

My boyfriend and I are both in our 30s, responsible and loving folks, bad liars. But looks like we may have to fake being married sometimes to get anything in this town. It’s common practice, not a big deal, but I don’t like it.

Oh well. I guess a fake marriage isn’t the worst thing in the world. A season of love is upon us. And he makes me incredibly happy. Making plans for Valentine’s Day next month, continents apart. Putting a little love in the middle of a harsh winter.

He and I. With some balloons.

This February will be my parents’ 40th Anniversary, celebrated in the midst of my mom’s cancer treatment. 40 years of supporting each other through the birth of a child with Craniosynostosis, financial stresses, in sickness and in health, a roaming daughter, the deaths of their own fathers and my mother’s mother… But loving each other and laughing the whole time.

I couldn’t be more proud of them.

Marriage in my life is a concept I haven’t wrapped my head around just yet. Before this, my longest relationship was in high school. I did buy a wedding dress last year cause it was on clearance and I was convinced I could have it dyed and then wear it for galas.

I returned it. Couldn’t hang a wedding dress in my closet after all. Too weird.

In the States, single gals like me learn that they shouldn’t bring up the subject of marriage too early in a relationship. Jinx yourself; or scare the man. Either way, not good. But here Egyptian guys talk about marriage easily, casually.

For most Muslim Egyptian marriages, first the two families meet and make sure they get along. It is truly a marriage of families. Sometimes even first-cousins marry each other. No problem. Then there is a religious ceremony followed by an engagement party where the rings are given and many pictures taken; then there is a lively parade (sometimes with dancing horses) where the new furniture and appliances are taken to the house to set up their new life together; then there is the wedding where nearly the whole town is invited. The bride’s dress is elegant, covering the arms and head.

During the evening, there is a parade of cars and motorcycles, honking a particular rhythm. The bride and groom have the hood decorated in floral wreaths. Then there’s a party in a hotel, or house, or in the streets. Usually it is an open-door policy. Alcohol sometimes served on the downlow.

Surprisingly, an Egyptian wedding can be put together in a matter of weeks.

For me personally, I need a couple years trial period. Dating. Living together. Not “living in sin” as much as figuring it out. Falling in love with the world, together.

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And I don’t think I’m unique. Maybe it’s a culture thing. I recently did a little Facebook poll to ask my friends how long they were dating, engaged, etc. The stories posted were plenty and powerful. From couples who have been together for decades, divorced couples that celebrate their marriages, inter-religious couples, inter-racial couples, gay couples, newlywed couples…  I teared up reading them and had to share. Makes you believe in love, again and again and again.

Nancy: Met in April, engaged in September, married in December. Knew he was the one the minute I met him. Told my mother the next day after I met him, that he was the one I was going to marry. Been married for 37 years.

Katie: Dated for 2 years, engaged for 9 months, married 5+ years now. I’m a white Christian and he’s an Indian-American Hindu.

Elizabeth: It’s less the culture, more the couple. My husband and I were together for 3.5 yrs before engagement, then 6 months before the wedding. My friend and his lady were together for 10 years, and are getting married a year after engagement. My other friend knew her hubby for about 4 months before they got engaged.

Kathryn: met online september, engaged in november, moved in together march, married 11 months after living together, coming up to 13th wedding anniversary next month.

Amber: together 6 yrs, engaged 1yr – married for 13 yrs! OMG – I just realized I have over half of my life invested with him… how cool.

Sadira: Met mid October, engaged Christmas eve, married April 6 … married 9 years … Christian-Muslim.

Malik: Together for 20 years, married for 16, blissfully happy and just renewed our vows on NYE.

Carey: I think you can tell you is that it is not about the quantity of time, it’s about the quality of the love.

Nate: Carey makes a great point. My husband and I met right after college, dated for a little over a year, lived together for three years, and then were engaged for 15 months. And we celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary last fall.

Patsy: 6 months to engagement/wedding/elope

Catherine: We were friends with each other from (high) school before starting the relationship. Moved in together within a matter of months, lived & travelled all over world for following five years, engaged, then married a year later, now married for almost seven years with two kids.

Todd: 3 years before engagement, 1 1/2 years between engagement and wedding.

Sarah: Together for 5 yrs, engaged a yr and some change, married 10 yrs this June! I knew we would be married before our first date (not that people actually date in college). When you know you know.

Lauren: I’m not married or engaged BUT my best friend’s parents started dating feb 1st and were married feb 21st of the same year. They have had 5 children and have been married around 38 years. They only knew of each other maybe a year before they dated.

Lauren: I’ve also been in a committed relationship for 6 and a half years. No idea when I’ll be hearing wedding bells.

Beth: We dated for six years and our engagement was about 16 months. When we give advice to other couples, we encourage them to not have their engagement last longer than one year.

Virech: dated 3 months 2,5 years, married for already 4 years

Sarah: For me, two years dating before engagement, and then a year and a few months (July to following September) before getting married. Useful context: wedding planning for any formal kind of wedding takes about a year (some do more, some do less) because venues book a year in advance. My husband and I knew we were getting married pretty much right off the bat. I had to wait from December to July from the time the ring was acquired until I received it. Kids were a consideration for us: I’m 32 so I didn’t want to wait too long. We got engaged right before my grandmother’s 90th birthday so I could share that with her and my extended family.

Angela: Together 4 yrs, engaged 1. Married now 14 in may. total of 19 yrs this May.

Lisa: Together 7.5 years, engaged 1 year, married as of now for just over 7 for a total of 16.

Matt: Honestly most of my friends the last 5 years have dated and gotten married within a year. I wouldn’t be shocked if I did the same thing. Some people date for way longer. To each their own. Whatever works works!

Kelly: Engaged after a year, married 9 months later and married 13 years. My Dad proposed to my Mom two weeks after they met. They married 6 months later and were married 47 years when my mother passed away.

Adam: 2 1/2 years before engagement and 6 months after was the wedding.

Kimberlee: Together a month shy of 2 years before engagement, and a year and 4 months before wedding.

Morgan: engaged after 6 months, looking to get married next week. haha. I think that’s very unusual though.

Elizabeth: Together 6 years, then engaged a few months before getting married

Erin: Dated 4.5 years (cuz we were young), engaged 10 months, married 9.5 years.

Sarah: Together 1 year, engaged 1.5 years, married 8 years and counting!

Bethany: We dated 2.5 years, weren’t “officially” engaged – eloped this past June….married 6 mos…

Nathan: Engaged after 8 months and married 8 months after that. We’ve been married for 3 years now.

Nichole: Jason and I only dated for about 6 months, and then married… been married 11 years now!

Carey: Dated for 2 years, engaged for a little over year, now married for three and happily counting…

Amber: Together since 2001, had our son in 2003, got engaged in 2004 & were married in 2005. We’ve been married for almost 8 years.

Sarah:
Dated 3 years before engagement and a year and a couple months between engagement and marriage. Married 10 years this year with three babes.

Joanne: Two years before engagement , married one year after engagement

Deborah: 5 years before we got married, 9 mos engagement.

Iyabo: Year and a half dating before engaged. 4 months later we were married.

Jenni: 10 months dating then engagement april-feb, then feb til dec same yr, now married for 10 yrs

Sarah: Dated 3y. engaged 1y. married 4m

Gregory: I dated my wife for two years, proposed in August (with a song I wrote for her) tried to set the ceremony for Sept of the same year!! but couldn’t pull it together…we had to settle for Nov. (4 months – and the whole thing set us back only $5K: ceremony, dress, suite, dinner, party decorations – my wife is from Mexico and they have “godparents” for Everything, so a lot was given: her makeup and hair, wine, etc…). Married now for 2yrs 3months!!

Jack: Dated three years, got engaged. Engaged for one year. Got married. Still married.

Hayde: We don’t have godparents for everything thats something made up here in usa not a real Mexican tradition, sorry buddy but had to correct your comment!

Lety: Dated a little over a year, engaged for 11 months. That said, my dad was all “what is going on/where’s the ring?” after he knew we had been dating for 3 months since dating is an uncomfortable, nonexistent concept for him. You should fake being married, it’s pretty regularly done and not a big deal, I think fulbright actually recommends it in their documents they sent us with apartment hunting tips.

Susan: Together 16 months, engaged a little over a year and married for almost 10!

Jennifer: Dated for 2.5 years, engaged for 1, married for 12.

Jamie: Together a year and a half before married, and the ‘wedding’ was just 2 months after we decided to get married.

Barb: We dated for about a year, but knew each other for about 1 1/2 years. Only engaged for 6 months!

Barb: Oh, we have been married for 10 years.

Carolyn: dated about 6 months before we knew we wanted to get married. informally engaged for 4 years, formally engaged for 2 months! Got married after Christmas and have been married for 2 weeks today! yay!

Joni: Six months from first date to wedding. It’s been 27 years now

My parents: Almost 2 years dating. Will be married 40 years next month.

750 Words For My Egyptians Friends

There is a system. A way of life here. You can say the system works or doesn’t work. You can say that public services and security were much better before the Revolution. You can leave your trash in the heap spilling over from the sidewalk, because that’s how it works here. A man will come by and separate it. Eventually. He will recycle whatever can be recycled. At least 80% of it. He will carry it away. And he will be paid by the kilo. And that money will feed his family.

And you may see the examples of racism here. The black-face on stage and screen may seem like just a way to show differences. The fact that the Egyptian performers portraying Ethiopians require afro wigs and animal print fabric may not register as a problem.

When the school facilities you are working in are dilapidated, you wait for a new building. You make do with what you have. You hire who you can afford to hire to maintain it.

But never do you gather as faculty, parents, alumni and staff to paint and repair the place yourselves.

 

Unrequested Advice from this Loving Friend Who Sadly Doesn’t Know Enough Arabic to Write to You in Arabic

  • Organize community or school clean-up festivals. I can help you.
  • Don’t assume that foreigners are smarter than you, wealthier than you, freer than you, or superior to you in any way.
  • The fact that these European operas, symphonies and ballets are “classics” does not mean they are above being reworked or re-interpreted. Re-mix. And about those big-budget operas, symphonies and ballets at the Cairo Opera House, where are the Egyptian composers and choreographers and works? Less outsourcing, I ask of you. No need to. You’re geniuses. And I will buy a ticket.
  • You have risen up, as a collective force, as a people, to demand rights, to demand change, to document change. But now you might think about creating change. The Constitution is vague anyway. Go for it.
  • Invent strategies to reduce class sizes. Then introduce more critical thinking pedagogies.
  • Remember to keep teaching religion in ways where understanding other perspectives is more important than proving your own rightness or defending a certain way of living.

First Day of School 2012. In Giza.

  • Let things be complicated and not totally understood.
  • Hear out the perspective of someone who believes something different than you. No need to correct. Just listen.
  • Educate artists on how to lead as local politicians, educators, health care support, cooks, and public space beautifiers.
  • Find a break in the system and turn it into an opportunity for empowerment, more than simply a cause for complaint.
  • Keep inspiring and surprising. Like when some revolutionists (maybe it was you) turned this Tahrir Square police wall into a happy wall.
  • Produce and curate performances and exhibitions by local community and amateur artists. With the ticket money collected, fund childhood cancer research, or a new park. or paint for a school.
  • Keep on dancing. You do it so well in this culture. Now dance in hospitals, schools, Metro stations, farms, big public squares…
  • Do things that I can’t do.

 

Thank you for letting me get this out. I know that I am not Egyptian. I have only been in this country 21 weeks total. I don’t stand in your shoes and may have things wrong.

But I have love for this country. And I am awed by you.

Tahrir Square. November 2012.

 

These days, I know tensions are high and momentum is low. I see you getting tired. I hear your fears under your words. On both sides. And I know that this January 25th will call for action, for reaction. For television crews and ambulances on standby.

Four Things to Remember This January 25th… from Martin Luther King, Jr.

  1. “Nonviolence means avoiding not only external physical violence but also internal violence of spirit. You not only refuse to shoot a man, but you refuse to hate him.”
  2. “We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.”
  3. “The limitation of riots, moral questions aside, is that they cannot win and their participants know it. Hence, rioting is not revolutionary… It involves an emotional catharsis, and it must be followed by a sense of futility.”
  4. “The question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be… The nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.”
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