Tag: USembassyCairo

An Orientation

Orientation 1: Welcome to Cairo

All day, I was attending the official Fulbright In-Country Orientation. The Fulbright program between Egypt and the United States was launched in 1949; it is the largest and oldest program in the Arab World.

Marc J, Sievers, Deputy Chief of Mission, U.S. Embassy Cairo told us that this year here has been the most difficult in his diplomatic career. He said that last week’s events felt manageable but also called on us to “clear up this fog of fear and hostility that ways us down on both sides.”

A Foreign Service Health Practitioner, gave us the numbers for the ambulances and hospitals then reminded to us to wash our hands for 45 seconds every time, paying special attention to our thumbs and finger tips. Research shows that the thumbs and finger tips are the most neglected. He also suggested that when we get Mummy Tummy aka The Pharaoh’s Revenge, to buy some Rehydrant packets from the pharmacy.

A Special Agent from the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Diplomatic Security recommended the buddy system, reminded us how volatile large crowds can be, and told us to follow our own level of comfort with this society.

We were told of opportunities to speak at an embassy event or with the Consulate in Alexandria, join the Egyptian Artists Circle of the Fulbright Alumni, attend cultural events. Most exciting, we were invited to a reception with Ambassador Patterson at the residence inside the U.S. Embassy. Date to be determined.

Then a former Fulbrighter told us about HarassMap and reminded us of the joys of living here.

We watched a video which has enough inspiration to overcome its cheese, Sout Al Horeya.

And the day concluded with a delicious traditional dinner at Al Azhar Park, one of the world’s top public spaces, built on a former garbage dump about 8 years ago as a charitable act of the Aga Khan.

AL Azhar Park


Orientation 2: Welcome to Chemo 

Last night, I got the news that someone very close to me has breast cancer. In both breasts. I cannot tell you who she is because she is not ready to tell the world just yet. But as she begins the 16 weeks of chemotherapy then double mastectomy then radiation, I thought I should spend some hours online getting orientated with the disease.

Every and every day  in America, an estimated 628 women and men are told they a cancerous mass in their breast. Two of my aunts, and many of my friends’ mothers have faced this certain beast. But I needed to more information. I’m going to be monitoring a cancer battle via Skype from Cairo.

I am also limiting my own level of worry as well as hers. The research for this type of cancer is well funded. The doctors are ready. So is she. The only concerns are that the chemo may effect any heart condition and, even though we know the cancer has not metastasized to the colon or lymph nodes, the word is still out about other areas.

An Orientation to Chemotherapy: The side effects of chemotherapy depend mainly on the drugs a woman receives. As with other types of treatment, side effects vary from person to person. In general, anticancer drugs affect rapidly dividing cells. These include blood cells, which fight infection, cause the blood to clot, and carry oxygen to all parts of the body. When blood cells are affected by anticancer drugs, patients are more likely to get infections and bruise or bleed easily, and may have less energy during treatment and for some time afterward. Cells in hair follicles and cells that line the digestive tract also divide rapidly. As a result of chemotherapy, patients may lose their hair and may have other side effects, such as loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, or mouth sores. [National Cancer Institute]

Please send her some bouncy good positive hopeful prayerful vibes her way.


Orientation 3: Welcome to Miss D

Today on Huffington Post, Donna’s mother describes the part of the story where she walked into my dance classroom and into my life. If you haven’t been orientated to Donna’s story, I encourage to do so now. Even if you have read about her in past years, I encourage you to re-read, to get closer to her. An amazing gal. How lucky I was that her parents trusted me with 45 minutes of their daughter’s time every week. How lucky I was that she and I got each other. How lucky I was to have her as both a student and teacher. Sheesh. It is still amazing. Always.

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Please be aware. And please check out my post on this subject.

Donna Quirke Hornik and I at Performing Arts Limited studio in Chicago, IL. 2009.

Standing Up for the National Anthem on AlJazeera

Today is Friday. A day when I would describe it feels like the world is on fire. It is a sadly familiar fire.

Last night, I went to Cairo Jazz Club with an Egyptian friend, his new flatmate and a charismatic French mother. We all boogied to 90s Night. Beck, Dave Mathews Band covers. Discussed the protests. Felt a bit of the burn of tear gas wafting in the air. But were happy, even knowing the MB was calling for a large demonstration after Friday morning prayers. The dancing in the club was certain, in a very uncertain region.

Today is Friday. And I knew things would/could get pretty bad. So as the Fulbright Commission suggested I do, I had a “safe and happy weekend away from the Tahrir square and the U.S. embassy area.” Well, the second part was more difficult to do because my apartment is in the embassy area. Today, I took the long taxi journey to Maadi to attend a yoga open house at The Breathing Room, a clean and studio surrounded by green and smelling of peaceful essences. The classes were difficult and demanded a Zen-like focus. It felt great to sweat, to breathe cleaner air, to get back into my body.

The Breathing Room. Photo by Mohamed Abdel Wahab.


Tonight, I barely get off the couch.

I post the following on Facebook:  I was just about to de-friend all of you posting images or using rhetoric calling for a bullied attack on Libya. But I will refrain and try to stomach the hate I am hearing. Instead, I will combat it with personal truth. I will just tell you that I have good friends in Libya, which is just over the border from here. They are awesome. Businessmen, poets, and people fighting for civil rights including for women and the LGBT community. Yesterday, Libyans took to the streets to apologize. I don’t remember Americans ever taking to the streets to apologize for a war in Iraq or drone casualties. And for all the protesters here in Cairo with anti-Obama signs and chants, I must say thanks (with a whole lot of sarcasm): http://youtu.be/O7VdrtFAuyA

I read as my Muslim friends (American, Libyan, Egyptian, French, Tunisian, and Dutch) step up as responsible voices and explain, defend their beautiful faith. Then I turn on TV and see extremists and passionate idiots burning pictures of Marilyn Monroe, attacking a Hardees, and reviling some character named Obama Bin Laden. So I write to an Egyptian friend: I am going to show my ignorance here but I am confused. Are all these anti-Obama signs and chants here in Cairo actually pro-Romney? Pro-Bush? Hasn’t Obama been the one to open up new communications and trust? The use of drones where civilian casualties at risk is certainly wrong. But before Obama was a time of preemptive war with an anti-Muslim spin.  He responds: LOL .. I have the same ignorance too .grin I’m not interested in politics but I know that the most of those protesters don’t know the deference between Obama and Romney .. They just follow the fanatic clerics .. They believe in destroying buildings the best way to expression.. !!

I sit on my couch and watch the live streaming from Tahrir Square (blocks away) just as I watch live streaming from Washington D.C., as four patriot bodies are welcomed home. Secretary Clinton steps up to the microphone and speaks right to my heart. In a way, she is my boss. As a Fulbright Scholar with an Egyptian work permit and residency visa, I am here with the U.S. Department of State and the Binational (Egyptian/American) Commission.As a kid, I said I wanted to be a dancer and politician when I grew up. When I was 7 or 8, I even dressed as a politician for Halloween. Campaigning to be the first woman president; as Hilary would later do. When I went out trick-or-treating that year, I gave out flyers and refused to take candy. And I have to say, that being a Fulbright Scholar, teaching community arts and dance in Cairo, Egypt right now feels like a step in that journey. Dreams coming true. A journey where I get the honor of being friends with amazing people of all different faiths and races and nations.

Back on AlJazeera tonight, Secretary Clinton says that as a civilians representing America abroad are “a force of peace, progress and dignity.” I keep saying those words to myself for a half hour after her speech. A force for peace, progress, and dignity. Those concepts will help us all in the days to come. I have a feeling. Then President Obama speaks of the four amazing men we lost. Amazing. This is followed by the National Anthem.

And out of respect for this whole worldy situation, alone in my apartment and yoga gear, I stand.

Watching the world.


P.S. I have no idea what I will be for Halloween this year in Cairo. Maybe I’ll just be myself.

Playing with hats in a Cairo grocery store.


***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.

Storms: A Personal Account from the U.S. Embassy

Yesterday was September 11th. I blogged about a seemingly everyday sort of experience. And people responded.

But the day turned an incredible corner.

As the evening settled in, there was a buzz in my new neighborhood, Garden City, which is the home of many embassies.

A weirdness.

Around 7pm, I was home watching CNN when they reported there were thousands of protesters around the U.S. Embassy Cairo, which is just up the street from my apartment. I put on a simple black t-shirt and black jeans, smoothing my pixie cut, so somehow to look more self assured. The promise I made to myself and to my friends was that I would leave as soon as I felt any vibe of things being unsafe.

Well, me with my 5’1″ frame walked right into the heart of a massive anti-American protest and the storming of an embassy. Not because I’m naive or a risk-hunter, but because I was compelled that this is where there are the conversations that need to be had. This is the type of diplomacy I’m good at.

The men were chanting, screaming. Some were sitting along the embassy wall. Some were perched on the entranceway chiseling away the U.S. seal and lettering, replacing them with Bin Laden and the United States of Muslim, to the applause of the crowd below. I was the only American lady there in that main section at that time, that I know of. But people were quite calm and nice, oddly.

Many Egyptian women were in the back of the crowd, in full abaya and niqab. I went up to one of the young women and asked her to translate her sign. Our conversation was brilliant as we realized that we had the same opinion on hate crimes. And when I said I also consider attacks on Sikhs, women, homosexuals, Americans, and transgender people hate crimes, she genuinely agreed and translated for her sister and mother.

As I thanked her and went to walk deeper into the heart of the male crowd, she said, “They will eat you alive.”


U.S. Embassy in Cairo, September 11, 2012

The wall of the embassy was spray painted with “F@#k Off U.S.A.” and the old slogan “khaibar khaibar oh Jews the army of Muhammed is coming.” The US flag inside the embassy walls had been replaced with a black flag that was very similar to that of Al Qaeda. There were flags burning in the crowd, but in general, the atmosphere was calm. I got a few men looking at me with a confused glaze, but was treated very well.

Surreal how gracious and welcoming the Egyptian people can be, even to an American who shows up for a minute at the anti-American event.

As I watched a few Salafi men destroy the entranceway, I felt a deep saddening and walked stunned right up to the front. I asked a young man why such actions were necessary in reaction to a wack’s homemade film. What did the U.S. diplomats in Cairo have to do with it? He couldn’t really explain but was kind. He handed me a cup of tea. He kept saying I didn’t know anything of Islam or Arab culture. When I proved him very wrong, his respect was evident and we continued on to a poignant conversation of religious understanding and tolerance on this very poignant day.

I felt very safe. But after another chat or two, decided it best to leave before things got out of hand. Walked home alone just fine as a beautiful breeze blew along the Nile.

My mood was actually charged from those important conversations.

This morning, the news is nothing but saddening. A similar storming happened in nearby Benghazi with looting, damage inside the interior buildings, a massive fire, and the death of 3-5 people, including the U.S. Ambassador, J. Christopher Stevens.

May they rest in a loving peace.

And may we all live in a loving peace.

I woke up to the following messages from my Egyptian friends, “I am so sorry. But many of Egyptian people are ignorant. They don’t know why and where they are going. Just following the wave. I wanted u to know that not all Muslims think this way. I support Obama and have read that what happened increased Romney supporters.unsure Plus the director or the producer of that film is Egyptian, so USA did nothing. And most Egyptians aren’t that religious.”

Interesting times, my friends.

Choosing hope.


***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.

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