December 16, 2009

The Power of the Pharaohs...

It's days like today when the world amazes me. I woke up this morning at 7:30 to take a final and noticed that it was windier than usual outside. After dropping off my final paper for my Arab Women's Autobiographies class I noticed that a sandstorm was blowing in. There were times I was walking but I felt like the wind was pushing be how it feels when you walk down the path behind Dorch and the wind from the water blows right up the hill. Except this time it wasn't just the cold that was biting your face there was sand in it as well. Now I don't know about you, but I never expected sand to be able to cause as much damage as it does. But it makes sense if you think about it....sand after all is just rock mashed into billions of little peaces.

The sand blowing through my desert campus was ripping through signs displayed all over campus. It was invading our rooms through closed doors, and closed windows. It was drying our throats, and stinging our eyes. The security guards throughout campus donned medical masks so they could still be out on campus without inhaling the sand.

Sadly enough finals don't stop for sandstorms! So I still had my two papers and one exam to turn in today. But I am actually happy that I got to be out in the storm. You read about  sandstorms and their magical abilities for sand to get EVERYWHERE. But I never really realized how true it is. My room which had the door and windows shut all day now has a nice thin layer of dust on the floor. My throat is dry from sand, and my eyes are loving the fact that I wear glasses for some was bad enough with glasses I don't know how people got through today without something over their eyes.

But the sandstorm also made me wonder about the thousands, probably millions, of Egyptians who don't have a place to hide. When you walk around the city, or even just drive around Cairo in general, you will see more poverty than you could even imagine. Right down the road from my state of the art university there are new buildings and homes being built and people live in the shells of these structures. Or people live in shacks built up next to them. How do these people hide? Their homes are built out of discarded building materials and are meant to be able to be destroyed after the building project is complete. When can they go to escape the stinging sands of the desert?

The sun is setting now and the sky has turned a bluish, orangeish, grayish, yellowish color...a mixture of sunset and sand. There is a hush around campus like how it sounds after a snow falls. The campus smells like dust and everyone has a gritty feel in their teeth. But the storm has least for right now...and all we can do for now is wait for the dust to settle so that tomorrow we can clean.


This was what looks like when there is a sandstorm going on outside....

December 15, 2009

Lebanon: A Trip to the Movies

You know why blogs are amazing? They are the perfect procrastination tool! I can do something that is not studying yet feel like I am doing something wonderfully productive!! ...Hence why you are getting two posts in the span of two days :-P

Raina and I had gone out for Nescafe and a walk along the Med when we got a phone call from her cousin Fadi saying he wanted to take us out to the movies with his family. We said sure and agreed to meet him by a hotel down by the water so he could pick us up. What movie did we see? None other than the famed 2012 (and I must say I thought it was going to be SO cheesy but it wasn't too horrible). We got to the mall right when the movie was scheduled to start. (and guess what....I wasn't freaking out about being late at all! I'm Cured!!! lol) But it also might be because I knew we were in an Arab country where nothing runs on of course the movie started late. But no worries about having good seats because apparently over here when you buy your tickets for the movies it is like going to see a play you buy your seats ahead of time too! So we got out tickets and had an usher walk us to our assigned seats!

Now this wasn't your ordinary theater....I swear to you I could have fit two people in my seat. They were big and comfy! I don't know why the US hasn't picked up on this wonderful trend!! I sat down and looked up at the screen and noticed that there were Arabic and French subtitles on the screen! It was so wild...and slightly inconvenient. For those of you who haven't seen 2012 yet then I should explain that for the most part everyone speaks English. However, there are times when the action is taking place in France/ Tibet and the actors are not speaking English. I am assuming that in the States when these parts of the film come on there are English subtitles....However, that was not the case in Lebanon. When the actors were speaking French there was only Arabic subtitles, and when the actors were speaking any other language the subtitles were still only in French and Arabic. (The whole time I was in Lebanon I was kicking myself for not knowing ANY French...all I can say is "Oui" and Will you go to bed with me tonight...thanks to Moulin Rouge) So I was extremely happy to have Raina sitting next to me translating everything from French to English for me! (Raina is one of those magical people in the world who speaks several languages fluently; French, Haitian Creole, English, and she is working on Arabic)

The movie was good, the popcorn was yummy. I loved that everyone clapped when something cool happened on screen. (Just like how everyone claps when the plane lands!) It was a wonderful night out. Plus I got to spend time with Raina's little cousins, Fadi's kids. They were adorable and made me really miss my little brother. I wish I could have spoken with them more though...once again why didn't I take French!!??!

I think living in the Arab world has also really shown me how concerned we are in the US about time. We are OBSESSED with time. I have to say that things do get done faster in the US and things are probably done more efficiently. But look at all the things we loose as a result of that. I have a panic attack if I am late to something. I start getting nervous 15 minutes before I have to be anywhere....even if I am already in route to that place...heck even if I am already at my intended destination. Will it kill me if I get to a place on time rather than 10 minutes early? No, but I was taught that it would. Why can't we relax? Why do we always have to worry?

Why can't we readopt the days where people get off an hour or two for lunch so they can go home to their families eat with them, have a siesta, then go back to work? Why is the world so focused on the end product of things they can't see how they are killing themselves in the present? I didn't know I was freaking out about being late to things until my partner pointed it out to me. I didn't know that my own internal fear was visible. We today become so immune to our own internal feelings and are constantly sacrificing ourselves for the "good" of everyone around us. That is my biggest flaw...and I am working on it. (wow talk about a tangent.... Back to studying!!!!!!)

Much Love!

PS Back to the US in 7 days!!!!!!!!!!

December 14, 2009

Lebanon part deux

In the three months that I had been living in Egypt prior to going to Lebanon I probably lost somewhere between 5-8 pounds. Thats what happens when you live off of food you can make in a microwave/hot plate/water boiler. So I was looking forward to eating home cooked meals for a week like you wouldn't believe!! I had also heard stories every day about the amazing food that I was in store for from Raina nearly every day leading up to going to Lebanon. The things that were on the top of my need to eat list were tabbouleh, chocolate croissants, fattoush, and falafel. But never would I have guessed how much food I was going to eat that week or how many different types of food I was going to eat.

I ended up in Lebanon during 'Eid, and part of the holiday is a feast. But I swear to you I feasted EVERY night. The first full day I was in Lebanon I hadn't yet figured out that one I need to eat slowly so that I am not encouraged to keep eating after I am full, and two my stomach hadn't yet expanded to be able to accommodate the amount of food I was now eating compared to my meals back in Egypt. So at around 3am after my first full day in Beirut I got sick...and the wonderful food I had been enjoying all day payed me a second visit. :-( Thank-God Raina came and found me and helped me clean up after myself and shove me into bed. (SORRY RAINA!!!)

But all seriously need to eat some Lebanese food. Come find me in the US and I will cook some for you! Let me describe to you a normal eating day. Wake up and drink tea and/or Turkish Coffee, eat fruit, chocolate croissants, that cheese filled stuff, lentils with olive oil, mint, and lemon. Lunch would be Mana'esh bread filled with cheese or zatar...which I don't know how to describe..., hummus, lots of flat bread, wara 'inab grape leaves filled with rice and/or meat, tabbouleh parsley salad usually eaten on lettuce leaves (AMAZING), fattoush also salad like, or we would eat out and eat normal restaurant food, and we ended with fruit and coffee/tea for desert. Dinner was usually more of an experience one night we went to a restaurant right on the name it it made it's way to our table that evening. But the reason we went out that night was to eat fish, don't tell my father, but I ate an entire fish that night! It was a once in a life time experience :-P One of my favorite dishes I ate the whole week though was loubia bi zeit green beans, olive oil, garlic, and tomatoes (YUMM). After we went to the movies (Will come in another post soon) Raina's cousin Fadi took us and his family out for falafel...and I must say Lebanon totally does falafel better than Egypt. 

All in all Lebanon was a fabulous eating adventure and I would encourage everyone to visit Lebanon in the future...even if it is just for a day so you can drink Nescafe from a street vender on the Med and drink a Lebanese beer, smoke argila, and munch on maza in one of the cafes lining the cliffs!

Much Love,

December 6, 2009

Lebanon part one of a few!

I don't think I can even accurately describe to anyone how amazing Lebanon was. Beirut is beautiful, you can walk along the cornish at sunset sipping nescafe from a street vender (probably the best coffee I have ever had) and watch the sun set over the Med, you can sit in a cafe in the recent remodeled downtown, enjoy a fabulous meal and smoke argila under the watchful eyes of the most beautiful mosque I have ever seen, you can hit up a mall and shop (or in my case take absurd amount of pictures of Christmas decorations), and you can see buildings with bullet holes in them and holes bigger than me blown into the sides from bombings. My trip was eye opening and so enlightening. I was able to talk to people who have seen war, who have been refugees, who have had bullets fly into their houses. I wasn't getting my information from a book, a newspaper, an article, I got to hear first hand peoples experiences and it was so moving.

But most importantly I got to live with some of the nicest people I have ever met. Raina Zantout's  family was so very kind and I couldn't have asked for better people to spend my break with. They stuffed me full of amazing food at every meal (I loved it so much I wend and bought a Lebanese cookbook) and after every meal and before bed every night and for snacks during the day we would drink Turkish Coffee (which I learned how to make!!!) and Tea. Tante Fatme (Raina's Aunt) was SO kind and saw to our every need, she reminded me so much of my Grandmother and I loved sitting with her before bed while she had her evening cigarette and listening to her stories. Tante Nooha (Another Aunt) cooked a majority of the food and I WISH I could learn all of the recipes she has in her head! Tante Farida (Aunt number 3) was always willing to share stories and making sure Raina and I were safe and sound. Amu Najib (Uncle) provided a nice balance to the estrogen filled house :-P and Raina's Aunt Tante Nour from down the street would often come and visit and we went there once too to visit (her house was SWANKY!).

We were in Lebanon during 'Eid al-Adha which celebrates Abraham's extreme devotion to God that he would even sacrifice his own son Ishmael to God because that is what God had commanded. However, after the sacrifice had been performed God comes to Abraham and tells him that a sheep was sacrificed instead and God had saved his son because Abraham was able to transcend his love for this world to show his extreme love of God. This is also why during 'Eid al-Adha sheep are sacrificed and their meat is donated to the poor. 'Eid al-Adha follows the month of Hajj and the festivities last for three days. So during these three days many visitors came to Beit Zantout and I got to meet many family friends and relatives. Raina's Aunt who lives in Texas was in town, several of Raina's cousins who live outside of Lebanon were around and of course everyone who lived close by came to visit. Everything reminded me so much of holidays back home. I come from a large family and LOVE family gatherings because of the complete chaos with tons of people crowded together.

I am so happy I went and I can't wait to share more of my stories with you!!!

Much Love,