6 Months Later

Still going strong at AUC ;)


Hello, Again

Hello, Internet world.  I am back in Egypt, again.  (Third time's the charm, right?)  I am working with AUC's Research Institute for a Sustainable Environment for at least 6 months.  I have officially left the student life, and am living as a professional adult in Cairo (whose profession just happens to take her daily to an institution of learning...).  I have recently shut down my facebook, and have been enjoying having my personal life removed from the virtual realm, so no promises on regular blog updates.  However, I may start a subject blog (rather than this travel journal) to keep myself motivated in my self study of Permaculture.  While this blog would be more informational and professional in nature, it will still recount my environmental pursuits in Egypt.  We'll see what happens.  For you out there who are hungry for updates, just know that things are going well, and I am very happy :)

Happy Jan 25th.


Deja Vu

Once again Egypt is fraught with political unrest and protest.  And not I am further away from Egypt and people who know any thing about Egypt than I have every been in my life.  Thanks goodness for the internet.  In less than a week the elected president of just one year was ousted after widespread protest (the biggest of all recorded human history), and what has been characterized as a military coup.  My friends are safe, and most of them are pretty happy.  Morsi (the former president) was not doing the most democratically minded things, but I am kept up at night by the fact that he was democratically elected.  This article sums up my concerns much better than I can, and illustrates why I have yet to celebrate with the majority of my friends.  Keep Egypt in your thoughts.



International Women's Day

Today is International Women's Day, and I have a few things I would like to say to my international female friends, especially my Egyptian friends.  Culturally, we are all subject to cultural pressures, but women as a whole experience these pressures to a higher degree, and I know Egyptian society can be strict.  Between age-old family traditions, your immediate peers, and modern media, we have a lot to deal with and a lot of people telling us what to do with our bodies.  Many of my Egyptian friends are reaching that age when people start to pair off and get engaged.  So many young Egyptian women are trying balance social and cultural pressures.  I just want to tell you, your body is no one's business but your own.  More specifically, it is no one's business if you're a virgin or not.  I am not promoting promiscuity or abstinence.   I can't tell you if having sex before your marriage is better or worse for your relationship, or what is right in your religion.  That is up to you.  You need to make the choice that is right for you, and you can't do that if you're worried about how others will judge you.   You should not have sex because someone is pressuring you, and you should not not have sex because someone is pressuring you. I know how much pressure you're under, and I know that not being a virgin can have serious consequences, so as your concerned friend, I give you permission to lie.  This choice is yours, and if you need to protect that choice by lying, I support you.  Here are some things you might like to consider:

Not everyone bleeds their first time.  The hymen doesn't cover the opening of the vagina.  It's not something you have to "break" to have sex.  It is more like a stretchy ring of skin around the vaginal opening.  Hymens sometimes bleed the first time, because they are tighter/tougher.  But some people's hymens' are naturally stretchy or just out of the way.  Sex can loosen or tear a tighter hymen, but everyday life, and friction from clothes, menstruation, or just biology can wear away a hymen as well.  And sometimes a hymen doesn't stay loose, and if you have sex, and then wait a long time till you have sex again, you might bleed again.  In other words, "bleeding" doesn't prove your virginity.

There is no medical definition of virginity.  It's all just culture.  It changes through history.  There is no real test to prove your virginity.  Many modern women define their virginity differently.  There are many types of sexual activity.  Some people count all experiences as "sex," some believe they can do everything but penis-to-vagina sex and still be virgins, and some still consider themselves virgins until they have sex with someone they really care about.  It's up to you.

Men aren't forced to prove their virginity.  They aren't subject to the same pressures as we are.  It's just not fair.  They can do scandalous things just as easily (if not easier) as we can.

No body has to live in your body, but you. duh.



Check out the whole collection on Facebook.

I just submitted a bunch of photos to AmLit, American University's Literary Magazine.  For some reason it's feels really important to share how beautiful Egypt is, particularly from my perspective.  I'm awed by Egypt in many of the same ways as any tourist through the ages, but my aesthetic is slightly different.  While the pyramids are amazing and I love a good tomb painting, I think the most beautiful thing I've seen in Egypt is CAIRO in all of it's tan, unfinished, falling apart, littered, lively wonder.  As an environmentalist, I have no idea why it appeals to be so, but literally find it break-taking.

Here are some highlights, some Cairo, some Garbage City, some Siwa:


Graceful Fall from Grace

There was a time when this blog would get more than 40 hits a day, and now I don't even know if my mom reads this blog anymore.  What can you do?  I'll just have to repromote this baby next time I go to Egypt.  While my Egypt-themed Blog's fame my waver, by love for Egypt is steadfast.  I don't know if you've ever been distraught and moved to tears over a country to which you have no right, but let me tell you, it is a terrible and magnificent all at once.  My latest instance if this was in preparation for February 12th's "Global Protest Against Sexual Terrorism Practiced on Egyptian Female Protesters."  I just can't describe the sympathy I feel for these women who are trying to enact change.  I can't explain how frustrating it is that I can't express how wearing it is to be harassed even on the most superficial level.  So I can't even fathom the horror of violent sexual assault.  I am overwrought when others don't understand how important these issues are, and how truly and fundamentally all Egyptians deserve dignity.  So though I latest foray to Egypt may be over I wanted to take this protest as an opportunity to at least try to make a difference.  It isn't my place to protest in Egypt.  It is dangerous and mostly likely I would just cause issues with the opposing side saying I was proof of "foreign hands at the wheel."  It isn't my government's place to tell the Egyptian government what to do, because you know that's worked so well in the past (please note sarcasm).  I also think it is absurdly presumptuous to think that any US policy maker would know more about what the Egyptians want or need than anyone who's actually Egyptian.  So this protest, in my country, in my city, was the one place I thought it was appropriate for me to have a voice.  It was a small protest with a friendly family-oriented vibe.  I met some great people, and got some closure and a sense of accomplishment for myself.  There were a few media people there and several non-Egyptians who just thought it was good to show solidarity, so I like to think those people and cameras brought some attention to the issue.  Of course one always wishes that they could do more.  It is hard to acknowledge how little power you have, and it's even harder to acknowledge when something not your fight, or simply beyond you.

While it might not be my place to be the screaming activist on the Egyptian front lines, I can do my best to spread knowledge and understanding.  Women's History Month is coming up in March, and I am organizing a belly dancing lesson for students at my university.  I hope to use this lesson as a platform to discuss the vehicles of soft power and empowerment women of patriarchal societies can use in the private sphere.  I hope to use belly dancing as an example.  When in Egypt, I saw the most belly dancing, not in bars or in any seductress context, but in private gatherings of female friends.  It was a unique experience of sensuality and expression for one's self, instead of for the consumption of another.  I'll keep you updated as the event develops.



  In less than an hour I have my OPI or Oral Proficiency Interview (read those words with spooky ghost noise for proper emphasis).  This is an Arabic test for the end of my scholarship, to see how much I've improved.  Technically, the results don't mean nothing to me directly, because I have my grades for my classes, and I have already spent the money from this scholarship, but STILL, I would like to do well.  I don't suffer from test anxiety too badly, but here is something about these speaking Arabic tests that lead to me panic attacks.  Like seriously.  But right now I am in a good place, and I want to note that here.  I have been studying, computing on Rosetta Stone, listening to my Arabic music, and watching Arabic movies this last week to prepare.  I might not be naturally talented with languages, but you know what?   I am happy with what I have learned.  I was able to hold my own on a practice conversation with my friend.  I skimmed through a whole Arabic text book and a half, and I was happy with my grasp on the material.  I want you and all the Internet to know, before my confidence is destroyed by this test, that I have learned a lot, a lot, and even if I'm not the best Arabist in the world, I really love the language, and I view it's acquisition as a lifetime venture.  Thank you for your attention.