I've had the burning desire to start blogging again as my travels to Madagascar, France and Belgium, and the Balkans (including dynamic and vibrant Kosovo) leave me with much to marvel at and to meditate on. Alas, I'm not sure the rather specialized Carl in Cairo's the spot. I'll link all two and a half of my readers (hi, mom!) to any new blog I find the time and energy to create.
In the meantime, I really miss Egypt. Depending on which of my posts you've read here, that may be entirely expected or supremely shocking. I realize, though, that I grew use to it. I had my favorite haunts and my favorite people and I'm really missing them lately. I could go for some Yemeni food followed by an evening at the Habib residence in Doqqi and maybe a festive evening at Annie and Kelsy's. And, I know I'm a nerd, but I'd love to sit in on the classes this semester that I'd have taken would I have stuck around--classes on the securitization of migration taught by Agnes Czajka and on gender and migration, co-taught by Ray Jureidini and Martina Rieker. Alas. Instead, I am in Peoria with visions of traveling fresh in my head.
And next? A job! I've begun applying, but will do so more in earnest, probably in proportion to how acutely I feel the cornfields closing in on me here. As for now, I'm already enjoying the warmth of home and the promise of family, fun, and friends.
My humblest apologies for failing in my blogging duties for the last couple of weeks. Things have gotten crazy, but simultaneously have gone really well. Despite my nervousness and stumbling through the presentation portion, my thesis defense went really well. I got lots of positive feedback and, perhaps even more importantly, had my thesis approved. Today I worked my last shift at the writing center and attended my last AUC graduate class. One final paper stands between me and the end of my master's degree. It's so surreal. I can't begin to catalogue the list of things I've learned while here or the ways I've grown. My time in Egypt has changed me for the better. I went from skepticism and tentativeness a few months ago (and downright anxiety and bitterness at times about a half a year ago) to deeply appreciating what Egypt has come to mean to me. I have no doubt in my mind that this experience--living in this country and going through this master's program--was the right decision. As for my blog, I hope to continue sharing my thoughts and observations, perhaps not only about Egypt but my travels in general. We'll see what I end up with time for. Thanks to all of you who have followed my ramblings about my year and a third as an AUC grad student and my time in Masr. My sincerest thanks again to the Rotary Foundation and to the districts, clubs, and individual rotarians who made my first year possible, and to AUC and the Writing Center for funding my final semester.
I'm here, I'm here! I submitted my thesis (which I'll defend on the 14th) and am now down to tidying up a group project and writing a 10-page and a 20-page final paper for my two courses. I have been busy waxing sentimental about Egypt and realizing how much I love about living here. I've been spending every chance I get with friends, wandering my neighborhood, and Christmas shopping when I can find time to step away from schoolwork. The Egypt-Algeria row has long since settled down and some really great (and I don't mean it sarcastically) PSA's have popped up about Egyptian dignity and unity.
...مش مهم كاس العام
.المهم شكلنا قصاد العالم
This one, in Tahrir Square, says (more or less) "Egypt. It's not important, the World Cup. What's important is how we appear before the world." There's another across the Nile with a minaret and a steeple together, but I haven't managed to snap a photo of it yet.
Well, that's me checking in. I leave in less than two weeks and it seems harder and harder to do so the closer I get to that day.
You may have surmised by the dearth of my entries that I finally got serious about my thesis. Kind of. I'm still not all the way finished, but recapping Thanksgiving and 'Aid are worth a few moments. Yesterday, Marise, Phil, Erin, Cynthia and I went to Lucille's for Thanksgiving dinner. There was turkey with gravy and stuffing for the carnivores, and sweet potatoes with marshmallows, corn, carrots, green beans, cranberry sauce, and mashed potatoes for everybody except for Cyn who opted for a south of the border Thanksgiving and ordered nachos. For dessert was some very respectable pumpkin pie. While we laughed off the cheesiness of going around the table and each reporting what we were most thankful for this holiday, I think we were each cognizant of how much we had come to mean to one another in the three semesters. It was great to be with the people I've become closest to in Egypt even though it made me all the more conscious we only have a couple more weeks living in proximity, bumming around at each others apartments, and eating out like it's going out of style. Today, Phil (never the early riser) woke me up and demanded I follow through on our plans to go see what was afoot for 'Aid al-Adha in the nearby neighborhoods. Last year, I saw little more than a puddle of blood and a detached hoof in the street. This year, Phil and I stumbled upon a whole crowd observing and participating in the ritual sacrifice of several cows. The men and boys welcomed, asked our names, explained what was going on, and asked what we thought of Algeria and the recent soccer match. We snapped lots of photos. Yesterday, on the way to Thanksgiving dinner, we'd seen a lot of livestock--one sheep was squirming in the trunk of a white taxi. Today we saw what was to befall all the transiting animals. I'd never seen a cow slaughtered before. I imagine that the three of my grandparents who grew up on farms would be more inured to the process, but my relationship with farm animals has been limited mostly to petting zoos and steak restaurants. There was something almost serene about the process. People watched intently as a whole team of men calmed each animal, set it on its side, and dispatched it swiftly. It didn't die right away, and that was perhaps the hardest part to deal with it. I won't explain all the details out of deference to more squeamish readers. But the best part was watching people's reactions. The little kids were more fascinated than scared and for other people, it was routine--just another 'Aid. We bid the kids we'd been talking to goodbye and returned home. I wondered how people back home would treat a couple of Arabs wandering into a celebration. I'd like to hope we'd be as welcoming. Back to my thesis! 'Aid mubarak!
Things seem to have settled down here in Cairo. There're no new reports of chanting mobs. I was chatting with Marise about the whole debacle last night and we concluded that, with pieces like the one in the New York Times by Michael Slackman misrepresenting the source of many Egyptians' outrage, Egypt was in some small way, not getting a fair shake. While some of the protesters were without a doubt mere soccer hooligans, other people who have protested more civilly truly believed that Egyptians were being harmed abroad. The Egyptian media, Facebookers, and YouTubers exaggerated accounts of violence against Egyptians in Sudan and Algeria and convinced Egyptians moreover that the Sudanese and Algerian governments were complicit or at best, not doing enough to protect Egyptian nationals. That claims of serious injury have not been substantiated is immaterial. The fact is, Egyptians were led to believe that their conationals were being harmed and left unprotected by governments with whom Egypt has complex and sometimes troubled relations. This isn't just about people whining over a soccer match, at least not for everyone. Still others (and perhaps this group includes the soccer hooligans) have turned this into an issue of honor. According to the BBC, the Egyptian president said "Egypt does not tolerate those who hurt the dignity of its sons" while his normally media-shy son Ala' said in an interview that "When you insult my dignity ... I will beat you on the head". While I can appreciate protesting civily in solidarity with physically wounded fellow citizens, the concept of protesting against violations of your honor (like the YouTube videos Algerians have made insulting Egyptians) is totally alien to me. Not coming from an "honor culture", bravado and reputation-preserving violence and boycotts make me cringe. A Facebook group called "ACT TO END RELATIONS BETWEEN EGYPT & ALGERIA" that, as of now, has nearly 5,000 members maligns (in all caps, annoyingly) Algerians and paints ending diplomatic relations between the two countries as a religious duty. Meanwhile, some 5000+ Facebook users are fans of a page called "Si tes [sic] ALGERIENS et tu F**k l'égypte pour notre drapeau qu'ils ont brulés [sic]" (If you're Algerians and you f**k Egypt for our flag that they burnt). Absurdity. This certainly shatters the façade of Arab unity.
I hear from friends in Zamalek that it looks like a war zone in the area where the "protesters" were. I failed to understand how translating a beef with another country's soccer team (or even a beef with the fact that your conationals are being attacked in foreign countries) into destroying the property of your countrymen is productive. Non-Egyptians have had to show their passports to get places within Zamalek itself and roads are blocked off. The Subway deliveryman made it here to bring Phil a sandwich though. Twitter's been abuzz with accurate and not-so-accurate reports about riots, mobs, and other collectivities chanting, protesting, rock and Molotov cocktail-throwing, Central Security arresting people, cameras confiscated from the media, and so forth. I'd heard there was a disturbance in Tahrir, but when Phil and I ventured out in the late afternoon, we saw only touts and families and lost-looking tourists—the usual. Who knows what will happen. Meanwhile, I'm hard at work finishing the conclusions section of my thesis!
Midwest meets Middle East: I read a review of the movie Amreeka in Daily News Egypt and now I'm really curious to see it. It's apparently about a Palestinian family that moves to small town Illinois. Check out the trailer here.