Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Chinese Organ Breathing

For the second day in a row, I managed not to spend any money. I made eggplant and sun-dried tomato spread sandwiches, packed them up like a middle school "cold lunch", and headed to Greek Campus to meet my classmates who were eating and reading for class and chatting. We had an excellent guest lecturer, Dr Marisa Ensor, who talked about how international law pertains to migration.
Immediately after class, I joined my flatmate, Ross, on Tahrir Square where we were picked up by Khaled, a Rotarian from the Cairo Royal club. He whisked us to one of the riverboats, Le Pacha, where we had quite an evening. Over delicious Egyptian hors d'oevres Ross and I chatted with Mona, a young lady who is going to North Carolina in April as part of Rotary's Group Study Exchange program. She'll be serving as a cultural ambassador for Egypt while gaining professional experience in an American accounting firm. The members of the club were attentive and interested in us and in the several other guests; there were visiting Rotarians from Lebanon and Tunisia. Graciously, they held part of the meeting in English. Even the evening's speaker, a maxillofacial surgeon-turned-homeopath, conducted half of her lecture in our language. It was on methods from alternative medicine for dealing with stress. Calling herself a "homeopath, reiki master, and reflexologist", she was certainly the product of exposure to the world at large. Most of the ideas she shared, including "Chinese organ breathing" in which she involved the club in a breathing exercise meant to vent all one's anger out of the liver, are things that I don't subscribe too, but I was fascinated with the liberal way in which she spoke of religion and spirituality. Religious pluralism was the order of the day and it occurred to me that non-sectarian Rotary clubs sometimes are able to bridge deep divides between practitioners of different religious. And tonight, they were connected by chuckling at some of the speaker's explanations of ill health. She enumerated the criteria for the WHO definition of a healthy person and one audience member interjected "mish Masri" or "not Egyptian". In other words, being Egyptian disqualified you from being considered healthy. Though it was a joke, I certainly buy into pollution and precarious road conditions being more of a threat to the average person living in Egypt than negative electro-magnetic heartwaves. The lecture stretched on for much longer than the president of the club intended, but included singing and stretching and lots of crowd interaction, so Ross and I and our fellow ambassadorial scholar, Ambereen, were thoroughly entertained. The generosity of Cairo Royal was exceptionally warm. In the course of this one meeting where we were fed a delicious meal and given special attention, we were also given two separate invitations to Rotarians' vacation homes on the Red Sea. The president even said she'd make arrangements for our transportation there. I'm not sure if I'll be able to make it, but I was moved by the show of kindness.
Khaled dropped us back home and, driving through Falaki Square we saw a gaping whole in the side of the building that houses the souq and the Truman store and the honey shop and the "exlant tourism" restaurant. Ross had seen a police vehicle there earlier, but didn't know for sure how the hole got there. Hours later, there were still people milling around a pile of rubble that looks like it used to be a butcher shop. With the cautions about security issues, we couldn't help but speculate, but I haven't found any news on the subject, so I'm thinking it was faulty construction or an errant vehicle careening into the building or something. Instead of worrying too much, Ross and I came home and, like nerds, played Civilization IV together for a while. I had Twining's jasmine green tea and McVitie's ginger nuts in a fit of Britishness.

News and links:
Forbes article on the Internet and Egyptian society
Egypt detains and releases Internet activist
US reduces aid to Egypt, maintains funding for Israel

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