Monday, May 31, 2010
TODAY IS MY BIRTHDAY!!! Even if I had the Power http://youtu.be/Zw87vOiB8TE to stay Young Forever http://youtu.be/HehlNEjk7D8, I'd still look forward to my birthday each year! Thanks for all the warm birthday wishes!
I've just returned to Cairo from an amazing Greek vacation. I can't stop raving about how much I loved Greece, the people, the cities, and the beaches! I arrived in Athens on Thursday afternoon. After a recommendation from Fly Brother, I decided to try Couch Surfing for the first 3 nights in Athens with a surfer named Dimitri and had a largely positive experience (more about that later). The day I arrived, the transportation workers in Athens had gone on strike leaving taxi's as the only option into town so I took a cab to Dimitri's' apartment in the center of Athens. After dropping my things off, I immediately went to to Ermou St. for some retail therapy! I shopped until I literally couldn't stand up anymore and had to limp home with all my bags! I felt like I'd been deprived of beautiful things for too long and my vanity took over! I bought so many things I can never wear in Cairo lol.
The first 2 days, I went through a period of culture shock in Athens. My first time riding the Athens metro, without realizing it, I let a few trains go by because my mind was set on only riding the women's cart as I do in Cairo! I also put on a pair of shorts for the first time in months and went outside in Athens. At first, I was a bit self-conscious. I felt like everyone was staring at me so I kept tugging at my shorts when, in reality, no one paid any attention to what I wore. I felt shocked and scandalized by the public display of affection amongst Greek couples holding hands and kissing! I fully expected some old woman in a burqa to pop up and hiss at them. When I saw a group of men approaching, I immediately gave them wide berth or prepared for a confrontation as it goes in Cairo. However, the reality was that most pedestrians paid little attention to me. When men did approach me, it was to compliment me, ask where I was from, or help me find something. The genuine friendliness and welcoming nature of the Greeks was a sharp contrast to how the Caireens treat tourists. It took me a few days to relax and realize that no one was going to try to grope or debase me in public or lure me into a "bazaar". The openness of Greeks reminded me a lot of Haitians in many ways: everyone I met readily discussed the current political and economic situation with me, lambasted the politicians for being corrupt, and recited Greek history like it was their duty to turn me into a compatriot lol. Afterwards they'd insist on inviting me to dinner or out for drinks.
On my second and third day in Athens, I went to the tourists attractions.To my surprise, with a student ID, you could get a pass to go to any 6 tourist attractions in Greece for 6€ total! I visited the Parthenon at the Acropolis first. The Acropolis stands in the center on Athens right above Ermou St. The ruins were well preserved and a Colosseum lay below the Parthenon in the Acropolis. When I arrived at the top of the Parthenon, it began to rain. I sat in the rain gazing at the Parthenon and the city below. Since it rarely rains in Egypt, it had been so long since I'd seen the rain that it felt like a welcomed cleansing experience.
I visited the new museum below the Acropolis, the Temple Olympian Zeus, and the Agora. I wandered through the flea market near the Agora, people watched from the outdoor coffee shops, snooped around charming, narrow streets and chatted with whomever approached me. To my surprise, Athens was extremely diverse: south East Asians, Africans, and Indians were everywhere as well as many other Europeans. On one occasion, I was reading at a coffee shop overlooking the Agora when an merchant approached me selling Senegalese drums. I initilly told him in English that I was not interested in buying a drum but he kept reducing the price. Finally, he'd exhausted his vocabulary in English and apolgized to me in French saying he was from Senegal. My eyes lit up at the oppurtunity to speak French to someone after being confined to just English and Arabic for so long. We spoke for a long time in French and I ended up buyng the darn drum for half its original price of 20€ lol.
After Athens, I took an 8 hour ferry ride to the island of Santorini. Santorini was the original reason I'd decided to take a vacation to Greece. I fell in love with the city after Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 (Yes, I make decisions based on chick flicks. Dont judge me :). When the ship first docked, my first impression was that the island was just a spiraling high waste-land. None of the white-washed houses and blue roofs were visible upon first site! I took the city bus to my hotel in the town of Fira at the top of the island. Fira was more like what I'd pictured Santorini was supposed to be like with small white homes and narrow streets but it was still missing the blue roofs... Finally,I explored the town of Oia-Ia that day where the movie was filmed and most pictures of Santorini are taken. The town was exactly what I'd hoped it would be! It sat high above a cliff with charming white homes with bluedomed roofs against a backdrop of the ocean below. I explored every nook and cranny and I must have taken a dozen pictures from every angle! I was pleasantly surprised by the large number of black couples, mostly from Francophone countries, in Santorini. Unfortunately, I didn't realize how blatantly romantic Oia-Ia would be until I found myself getting misty eyed at the sight of a couple taking their wedding pictures amidst the beautiful scenery.
I spent the second day on the Red Beach on the island. The Red Beach is a beach composed of black and red volcanic rocks, near Akrotiri. Mysteriously enough, my camera, cell phone, laptop and Zune Mp3 batteries all died on this day leaving me with no sense of time or date. I lay on the beach for hours contemplating the different coloured rocks and reading fashion magazines. I spent the next day at the black beaches on Perissa. Unfortunately, this beach was not impressive. The shore line was jagged and the actual beach was just a narrow strip. I returned to Oia-Ia that evening to have dinner and watch the sunset.
I went to Mykonos after 3 days in Santorini. I only ventured into town to buy my return ticket to Athens. Otherwise, I spent the entire 2 days laying on the beach aptly named Paradise and being in awe of how clear and beautiful the water was. At one point, I sat on a cliff above the beach, admiring the natural blues of the water. I noticed several flashes of light from the corner of my eye and looked over to find a group of Asian tourist enthusiastically taking pictures of me in my swimsuit from the bottom of the cliff! Attracted by the buzzing of the group of Asians, other curious tourist soon joined in and snapped pictures of me as they went by. I'm not quite sure who they'd mistaken me for but a group of Canadian girls climbed up and told me they'd assumed I was doing a photo-shoot so they took a quick picture also. Finding no feasible way to have all the people erase my picture from their camera, I pulled my hat low and resigned myself to having my photograph taken lol.
I returned to Athens on the ferry on Saturday afternoon. I spent my last day in Athens hanging out with Dimitri, my Couch Surfing host, and his friends in one of the cities many beautiful parks and enjoying the hospitality of the Greeks. I loved Greece sooo much!! It was exactly the type of vacation I needed to relax after months of the harshness of Cairo. Returning to Cairo, I felt like Persophone going back to Hades and the Underworld.
A slide show with more pictures:
Monday, May 24, 2010
Now that I أتكلم العربية قليلا...I'm in Greece for some R&R!!! You know I have to travel first class just to change the forecast! Don't worry, I bought a round trip ticket so that I wouldn't be tempted to sit on a beach in short-shorts and stuff my face with bacon without being harassed for the rest of the summer! I brought a copy of the Qu'ran and Children of the Alley, a novel by acclaimed Egyptian author Naquib Mahfouz, as leisure reading. Once I'm done with both in English, I plan to (spend the entire summer) rereading them in Arabic. I will also be Couch Surfing for the first time
There will be some exciting new changes when I come back to Cairo: I'm moving from Downtown to Maadi, a quiet area of Cairo populated by foreign workers and their families! I found an amazing apartment and I will have 2 new roommates. I will definitely miss my old roommates. Their Cairo street-smarts, patience, and dry senses of humor truly helped me navigate so many unfamiliar or difficult situations. 2) I'll begin the research portion of my time abroad before continuing Arabic classes in July. I expect that this will bring a unique set of challenges and achievements.
For the time being, I'd like to leave you with a few photos. The other day, I had the pleasure of accompanying my roommate and her co-workers to her boss's apartment. The apartment had a awe-inspiring view of the pyramids. We watched the sunset and took some amazing pictures:
Friday, May 21, 2010
A Twitter conversation with my friend in China and another in Dubai left me with a few gems to ponder on in regards to black travelers. Although this is a topic I'd like to explore more in depth at a later date, for now here are a few quotables:
JapanNewbie It's so bizarre when I tell people I'm American, and they say, "What?? How can you be American!?"#NotManyBlackAmericansAroundHere
I'd like to leave you with the words of Elon James White (who is know following me on Twitter! *swoon*) to reflect on the meaning of blackness, et al.:
Thursday, May 20, 2010
Before I came to Cairo, I sent an email to the Cairo Scholar listserv to inquire about language schools and asked their opinion about MSA (Foosah or Formal Arabic) vs. Ammayah (Egyptian Arabic or ECA). When considering Arabic studies abroad, the 2 most important decisions you can make are 1) where to study and 2) what type of Arabic to study.
When considering Arabic studies abroad, the 2 most important decisions you can make are 1) where to study and 2) what type of Arabic to study. Now that my semester at the American University in Cairo's Arabic Language Institute (ALI)- which I've unaffectionately referred to as Arabic Gitmo in past posts- is complete, I want to write a review of the program and discuss language schools in another 2 part post:
I am currently considering the International Language Institute (ILI) for the summer. ILI is the favored language program for British diplomats. It is known for having a higher caliber of students and a more focused curriculum than ALI. It is also significantly cheaper than ALI. Insha'allah, ILI will live up to its reputation. I completed intensive courses in both ECA and MSA this semester.MSA was significantly more difficult than ECA because it'ss so formal, has more pronouns, and more tenses. Studying both ECA and MSA simultaneously was challenging. anytine I focused one one, the other suffered. In the future, I'm considering focusing only on MSA now that I have a comfortable basis in ECA to navigate daily life. In my opinion, MSA will be more transferable to different countries and is required for the type of formal, top level work I may be interested pursuing in the future.
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
The Haitian flag was famously created when revolutionary leader Jean-Jacques Dessalines ripped the white portion from a French Flag and united the blue and red to symbolize the union between the black and mulatto rebels against the French colonial army. For more on the Haitian flag's history and it's transitions, please visit this site: http://www.haitiantreasures.com/HT_haitian_flag.day1.htm
Ayiti pap jem mouri (Haiti will never die).
I have a confession to make! I've been holding something back from you guys: I've started dating again! Initially, it felt strange to be out with anyone other than my ex but I'm now at the point where I'm ready to jump back in to the casual dating scene. Living abroad, returning to the dating scene can prove overwhelming and/or challenging depending on where you live. Sometimes one must tweak your partner-preferences to what is realistically available.