Monday, May 31, 2010

It's All Greek to Me!


TODAY IS MY BIRTHDAY!!! Even if I had the Power to stay Young Forever, 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

Black in Cairo is in Greece!


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  so if I'm not back by my birthday, May 31st, notify the authorities and looking forward to the experience. 
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

Some Words of Wisdom


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:


@FranceinCairo We had a white dude from South Africa here for a while. It was really funny going out with him. "I'm African. He's American."
Avatar_normalJapanNewbie 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

Arabic Language Programs in Cairo Part 2


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.

Here are some of the best responses:

Mon, 12/14/09
Welcome to the challenging but rewarding (and never ending) world of Arabic studies! ;)
I think that it's good to study both Ammeyya and Fosha. There are lots of common words in all eastern dialects, so it was relatively easy for me to learn Syrian after having learned a strong basis in Egyptian.
Knowing any Ammiyya will also help you communicate to speakers of other dialects, as Arabs of various dialects tend to use Ammiyya when speaking to each other in non-formal circumstances (or even English or French if they know them). So you can expect most Arabs to understand Egyptian Arabic, although you will understand them less well, unless they are good at talking Egyptian (some can).
Of course, when you advance in your Arabic studies, you really need both since eventually Fosha starts giving you the vocab you need to talk about more complex topics.
With regard to choice of location however, I would highly recommend you NOT study at the AUC new campus unless it is being paid for you. Although quality of instruction is truly excellent, that is only one factor affecting language acquisition. It is extremely isolated from the rest of Cairo (1-2 hours into the desert depending on traffic) which severely limits your time available for studies and interactions with Arabic speakers, and these negatives outweigh, in my opinion, the benefit of the excellent instruction.

I think that AUC actually has some of the best Arabic instructors and programs in the Middle East, and the teaching method, while very American, is decent. Of course, the type of program you do best in depends on the methods you prefer. AUC often gives lots of homework and micromanages your learning, but for some reason this does not always lead to great improvements in proficiency.
If you are paying on your own, I think a better choice in Cairo would be ILI, Kalimat, or DEAC. ILI is the best in quality I believe (I don't know this though since I never studied at ILI or Kalimat), but more expensive than Kalimat. DEAC (cours intensif) sometimes has places available in the spring. However, I've heard that DEAC was a bit disorganized due to administrative changes. ILI is probably the best Arabic institute in Cairo, other than AUC. They have a good curriculum and good materials, for both Fosha and Ammiyya, and it's pretty close to the center of Cairo. I've heard that students at Kalimat aren't so serious, so sometimes the classes aren't very rigorous. do have a program in Alex as well, which I think would be a better location for studies!
Lastly, if you are not tied to Cairo, then I'd recommend considering another place to study. In Cairo, foreigners often fall into a bubble and hang out exclusively with other foreigners. It's not a problem to have some foreign friends, but for some reason, it's hard for many foreigners to make ANY close Egyptian friends (I personally think it's because the city is just so big, as well as cultural reasons), especially ones that will speak Arabic with them.
I think a much better place to study Arabic is Damascus, where costs of instruction (at Damascus Univ, or private tutoring, or even IFEAD) are very affordable, and the environment in general encourages (or requires) you to speak Arabic (even if you are a beginner), and in many instances where you'd speak Arabic in Egypt. Many people studying in Damascus make rapid improvements in proficiency -- I learned more in 1 year in Damascus than 3 years in Cairo.
Although Egyptian is probably a more useful dialect, Levantine Arabic is also well understood throughout the Arab world, and it will better prepare you than Egyptian will to understand dialects of the Gulf, Iraq and other levantine countries. Also, you will probably improve both your fosha and ammiyya more quickly in Damascus, so if you compare your communicative proficiency with Arabs of the eastern dialects (including Egyptian) after one semester in Damascus and one semester in Cairo, I feel it will be higher after studying in Damascus.
You might also consider Yemen, which I've heard is great for studying Fosha. The Ammeyya is closer to Gulf dialects though. You can also probably find teachers that can teach you some Egyptian Arabic there. I think it depends on how culturally open you are (I think Yemen is more of a culture shock)
I expect that others will disagree with my opinions here, which is perfectly acceptable, and these are just my personal opinions based on studying Arabic for 4 years in the Middle East in two countries and at about 7 different language institutes.

Mon, 12/14/09

With the help of a good teacher, and thanks to the availability of text-books, grammars, written and audio-visual sources (many things could be found on-line nowadays), MSA could be studied well anywhere in the world. It is not essential (though it might be benefitial) for the learner to be in an Arabic-speaking country. Also, the best "schools" to learn MSA are not necessarily in the Arab world. The student can acquire the rules of the grammar, work on her listening and reading skills and build-up vocabulary according to her needs. In real-life, outside-classroom settings, especially here in Egypt, and except when artificially imposed by the learner due to her inability to communicate in colloquial Arabic, contexts of prolonged, naturally occurring, unprepared conversations in "pure" MSA are, to put it mildly, very difficult to find.
Spoken language, on the other hand, is best learned where it is spoken. As Adam pointed out well, Egyptian Arabic is not a non-written language (look at the billboards, blogs, on-line forums, as well as many books that are these days being published predominantly or exclusively in Egyptian, i.e.Cairene, Arabic). Many text-books introduce the learner to the Arabic script at an early stage, so "illiteracy" is not a necessary outcome. However, since speaking and understanding what you are being told are the main goals, what you learn in the classroom, you can easily practice and expand in your everyday life. Many Egyptians can be very nice and helpful, and your learning experience can be gratifying and a lot of fun.
Once you acquire the basics and start moving around expanding on them, you can start learning MSA as well. Why not? And why not after you have learned the colloquial. If that is the experience of every single Arab in the universe, why would a foreign language learner be any different?! Why would they need to start from the MSA and then later somehow move "down"? If Arabs first acquire one of the dialects as their native tongues, and then later, through their education and religious practice start acquiring MSA, why wouldn't a foreigner attempt at repeating the same experience. (Despite the uneasiness of many Arabs to accept this claim, there are no native speakers of MSA in the sense there are native speakers of standard, literary English, Serbian or Turkish. Everybody learns a dialect first, fusha comes in later).
So, if you are contemplating whether to study both varieties , then I might also align with those who say "go for it". At first, it will be much more difficult than focusing on just one, but it will undeniably have its long-term advantages. If, however, the purpose is to communicate in daily life, then I would need to challenge those who might claim that artificial dialogues placed in contemporary MSA textbooks for the sole purpose of modelling them according to similar language instruction material for English, German, or French, would get the learner very far. In that case, as I said in my first, short, post, you should go for Egyptian Arabic.

Mon, 12/14/09

My main motivation has to learn to speak with people in informal settings, and this is still pretty much my goal. But even so, I think studying some Fosha has helped that.
Actually, I think probably a best strategy for most people would involve initial study of Ammeyya exclusively for several months, and then beginning MSA and continuing the two in parallel for some time until the learner decides which one is needed more for his or her interests.
I think starting both at once is a bit overwhelming for students, who inevitably get confused by similar but slightly different vocab and grammatical rules (especially with dual, numbers, female plural adjectives, verb conjucations). At least learning one first, you can then "convert" it to the other. And I think the best one to learn first is Ammeyya, since for it will allow the student to advanced more quickly since they can practice it more easily with Arab speakers, and this gives them a better basis to then later "convert" from.
However, waiting too long before starting Fosha can impede overall learning as well, as was in my case. The materials in Ammeyya simply aren't as good and are limited. For example, it's difficult to improve your vocabulary on more advanced topics using Ammeyya materials. Also, studying Fosha gives you access to tons of well written materials and you can get that ever useful feedback through the exercises of reading and writing. Ammeyya study tends to involve listening and speaking, and I feel I learn a lot from reading and writing.
Later on in studies, students will have a better idea what they want to concentrate on.... but for a foundation, I think that Ammeyya-only first, then both is a better strategy. BTW, some universities in the states are using Ammeyya-only first now, rather than the traditional Fosha-only first that was most common before.


Tues, May, 18, 10
I just finished the ALI program this year at the High Intermediate level. For what it is worth, it is where the US diplomats study Arabic. I can't address the cost for you because the US taxpayer footed the bill. I think around 10K/semester.

That said, I thought it was a top notch program. The professors are well...professors. Real education professionals. A lot of language tutors think they can teach a language because they know it--not necessarily true.

It is a university program so it is academic which you may not like. It will teach you a high level of MSA. I liked that because I think it is easier to rachet down a notch when you want to then find yourself in a situation where you need a more formal Arabic.

From my perspective, I am glad I didn't take ammeya. I think studying ammeya at the same time as MSA is distracting. I am starting to learn ammeya now and it is easier because I understand it's derivation and I can speak at the level the situation calls for.

How you study and where you study depends heavily on what you are going to use your Arabic for. I plan to work in the entire region and I work in a lot of formal situations.


Arabic Language Programs in Cairo Part 1


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:

ALI is truly intensive and the teachers are great. The method of teaching is heavily focused on interactive group work and homework (an average of hours per night). Classes are times a week (Sunday-Thursday), 9:30- 3:30. In addition, I had an optional 2 hours of tutoring and 1 hour with my language partner each week. i went from being unable to distinguish one squiggly line from another to being able to read, write, conjugate my verbs, and hold an elementary level conversation in Arabic. 

Unfortunately, ALI's association with AUC is the biggest downside to the program. The new, elite AUC campus is also 1-2 hrs into the desert- the campus is surrounded by nothing but sand and newly built, empty residential mansions. To have an Arabic program in an American bubble in the middle of the desert is counterproductive. Buses transport students from designated stops in Cairo to the New Cairo campus. Sometimes the bus will be at its designated stop, other times no bus is to be found. Despite the alleged bus schedule on the website, the bus adheres to no comprehensible schedule and leave and arrive at the whims of the driver. Cairo traffic and the nonexistent campus bus schedule makes the commute aggravating. By the time I get home each night, I'm exhausted and I only have time to study before falling asleep, no socializing w/ Egyptians, or oral practice for me. Cairo traffic and the nonexistent campus bus schedule makes the commute aggravating.

In my experiences, the campus staff is incompetent beyond belief. Nothing gets done without a series of threatening emails CC'ed to everyone short of President Mubarak and hours of negotiations with confused flunkies. AUC takes every opportunity to nickel and dime it's students. Students are asked to pay a series of fees, tuition, and send in a passport photo and fill out the visa form before arriving in Cairo. When you arrive, however, you are still required to pay staggering $300 for a semester bus pass (literally a gold sticker) or 20LE each way. Unlike other study abroad institutions, AUC doesn't bother to have student visa's ready upon arrival either. I still had to pay 64LE and fill out the visa form 3 times because the office continuously lost the original. Most student's didn't receive their visas until Spring Break, leaving many of us illegally in he country for a significant period of time.

In addition, the caliber of students in my class was lacking, to the say the least. I expected that ALI would only allow serious and dedicated people into an intensive Arabic course. Instead, I was stuck w/ whiny undergrads on their first semester study abroad experience (i.e., the kind that are still in the stages of their life where they define a good time abroad by the number of number of random hook-ups and the amount of hangovers they've nursed while in class). This has made class time nothing short of painful and redundant.

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.

In this regard, I'd like to revisit some of the most relevant advice and comments on Arabic programs I received from Cairo Scholar in the next post. I hopes that it will assist others in choosing an Arabic program in the future!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

If I Was Your Man Part 2


My next date was with an overseas pro-basketball player. I typically don't date athletes, rappers, or anyone that still dresses/aspires to be either of the two. I'm not interested in the lifestyle these men usually lead and I'm not the type of girl that considers becoming one of the Basketball Wives a good career move. Growing up in Miami and then attending an NCAA football university exposed me to more athletes than necessary. The first things they'd say were usually the same: "I play ball" or "I just got signed to...". At this point, they'd expect my panties to drop-the typical reaction such a soul stirring revelation prompted in the ladies. Instead, I'd either lecture them on the realities of being a forty million dollar slave or promptly turn and walk away, or a combination of both.

Because I'm not necessarily looking to wife someone up so soon after my last serious relationship though, I decided to have fun and go out with this guy. We'll call him K. Besides, K's pick up line was, " You're sooo beautiful. Are you married?" LOL, what can I say, I'm a sap for corny guys.

K, an African American guy from Chicago, had been signed after college to play pro-basketball for the Arab League. He played in Iran, Syria, and now in Israel. He was in Cairo for the week signing a new contract to play in Egypt for the next 2 years. At a nicely sculpted 6"8, K easily towered over me and wasn't bad on the eye. He was dressed casually in jeans and a polo and, thankfully, no bling in sight. We met downtown and took a cab to Cairo Jazz Club. Cairo Jazz was small but nice with a dark wood and burgundy decor and a hip, young crowd to match. We sat at the bar and ordered drinks. The drink menu was considerably over-priced by Cairo standards (300LE jugs and 100 LE shots). To my surprise, K was genuinely sweet and down to earth. He opened doors, paid for the cab and our drinks, and not once did he mention his salary to me. Unlike other ball players I've met, K only mentioned his job when I asked him questions about it. As we got to know each other better through the regular first date questions, K asked me about the origins of my name. When I told him that I am Haitian, he reacted with, "Man, you Haitian girls are crazy! I've heard about ya'll." Darnit, even as far as Israel our reputation precedes us...sigh

I've heard many variations of this comment but, in my experiences, the end results are always the same so I quietly waited for K to process this new piece of information. One comedian at The Improv in Coral Gables, FL did an entire routine on his Haitian girlfriend. He said he'd somehow found himself telling her he loved her after just a week and every time he even thought of leaving her, a falling tree would barely miss his path or something. Alternatively, in undergrad, a girl who I thought was my friend was rumored to have had relations with a guy I was dating off and on. When I initially confronted her, she flat out denied it. Months later, when she became pregnant and I confronted her again, her excuse for not telling me the truth initially was: "I was scared of how you'd react cuz you know you're Haitian and all". It's worth noting that, the skank was a clear foot taller than I am and had served in Desert Storm. She also pointedly mentioned that her concern for her baby now being her top priority.

Then there is my ex's friend in the Navy reserves. When he found out I was Haitian, the buff soldier warned my Texan ex-boyfriend to to run for the hills, "They don't fear anything because they have nothing to lose. She won't be afraid to cut you if you piss her off, man! I can't deal with them... that's just too much pressure." My ex laughed it off but I noticed that any time I happened to be angry at him and cooking dinner, he'd wander into the kitchen more often than usual to casually observe what I was putting into the pot...I believe this perception is a result of general cultural misunderstandings and clashes between Haitians and other minorities in big cities. Needless to say, the alleged "craziness" of Haitian women has never deterred men from pursuing us. Not once has a guy walked away from me or stopped calling me because of it. As a matter of fact, I think some guys are turned on by it.

K, looked at me thoughtfully for a moment before saying, "I'm sure you're not crazy." He smiled and I simply smiled back reassuringly before changing the subject.

After a while, the music at Cairo Jazz became loud and unbearable. It was an unruly mash-up of funk, Motown, and pop- a drag queens dream but not conducive to a first date. K and I left and headed to one of the outdoor coffee shops downtown. The coffee shops downton were a sharp cntrast fromthe plush setting of Cairo Jazz. While Cairo Jazz was decked out in art deco furnishing and filled with a crowd of Cairo's privileged class, the quaint outdoor coffee shops on pedestrian streets downtown were lined with mix-matched chairs and folding tables. Working class men discussed the days events over tea and shisha.

We chatted about home, the places we've been, and some of our goals. He told me that his last relationship ended with the girl going Jasmin Sullivan on his car (no, she wasn't Haitian lol). Assuming he'd done something to provoke her behavior, I made a mental note of that information. Altogether, It wasn't a deep conversation but a comfortable and relaxed chat. Later on, K found himself unable to get home because one of his teammates had taken the room key and gone off to the club. I offered him my couch until his roommate got in contact with him. We ended up cuddling and talking late into the night. Once his teammates finally called him back, K left my apartment to take a cab home. A few minutes after he exited, I heard a knock on the door. He walked in and gave me a goodnight kiss on the cheek before he went home.

K returned to Israel the next morning but promised to keep in touch.

Also, a Happy Birthday to the late El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, better known as Bro. Malcolm X!

Cairo Jazz Club. 197, 26th July str, Agouza. Tel: 202-3459939

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Happy Haitian Flag Day from Cairo!


Today is Haitian Flag Day!! Haitian's everywhere will be displaying their flags at any venue possible or wearing them as decoration! Parades and parties will line the streets from Port-au-Prince to Little Haiti, Miami to Flat Bush, NYC. 5 months after the devastating quake, the Haitian flag continues to be a symbol of pride and resilience for Haitians in Haiti and abroad. I hung my flag from my balcony and it's been a great conversation piece for my neighbors all morning. As of right now, I may be the only Haitian in Cairo. There was another young lady here working for AP but she left after the quake to cover the news in Haiti so I have to hold it down on my own.

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:

Ayiti pap jem mouri (Haiti will never die).

If I Was Your Man Part 1


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.

Of course, I can't discuss black women (and black men) dating abroad without the topic of interracial (and inter-ethnic) darting coming up. The black expat community is small and, in some places, non-existent. Thus, if mingling with the locals is not an appealing option, realistically, that only leaves you with the largely white expat community in most foreign countries in which to find a partner. Although my parents raised me with a strong sense of black nationalism, they made no pretenses about adhering to simplistic notions of racially purity. I've always been free to date whomever I liked in melting pot Miami. Some may find a contradiction in this statement. However, I've always upheld that my blackness is not defined by the pigmentation of my partner. Personally, I have no issues with interracial dating and refuse to define my relationships- or anyone else's- based on race or complexion. I love black men but I am not the type to pass on a good man just because he isn't black.

Understandably, some black women may fear being rejected by non-black men but most black globetrotters will tell you that you get more play just for being black abroad than you know what to do with! It's like Mike Jones said:They used to love to me diss me, now they rush to hug and kiss me now
They telling all they friends when I leave how they miss me now

Because of the popularity of black athletes, entertainers, and music, black people are assumed to be hyper-sex(y)(ual) and hyper-talented. I've found these perceptions to be a double edged sword. On one hand, it can lead to unprovoked flattery and admiration. In Rome, for example, I couldn't go anywhere without Italian men confessing their undying love and asking for my hand in marriage. When a group of Korean students visiting DC and met my ex-boyfriend and I, I had to keep my ex away from the giggling, fawning women. They wanted to know all about him, what sports he played, and asked if he could teach them some dance moves. Unfortunately for them, although he towered over them, my ex was only a Capitol Hill staffer with no incredible moves on the dance floor or the basketball court.

On the other hand, these perceptions can lead to negative stereotypes and fetishes. While black people can be seen as more sexually and physically appealing and talented, we are not necessarily considered to be equally as intelligent as other races. One of my classmates, for example, always assumes I want to break out in dance but was surprised to learn that I've seen many Shakespeare plays and enjoyed classical literature. "I thought black people don't do Shakespeare", she said. My friend's cousin, an educated black woman studying in Israel, complains that she is routinely asked if she can make her "ass clap" and other moves made popular by rap video...vixens. The bottom line is that just because someone is willing to sleep with you, does not mean they value you as a human being. Even avid racists like Strom Thurmond and Thomas Jefferson had black mistresses and children. It's important not to mistake a fetish for affection. Consequently, both abroad and in the U.S., I've learned to filter out men who simply have "jungle fever" fantasies and no real attraction to me beyond what women of my race are purportedly skilled at and others who are genuinely interested in me as a person.

With that being said, now on to my 1st date: My very first date as a newly single woman was about a month ago... and a complete a dud. The guy, who we'll call A, was the son of a Libyan diplomat. I'd met A at a gathering at L'Aubergines. He had dark hair pulled back into a pony tail and big brown eyes. He took me horseback riding at the outskirts of the pyramids of Giza. A arrived for our date slightly tipsy and several hours late. He'd blown all his money at the bar and asked me to put in for gas and for the horseback ride (strike one). On the way to Giza, his car suddenly sputtered and overheated! WE had to pull over to the side of the road and wait until it cooled off. Trying to be understanding, I didn't hold this against him. After all, it is hot in Cairo...

When we arrived at the stables, I reminded A that I'd never ridden any horse short of a Ferrari or a Mustang. Instead of helping me along, he rode ahead much of the time, leaving me in on the dark path with the guide (strike two). The guide kept trying to cop a feel under the pretenses of helping me ride the horse. By the time we got to the top, I was so annoyed with having to continuously push his hand away while trying to maneuver the wild animal (the horse, not the guide) that I barely glanced at the midnight view of the pyramids and Cairo lit up below.

The way back down was much of the same as A galloped ahead of me and barely glanced back. When we got back in the car, it was almost 2 am and I told A I hungry and cold. A asked what I wanted to eat and, giving him a chance to redeem himself, I said pizza. Blasting heavy metal music the whole way (Heavy metal, that has to be another 3 strikes)and making conversation i mpossible, he finally pulled up to Pizza King in Mohandissen and stopped the car. I looked over at him to see what we were going to do next and he had the nerve to tell me to go buy the pizza while he waited in the car (strike six). When I got back in the car, he had the audacity to try to reach over and grab a slice of the pizza he didn't pay for or labor to get! I was done after that! When I wasn't cursing the date gods, I spent a significant part of the evening thinking ,"Ex would never do that" or "Ex always did this or that because it's the gentlemanly thing to do"...ugh! I asked him to take me home where I shared my pizza with my roommates. Needless to say, I don't bother answering his phone calls.

Be on the look out for part 2 tomorrow. To be continued....

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