Keep your fingers crossed!

So in November I applied for a travel writing scholarship with World Nomads. The winner gets an all expenses paid 11 day trip to Japan in February to shadow a professional travel writer from Rough Guides and write their own chapter in the Rough Guide to Japan. I wasn't expecting to win, but my goal was to make the shortlist. Today I got word that I did, in fact, make the short list of 18 selected from hundreds of entries. The winner will be announced January 8 and the trip starts Feb 15. I've included my entry, which consists of a paragraph stating why I should win the trip, and a 500 word essary written on the prompt "A Strange Experience Involving Food in a Foreign Culture". I've also included the website, if you care to look. Keep your fingers crossed for me!

The original guidelines and info:

The short list:

Why I should get the scholarship:

I was raised a military dependent and have travelled all over the world, which has cultivated in me an insatiable, obsessive wanderlust. I consider myself a "third-culture kid"; I have the wonderful ability to fit in nearly anywhere on the planet, but lack strong roots in any one place. I have lived in Japan in elementary school, which I believe is an advantage as it was long enough ago that the novelty of travelling there would not be lost on me, but I have a basic knowledge of customs and social norms which would give me a foundation to build upon for my writing. I have a passion for language and writing; I am conversational in over five languages. I would love to work as a travel writer one day and combine my restless feet and my need to document everything I experience. This would be an incredible opportunity to introduce me to the world of travel writing and give me invaluable experience. My eventual goal is to write travel guides focusing on the Middle East/ North Africa which would help steer the reader through and illuminate beautiful, ancient and often misunderstood cultures.

The essay:

I looked down at the bun in my hand, cradled in a greasy brown paper, with a mixture of horror and awe. Overstuffed, meat, gelatinous fat, and a curious unknown brown substance oozed out of both ends. I was in Fez, Morocco, where I had been living and studying for the summer, on a weekend excursion to the market. I had been warned about "street meat" over and over, and over and over my stomach had suffered unspeakable devastation for my impudence. Here I was, yet again, on the verge of gastrointestinal desolation, holding a sheep's head sandwich, bought from a haphazardly-constructed kiosk picked at random among the rows which lined the walkway out of the souk. My friends gathered around me, convinced I would not eat it. Testing the proverbial waters, I cautiously squeezed the now-soggy bun. With a deliciously grotesque squish, a mess of brown and gray slop streamed out of the bun and splattered all over my worn sandals. I swallowed hard upon noticing a patch of sticky black hair which had adhered itself to my pant leg. Slowly, warily, I put the bun to my mouth, hesitated, and sunk my teeth into the sandwich. Tearing off the first bite, I reported to my friends that it was delicious, and they were obviously missing out. Emboldened, I hastily bit into the sandwich again. There was a glutinous, cold explosion which drenched my entire mouth in a bitter, basic taste: an eyeball. The vendor, having kept a watchful eye on me throughout the ordeal, offered me a bit of toilet paper to use as a napkin. I wiped the eyeball fluid off my chin and weakly returned the thumbs-up he offered, assuring him in Arabic that it was, in fact, the best sheep's head sandwich I had ever had. Briefly I considered giving up; I had tried it, and this sheep had defeated me from beyond the grave. It was then that a sympathetic friend of mine pulled a small bottle of Texas Pete Hot Sauce from her bag, which I snatched and doused all over the offending sandwich. Suddenly, the scorching summer fog of pollution cleared, the Saharan sun seemed to oppress me less, and all was right with the medina. This sheep's head was, unbelievably, delicious! It took me less than a minute to devour the remaining sandwich. Even pulling a small, sharp piece of skull from my mouth could not dissuade me from my savory endeavor. Shocked, my friends stood speechless as I licked my fingers, one by one. Then, in a collective group, they all turned to the vendor and ordered their own sheep's head sandwiches. Contented, with my stomach already beginning to collapse upon itself in cartwheels and acrobatics stomachs are most definitely not supposed to participate in, I mused to myself about my victory over my opponent from the East, parallel to the journey I had begun. Like all the very best things in life, it simply needed a little spice.


Never before has someone spoken to me with such hatred in their voice.

I live in a region of the world many often mistakenly associate with evil and malevolence...

...and yet it was only in coming back to America that I found such hate.

Life here is so complicated.

The one that got away

Today I miss him.

It's days like these I spend with my head in my hands, wondering what could have been if I had been content to just go with the flow; not challenged the status quo; accept a normal, safe-yet-stale existence in the Southeast United States. Staring out my window, at the crescent moon, cradling a single star, hanging just above the distant lights of downtown Cairo, effectively transforming the entire city into one blazing, beautiful mosque, I can't help but wonder "what if?" What if I had been less headstrong? What if he had asked me to stay? What if I said yes? What if he had loved me more? I remember one night, shamelessly drunk and standing before him in my purple formal gown, begging him to tell me to stay- for him, for us. I think he loved me enough to refuse, if only because he didn't love me enough to promise that my choice to stay in America would be worth it.

That moon that I'm looking up at has not even thought about rising in his sky yet. 10 AM in his world, where he is comfortably wrapped in the security of the life he has chosen: safe, logical, familiar. That life seems so far from me now, a distant memory, a shadow, a fog. And here I sit smoking on the roof of a building he has never seen, could never imagine, will never know. Is it possible that we have two such opposite realities now?

Today I miss him.

Today I think of the plans we tried to make together, plans for a life together which seemed unavoidable in its rationality. Now, however, I see we were vainly pulling the ends of fraying, mismatched strings, too far apart to be joined; an exercise in futility. Today I think of the plans that remain: innocent, simple, uncomplicated, unambitious. What if, what if, what if?

I would have stayed if he had asked me. I would not know this building, this moon, this country, this life. A sacrifice I was not asked to make. But what did I end up sacrificing for this building, this moon, this country, this life? This man, this friend, these plans, that future, those possibilities.

Was it worth it?

Yes, I think perhaps it was. This world, my new world, has been beckoning me, silently pulling me towards her for too long; she would not be ignored. She wanted me more than he did. I could never have been content in his world, his safe, predictable existence. I know this.

But today I miss him.


Fall 2009 Semester = DUNZO.



I have sand in my nose, eyes, mouth, and ears.

The sand fills the air; I cannot see the sun.

How appropriate for finals week.

I'm going back to bed.





Tell me did you think we'd all dream the same?

Isn't it funny the way your passions and goals evolve over time? Have you ever stopped and taken stock of the ways you've grown and changed? Because the past two years of my life have been spent in constant motion- spent bouncing around between Virginia, Alabama, Morocco, Georgia, and Egypt- I have been pretty aware of the changes I've undergone as I have matured and experienced things. But it was only just now that I really started thinking and taking stock of my own personal evolution, in the context of career goals in particular, over the course of my entire life. It's a pretty interesting path.

When I was four, during my bath, I told my mom I wanted to be a model. She smiled encouragingly, at which point I dashed out of the bath, sopping wet and butt naked, to the front door, where I stuck my little four year old leg out the door provocatively, showgirl style. I returned to the bathroom and corrected myself: "A NUDE model."

A few months later, I amended this goal to include bricklaying. A nude bricklayer/model. Isn't that just a centerfold waiting to happen?

A few years later, I wrote a letter to American Girl Magazine [remember them?] imploring them to help me figure out how to become a successful child actor. After all, I wrote, I was much better at acting than all of the girls on the Disney channel..this was my destiny! I also bought all the Harriet the Spy spy equipment and considered becoming an international sleuth.

After a brief, not-so-successful child modelling career in Japan, I decided I very much needed to be a model, get rich, and be on billboards.

Along with three friends in Hawaii, I formed a band called Crush. At the age of 10, I was convinced Crush was the next Spice Girls. Anyone who has heard me sing will attest to the fact that I cannot carry a tune in a bucket.

In middle school I briefly considered joining the Army one day. Fashion designer and best-selling writer followed.

In high school my main goal was to find a husband and get married, and I almost succeeded- twice. My two high school sweethearts both proclaimed their intent to marry me, and at one point I had a real diamond ring on my finger. Looking back, I can't help but laugh at how silly it all was and marvel at how unhappy I would be now had I gone through with those plans.

When I realized I would, at some point, have to have a job, I dreamt of opening my own all-star cheerleading gym or becoming a fashion marketing executive.

As college loomed closer and I began to become more acutely aware of world events, I coupled my love of writing with my support for the American military, and began laying plans to become a wartime correspondent. Little did I know that this interest would blossom into a love of the Middle East and one day lead me to Morocco and Egypt.

To make that dream a reality, I began taking Arabic classes my first semester of college. As I fell in love with the language, I adjusted my plans to include working for the American governemnt and routinely pushed myself to the brink of a breakdown as I began transforming myself into the ideal candidate- restricting my behavior, learning to supress my emotions, devouring every bit of information on the Middle East that I could get my hands on.

Morocco reintroduced me to the beauty of the world, reawakened my senses and my imagination, forced me to remember that life was meant to be really LIVED and not just controlled in pursuit of some distant goal. My plans, so strict and without room for deviation, relaxed and once again I became the author of my plans rather than a cog in the machine propelling me towards some far-off goal. Sure, my plan was much less focused, but I was happier and healthier than I had been in a long time, much more at peace with myself and my future, whatever it may be.

Today my dreams are open and endless, but firmly rooted in the Middle East, this beautiful, crazy, terribly, mysterious, misunderstood corner of the earth that I now call home. I would still be honored to one day serve my country working in an embassy in the Middle East or North Africa, but certainly not at the cost of denying myself the amazing experiences I want to have first. I am determined to experience the world on my own terms, in every conceivable way, beforehand. And if that doesn't work out? I would be more than happy to commit my life to working for any number of beautiful nonprofit organizations devoted to bettering the world I love so much. Or perhaps I will be a travel writer, specializing in ME/NA, sharing with the world this beautiful culture that has so captivated my mind and my heart. We'll see what happens.

I guess this was a long-winded way of saying this: Life is beautiful; the world is beautiful; change is beautiful. Personal evolution is healthy and inevitable and so necessary. Your life is your own; let your cast-off plans become a foundation upon which to build bigger, better dreams; take the broken shards of your old dreams and build beautiful dream mosaic masterpieces. You are the author of your own plan; write "vivid sentences in a bold hand".

She yearned for tropical climes, cruel suns, purple horizons..

This here is a literary post! Relating to my life in the Middle East! Holy f! This is rapidly evolving into some strange diasporic lifestyle blog..I even have a fashion post planned for the near future. How strange!

Anyway, now that I'm done talking about how rad my own blog is..

I am in a class at AUC called Modern Arabic Literature in Translation. The term "modern" is used somewhat loosely, and because I am one of only a handful of Americans in the class who is not enrolled in some type of Middle East history class concurrently with this one and is able to tie the historical landscape in with the period of the work, I have had a hard time relating to or enjoying most of the novels we've read.

A few weeks ago, though, changed that. In an uncommon bout of studious fever, I locked myself in my room and read over 200 pages for this class [way ahead of time, too!]. Once I got past the second page I couldn't tear my eyes away. I rushed through the novel, compulsively turning page after page, anxious to see the resolution. The second-to-last chapter was so powerful it actually caused my stomach to turn and a wave of nausea to come over me. I feel that any book well-written to the point of eliciting a physical response like that is a life-changing work. I can only describe it as an Arab interpretation of "Ethan Frome". Somehow, despite being translated from the original Arabic, it retains this very light, whimsical languistic feel and the way in which things are phrased is strikingly beautiful, which stands in stark contrast to the darkness of the work as a whole. The book is "Seasons of Migration to the North"; the translation by Denys Johnson-Davies is fantastic. Freaking read it.

I've included some of the more striking language from the book, because it is so beautifully worded it is begging to be read.

"..that just like us they are born and die, and in the journey from the cradle to the grave they dream dreams some of which come true and some of which are frustrated; that they fear the unknown, search for love and seek contentment in wife and child; that some are strong and some are weak; that some have been given more than they deserve by life, while others have been deprived by it.."

"There are many horizons that must be visited, fruit that must be plucked, books read, and white pages in the scrolls of life to be inscribed with vivid sentences in a bold hand."

"I feel that I am important, that I am continuous and integral. No, I am not a stone thrown into the water but seed sown in a field."

"The whole of the journey I savoured that feeling of being nowhere, alone, before and behind me either eternity or nothingness."

"I am the desert of thirst."

"Such a woman...knows no fear; they accept life with gaeity and curiousity. And I am a thirsty desert, a wilderness of southern desires."

"And I, like millions of mankind, walk and move, generally by force of habit, in a long caravan that ascends and descends, encamps, and then proceeds on its way. Life in this caravan is not altogether bad...The going may be hard day by day, the wildnerness sweeping out before us like shoreless seas; we pour with sweat, our throats are parched with thirst, and we reach the frontier beyond which we think we cannot go."

"The spectres of night dissolve with the dawn, the fever of day is cooled by the night breeze."

"But mysterious things in my soul and in my blood impel me towards faraway parts that loom up before me and cannot be ignored."

"I experience a sense of richness as though I am a note in the heartbeats of the very universe."

As a tangent, I've prepared a list of other books I consider "Life-Changing"*; mainly because I'm pretentious and think you'll rush out and read the books** I recommend. Humor me.

-The Island of Dr. Moreau
Ok, I'll just come right out and say it: I love HG Wells. Y3niyy, love love love him. He makes such fantastic social commentatries. The Island of Dr Moreau was terrifying and riveting and poignant..and just plain awesome. I also identified on some level with a man who lived through terrible things, wishing he was babck home in the civilized world where it was safe and predictable, and then finally getting back after so much stuggle and realizing he no longer belonged there because he had changed too much to go back. I fully understand experiencing something so outside your realm of understanding and wanting so badly to go back to things that are comfortable and safe, and getting there and realizing it had stayed the same and you had changed too much to go back to that stagnant life. I get chills just thinking about how well written it is. I could read it over and over again and find some new metaphor or symbolism every time.

-Into the Wild
This book is touching, and painfully tragic, but also inspiring. Chris McCandless wanted to live life on his own terms no matter what the cost, and that's what he did. So few people have the balls to really take their lives into their own hands and do what they want with it, to hell with those who don't understand. I was afraid when I recognized myself in the ill-fated main character-- he descended into the Alaskan wilderness to live his ultimate adventure, and I want to walk into the forests of Cambodia, build a teepee, and live naturally for an indefinite period. With every amazing adventure comes great risk, and this story is proof of it. But it is a beautiful adventure story, and the fact that it all really happened is sobering and humbling. I haven't seen the movie, but I doubt it could do Jon Krakauer's beautiful writing justice.

-The Time Machine
Once again, I love love love HG Wells' social commentaries. This one is a little more blatant than that of The Island of Dr Moreau- it paints a dark picture of the future of civilization, given the propensity we as humans have for dividing classes and lording over one another. It is terrifyingly poignant, and I have forced it upon some of my nearest and dearest [sorry, Kenny!].

-Lord of the Flies
I read Lord of the Flies the summer before sophomore year, and have remembered it nearly word for word [especially the last few pages] ever since. Yet another social commentary on the futility of war, the ending is sad and beautiful all at the same time. I don't want to give it away for those of you who haven't read it..but the realization of the children at the end is the realization I feel we as people will have one day standing before some greater power than ourselves- silly, embarrassing, afraid, remorseful for the things we have done which seemed so important at the time but end up having been in vain.

-Tales of a Female Nomad
This is the book that validated all my desires to break free of the social norm and gallavant around the world, seeing and doing things on my own terms. It is really inspiring; a woman who took her divorce with grace and dignity and used it as a catalyst to change her life, travelling the world, coming and going as she pleased, doing incredible things and meeting amazing people along the way. I made my mom read it in the hopes that it would help her better understand my obsessive wanderlust. It really was life-changing for me, and helped me form a better idea of what I want out of life, to understand that a life lived on anyone else's terms is a life wasted.

-Animal Farm
Like Lord of the Flies, I read this book in the 9th grade and the message behind it still resonates with me today: those who are oppressed or colonized will eventually revolt, but not without taking on some of the characteristics of their oppressors in order to beat them, sparking a vicious cycle which inevitably leads to destruction. While the message is more overt than in some of the other books I've listed with social commentaries, it is every bit as thought-provoking and insightful, and still relevant even though times have changed since it was written in 1945.

*I also consider "Ethan Frome" one of these, but seeing as I've already mentioned it, I didn't want to be redundant and include it in the list. You're welcome.
**Yeah, ok, some of them are short stories or novellas. Whatever.

It's funny how time and distance change you..the road you take don't always lead you home

I moved for the first time when I was nine days old. Since then, my life has been one of constant motion. By the time I graduated from high school, I had been to ten different schools, and spent most of my formative years outside the contiguous United States, living in Japan and Hawaii. When I got to college in Tuscaloosa and the prospect of staying put for four years became a reality, I got restless again, and now here I am, sitting in my room in Cairo, Egypt, typing this. Which all leads me to December 22-- the day I fly "home" to America. I will be visiting friends and family in the states for almost five weeks before I come back to Cairo in January 28.
I've been progressively getting more anxious about returning to the States, mostly because I've come to the realization that it isn't "home" anymore. It's the place I used to call home; the world I left behind in search of something new. I'm excited to see my mom and dad and spend some much-needed time spoiling my precious nephew, but beyond that, I'm absolutely terrified. Terrified I won't have any fun plans for New Years. Terrified that all of my friends won't like me anymore or appreciate the changes I've made in my life. Terrified I'll come to the inevitable conclusion that I don't belong there anymore.
After all, the world didn't stop turning when I left Alabama. My friends' lives didnt halt, frozen in the moment I left them. They've all moved on, created lives that no longer include me. And while I hope that during the time I'm visiting Tuscaloosa, they'll be able to fit me back into their lives, I know the reality of visiting will be painful, albeit necessary. The two people I miss all day, every day, my best friends Murphy and Kenny, are preoccupied with getting ready to graduate, applying to grad school,and figuring out how to get out to Pasadena for the National Championship. None of these things include me. While I left my whole life behind when I came here, only a small part of their lives left. Sometimes I get my feelings hurt when they arent enthusiastic enough about Skyping with me or making plans for the time I'm back, but the truth is: their lives can't stop just because I decided to come back to the States to visit. I made the choice to leave, and I will have to accept the reality of the repercussions from that choice. Don't get me wrong; it was absolutely the right choice for me. But that doesn't make the realization of what I lost any less brutal. It's a very humbling thing to realize that the world doesn't revolve around me, like I was so convinced it did as a teenager, and that my best friends don't spend every waking moment waiting for my return. But that's life.
In the novella I just finished reading [and will soon be posting an entry about], Seasons of Migration to the North, the antagonist, Mustafa Saeed, a prodigy from the Sudan, leaves his homeland to get an education in Europe. One of the defining lines in the book is spoken by his lawyer at his trial for the murder of his wife "Mustafa a noble person whose mind was able to absorb Western civilization but it broke his heart." The reader draws the conclusion that the "infection" or spark on insanity which caused him to kill his wife came from the constant state of limbo Saeed was is- belonging to neither the North [Europe] or the South [the Sudan] anymore; a man without roots.
Sometimes I'm afraid this is the destiny I'm slowly moving towards. Not the killing people part, to be sure, but the slow decay of one's heart that happens when you do not really belong here nor there. America is no longer home, but I will never completely fit in in the Middle East. What space between, then, is left for me? Growing up an Army child, we had a picture that hung on the wall which said "Home is where the heart is". But where is my heart? Half of it is in Alabama, with Murphy and Kenny and the rest of my friends and family, but half of it is here, in Africa, the place which has been beckoning me, incessantly pulling me toward it, absorbing me into itself, for over two years. The bittersweet truth is that I am a "third-culture kid", with the uncanny ability to fit in everywhere, but nowhere at the same time.
So where do I belong? Where is home? The East or the West? When will I know?

AUC Registration Woes


I need a cigarette.

SEC Championship


32-13....Cry Tebow Cry!

National Championship here we come!!!

Roll Tide

So, this isn't technically about Egypt, but just go with me here.

For two years, I was privileged to go to the University of Alabama. I have always loved football, but didn't know much about any one team besides Georgia when I decided to attend UA, in the hopes of cheering there. Immediately I was immersed into the tradition and prestige of a southern football powerhouse with a dynastic history of domination and success. Everything about Alabama football enthralls me, but I've made a list of the things that I truly miss about it.

Seeing thousands of girls wearing houndstooth dresses.
"Phi Mu Loves the Tide" pins
Yelling "Roll Tide" with 90,000+ every time the Tide gets a first down.
Some girls [not me, of course ;)] duct-taping flasks to their inner thighs to smuggle them through the gates; watching them waddle to the bathroom where they promptly retrieve them and pour them into a plastic commemorative cup.
Watching frat pledges frantically collecting used cups for their bitchwork.
The Million Dollar Band at halftime.
Nearly getting into a fist fight with Utah fans on the walk...errr stumble to the Super Dome last year.
Pre-gaming in the shadow of Denny Chimes.
Lunch at Phi Mu, then walking across the street to Bryant Denny.
The Walk of Champions.
Waking up super early in the morning and going to open bar at a frat house, then concentrating so hard on walking to the stadium later.
Camping on the quad the night before a game.
Diehard fans who start staking out spots for their tents on Wednesday for a Saturday game.
The Homecoming parade.
Holding up four fingers at the end of the 3rd quarter with tens of thousands of other fans.
Setting records for ridiculous attendance at the A-Day game.
Watching the other team's fans empty out in the 3rd quarter when they realize hope is lost.
Tailgating at away games from 7am to 7pm.
Losing your voice for days after a big game.
College Gameday.
Seeing the score at the end of last year's Iron Bowl: 36-0, a score that will forever be etched into my memory.
Hearing Bear Bryant's voice before kickoff; the compulsory chill running down your spine.
Singing the fight song after a touchdown as the MDB plays.
Singing along with Sweet Home Alabama and Dixieland Delight.
Singing Rammer Jammer after a win.

This is Alabama football, and I love it, and I miss it so much.
Tomorrow night is the SEC Championship, and it will be on a real TV here in Egypt. My heart aches wishing I was there to watch the Tide roll in.
This is our year-- ROLL TIDE!

Yea Alabama

Yea, Alabama! Drown 'em Tide!
Every 'Bama man's behind you,
Hit your stride.
Go teach the Bulldogs to behave,
Send the Yellow Jackets to a watery grave.
And if a man starts to weaken,
That's a shame!
For Bama's pluck and grit have
Writ her name in Crimson flame.
Fight on, fight on, fight on men!
Remember the Rose Bowl, we'll win then.
So roll on to victory,
Hit your stride,
You're Dixie's football pride,
Crimson Tide, Roll Tide, Roll Tide!!

12 National Championships

1925 1926 1930 1934 1941 1961

1964 1965 1973 1978 1979 1992

Plus 21 Southeastern Conference titles, 52 Bowl Appearances, 17 enshrinees into the College Football Hall of Fame, 95 All-Americans, and the greatest football coach in history.

I miss Alabamy once again, and I think it's a sin...