An Apology

Sorry for not writing anything in a while, guys. Unfortunately, I've been very ill for the past few weeks with a parasitic infection [the joys of living in Africa?] that just won't clear up, no matter what I do. I won't go into the details, but it is unpleasant, to say the least.

Aside from that, I'm just finishing up some papers and other miscellaneous schoolwork before spring break starts on Thursday! If you're interested, here's the itinerary for the next two weeks:

March 25: Night bus to Dahab
March 26, 27, 28: Lay on beach, drink beer, get tan, be a hippie.
March 28: Night bus back to Cairo.
March 29: Rest all day. Evening flight to Istanbul.
March 29-April 4: Adventures in Istanbul, Bursa, Princes Islands, etc.
April 4: Fly back to Cairo.
April 6: Class resumes [boo].

I'll be sure to take lots of pictures!

سلام و حب

Neofeminism, in regard to relationships

DISCLAIMER: This really has nothing to do with Egypt. I know this is supposed to be a travel blog, but it's become much for than that since I started it in the summer of 2008. If you don't give a damn about my relationships, or my beliefs, or anything other than interesting facts about the pyramids and the state of affairs in the Middle East, feel free so skip this post.

In case you don't know me, or haven't talked to me for more than ten minutes, I'm something of a feminist. Not so much an "I hate men, don't shave my legs, think Hooters is degrading, and never want to get married" feminist...rather than pointing out negative aspects, I would rather take a more ambitious approach. Girls rule [I'm a child of the Spice Girls generation]! Men and women are equal, and I will fight for women's rights to prove it. If women can use their bodies to exploit men's weaknesses, whether in Playboy, or James Bond, or Hooters, and they feel okay about that, more power to them! But all of that has nothing to do with the thought that occurred to me on the bus tonight.

In light of a recent failed romantic endeavor, which I spent nearly six months laying groundwork for, constantly flirting, hinting, and overall enjoying the slow, torturous chase, I came to a conclusion: As much as I enjoy pursuing men, as much fun as it is, no relationship which began with me initiating the chase has ever gone much of anywhere, been healthy or fulfilling. The problem therein is that I've always felt as if me choosing a man I know I must chase will prevent me from becoming some sort of a prize; if a man chases a woman, once he succeeds, hasn't she merely become something that he has won, thanks to his persistence and charm? Watching entirely too much Aladdin as a child [which probably contributed to my love of the Arab world, distorted as the facts in that movie are] taught me that I as a woman am "not a prize to be won". So, what goes wrong when I engage in the chase? What makes things go awry? The answer is simple..much the same as a woman who has been pursued feels when she finally acquieses to the persistent male, a man who has been pursued feels as if he has done you a favor in giving you a chance, and when things do not work out, the pursuer often bears the blame.

I am not referring to any one incident, but rather my collective romantic experience. But which is preferable? Feeling as if you are a trophy, or being treated by a man as if he had done you a favor? I'm not entirely sure. But if you look at my personal history, all my great loves have been men that pursued me, and all of my biggest failures have resulted from me taking on the traditional role of a man- pursuing, initiating the chase. As much as I hate to admit it, maybe some of my forward-thinking ideas about women being able to assume men's roles do not, can not, apply to every aspect of life. I am not entirely comfortable with this idea. In fact, it is making my head spin. Perhaps it's just me. At any rate, we'll return to this subject when I've thought more on it.

The Burden of Knowledge, The Bliss of Relief

I wrote this a while ago, but I thought about it again today, and thought I would share it with you guys.

This morning, I got to talk to my friend Weaver. I’ve known him since I was 16; he worked at the Army recruiting station next to the tanning bed where I worked. He would come in and visit us at night, and sometimes I would whine enough and he would vacuum for me. I haven’t seen him since right after my 17th birthday. He’s in Iraq right now. This morning, I finally asked when he was coming home. When he said it was less than a month, I felt a feeling wash over me…something like….relief.

I grew up with what my dad calls the “burden of knowledge”. He was in the Army until I was 18, and in those 18 years, we moved well over a dozen times and I attended about as many schools. I always adjusted faster and fit in better at schools on post, where I was surrounded with others who shared the burden of knowledge. To this day, I have a hard time identifying with my peers who weren’t raised the way I was.

The burden of knowledge is that concept that most people choose to ignore; but that we couldn’t: the knowledge that there is pure evil in the world; the acknowledgement of those hovering on the periphery of humanity, the rim of sanity, who are constantly threatening our safety, our freedom. The “burden of knowledge” is found in those who grow up knowing this, coming face to face with it everyday, as we watch our neighbors, fathers, brothers don their ACUs and board Chinooks bound for the other side of the globe, unsure every time of whether or not they will come back. We grew up knowing that true peace is not necessarily a realistic concept, because men are inherently wicked, as evidenced each time that black government vehicle pulled up to a neighbor’s house, uniformed men handing an envelope over to a sobbing newly-widowed Army wife, a woman who, like any other, wanted nothing more than a happily ever after with the man of her dreams. I felt that reality every time I heard about a helicopter crash on the news growing up, felt the familiar clenching in my throat, the sinking in my stomach, hoping it wasn’t my father, but knowing that if it wasn’t my father, it was someone else’s. I know it every time I see my ex-boyfriend, and see the dog tags dangling from his neck, knowing that they’re little more than aids in death, one destined to become a toe tag, the other heading to his commander, and eventually to his parents. I know it every time my brother and I put joking wagers on who will be injured in the Middle East first; me, working in an embassy, or him, flying helicopters above the chaos. I know it because really, we aren’t joking.

I grew up on various forts, posts, and bases, surrounded by walls and fences, kept segregated from a society I didn’t understand, and who in turn didn’t understand me or the way I was raised. And I wish I could describe it to you and do it justice. It's amazing to me, to think that I grew up on a street surrounded by America's heroes. I could be surrounded by the biggest movie stars in the world and it wouldn't come close to the sheer GREATNESS that I was so blessed to be around every day of my life. I am so grateful for that. To lay your life on the line for people you don't even know--that is noble. To go into a war that you might not believe in or agree with but still be willing to die to do your duty....that is loyalty.

Because it's sick when Lindsay Lohan is on the front page of the newspaper...and a story about soldier deaths in Iraq is on the back page, at the bottom, in a teeny little box that no one will pay any attention to. Because once a certain amount of soldiers die, 2 or 3 what? Right? WRONG. Because any one of those men could be my father. Or my brother, my ex-boyfriend, neighbor. Or someone I know. Someone my parents know. But does anyone care??? No. Why don't you care when these are the men who are keeping you free? You should care wholeheartedly. You should be GRATEFUL for that.

I can't describe what it was like when my dad retired. Looking around at that ceremony, at all those soldiers in their ACUs, and looking at the American flag, and thinking, this is what my father chose to do with his life, was one of the most amazing feelings in the world…and suddenly I found myself sobbing uncontrollably; I can’t imagine what it was like for him, the loss he must have felt leaving what has been his home since he was a teenager..I felt the loss, I felt the pride, I felt more things than I could keep track of. He has made a real difference in the world. Bono makes a ruckus about everything..but has he DONE anything??? NO. I'm so proud. I have been an Army daughter, sister, and girlfriend. The sad part is I don't think half of you could understand that. I have faith in this government. And I have faith in our military. I'm so thankful that that was my way of life, despite all the hard parts of it. Despite watching my daddy go away to war. Despite having to move every year. It was worth it. It's worth it to know what it costs to be free. It's worth it to know with every fiber of my being that I am lucky. That I am truly, truly blessed to have grown up like I have. I wish that all of you reading this could know that feeling. Because it is incredible. There's so much ceremony and tradition and prestige in every part of that life.

The last time I felt relief like I did talking to Weaver this morning, I was standing in an air hanger in Fort Bragg, North Carolina. I had been there for hours, shaking wildly. It had been a year since I had seen my dad, and I was angry. I had just finished my freshman year of high school. He had moved my family to North Carolina, and left for Iraq days later. He had missed my first day of high school and innumerable other important things. For the entire time he was gone, I couldn’t bring myself to talk to him on the phone. And then there I was, standing there, surrounded by hundreds of other family members and friends, waiting. The plane landed. The troops marched in, and there he was, in front. My mom and I were standing literally ten feet from him, but there was a ceremony to finish before the troops were dismissed, and he was in charge of it. I could have reached out and touched him. But as always, duty came first. I can’t imagine what it was like for him, seeing us, but not being able to go to us right away, after so long. As he was giving orders, I heard his voice crack and falter, and suddenly, I was shaking and crying in a way I can’t remember ever doing before or since then. The next thing I knew, I was squished in between my parents, everyone crying and kissing, and I felt it. Relief. It washed over me over and over again. It was over.

That feeling, knowing what he had done, what he had been through…that relief makes the burden of knowledge worth it. The pride makes every sleepless night, every missed birthday, every tearful Thanksgiving prayer worth it.

The burden of knowledge is nothing compared to the bliss of relief.

To Kill 2 Birds with One Bottle of Vodka..

Sometimes you just have to laugh about it...because my life is so absolutely ridiculous.

There's nothing to do but laugh. Sometimes it's only to keep from crying, but after that, it's because I realize that my "problems" are silly, and I should really have my own reality show.

My heart is broken, but I'm pretty sure it'll get better.

But for now, I will lick my wounds and wait out this hangover.

Chins up, little ones!

"Hey! Guys! No touching the ancient inscriptions!"

On the 20th, I took a field trip with my Egyptology class to Dahshur, Memphis, and Saqqara to play in the pyramids. Of course, spending half of my weekend on a class trip was not ideal for me, but I suppose if you have to, spending Saturday spelunking in pyramids dating back thousands of years before Christ isn't terrible. First, we visited the Red [or Northern] Pyramid at Dahshur. We rode an hour into the palm tree forests, through rural villages, and finally out into the desert to one of the lesser visited pyramids, which was blissfully almost tourist-free. Looming in the smog, one could just decipher the famous Bent Pyramid on the horizon. We hiked about a third of the way up the Red Pyramid, built by King Sneferu. Standing at the entrance and already panting, I cursed my cigarettes and chugged water. It would only get worse.
Upon entering the pyramid, one begins a gradual descent through a passage roughly three feet high and three feet wide, at a 40 degree angle. This causes one to crouch in a terribly uncomfortably position and shimmy down a ladder-like ramp into the hot, dank dark for hundreds of feet. I was not prepared for the heat. It has nearly 100 degrees outside in the desert, but for some reason I expected the tomb to be chilly. Instead, it was hot and humid and I was pouring sweat. The smell that greets you as you step out of the passage into the corbelled receiving room is terrible: something like rubbing alcohol and mothballs; it is certainly not a stretch to believe that a dead body lay here and decomposed for thousands of years. In addition, as one might expect, it was difficult to breathe. Beyond the smell and the humidity, the shaft we had just come down was the only source of air, and my breathing was labored. Panicking slightly, I made my way to the tomb, but there was not much to see; much of it had been torn apart my earlier explorers who were sure there was more to the tomb than what met the eye..but they were wrong, and sadly, desecrated the ancient tomb for no reason.
I never imagined the scorching desert heat would be a welcome sensation, but after emerging from the heat of the pyramid, it was a relief. My legs were already on fire from the descent and corresponding climb back to the world of the living. Grateful for rudimentary air conditioning, I boarded the bus for Memphis. Honestly, Memphis, once the capital of ancient Egypt, was not very interesting. We toured a statuary garden and then headed to Saqqara. There we toured a museum, where I had my first run-in with a mummy [I know, I know, I've been in Egypt since August and just now saw my first's a shame]. Afterwards, we toured the Step Pyramid complex. Built for King Djoser, it was the world's first pyramid, and though not a "true" pyramid, was also the first man-made structure constructed completely of stone. Finally, we continued to a small, collapsed pyramid, which we entered. This was not as taxing as the Red Pyramid. The descent was shorter and the passage larger, and there is believed to be another air source lying undiscovered somewhere within the tomb, so it is cooler and easier to breathe. The draw to this otherwise unremarkable, and even pitiful looking, pyramid, is the hieroglyphs which are still beautifully intact on the walls and ceilings of the tombs. It is literally awe-inspiring to look at something long-dead hands etched into solid stone to act as a resurrection machine for a king. Stars dot the ceilings, etched there to recreate the night sky to which the king would ascend to become an "imperishable star" and also to denote royalty.
Finally, we entered the mastaba of Mereuka, filled with beautiful carvings depicting every aspect of life, and beautiful Nile scenes, where hippos and crocodiles battled and men fished and sailed. In some places, the original paint used by the ancients was still visible. The urge to touch something so old and enduring was almost overwhelming, but I controlled myself. Others didn't, and our teacher was not thrilled.
"Hey! Guys! No touching the ancient inscriptions!"

Sweaty, smelly, and covered in dust older than Christ [...literally], I got off the bus in Tahrir Square, where Becky and Megan were waiting on me to go to Khan al-Khalili, our favorite market, and also the site of a terrorist attack last year. We had a special errand to run. You see, we have a ghost. His name is Gus, and he comes to visit every other day or so. He knocks things down, breaks things, pulls my posters off of the wall, and hangs out with Becky when I'm not around. No, I'm not kidding. So there I am, disgusting and all Lara Croft:Tomb Raider-ed out, in Khan al-Khalili shopping for the biggest evil eye I can find to keep the ghost out of our room. Really> This is my life.

Only in Egypt. Oh, Masr.