So as the title says–yes, Israel reimbursed me for around 80 percent of the cost for a replacement laptop. I got the reimbursement in late December. Since people are still asking me, I’m *finally* posting this.
Thanks to those of you who left me encouraging comments and sent emails about my laptop, traveling, writing, conflict, etc. I am sorry I did not answer many of them. I did read everything and feel enormously lucky to be privy to so many perspectives.
To all those who bombarded my blog with negative comments–to only proclaiming hate for Israelis/Palestinians/Americans/Muslims, to accusing me of leaving my bag unattended (I did not) and never backing-up (I did–but yes, I should have more often): Travel. Read. If you’re in the U.S. take advantage of our amazing diversity and meet new people. If you’re an Israeli, why don’t you visit a Palestinian area? I know I’ll be criticized for saying this and I by no means thinks it’s the rule, however most Israelis I met had never been to a Palestinian area and thought I was crazy for going to Ramallah (which is perfectly safe and 20 minutes from Jerusalem). Likewise, I was shocked by how many Palestinians do not attempt to learn Hebrew. While I understand the repulsion for many, let’s face reality. How can solutions be reached without common languages?
There is tons I do not know about the Israel, Palestinians, Muslims, Jews, etc. I’m learning and with what I learn will likely change some opinions. This is my blogs, my opinions. I’m not a politician, not a journalist, I try to research and write informed entries, however I do not always censor my views or hide my ignorance. So don’t read if you do not want to…I hope you, like me, will be inspired to learn more by this incident, (more precisely the reaction to it).I’m all for criticizing– just make it worthwhile, debatable, something we can work with.
Ok. I’m writing too much. I intended this to be a short sweet post. Actually a reading break.
Yes…post-Israel, I spent a couple last days in Egypt, a couple crazy weeks reuniting with family and friends in NY, and now I’m back Boston, finishing my *last* undergraduate semester.
I miss blogging…but simply have no time now with school work, job, etc. One of these days I plan to catch-up and get back into it =)
Update 4/25/11- FYI I am removing the contents of this post due to the highly personal nature of the content.
Why do we think how we do? What shapes our lives? What can we learn? The following is a series of anecdotes, which in part, explain how I have reached certain opinions. I have received a lot of personal criticism over the last few days. This is my response.
Thanks for reading!
As the game progressed the Egyptians looked more sullen and spoke even less.
I poked my Canadian coworker.
This is strange. It’s like the Egyptians are bottling their anger and disappointment.
Though no sports fan, I enjoy sitting back and socializing over games with enthusiastic friends, sharing their excitement and learning a thing or two about the complicated world of sports so many swear by. (It’s similar to my fascination with religion…)
Yet, this game,the outcome of which would determine whether Egypt or Algeria would compete in the World Cup in South Africa, was different. No one talked, snacked or drank and tension filled the air. Though all day Egyptians had laughed, dawned flags and face-paint, now few looked like they were actually enjoying the action.
When Algeria scored the single goal toward the beginning of the match, there was complete silence. Did that really, happen? I squinted at the new “1” marking Algeria’s score, the replays and those around me. Though I was at an extremely crowded outdoor cafe, with tons more surrounding, there were no boos, or any other insults yelled at the offending goal.
Maybe they’re collectively not optimists? I wondered. During the previous game, which led them to this tie breaker, they scored in the first moment and last. They had needed to win by at least two points to advance and they had done it. After such a victory, the lack of optimism throughout the entire game surprised me. Rather than being a fun, social experience, the game seemed intensely personal to the Egyptian viewers.
The game ended and spectators rose and dispersed. The loudest noise was employers at the cafe forcefully stacking the cheap plastic chairs. We hurried out of their way.
The people can’t handle it, he explained. They’d go crazy. There’d be riots.
He also thought it would lead to less opposition toward Mubarak because as the primary supporters of the football team, Egyptians would environ the regime with their nationalistic aspirations for the team. Driving away from the cafe, our cab driver shared his views.
The next evening, another Egyptian friend and I sat in traffic in Zamalek. A natural occurrence in Cairo, we didn’t think much of it until we encountered riot police blocking entire streets and gangs of screaming boys donning Egypt flags and loud words.
In the past days, what seemed like it was going to be a losing M3lesh (whoops) for Egypt, quickly blocked from memory, has turned into a national and international attention steeling debacle. Though security concerns were present from the beginning, (BBC reported 15,000 security forces were at attention at the game in Sudan) because of pre-game violence, including Egypt attacking and injuring Algerian players in their bus and Algerians ransacking Egyptian businesses in Algeria, the level has quickly escalated and gained international attention.
Last week both nations recalled their ambassadors, leading the debate to switch from football to Arab unity and the secretary general of the Arab League, Amr Moussa, used the opening of the World Economic Forum to call for peace between the two Arab nations. BBC has also reported that Amr Moussa asked Libyan leader Col Muammar Gaddafi to mediate. So practical…
Verdict of the moment? Seems like Egypt might as have well won the match for all the trouble and politics being squeezed out of the plays.
Some links I referred to–though I’m in no way saying they’re all reliable news sources–part of the fun is the rumors. Part of the interest is the unverified facts and motives of the reports.
We perused the Sephora, we weren’t quite sure was a Sephora, one more time. I was drawn to a Spiderman cologne, which ended up smelling like lemon cleaning substance. Nadia headed to a shelf with a scent she knew. “Need a tester?” I offered. Nadia declined– “I know this one,” before liberally squirting.
She sniffed her wrist and offered it to me. Ughh…something was wrong! It doesn’t smell right, she lamented. Too late.
We headed out of the ”Sephora” laughing.
Our suspicions seemed confirmed. We were now pretty sure the store must be hiding a disclaimer or facing a lawsuit (if anyone bothered to notice or care).
I’m non-material, don’t much like shopping and have little brand loyalty. Despite, it is always surprising when you realize the product you’re seeing only shares a similar name and packaging style. This applies for food, clothes, makeup, jewelry, accessories etc.
Sometimes the differences are very easy to spot, as Nadia and I discovered last week. Others are are less obvious if you’re not suspecting.Plus, the practice obviously isn’t confined to expensive brands, to which the shampoo example attests.
It happened to me a couple months ago with shampoo. I bought a bottle, which I could have sworn was Herbal Essences.
Silly me right? But hey, it even had the same picture of the fruit/flowers, green top and pink color.
The other thing I find most entertaining about the whole brand knock-off practice, is very often descriptions and product details are spelled completely incorrectly too, raising the question–is the brand misspelling always purposeful? Very likely if these fakes were trying to be legitimate they would have typos, which would give them away despite
Back in Mohandaseen Nadia and I have moved from the “Sephora” to two amazing accessory stores which beckoned with their glitter and lights. Beside the photo-worthy brands featured here, highlights were a large selection of snake sunglasses (Nadia modeled every pair), belly-dancing beads and endlessly shiny, big and beautiful earrings.
Diagonally across the street from my office there is a juice stand headed by “Captain Jack.”
It took me months to start going here because there is another, bigger, juice-stand next store. But after going the first time, with the preference of a coworker, I never went next-store again. (Though I still wave “hi!”)
Also interesting, we’ve discovered Captain Jack and crew are coptic Christians while the guys next store are Muslims. Nothing to do with the deliciousness of their juices of our preference, but I wonder if it contributes to competitiveness, rivalry or other customers’ choices in any way.
Autumn in Egypt. Pshhh.
When September came and went with my airconditioner humming–no change in the weather, foods or styles, I buried my thoughts of cool fall breezes, fresh apples, sweaters and cozy boots, and embraced Cairo’s seemingly eternal summer.
After all, I can only miss macouns, pumpkins and bright leaves so much when guavas and dates are abundant and the sun never misses a beat. (OK sometimes it’s thwarted by pollution).
Yet a couple weeks ago I noticed all was not as static as I supposed.
The first thing I noticed were carts with men who roasted sweet potatoes. I wondered if they were the same men who cut and sold passion fruit all summer long.
Then, walking to work one morning, I thought the air smelled different.
Maybe it was in my head, but I caught a whiff of a scent, which in the States, I would swear without hesitation, was distinctly Autumn. I thought of piles of brightly colored leaves and children heading to primary school.
As I walked through the market, I had to admit, things has changed while I have been busy at work.
Apples, bananas, pomegranates, oranges, guavas and bright orange persimmons were everywhere and decreasing in price. Mangoes, pears, fresh dates, peaches and plums were no more. And Nadia (an RLAP coworker and friend) and I discovered measly remnants were all that remained of our beloved figs, which we had indulged in since June.
(Moze (banana) season in Cairo!)
And the markets are not the only businesses changing up their stocks.
Over the last month, store mannequins have finally adjusted to resemble the appearance of the majority of women on the street–silhouettes hidden in bright layers.
Though I initially brushed the polo-style sweaters off as a silly fashion gimmick, time has already proved me wrong.
A couple weeks ago, Mufas(an Egyptian friend) showed up with a sweater tied around around his neck, superprep style. Days later, he wore the sweater over another shirt as we waited for friends outside Cairo Jazz Club.
(My Mom visited!)
“Aren’t you cold?” he asked, glancing at my bare arms. “Do you want to wear my sweater?”
“No!” I said, stoically refusing to wear such a garment when it was at least 70 degrees.
Yet a couple days later, I found myself stuffing another layer into my bag as I rushed to work and adding another sheet to my bed because I was chilly.
So a couple months later than I expected, at degrees which I’d rush for shorts and Tees at any other point in my life, I find myself excitedly donning sweaters and eyeing boots in store windows.
I only wonder how my body will feel about sub-zero Boston and NY in a few weeks….
*Fashion pictures coming*
A couple days ago an Egyptian friend told me the infamous Moulid at Saayida Zeinab mosque was cancelled because of the hoorah over swine flu.
They don’t want big crowds, he said.
Camping out, as hundreds of thousands supposedly do in the weeks leading up to the big day, was declared illegal by the Egyptian authorities.
Moulids, meaning birthdays, are Suffi traditions celebrated all over Egypt.
Not specified in the Koran many Muslims do not know, partake or condone the practice.
This one in particular celebrates Saayida Zeinab, who is the granddaughter of Prophet Muhammed, and therefore must occur only at her mosque.
When my roommate AJ announced it was today and he was covering it (he’s a journalist), I repeated what my friend said and stared out the window, wondering where all the people were.
While the huge crowds might have stayed home, Saayida’s birthday, was not a total bust.
Standing in front of the mosque, with an Egyptian friend, Amr, crowds swarmed around us.
He pointed out the frequency of galabyias–the long loose dresses men wear. It’s a different style than how we dress in Cairo, he said, explaining most of the worshippers are from rural regions of upper and lower Egypt.
A guy wearing a shirt reading, “I’m Noisy” with Elmo and white girl bearing arms, we drew attention from the crowd and the interest of a cop.
Do you want to go in the mosque? Amr asked me. The women go in that way–he pointed to an entrance where a mob of women fought to descend a couple steps into the mosque.
Yeah definitely! Can I…I asked? Our new buddy, the cop, said I could if I covered my arms and hair.
Putting on my veil, I spotted a women, standing with two friends, snapping my picture.
One of the friends came over.
Are you here to see this? She asked in Arabic, which Amr translated.
I live down the street, I told her. But yeah, I’m here now to check it out.
Are you scared of getting swine flu because of the big crowd.
Everywhere in Cairo is crowded, I answered. Plus I’m American, don’t you think I already have it? (Swine flu has been a huge deal here, especially since cases were found among American University students. Co-workers say people have moved away from them on subways out of fear of catching the bug.)
As she began to ask another questions, I became suspicious.
Her questions were well thought out, targeted for a specific angle…her friend snapped another picture and she held, what I’d thought was an iPod in her hand.
She was dressed differently, looked better kept and more focused than the many milling around the area.
Are you a journalist? I asked her in Arabic.
Are you recording this?
She said she wasn’t.
She asked if I was going to go in. I said I was, half hoping she’d join.
She didn’t seem to have any intention.
Her friend snapped another picture as I put on my headscarf and Amr and I headed to the entrance.
I relinquished my shoes to a guy at the door was pushed forward by the masses of woman vying to enter.
Think of the most crowded concert you’ve attended and those lines of people forcibly pushing their way to the front or out. Now imagine there is not one destination, people are sitting on the floor, praying begging for money, eating, holding babies, yelling and grabbing your clothes.
From all sides I was shoved deeper into the congregation.
Eyes ahead, overwhelmed by the masses of praying before me, I felt a slap on my shoulder. An elderly woman was whacking me with some clothe.
Apparently she didn’t approve of my dress. Khalas–”enough” I yelled at her. Another woman tried to help by forcefully rearranging my shawl.
In the deepest room women touched and prayed toward a wall and snapped pictures with their cell phone.
All the incentive I needed, I pulled out my camera and snatched a couple shots.
Out in the street, Cairo air never felt so fresh and clear.