Friday, December 30, 2011

Chant!

2011 is a year of revolution. 2012 will also be a year of revolution God willing, and hopefully will be the year where the revolution succeeds and we as Egyptians get back our rights.

Our revolution is powerful, from its first day the Egyptians had a strong voice, one voice, the voice of justice and peace, the voice of the brave. Their chants rocked Egypt and rocked the throne of the Egyptian president until he fled. it starts with one brave chant, and then rocks the ground beneath our feet.

At first I was just an observer, watching silently, chanting with my heart maybe. I felt the strong voice beat inside my chest, synonymous with my heartbeat, and I was grateful to be there.

In a few minutes, I was chanting with them, the way I sang the national anthem at school; quiet and to myself, in a voice I use for casual conversation, barely hearing myself, not even sure if I’m speaking or just moving my lips.

The next line, I speak out loud. I’m sure I spoke the words, but my voice is still drowned in the crowd. Pausing, waiting for the lightning bolt to strike me, nothing happens. I feel empowered, a little braver.

Louder! I can hear my own voice, and the people around me can hear me. A female voice in the powerful voice of the mass, I am a part of this community that decided to revolt, no longer an observer, no longer a tourist. I belong to this country and I will speak up for it.

Chanting, Chanting! I am no longer me, I am no longer lonely. I am the revolution, I am the crowd. I am the passion and I am the energy. When I hear the chanting I can’t distinguish my voice any longer. We are one, and I am there!

Finally, peace!

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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Twenty-Five!

Hello, my name is Dina, and I am 25!
I’ve been 25 for a month now. Can hardly believe I call 22 year olds younger people. Can hardly believe my brother is almost 30 (and still looks younger than me). I just cannot believe I’m 25. It’s such a well rounded number, quarter of a century, quarter life crisis, my life is now divisible by 5, 5 squared! The thing is, I don’t really understand what it is to be 25. What does it mean? Will something great and wonderful happen? Will it be another year in life? Will my world collapse and fall apart, or will I learn a new secret that no one else knows? To me, 25 does not make sense!
The natural question would be: what makes 25 so special? Why is 25 different than 24? Why is 25 giving me the blues in a way that makes blue seem pale? And the natural answer is: It’s all in my head! Dear reader, since you’re reading this, you’re looking into my head, a privilege which only my closest friends are allowed to be exposed to, sort of like radioactive material, and probably has the same effect too! Dina, Focus! Sorry people! Anywho, I can honestly say there are 2 phases of adulthood, or near adulthood, prior to 25:

Phase 1: College

This is where life spins and I spin in the opposite direction! We meet new people, learn new things, have to deal with professors, and learn that a “D” is not the end of the world and it’s actually OK to skip a couple of classes. We learn how to think, figure out what we want, work on so many different things and try new experiences. Not to mention all the exercise we get from running after the bus and the satisfaction of going out without our parents knowing.
In college, I felt like my personality was changing per semester. It was total exposure to a world that I didn’t even know existed. In college, I was in my early 20’s. In college, nothing was wrong because I was experiencing life with the wide-eyed curiosity of a child in Neverland. The world was NOT my oyster, but then again, I finally figured out there is an oyster to begin with!

Phase 2: After College

After college I started working, giving it all I can, learning new things at quite a fast pace, which I owe both to the company I worked for then and I guess to that age’s “pushing the limits” attitude. I wanted all; learn about anything and everything related to my work, which I was totally in love with. At that age also, I was engaged; my first relationship ever! It also seemed like I have a lot to learn and grow into. I wanted to do everything right, move on into a new life with so many new possibilities. 30 looked so far away then, and older people were, well, older people! I didn’t mind being treated as “the kid” because I was “the kid”. A little while later, I learned that loving my job is just stupid, relationships are not as movie like as I thought they were, and that the world had so much more to offer than what I was asking it for.

On my 24th birthday, I panicked! I had one year to do a ton of things before 25, which sounds so much like a milestone for something which is in itself a mystery. The ton of things included learning to play the Cello and ride bikes, write more, bungee jumping, figure out the secret of life maybe, or even discover the fountain of youth. I created an Un-bucket list; a list of things to do in life not things to do before I die. I decided to take life to the limit using all the free time 1 whole year before 25 can give me. I wouldn’t have done it without a friend like Eini, who knows how to push me, and who so horribly left me to pursue his future as a PhD student in USA (I wish him all the best and most of all to come back soon, but it still sucks that my best friend is not here).
So my actual achievements during the 24th year of my life were more like trying to find happiness, discover my simple pleasures, and come up with a favorite place in Cairo which I will not tell about because it’s my secret place and I don’t want it to get crowded. I learned to enjoy my own company. I started reading about architecture and book publishing and tried editing, very briefly. I tried to make a magazine and failed miserably due to lack of content, and to be perfectly honest, lack of stamina. I was finally able to come up with a new plan of where I see my life going. Oh, I almost forgot, I also killed a man in a car accident.
Not bad for a year with a revolution going on, right? Wrong! Now I am 25 and it still flies over my head and I just don’t get it! To me, last year was somewhat pointless; or in technical terms, more like the rework done after messing up the last release of the software Dina, version 23! Not something to regret or feel bad about, as a lot of people have told me, I’m going through a quarter life crisis (with all the 25 and quarter of a century, anyone mentioning quarters even a quarter of a pound will probably hear words that should be censored my blog). So without further ado, you will finally read why 25 is so horrible…
At 25, I’m closer to 30. I’m starting to get wrinkles, and my maternal instincts kicked in. I can see that there is more to life than work and play. More importantly, there is more play to be played in life! The world is so much bigger than my house and my work, Maadi and all its venues, Cairo, and even Egypt! I don’t know how to work with people who see me as “the kid” because I’m not the kid, far from it, not to mention, I cannot tolerate people doubting my knowledge and experience because of some belief they have in their heads. I don’t accept advice as easily if it sounds patronizing. I cannot live in the same house and be treated by the same people in the same way that I used to be treated 5 years ago, or even 3 years ago. I have run out of room to grow because my world has all of a sudden become too small. Things that were important before, including ambition, do not seem as important now. Even though everyone seems to think that what I need is a marriage, I believe that what I need now is life BEFORE marriage; I need space to see the world from a more adult perspective as opposed to how I used to see it as a young adult; wide-eyed, and star-struck. I cannot take it that experiences seem to have diminished so much after they have been all over the place, just waiting to be collected. I can feel my priorities starting to shift into more responsible and more mature ideas, I am growing up, and I am growing old, and I am definitely not ready!

At 25, I should be seeing the world, learning new things, meeting new people. My experiences have to come from more than just books, but from my interactions with the world. At 25, I am at the prime of my youth; my mid 20’s, which I should be making use of as the best years of my life. It is those years that I will look back to when my purpose in life involves my children, not me. At 25, I should be learning the meaning of being an independent adult so that when I am finally 30, if I live that long, I would feel more secure about the decisions I will be making now that I would be older and wiser. It seems that growing old is like death; we all know it’s going to happen but we never prepare enough for it. I’m 25, and I want to be prepared to grow old.











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Saturday, December 17, 2011

Lest We Forget All Those Eyes Lost!

It seems everyone in Egypt is talking politics, even though they don’t get it much. I’m one of them and I wish to God I stop talking politics but I can’t. I can’t because talking is all I can do now. There are people braver than me, stronger than me out there, People who have strong beliefs and use them like batteries to fuel the revolution inside them, and use these beliefs to spread the revolution to the rest of Egypt, not just Tahrir square. They believe in being human, and having rights as humans. They believe in Egypt and its history but more importantly they believe in its future. They believe that it’s their duty as Egyptians to make sure that no one takes advantage of Her, that no one mugs Her, that no one makes Her look bad, and that no one takes away Her dignity. I believe in Egypt and I believe that the soldiers of freedom who lead the revolution will protect her.

A call to demonstrate was made for November 18th and it was glorious, with people finally moving down to Tahrir square to nudge SCAF, the current military administration to move up the presidential elections to March or April, deliver the country into the hands of an elected civilian president, and to prevent them from giving the military unjustified privileges. The reaction from the military was an attack on 200 members of a sit-in in Tahrir square the next morning. Attacks continued as people flocked to Tahrir to try and stand by the people in the sit-in, getting more and more vicious with a feeble excuse that the security forces were protecting the Ministry of Interior which was around 300 meters away from the square. The detailed description of the entire event is all over the internet so to cut it short, front lines were formed by protestors at a street called Mohamed Mahmoud where the security forces used as the point of attack. They used tear gas and shotguns to attack the protestors, some injuries were gunshot wounds even though SCAF denied using live ammo. Truces were negotiated but never kept as attacks continued. The square contained no less than 7 field hospitals to handle the huge number of injuries. The people in Tahrir were crying for help and supplies as the injuries kept flowing in. the Egyptian people, although slow to react responded with numbers and supplies, moved by the sights of the horrible attacks, and the number of fatalities rising.

I was able to sneak to Tahrir, even though my mother found out eventually (yes, all Egyptians are afraid of their parents more than they’re afraid of bullets, even for people in their 30’s who are married with kids, not just people like me), and to see the beauty that is Egypt and what it really means in the eyes of the people there, smiling despite the horrors they are witnessing. Routes were formed to facilitate traffic for ambulances and motorcycles acting as ambulances. Ultras Ahlawy, football fans, were lighting flares in the middle of the front lines, singing and chanting against SCAF and the security forces that dare attack Egyptians, banging drums to raise the morale of the civilian soldiers on the front lines. Groups of protestors, mainly the girls, were calling out to the men in the fight to stand their ground. Chants and political discussions; anyone talking with anyone else about the current events for they all belonged to Tahrir and to Egypt. Girls and women were in the field hospitals, doctors, surgeons, helping the injured selflessly, standing their ground even with gas attacks on the hospitals.

I went into a pharmacy to buy some medical supplies. A man walked in and noticed what I was doing and asked me if I was buying supplies for the people in Tahrir. When I said yes, he told me that his son is there and that he hasn’t seen him in a few days, he gave me money to buy supplies for them because it was the only way he could help. When the pharmacist found out, she gave me a discount on the stuff I bought as a contribution from the pharmacy. In Tahrir, as I was talking to a friend, I was surprised by a man in his fifties wearing an expensive suit as he stopped to talk to us, he said he believed there was hope and moved on. A seventeen year old was holding up a paper with “Martyr Wanted” written on it in Arabic as he dashed towards the front lines. Lines of people formed around the field hospitals protecting it from chaos and attacks, just as they formed around protestors who were praying. An older man who looked to be of below average social standard, wary but determined and definitely not a thug, responded to someone warning him not to go into the fight by “this is why I am here!”

On those last 2 weeks of November, Egyptians were called to arms and Egyptians responded. The people on the front lines got shot at, were injured, some died, and some have to live their lives with one eye instead of two and they have no regrets. They were fighting because they refuse to have their dreams taken away from them; the only thing that gave them hope after 30 years of desperation. Those 17 and 18 year olds believe that they will grow up in an Egypt that will allow them to make an honest living and not sit on the unemployment lines for the rest of their lives. Those fathers are fighting so that their children would be able to live in homes that have roofs, running water, and sewage. Before the revolution, they had nothing to lose because everything was lost, and now they won’t lose the dream of a better future and they will fight for it until they see it come true.

People seem to have forgotten why brave Egyptians got hurt for them, lost their eyes and their lives for them. They’ve forgotten about the torture in the prisons, about the military trials that don’t give the detained person the right to even defend himself, and about those girls who were molested and harassed by those who call themselves our protectors. People seem to have missed the idea that change hasn’t really happened, that the dignity of the Egyptian people was never really returned. People seem to have not noticed how some so-called Egyptians still think they are above the law, and even beyond its reach. Finally, those people seem to have decided to give up on fighting injustice at the one time they get a free pass to fight injustice, which is now! I haven’t forgotten those who were fearless enough to stand in front of a shotgun and lose their eyes for me because I’m not strong enough to fight for my rights as an Egyptian citizen and human being. I haven’t forgotten because the moment I forget is the moment I lose my right to being Egyptian, and I am not planning to lose that which I am most proud of!


As an after note, the people at the prime ministry were the ones who didn’t forget about the dead and the injured and so they do represent me. The people who were putting out the fires and saving the books represent me. The people who are getting beaten and shot at because they want real actual change represent me. Finally, those girls that were stripped, dragged on the streets, and beaten while they’re half naked could have so easily been me. Lest we forget those as well!


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Friday, November 25, 2011

Election Season: Club to Presidential

The Maadi club elections took place late September 2011. Had the revolution not taken place, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have gone to the vote. My mother also went to vote even though she has never done so prior to the revolution either. It wasn't out of fear that she had never gone before; I doubt any election thugs would have been present at the club, but out of indifference. So as a side note, one of the revolution pros is that my mother now believes in using her right to vote.
When the ads stared for the club elections, people were presenting themselves everywhere, forming affiliations, and recommending candidates. Maadi was bombarded with banners to the extent that my friends who aren't from maadi were discussing the candidates. And so the research began. Friends were presenting their info about the candidates they knew, I knew some candidates personally and trusted them. Consequently, I trusted the people they chose to form affiliations with. Some people I knew were bad from personal experience and tried to persuade my friends not to vote for them.
The advantage of the club elections was that the maadi club community is relatively small, so when someone is good, his actions speak for themselves most of the time. In addition, the candidates were all personal acquaintances of the voter or acquaintances of the voter’s friends, this includes families that know each other, friends that recommend, and so on. A voter could get someone’s entire history, including who he played football with which was apparently a huge factor in deciding the votes. Despite all that, rumors came out that some of the people whom I personally knew were related to some Islamist political groups and were going to ban women from getting into the club and other absurd allegations! Club or no club, these elections were just like any other political election process; the dirty game of politics began!
Right before the club elections, I had a feeling of a burden and a responsibility falling to me. True, it's just the club, how bad could it be?! But still, my single vote may change the polls, what I learn about someone from personal experience could help them get in a place where they could do good or prevent them from getting into a place where they would do damage. It would have been so much easier to NOT vote for anyone, but in the end I had my conscience to report to and it would not go easy on me.
Moving on from the tiny not very important club elections to the more important, more aggressive, and by all means more frightening parliamentary elections, passing by the engineers syndicate elections on the way; again, I am put in the same position of having to select people to represent me and so many other people in the syndicate or the parliament. Again, I am researching who to vote for and who not to vote form who would do good and who wouldn't. I have to be smart enough to learn who is a hypocrite and who is all words. I have to give my voice to whole parties of people; 42 for the syndicate alone, and more dangerously, 2 for parliament in addition to a list. Those are people with hardly any personal acquaintances within the circle of people I know, and I am supposed to pick complete strangers! In all honesty, If I was afraid for giving my vote at the club, I am now by all means terrified!
As for the syndicate, anyone who is not in a list with a specific program is hard to pick. As engineers, we believe in the power of teams. It was easier to rule out some groups which represented the Muslim brotherhood or the Salafis even though if we take the historical pattern into consideration, they will most probably win. Again, as engineers, too many fake promises alienated me; any programs that doesn't make sense or plays on greedy voters also alienated me. finally, I was able to get some info on a final group that related to a history of corruption for a certain group in addition to involving family ties in the matter, so here's another group out of the race for me. Still, even though I used the process of elimination rather that a process of selection, I don't trust the people I am voting for, I have no idea if they go through with their promises, if they are corrupt, or if they will really fall through. At this point, I can only pray.
I am going through a similar dilemma with the parliament elections (that is of course assuming SCAF ignores those in Tahrir squares of Egypt, even if they don’t, I will not boycott the parliamentary elections because it is my duty as much as going to Tahrir). I don't know these people, I don't trust the political parties, and no prominent figures are running for parliament in my area. I envy the Heliopolis people; they have at least 3 candidates with very clear histories and stands so they can easily pick and choose. So my policy again lies in the process of elimination. I know I won't vote for the Muslim brotherhood since they are already popular, well funded, and well organized. In addition, I don't trust their "my interests come first" tactics which only prove that they want power and will not necessarily have the county's best interests at hand. As for some of the other parties, not all have shown good stands with respect to a lot of situations so I am eliminating some more. Finally, even though my single vote for the individual positions may not count as much for non popular candidates, my vote for the list, assuming they follow the same methodology used in Tunisia, will help get some of the not so popular groups into parliament with minimum candidates. If anything, my tactics would go to trying to find as much diversity as opposed to picking a party like that of the Muslim brotherhood for example which I know for a fact will get the biggest number of votes due to their prominent presence on the streets of Egypt.
It may be too early to talk about presidential elections now, but they are the "make it or break it" elections. We're all going t go through this whole mess all over again with the country at stake. But I guess, for me at least, it gets clear that people who show weak positions in the worst times are not people I would vote for, or people who turn a movement of the people into a political “ace of spades” to try to win the votes of the silent majority. True, maybe not everyone is showing guts in dealing with the current situation politically, but at least there are people who don’t say words that, to everyone out there in Tahrir squares today, are absolute nonsense. It is scary that my individual vote counts, but it does. It's scary that some people get to the simpler less educated minds with fake promises. It's scary how some abuse religion for personal gains and quests for power. I don't trust my vote, nor do I trust the votes of other people, but I hope God guides me to the right path, which is not related in the least to those who claim that they will enact the word of God.
I am afraid of making the wrong decisions and picking the wrong people in each and every election I take part in. But at the end of the day, to vote is the right thing to do, to vote for who I think is right is the responsible thing to do, and finally to research carefully before going to the votes is the only way I can stop my conscience from nagging me and of being haunted by "what if" till next election season. It’s funny how my civic duty is the only way I can actually feel empowered in this country, not connections, not money, not position; my right to vote!











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Monday, October 24, 2011

A Tribute to My Best Friends (4)

Luba Saeed Zaki – Lu – Lulu – Zalabya

I have a friend called Lubna. She is a no-bullshit person who is very meticulous about how her name is spelled. She’s so beautiful with one of the best smiles in the world that just light up the room, and it’s not just because she has amazingly even teeth. The intelligence in her eyes and the transparency of her soul shine out. When she’s sad she looks like a pouty 5 year old girl, and when she’s high on coffee she sings, not necessarily in the best of voices although when she’s really in the mood she almost sounds like a pro. She has a very sophisticated air about her, which makes sense because, well, she’s sophisticated!

Lu’s into old songs; Arabic, English, and French with a touch of Spanish and who knows, maybe when she comes back from her stay in Poland where she is pursuing her PhD in politics (I did mention she’s intelligent AND a no bullshit person), she’ll be listening to old Polish songs too! She likes to be called “hanem” and she should be called hanem because she is a lady inside and out. She belongs in the balls where they dance the waltz and talk about arts and wear fancy dresses with silk gloves and diamond tiaras. She can be so very serious it scares me sometimes, but she always knows what she’s talking about. I’m impressed with how cultured and well-read she is, how much she pays attention to details, and how she is plain old fun at the end of the day. She has been told that she is conservative, holding true to her religion and tradition, with liberal thoughts, that accept so many opinions and welcomes change. What she has been told is true. Even in her conservativeness, she is not rigid as long as she sticks to what is right.

We’ve been together in school, only her being one year older than me was maybe the reason why we were never properly acquainted. I met her at the club when we were part of a team in a human development initiative. But again, we weren’t friends. All of a sudden, her brother who is my age, school colleague, and I became friends, and all of a sudden, Lubna and I, finally, became friends. I’m not really sure if I should be grateful to Tamayoz, the Human development group, or to Mostafa, the all of a sudden friend, for giving me the gift of Lubna, or if I should be grateful to the school or to the club. All I know is that all the pieces fit together that she is finally my friend who has a chamber all for herself in my heart.

This is usually about the time I say how annoying she is at something except she isn’t really annoying at all! Ok fine, she get annoying sometimes when she freaks out if she thinks she’s upset someone. But it does annoy me how someone with her amazing intelligence, working in politics, and brave enough to go all the way to Poland for her dream, is not able to see the bad in some people. Lu, when you read this, it annoys THE HELL out of me! On the other hand, she has always been there, more in Poland than when she was in Egypt maybe, always caring, always thoughtful, and just simply THERE! It isn’t easy, it isn’t something to be taken for granted, and it is the most amazing thing in the world!

I know that what I have said is not enough, it does not do her justice, and she will be shouting at me for how wrong or exaggerated she thinks this is, which is another annoying thing; how she doesn’t really know how amazing she is. But the thing is, it isn’t enough, and I owe her so much for how she stood by me in my worst time, and how she makes me laugh when I’m down, once she gets over all the empathy (sometimes I think I depress her because I’m sad, she is THAT empathic!) I don’t think we ever came to the point where she would need to bust my ass, but I trust that she will if I ever need to get my ass busted.

Finally, she belongs in a world that has long past, but God granted her strength to be able to deal with this world we live in now, which, let’s face it, sucks! She is my long lost sister. Sister, I ain’t gonna let you go!

lu




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Saturday, September 3, 2011

Smile!

Smile! :) The past is behind us.
Smile! :) The weather's good, and if it isn't there's air conditioning, and if it's cold there's hot chocolate.
Smile! :) It's sunnah and sadaka!
Smile! :) It's a funny movie.
Smile! :) Chocolate makes us happy.
Smile! :) At any point in time, someone is going to be there when you need them, even if it's a guardian angel that makes you hear a joke by accident on the bus when the world seems as tiny, tight, and hot as the bus is on midday.
Smile! :) It actually makes us look prettier.
Smile! :) You'll make someone else smile, it's contagious.
Smile! :) Read Mickey magazine
Smile! :) There is always a beautiful scene out there, you just have to find the beauty in everything.
Smile! :) The kids are playing in their colorful clothes and fearless endeavors to go down that slide!
Smile! :) There is always that little sense of achievement when you solve a Sudoku puzzle or Rubik's cube.
Smile! :) Have a good cup of coffee and listen to the Beatles in the morning
Smile! :) And dance in the rain!
Smile! :) Remember the day you learned to ride a bike, play chess, swim in the deep, or scored your first goal.
Smile! :) School's out in the summer.
Smile! :) You have a cool gadget (mine's an iPad)
Smile! :) Your family loves you (I promise)
Smile! :) The world has books!
Smile! :) There is one amazing book called Quran that actually makes you feel so very serene when you read it.
Smile! :) God will always answer your prayers in the right way, not necessarily your way.
Smile! :) Friends are great!
Smile! :) It makes you look mysterious ;)
Smile! :) It'll spite someone you don't like.
Smile! :) And the world will smile back!
For God’s sake if you still haven’t smiled, pretty please smile for my sake :)




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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Anti Smoking

Even though I have been a second hand smoker all my life, and I quite enjoy the smell of good tobacco, I am completely against smoking, whether it's cigarettes, cigars, pipes, or sheesha. Maybe I feel so strongly because I have my own personal experience with smokers, but I think, despite my personal experiences, there is a global agreement that smoking is not the best habit to pick up.

My father was a heavy smoker, he smoked forty to  fifty packs a week, which sums up to 800 to 1000 cigarettes. He smoked the red Marlboros, known to have higher nicotine than the rest of the types of cigarettes, and he smoked for more than 30 years of his life. He died. Smoking killed him. I'm saying this but that's not accurate, it was his life style that killed him. He ate breakfast in the morning and had dinner late at night. He had a stressful job; a structural engineer, then the head of the planning and execution departments, positions that had him always moving between sites all over the country. He spent all his mornings smoking and drinking coffee. He hardly slept well and he rarely went on vacations. He did not have time for sports even though he played tennis, squash, and soccer. So maybe I shouldn't blame smoking after all? Except I do!

Firstly, smoking increases the blood pressure which does not really help with the stress levels. Secondly, smoking ruins the lungs which leaves the smoker out of breath and thus the idea of sports becomes far fetched. Thirdly, smoking is destructive and the smokers are fully aware of that, but it is their twisted idea of banging their head against the wall, or maybe slowly committing suicide. Finally, smoking ruins the appetite making it difficult for a smoker to eat healthily especially with the busy schedule most smokers claim to have, adding more to their health and life style issues. As for women smokers, I think it's shameful for a woman who goes through pregnancy, labor, raising babies, extreme mood swings and emotional roller coasters to think that smoking helps with the stress. If women were not built to handle the stress, then who was?!

Do I hear freedom, rights, personal space? Every smoker hurts the people around them with every puff. My brother and I developed respiratory issues as a result of my father's smoking, as did my mother, even though he rarely smoked at home, and at some point was banned completely from smoking in the house (I have a very brave mother). It isn’t just the people the smoker lives with and cares about, even pedestrians are hurt from the smoke since they are exposed to multiple smokers throughout the day, every day. So you'll go smoke in the desert away from everyone? Smoking still expels carbon dioxide in the planet's atmosphere, adding to the global warming issues, hurting the earth and everything on it. Just in case you're thinking, dear smoker, that you're just one person, how bad could it be? I will first ask you doesn't that sound eerily like what people said about their votes during elections and we all responded that EVERY VOTE COUNTS? With just over 15 BILLION cigarettes smoked daily, how badly do your cigarettes, dear smoker, are hurting the world?

As for the guys, who I refuse to call men, who smoke because it makes them look, or feel, more manly, and the girls who smoke because it makes them look or feel sexier, probably imagining themselves as femme fatales who can melt a man's heart with a puff of smoke and a lipstick stained cigarette, I have one word to say to you: LMAO!!!!! seriously, get a life!

Dear smoker, with every puff of smoke you:

  1. hurt yourself
  2. hurt the people you love
  3. hurt the people you don't even know
  4. hurt the earth
  5. possibly look like a total idiot (ok not everyone)

So think twice before you light that, every puff counts.




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Friday, August 19, 2011

Fourteen

It's been fourteen years since my dad died. Fourteen whole years. Feels like a lifetime away. I guess it really is a lifetime away. Last time I saw him, it was the summer vacation right before prep school, I was 10 going on 11. Now I'm approaching my 25th year. He missed my adolescence, he missed how my personality shaped and how my tastes got to be what they are. He missed my first relationship and my first heartbreak. He missed how I've come to doubt myself and how I've come to trust it. I wonder if he would have helped me through college, would he have done the same thing with me as he did with my cousins; point out skew lines in their drawings? Would he have convinced me to take architecture or civil engineering instead of computer? I think he might. Funny how before he died, he'd asked me if I wanted to go to an Arabic music concert at the opera and I told him nooooo, that would be so boring and now I actually like and enjoy it. I think with my acquired taste for coffee (any taste in coffee is an acquired taste in coffee, no one gets coffee bottles instead of milk bottles as babies), we'd probably sneak off to grab a couple of coffee shots; him an espresso and me a cappuccino. I wonder how he would have reacted when all my close friends were boys? Would he meet them? Would he trust me?

I have this idea that I would have been quite the spoiled brat had he lived on, he always got me anything I wanted... Not a good way to bring up a strong independent girl.

Still I miss him. I imagine what he would do if he were here. Would he forgive my mistakes? Would he give me sound advice? Would he be angry in situations and sad in others? Would my relationship with my family be different? I try to imagine but it's all in my head. My mom tells me he would have been angry for so and so. She's known him more, she knows him better, and maybe she's right in the end. But I've got him in my heart and I know him in my heart, and it is him in my heart that I try to be true to. He is my conscience and my friend when I seem to run out of both. He keeps me company and, as long as I am listening, he keeps me true to myself and others. As much as my mom was the one who really raised me, my dad was the one who planted so many seeds that she helped grow. Come to think of it, I don't think I would have been a spoiled brat had he been alive, but I would definitely have been different. His death was for the best I'm sure, one way or another, and we will never know how or why. But he's not really dead as long as he is in my heart, guiding me.

Please take a moment to read Al-Fateha for him.




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Saturday, August 13, 2011

Fiction: The Great Escape

The world is either too much or too little. There's always either too much to do, too many things happening, too much hassle. The world has problems here and there and everywhere, whether it's the silly day to day issues like traffic and prices that get on our nerves, the personal issues with people we have to deal with, work problems, or the really big issues like the failing economy, famine in the African horn, global warming, wars and peace crises, or the world's people getting tired of how we are being led so they riot and protest and overthrow governments. At some point it is all too much to take in at one time. On the other hand, life gets so boring sometimes, maybe even too boring. Sundays feel like Tuesdays that feel like Wednesdays and Mondays. We wake up, go to work, come back from work, eat, sleep, watch movies, hang out. All days look the same, feel the same, and we end up wishing for time to just pass. Sometimes, all we want to do is escape. I’ve always want to escape.

So I have a secret desire to be a fictional character. I have the biggest crush ever on a fictional character (Edmond Dantes, The Count of Monte Cristo, who seems to be able to do anything but only wanted peace... And revenge). It just seems all the more beautiful to live in one of the books I love so much, or not even live in them, but observe their world for the rest of my life. To me, the way out has been through fiction. Stephen King's books scare me to the bone, Neverland is absolutely the most amazing place that ever existed even in someone's mind; it has to be, it's made up of children's imagination. Fairytales, quests, and journeys. Magic, strange futures, and new worlds. Thoughts and emotions of people that maybe aren't real but reflect so much of the people and the world around us. Mysteries and murders, ghosts and vampires, everything that you could ever imagine and everything that is beyond your imagination. I open a book and read, live with the characters and become the characters, think with them, sympathize with them, cry for them and laugh at them. And for however long I read, I am not me anymore. I am not at home or at work. I am not sitting in that same old café, or in the car. I am inside the book, inside the characters, and I don't care about my world anymore.

I know people who do not believe in fiction, they think it is a waste of time unless it gives a very strong message to the world. They seem to forget or fail to realize that fiction is the result of great minds at work, people who think and feel and create their own worlds to escape to. Fiction isn't about a message being conveyed, it is about telling a story and enjoying telling it. Other people will enjoy being told because it lets them look at other worlds they never dreamed of, it lets them live in the past or the future or somewhere else entirely. It lets them imagine how the authors think and feel to be able to create such characters, what experiences have they gone through to be able to write down the extraordinary events of their stories. Fiction is the perfect example of how amazing the human mind can be; its ability to create people and situations, and weave them into a quilt with so many different colors and patterns. We enjoy it even if it seems too much like life, because we know it is not life, it is a world in someone's head that has come to life, and we are living it with every word because we enjoy the unreality of it all. We enjoy feeling afraid while reading a story because being afraid in real life is not something to be enjoyed. We love the tragic romances in books because it wouldn't be practical to live a tragic romance ourselves, there is too much in life to worry about than a tragic romance. We enjoy the possibilities of having special powers and we enjoy how the heroes of the stories make their decisions whether if they are going to be good or evil, we enjoy it because we would never want to take that responsibility in real life; to have powers or do magic, or even take a ring across half the world to save the world an endless war that it would surely lose.

Fiction gives us hope and energy to go through this tragic universe with all its problems that never seem to end. Fiction takes me out of my own world and my own mind and keeps me alive, always have, always will. Now Excuse me, I’ll go read!


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Thursday, August 4, 2011

Single

Today is my anniversary, 1 whole honest to God year of being single. Happy anniversary to me! Last year, I came out of a long term serious relationship, my first and my only. Since then, it has stunned me how many advantages there are to being single. It has also stunned me how being single again highlighted all those things that I seem to have not taken note of when I was single before. Naturally, it also highlighted the advantages of being in a relationship although I am by all means enjoying my “singularity” more, pun intended. So here I am, talking about myself as usual, and there is this huge list of amazing advantages of being single that I am dying to just spill. Without further ado, here goes:
  1. This is the most obvious; YOU DON’T GET TO SHARE YOUR LIFE! Everything you do is yours, you do things for yourself, because you want to do them and because you like them. You don’t have to do things with another person if you don’t want to. You don’t have to say everything that ever happened to you or else you’re feeling guilty or hiding information, and you do not have to watch a movie you don’t like because someone else likes it. You own and control your life, no compromises!
  2. You DON’T have to consider someone else in everything. You don’t have to think if s/he likes this or would agree to that, you don’t have to keep something you want to say to yourself because it would get complicated or sensitive or any other word describing a headache.
  3. You don’t have people that tell you what to do and what not to do, or at least you don’t have to care about what they say without getting into a fight. You can always ignore anyone else’s “suggestions” and live your life just the way you want to live it.
  4. You don’t have to nag or be nagged to. Friends don’t nag, couples do. There is always something to be nagged about or you’re always nagging about something. Being in a relationship means your life has become strongly correlated with someone else’s; there are requirements of both parties that end in nagging when these requirements are not met. It’s normal and acceptable but what a hassle!
  5. You don’t have to deal with people you don’t want to deal with outside work. We always have to deal with people we don’t want to deal with at work. It’s ok from 9 to 5. After that, why would anyone want to put themselves in a position where they have to deal with someone else’s cousin or annoying friends’ husbands? Not to mention, you can’t just go say: “I don’t like you” to them. That’s just oppression!
  6. You don’t have to take permission, give a report when you go somewhere, when you get back, do something outside, or even take a friggin’ shower. It may be a bit of an exaggeration on my end but let’s face it; I toned it down for some cases.
  7. You are not tied down. You can go work abroad, travel a lot, and meet new people. You can do things at weird hours like work shifts, go for 3 am walks, play the guitar at 5 am, and have pizza for breakfast. There is no set of rules that humans must follow when you’re alone. You can just live sideways!
  8. YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE ANYONE ELSE BUT YOURSELF. You don’t have to change your traits, improve your wardrobe, wear makeup, talk about soccer and politics, or change the way you talk. You don’t have to change the way you think to fit someone else’s idea of smart, change the way you act to fit someone else’s idea of appropriate, and you most definitely don’t have to try or change anything in yourself so to get someone else’s approval.
  9. And finally, my personal favorite, you don’t have to flirt with only one person ;) (that was a joke)
So to all you single people out there, enjoy your singularity and take advantage of it as much as you can. To all you people in relationships, enjoy their perks, for they do have quite a few, and be grateful for them. And at the end of this blessed anniversary, I thank God twice as much as I do every day for being single and for enjoying it Smile




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The Egyptian Identity

It seems that so many people are trying to prove that their identity represents the Egyptian identity. It hardly seems fitting that this should happen in Egypt of all places because we have a very unique identity. Egyptians share a mixture of traits that is hard to come upon anywhere else, we combine toughness with a sense of humor and the ability to smile under the most difficult situations. We are all humble and down to earth, immediately rejecting the condescending people as if they are not part of us. We all share a sense of street smarts that we call “fahlawa” which is always taking us in the wrong direction. We love to make up stories and spread rumors, stretching the truth more and more as we go along. We are patient, even though we complain a lot, we’ve always been patient and we’ve always trusted the world maybe a little more than we really should. We are deeply rooted, attached to our history, proud of all that was and dreaming of all that’s coming. I think the best expression to describe us is that we come from the earth, the humblest of all things; we have all the goodness of it in us along with all its patience, we take it all, good or bad, and bear it with light hearts. We are a beautiful people and I still don’t understand how we are looking for an “identity”.

History speaks for our identity. We have been the oldest and strongest people, with the brains to rule the world yet we kept to ourselves mostly, with wars coming to us instead of us going to them. We’re fighters by nature and we’re stubborn as hell, we will not give up on what’s ours easily. The stories of good versus evil are rooted in our history and mythology where good always wins. Throughout history, we were able to stay “Egyptian”, and we forced the world to accept Egypt as it is. We’ve had a million different invaders and Egypt has been ruled by so many different entities. We’ve had the Greeks, the Romans, the Ottomans, the French, and the English, yet we remained Egyptian. When Alexander the great passed through Egypt, he was the one who absorbed its culture not the other way around, mapping his own gods to the ancient Egyptian gods and worshipping them as such. He was able to win over the people so that he was titled son of the gods. Cleopatra, the Greek queen who had ruled Egypt as the last of the Ptolemaic dynasty has embraced the Egyptian language and traditions; she was able to win over strong allies as Julius Caesar without letting go of the Egyptian identity to the Romans. Throughout the Greek and roman rule of Egypt, Egyptians had stayed loyal to their identity and their religions, not letting go to the occupants identities and holding on to what they really are in essence. During the 18th, 19th and 20th century when the world was divided between the English and French, we were able to stay Egyptian through it, unlike the rest of north Africa, who have adopted so much of the French culture into their own.

When Christianity came to Egypt, the Egyptians accepted it for its nature of compassion and mercy that fit into the Egyptian identity. When Islam came to Egypt, it was also accepted by choice because of the same nature that spread equality, mercy, and humility. Egyptians have accepted religions that fit them; they weren’t forced into a religion that did not go with their nature.167626_10150402853370296_534940295_17061432_1305680_n

What’s happening now in Egypt is an attempt to manipulate the Egyptian identity, turning it into something hateful and nasty, something that is not Egyptian. It has always been happening except now there are more marketing techniques that work on showing sides of the Egyptian identity that are secondary at the very least like anger and rejection. More dirty politics are involved to play on the simpler minds of the people that are so very trusting of whoever seems “nice”. We are at a point in time that we have never witnessed; the amount of diversity existing now in Egypt is something we have never seen before and we do not know how to handle. It is natural now that every entity, being Egyptian, is attempting to unify the ranks, only they believe they are right and everyone else is wrong, their misconceptions fueled by corrupt media and power hungry entities. The point is, we’re trying to come back to our identity, rejecting the extremes outside, whether they’re the extreme liberals or the extreme “Islamists”, in the end, we’ll come back to the middle ground where all Egyptians, liberals, conservatives, whoever, are just plain Egyptians, unified in Egypt, having the same traits and the same basic conceptions. In the end, the Egyptian identity will shine through all the differences, and maybe for the first time in a long time, accept diversity.




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Saturday, July 30, 2011

Mentors and Apprentices

We’ve all seen the Chinese martial arts movies where there is always a “sensei” or a teacher that is responsible for a small group of students, not only teaching them how to fight, but teaches them the art of it, and dives into his own experience to teach the students the true lessons. Formal education these days, in Egypt in particular, is all about studying what’s in the books, learning the science and the experiments, memorizing certain phrases and specific outcomes. In math and science, there is no room to learn (or even use) different techniques to solving problems, everything is too methodical for a student to think for himself. In the literary studies, you have to memorize and study a specific analysis in a specific book, anything else is wrong and out of scope. Philosophy courses are textbook material, and God knows what references they use in religious studies. The process of learning has become a shallow experience, with no room for research or improvement. We’ve been brought up in schools to write what we know and what we learn. We don’t stretch our knowledge to improve ourselves, not to mention we do not get any guidance. To teachers, it’s tedious to look beyond the textbook and kids who ask too much are considered annoying. So we grow up to work as we’re told to work, and study as we’re told to study. We grow up looking beneath our feet, never beyond the horizon and never with a sideways look at life.

This isn’t how it was before. In fact, it was never like that before. In the past, learning was an interactive process where the teachers, as well as the student, get involved in discussions to reach a higher level of learning. This has been how the great scholars and scientists of the Abassid dynasty were doing it. They weren’t teachers, bored of everything in life and have to finish up a lesson with a specific time schedule, they were mentors who taught the text, gave their own experience and views of it, and interacted with their disciples so that everyone comes to their own conclusion of the topic. Their purpose is to create thinkers and scholars, not drones who know one way of thinking and reject all other methodologies and ideologies.

In addition, when it comes to the crafts, especially in Egypt, it’s always been about having a mentor. There were no craft schools, a parent would take his child to a craftsman, and would confide him to the craft. The craftsman would teach the child, progressing from simple tasks to the most complicated depending on his ability to learn and advance. Later, the child, now grown, going from disciple to apprentice to craftsman himself, becomes ready to take on the world. The mentor who taught him all that is not jealous, he does not feel that the once ignorant child owes him his life’s work. On the contrary, he enjoys his apprentice’s success and his ability to create on his own. He encourages him to go on and do new things, take risks, explore the craft and add to it. In the end, it isn’t only the mentor of the apprentice who learn and advance, the whole craft is enriched with new people with new ideas, who are able to create, explore and reinvent the craft, stretching its limits through diversity.

Mentoring is not completely gone in this day and age, it is, however, badly twisted into something rigid and strict. Putting formal education aside, the true learning is found in the workplace. Instead of craftsmen, there are now managers, engineers, doctors, and executives. Juniors and fresh grads move into a new workplace, and they start learning the culture of the place they are in, they gain their knowledge from the people around them and this is how they grow. This is how everyone grows, not just juniors. A manager or a senior will work hard and invest in teaching the people working under him how the work is done. A good manager or senior who cares about improving the work will give knowledge from their own experience to the people around him provided they are willing to learn. In addition, he will always challenge them into doing something better than what they already do, polishing them as they grow. The problem is that even though this happens to some extent in lots of different places, there is something profound missing from all the above. Nowadays, knowledge is power. Seniors and managers do NOT teach the people around them everything. some are scared that they may be replaced, some prefer to be the only people with the knowledge and thus the only people powerful enough to stay in management. Very few are the ones that empower the people around them with knowledge and encourage them to explore and create. They are too scared of being replaced with fresh blood that they seem to forget that diversity is key to the growth of an organization, that it’s the fresh blood that looks at things differently and try to enrich them with new ideas.

The problem exists with the apprentices as well as the managers. A good apprentice grows with the purpose of spreading the knowledge and adding value, not for the purpose of just becoming another manager or replacing his mentor. In fact, the only way to be noticed and move up in a career is to come up with new and different opportunities than the ones that already exist. A good apprentice moves on beyond what they’ve learned and adds to it, adding to the industry and to the business. Shortly after, a good apprentice becomes a mentor themselves, and so goes on the cycle of knowledge sharing and growth.

My personal experience in mentoring, or being mentored to be more precise, comes from so many different people and so many different places. The most noteworthy to me is Tamayoz, a human development NGO that works on the less ripe young minds. The beauty of Tamayoz is not the content; the content is everywhere! There are a million different places one can learn soft skills and management. The beauty of it and why it has affected me so profoundly and changed my life in so many ways, is the amount of experience the instructors shared; personal experiences and situations. They gave us real and tangible lessons in life, not just textbook material.

To teach one’s experiences is the most value one could add. To learn and share the knowledge is how we build the world, to discover new things for the sake of learning and knowing is the ultimate success. To mentor is to achieve immortality.




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Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Fear–Revisited

I've written an earlier post about fear in a religious context, but maybe the religious context is not all there is to it. Fear is such a complicated emotion that consists of layers upon layers of life experiences, some not even our own, and some we never knew had that effect on us.

On the first few days of the revolution, a friend asked me, "are you coming to Tahrir?" my answer was no. When he asked why I told him I was too scared of what might happen to me if things go wrong. He admired that I was so open and honest about being afraid of something and admitting it. I'm not always like that; I don’t admit them, and sometimes I don’t even realize what they are.

One day, I decided to list down all my fears. The most prominent were the fear of losing a loved one, the fear of being alone, and the fear of mediocrity.  I get scared in tunnels too but I doubt my tunnel specific claustrophobia is of much importance in this argument. I guess I have little or no control over the first two since they are rational fears to some extent, and they are common fears as well. I have my reasons to have them on the top of my list of fears, and those reasons vary from one person to another. The fear of mediocrity, however, seems to be the one that doesn’t really belong on that list of most feared. Again, I have my reasons to have it there; I blamed my mother... No that was a joke, not funny, sorry!

I’ve tried to convince myself of the irrationality of this fear. What is mediocre anyway? It's to do things and be a person that is not really bad at something; however their actions and their existence would seem insignificant. My work and products are okay and acceptable but they don’t measure up to any bar I set for them. Above average is mediocre, which isn’t really bad but not quite glorious either. So I'm egotistical and proud, sue me!

The funny thing is I'm not really mediocre. Sure, I've come second more than once in my life, and in things such as studying, I never really cared to come first. Yes, I'm competitive, but only when it counts. I’ve always had the “you’ve got so much potential” speeches, and so I am mediocre only in my own eyes. So mediocre is not really what I am afraid of. Not that I’m praising my own virtues but how can a tall person be afraid of being short?

If it's not mediocrity then what is it? My overly analytical brain has come to the following conclusions. At the top of the list, there is the fear of rejection, doing something that someone somewhere wouldn’t like, or wouldn’t appreciate which would get me frustrated (as usual) and thus I would forever believe the misconception of me being mediocre. This added to the built in instinct (this time I really d blame my mother along with school, stupid teachers, and society as a whole) to always be the best just about sums up the first layer of my deep dark fear of mediocrity. Then comes the fear of going about unnoticed. Imagine Addison discovered electricty but no one knew about it, you'll know what I’m talking about. This is more prone to actually happen than people may think, that's why they invented marketing people! So it isn’t just about doing something great, it's about making sure the right people see that great thing and spread it out. If we assume that the first point can be dismissed using strong will and moving out of one's comfort zone, the second point actually requires work to get over it since it's a problem that not only I but so many people face; how to market for yourself and your work. Finally, this is the tricky part, for me, there is always the panic of "what now?" after finishing something. So the last most complicated and by all means the silliest layer of all the complexities of my fear of mediocrity; what if I succeed? What if I prove to the world that I can achieve everything I want to achieve however I want to achieve it? Isn’t there no way but down when you're on top? Aren’t I hindering myself on purpose sometimes just because I’m afraid of making it to the top? Do I really want to finish the race? I never thought I’d ask myself that question, but I did, and it frightened me how close t home it rang. It frightened me even more how it never consciously occurred to me except after 25 years of my life have passed. Only with the help of a friend have I come up with the solution on how to overcome this last sticky layer of fear, obvious as it may be. If I ever reach the top, I’ll probably have a new adventure waiting for me there, I got to get there first to actually find out what happens next!
I've admired people who seem to go about life with the will and energy of energizer bunnies, The never-say-die people. There are people out there who dream and follow their dreams, who fall down and get back up again, and who keep on going until they either get there or die trying. Thos people remind me of Peter Pan who seems to be so forgetful that he always forgets how treacherous Captain Hook is. Those people forget how life can really take them down even if they are on the top of the world. But isn’t that where the fun is? Peter Pan would have been such a boring story if Peter had figured hook out and stopped fighting him. Isn’t that what children are all about? Fearless and brave, always willing to explore and not letting the world get in the way because the world always holds something new to them. How we’ve forgotten how to learn from children!

As a final note, I would like to tell the critics who will always think my work is not good enough, those idiots who dismiss everything as too easy and anyone could have done it, those people who don’t even know I exist, my teachers who are a part of a stupid society that is too competitive about belching contests, Captain Hook, life, the universe, and everything: Bring It ON!!!!!




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Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Happiness Checklist

Every now and then I get really upset at the rate my life is going. I get days that are so very slow, and I get days where I can hardly take a breath. C'est la vie, that's life, etc. But what I hate most are the days, sometimes weeks, that pass without doing something valuable. One should spend one's life doing something new, learning something new, and adding value!!!! The value could be to oneself but it is preferable that the value is added to the world. My favorite quote after all is:"Make a dent in the universe"

If you, dear reader, have been following up with my blog, you would know that I come up with all these plans for action, calls to arms, sudden surges of energy maybe. I never follow up because let's face it, I never maintain anything. It's a missing culture in the world, especially in Egypt. We are not brought up to maintain projects and to keep them running, we try to get on track and once we're on it, we don’t really care anymore whether or not we fall off the wagon, we care about the ‘A’ but we never try to keep it.

So I’ll keep this short, I get really depressed whenever I feel like I should have been doing something and I don’t. So I thought, since I’m so horrible with doing what I plan to do, I am going to create a checklist, yes another one. Duh! I know it doesn’t really work with me all that well. But I thought I’ll make a different kind of checklist this time, I’ll keep it simple and open, I will not limit myself to specific tasks as much as I will limit myself to specific outcomes. I better just give out my checklist and then explain it.

Note: this is daily

  1. Write
  2. Learn
  3. Have fun
  4. Socialize
  5. Keep the faith
  6. Pump the energy
  7. Do something to help
  8. Work
  9. Laugh
  10. Family in mind
  11. Remember the dead

If I spend a day where I:

  1. Write anything, since it's where I feel most productive
  2. Learn something new, whether it be at work, through a book, or even some trivia
  3. Have fun by watching a movie, going for a walk, or dancing to a nice tune
  4. Talk to people, chat with people, meet people, friends, family, anything
  5. Make sure I don’t forget my religion by reading Quran, praying extra, or even talking to God
  6. Stay energetic, walk, exercise, dance, jump up and down
  7. Help someone at work, donate money, help in a charity, teach math to my kid cousin
  8. Make sure I work on something really, truly, and from the heart so I feel a sense of achievement
  9. Laugh my heart out at a joke, tell a joke, make fun of the world
  10. Keep up with my family, close. Or distant relatives
  11. And finally, make sure I remember one dead person I care about and something to keep their memory alive on this earth

The best thing is that they’re so easy, I can mix them up, like socialize and keep up with the family, remember my late father as we talk, crack a joke about the old times, and it wouldn’t hurt going for a walk as we do it. If I do all the above, I think I will always be happy. I think if I miss a couple of items the world won’t fall apart, but let's call the above the optimum minimum.
And the best thing about it, anything will do as long as I keep in mind why I’m doing it. Easy right? Oh well, I hope I follow up on that one day and say it works great for me, but meanwhile, would you try it too and tell me if it works for you?




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Friday, June 24, 2011

I am an Egyptian Feminist

The word “feminist” on its own is controversial. What is feminism anyway? Who counts as a feminist? Who doesn’t? what do women really want? There is so much to say in relation to one word, most of it doesn’t really have a lot of valuable meaning.

fem·i·nism

noun

1. the doctrine advocating social, political, and all other rights of women equal to those of men.
2. ( sometimes initial capital letter ) an organized movement for the attainment of such rights for women.

The problem is men and women are NOT equal! If anything, women have to go through way too much more than men, which is okay because they are built to do that. If anything, feminism should not be about having men and women as equals, it should be about understanding and appreciating the differences, and working on making the best use of them so that everyone’s happy.
Before I start setting my ideas out, I think I should first shed the light on some ideas that fall under the misconceptions of what women want and what equality is all about. Firstly, women are not stupider than men, they are not incapable of thinking, they are not inferior scientifically, and they are not in any way less of hard workers. Graduating from a college that hardly had any girls, and the girls there hardly noticed that they were girls to begin with, including yours truly, I’ve seen how girls are treated as stupider, work less, work worse, and are commonly conceived as having to memorize first and try to get it later. WRONG! I will not go on defending these concepts because I will be honest with myself and with everyone when I say that the above applies to some girls. In the same sense, everyone should agree that generalization is a disease and people should not generalize in order not to get stereotyped themselves.
Secondly, women are not irrational, emotional, crazy, or anything else that makes them incapable of making coherent and sound decisions. Before anyone speaks up, remember your mothers who raised you and try to reconsider. Just like men, there are the women who make too much sense, and there are the ones who don’t. When women get overcome by emotion, they’re emotional, when they don’t, they’re cold. Just because it may be more common that women are prone to showing more emotions than men due to the fact that the female hormones affect that part of the brain while the male hormones make them more prone to being showy and reckless does not mean that every decision they make is because they were overcome by emotion or that when they shed their emotions aside that they are cold and heartless. The last misconception I’d like to set straight and it is by far not the last on this long list of accusations, women are not weak, they do not always need protection, they are not more vulnerable to the big bad world. Being a woman is not a cry for help or salvation, so let’s have enough of protective and dominant male for a change. As a final note, I will not go into what God given rights we women have because that would be fit for a wholly different series of posts and would not serve a purpose of opinion since they are more facts than anything else.
Now that some misconceptions are out of the way, we can get down to the business of feminism. What I’m about to say, I do not say on behalf of anyone but myself, although I know a lot of friends who agree to some, if not all of my views. The point is not to fall under the misconceptions of stereotyping all over again!
In my opinion, Egyptian women are not oppressed in any way, they are not underprivileged, they are not without rights. However, they, along with the men, seem to idolize society and its rules. If society says women are not to go out alone after dark, then women don’t go out alone after dark. If society says that women should not work, then they will not work. And if society says that women should prefer cucumbers to tomatoes, then women will prefer cucumbers to tomatoes. Society does not set rules, society creates beliefs that are shoved so deeply down our throats as children, both men and women, that it becomes strange to consider moving out of them. Some of these beliefs may be justified by ideas of safety and religion, others are purely nonsense, however we abide by these beliefs in our natural need to be accepted and to blend in. society has also given us values which are where my idea of Egyptian feminists comes from.
I define myself as an Egyptian feminist. By this I mean I am a woman who cares about the basic values and rules of the Egyptian society. I am not trying to be controversial, I am not calling out for rights that we don’t have. I believe that I have the right to work and excel at my work as long as it does not turn me into a robot and takes away from my personal life. I believe that I am smarter and more competent that some men, and that just because I work does not mean I have taken a man’s place who has the right to work and support his family. If I have taken his place, then I’m simply more competent than he is. I may not need to work for money however I most definitely don’t work for charity or to prove myself, I don’t need to prove myself better than men, I already have proven to be an equal at work even though I have to fight for that belief over and over again with some retro people who don’t believe it. I have the right to support my family if I need to, or to help support it if I need to. I have the right to improve my life by however means I see fit as long as they don’t violate any laws, legal, or otherwise. I also have the right to contribute to the world through my work. In my opinion, there are some jobs that women can’t do like construction working or iron working, which is perfectly normal because men and women are have different structures, but coming from a girl that got the comment “she has the arm of a blacksmith,” I’m in no position to judge if the woman is good at it. In other words, if I want to work, and I can work, and I do a good job at working, and I feel good doing it, then let’s see someone tell me not to work because I’m a woman!
I believe in family more than I believe in money. I’ll work hard to maintain both my job and my home and family along with a social life if I can. If I can’t, I’ll prioritize, and my personal priority is having a healthy family where I get to raise my kids not the daycares. It would be however my decision of when and how I will work my priorities not anyone else’s because no one has the right to tell me where my priorities lie, no one has the right to judge me of not doing a good job either just because I’m juggling my priorities and it’s working for me. I believe that if I’m married, my husband should understand that he should also help around with the house and the kids because I have chosen not to be a full time housewife. If he thinks it’s above him then he should make sure he shuts the door on his way out because there is so much one can take without having the pressure of criticism and pickiness hovering over our heads. I believe that I’ll do a better job at cleaning the house, but if he picks up the vacuum cleaner, his manhood isn’t really at stake here, is it?!
I believe that instead of telling girls to be careful out there on the big bad streets of the city, they should teach them self defense in schools so that they never have to be in positions of victims unnecessarily. I believe that instead of blaming girls about how they dress, they should apply the rules against sexual harassment so that all those harassers out there think twice before they consider harassing a girl on the street; we all know it is not about dress and apparel anymore but it has unfortunately become embedded in a culture that makes women victims and thus has to make men predators so that every idiot with an idea can actually become a predator since nothing is stopping him.
I believe that gossip is for people who do not understand the meaning of productivity because they care more about nosing into other people’s lives. I believe that as long as I’m minding my manners and following with the general laws of society, I should not be persecuted for any action I do. Anyone has the right to form an opinion about me or my actions, but if their opinions are going to cause me trouble, they should keep them to themselves which is my basic human right of not getting hurt for nothing which stems out from both religion and society.
Finally, I believe that I am smart enough to think and form opinions for myself even if I am a girl because having testosterone does not entail proper brain activity.
I’m pretty sure all the above seems valid as basic rights to humans and not to women specifically, which is why I want to tell the antifeminists and the hard core feminists out there: “BUD OUT!”















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Monday, June 20, 2011

Staring, Groping, and Getting Your Ass kicked!

I’m a citizen of Cairo Egypt, a city I've lived in all my life and am very much in love with. I guess being too close to the picture to be able to see it clearly applies here since I've gotten used to so many things that apparently seem to be " only in Cairo", or at least are not as apparent in other cities in Egypt. So we get used to the horrible smog and the sky always being a little grayish than bluish. We get used to the dirtier streets, with plastic bags twirling around in the wind, and the lack of trees. Certainly a Cairene girl like me is also used to the horrible amount of sexual harassments on daily basis, Ranging from rude stares to, well, worse things.

I think things started to go south around 10 years ago, or maybe before that I was too young to know. But what I remember distinctly is that I was NOT afraid to walk down the street after dark then, especially in residential areas where the weirdos stood out on the streets. If I was walking with my brother or my mother then no one would even consider glancing sideways at me. If I were alone, I'd get some of the stares and a couple of comments, but at least it wasn't on daily basis. We learn to ignore these comments and these stares because it would be rude to make scenes, and usually they went away when we ignored them. As a side note, I'm not beautiful, I don't have one of those head turner figures, and my clothes are conservative to a great extent. Bottom line, if there are people that say girls have it coming because of the way they look or dress, I wouldn't qualify. That does not mean in any way that I believe in this justification. Things started to progress after a while, the remarks got more obscene, the harassment started to get more physical and most probably to complain would be an invitation for the harasser to get more obscene and for people to stop and stare. At some point, girls lost hope in having someone standup for them when they get harassed publicly, or to be more precise, we lost hope in the existence of "na5wa" in the Egyptian people. We go around avoiding being groped and letting those animals get away with what they're doing. Walking around after dark was an invitation to get harassed. A while later, even if it weren't dark, cars would stop for girls waiting for buses, crowds were issues, and being in broad daylight on a busy street just didn't save us the trouble. Walking with a man down the street does not keep anyone safe anymore, if the man you are with attempts to address the harasser, there was a strong possibility that he'd get stabbed. Not to mention, the idea of ever asking a policeman for help was out of the question since he would most probably start harassing himself, assuming that he wasn't the one who started it.
We got used to it and bore up with it and life goes on, I mean it’s better to hear a word or avoid being touched than have it topped with a scene and listening to words that would most probably hurt more than a wound ever would. One day, the first day of the feast, there were several mass sexual harassment incidents, and the people got really scared. After how that was tackled in the media, the government tried to save face by passing a sexual harassment law, and we heard about a couple of cases for people going to jail for a few years, which was a step in the right direction, but since no one obeyed the law in issues such corruption, embezzlement, or even traffic lights, the law didn't make much difference on the street!

But the revolution came, and it wasn’t just about political demands, it was about the people demanding to be human. It was where the man in every Egyptian finally came out, where respect and pride were the highlights of the demands, and where laws would finally be applied. 18 days without a single harassment case, and suddenly there is hope!

I decided that after the revolution, I will NOT ignore that jerk who decides to intercept me, I'd scream and shout and get Everyone's attention. I will get my rights and I will be scared no more, passive no more, harassed no more. I know that most people will continue to stand still and not interfere because this is the status quo, but maybe one day soon most will turn to some, and some will turn to "selected few" and then it will become the exception rather than the rule. Today we talk against sexual harassment in Egypt. Tomorrow we act against sexual harassment in Egypt and the next day we will stop sexual harassment in Egypt.
I choose to be passive about it no more! Next time I get harassed, there will be some serious ass kicking involved!




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Friday, May 27, 2011

I Believe in Ghosts

I think everyone passed by that deserted old house with the broken windows and the beat down shutters and imagined that maybe it was haunted, maybe if we got too close we’d hear weird sounds. There were always the weird scratching sounds outside our windows when we’re home alone at night. Once, I went around the house holding this really huge torch because I was confused we had intruders and (as if) I was going to hit him on the head with it. We’ve all seen ghost movies going from Casper and ghost busters to movies like darkness falls, the ring, Gothika, and the grudge (that one was way too creepy to consider watching its sequel). I am also a huge fan of horror stories that happen to include ghosts or something like them almost all the time. I don’t believe in ghosts in the sense of all the above, that’s just entertainment and mind tricks. The ghosts I believe in are different.




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Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Personal National Project

It seems that we’ve all been looking for a cause lately. We’ve been cooped up for so long that it seems only natural to want to get out there and do something for the sake of the country and for our sakes as well. We’re thirsty for that sense of achievement; doing something for the sake of doing something, achieving it and succeeding. Who can blame us? After all, we’ve had a revolution and we actually did what we set out to do. To have our own baby project, wouldn’t that be something?




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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Simple Pleasures

I went to visit a friend for advice, and he is a really good advisor. It was more career advice but ended up being a series of sessions about life, the universe, and everything. thankfully, we did not come up with the number 42 anywhere in our conversations. He asked me a question on our first session, and I literally COULD NOT answer no matter how hard I tried. The question was, “what do you feel like doing right now?”




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