August 21, 2009
A friend I met at AUC came to visit me, and we reminisced about our times in Zamalek, drank, ate, and smoked shisha. She showed me an article the Caravan, the school newspaper, had published about the Arab students’ sentiments about the U.S. and Israel. The majority opinion was that 1) Israel has no right to exist; and 2) the U.S. should stop shoving their noses into the Middle East’s business.
Before I begin, I just want to acknowledge that I have very little and limited understanding of any and all Middle Eastern conflicts. (Then again, who doesn’t?) With that said, I think that such statements regarding Israel’s existence are wildly inappropriate. If this is how Arab students in an Arab country feel, shouldn’t they pressure their governments to support the Palestinians, whom they claim are innocent victims of Zionist policies? Last time I checked, almost none of the Arab nations have done anything to help the Palestinians. They recite anti-Israel propaganda, but do little to compromise, or to take in Palestinian refugees.
In terms of Egypt, couldn’t one argue that the Arabs have no right to be there either? I believe the Coptic Christians are the closest relatives of the oldest (and true?) Egyptians. Same for the U.S. It’s been noted many times that the country technically belongs to the Native Americans/Indians. And I don’t think we can easily get started on all of South America. So if you want to argue about who has rights to land, it’s a lost cause.
My other gripe about these arguments is the assumption that Palestinians hate Israel as much as everyone else. When some friends and I visited Hebron and Ram Allah, we asked some people we met how they felt about Israel. While the few people we talked to may not represent all of Palestine, they said that they just want peace. They have no problem with Israel existing, so long as they can visit their families and not be treated as cattle. This seems reasonable, doesn’t it? For someone to ask for peaceful and humane co-existence?
Asking for basic human rights is not a problem. Demanding that an entire country disintegrates is.
August 16, 2009
In Cairo, I met this wonderful man named Gamal. A few friends and I became good friends with him. I continue to write him letters, but I don’t know if he receives them. I don’t know if he can afford to write me back. I also can’t call him because I don’t have his phone number. But I tell everyone about him, and if I ever return to Egypt, it will be to see Gamal.
Cody, Mohammed, Gamal, Kurt, and Mohammed's friend at the Blue Mosque
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August 12, 2009
I started reading this article on Change.org, and their article regarding the Illinois Family Institute. Change.org was encouraging their readers to sign a petition, which was to stop the Crowne Plaza O’Hare from hosting the IFI’s conference. I told my mom about the article and petition, to which she replied “People are entitled to their opinions, and we shouldn’t prevent them from speaking their minds.” It struck me again that, even if I don’t agree with someone else’s opinions, and even if I think they’re totally absurd and go against human rights law, they’re still entitled to their opinions.
And that is what’s so incredible about the United States. No matter how angry some people make us, or how wrong they are, or how ignorant…they are allowed to express themselves and share their thoughts. They don’t have to worry about their lives or their safety or their jobs or their families for being who they are. We are allowed to disagree with each other, and more importantly, our leaders.
I know we don’t have the best human rights record, and we haven’t ratified any conventions either. But we have so many choices and options here. We can even leave if we don’t want to stay. I don’t know about you guys, but when I think about the choices we have, I get chills. Our country is pretty fucking cool.
August 9, 2009
I came across this multimedia project titled “The Price of Sex: Women Speak,” and I’ve wanted to write something about it for the past week or two. Photojournalist Mimi Chakarova interviews and photographs multiple Eastern European women who worked as sex slaves after the collapse of the USSR. Usually I shrug off these types of projects because they’re isolated on the internet, and can only be found by those who are looking for it. But after I watched one of the pieces that illustrated Aurica’s story, I was in awe.
I wasn’t as shocked by her story of assault as I was by her story of escape. She fell off a balcony from six stories high, and broke her spine and pelvis. After spending two months in police detention, she was sent back to Moldova. U.S. Congresswoman Kay Granger met her at a shelter for trafficked women, and sent her to Dallas to have surgery done on her injuries. After months of rehab, she can walk now.
I can’t imagine anything I would want to escape so badly. These multimedia pieces successfully illustrate their struggles, as well as their achievements. I always heard about sex trafficking in the newspapers, and I watched it depicted in movies and TV shows, but these photographs and interviews create a different level of intimacy and, in some ways, respect for these women. I wouldn’t say the images are all individually strong, but as a whole, I definitely recommend you take a look.
It blows my mind that there is such disregard for women’s health and rights. We make up half the population – wouldn’t you think, then, that our rights would be a priority? How can people be so disrespectful and hateful and disgusting? I can’t believe that so many crimes against women go overlooked and uninvestigated. And I don’t believe it’s because the police and governments don’t know. I believe it’s because the pigs out there wants a piece of the pie, whether it be profit from such activities, or indulgence in their perverse desires.
Some day, women will have their revenge. (muahahaha.)
August 4, 2009
First things first: check out my new blog, Cooking with Class while in Class. I finally started a blog about cooking well on a college budget. I know it’s not unique, but I thought I’d give it a try.
In other news, I started reading Three Cups of Tea. I had read about it on other blogs about international development, and my brother and mother read it, so I thought I’d give it a try. And to be honest, I’m having trouble getting into it (I’m at the 8th chapter). The mountain climbing stuff is cool, but after around 20 pages of it, I wondered if the book was really about building schools. I understand that it’s for character and setting development, but it just seems to take too long. As the book continues, it seems to focus on Mortenson’s personal struggles, but I still don’t feel a connection with him. Mortenson’s character development, his struggles, his thoughts, and his ideas are not illustrated enough for me to care either way.
The community, however, intrigues me. Relin’s description of Korphe – while geographically different – reminds me of my time in Moqattam. The people are marginalized. I doubt the Zabbaleen have a decent education system. I definitely want to read to learn more about the people in Korphe, rather than read about Mortenson’s struggles and past. I’d like to think that someday, someone will be motivated enough to build a school for the Zabbaleen communities.
Perhaps I’m too jaded by my own experiences and reading development blogs to appreciate his story. I already know the general story and his obstacles, but maybe the way his story is told doesn’t grab me. Kudos to him for doing all this work to build schools in rural, ignored regions of Pakistan. But is his story worthy or interesting enough of a whole book?
August 3, 2009
I’m back from Washington, D.C. I’m still sweaty, and it’s still humid and gross here in the City, but I’m back.
I’ve never taken a vacation like that in the US. I had traveled a bit while I studied abroad, but I’ve never just left the City for a weekend without an agenda. It was nice. It was especially nice because D.C. has so many things to do. I wish I could’ve spent more time in the museums, and I wish the Spy Museum would’ve accepted my AAM card (I didn’t feel like paying $17 to tour an extremely crowded and busy museum).
Ultimately it was exactly what I needed: just a little more vacation before returning to the havoc of the City. I’ll think of something more interesting to write later, but for now…hello.