Tag Archives: Cairo

Protest

I knew that if there were any demonstrations while I was in Egypt, I was going.  Absolutely, 100%.  So when

Ever wonder how everyone has face paint on for the news?

Sarah got the call to cover a march to the Maspero Building, where 27 people were killed and about 300 were injured just a week and a half ago, I was excited.  We started at Tahrir Square, somewhere I went a lot back in 2009, and a place that became the epicenter of the Egyptian Revolution.  I photographed some demonstrators and signs, and Sarah conducted a few brief interviews. She annotated the entire thing for me. translating a speech here, or pointing out the photo of a martyred blogger there.

We came upon a Salafist demonstration.  I was surprised by how many families I saw, and the carnival-esque atmosphere.  People were selling food and painting faces.  I was embarrassed to admit it, and maybe it was just all the years of training from Western media, but when I saw so many people jumping up and down chanting “Allah u Akhbar” it made me nervous.  And the more Sarah told me about the Salafists, the more comfortable I became with that reaction.

At Sarah’s direction, we (Sarah, myself and her brand new intern Hayden) walked toward the Maspero building.  What was happening at Tahrir was interesting for me to see, but was not newsworthy.  Sheff says there are protests and demonstrations every friday, and that they’re overusing Tahrir.  It took a lot of waiting for Maspero to heat up, but it did.  Music, chanting, and watchful law enforcement.  In Sarah’s attempts to get interviews, we suddenly found ourselves between the Egyptian version of swat (2-3 large vans) and the protestors.  It’s weird the way a crowd takes on a life of it’s own, and moves in fits and starts.  I was glad our position made Sarah nervous, because it made me nervous too.  She was very protective the entire day, holding my hand in crowds and shepherding me around.  I kept getting lost in my lens and not noticing the crowd movements around me.

Joey and Manarcalled and we decided to meet up for dinner, somewhere downtown.  Joey reported through

At the Maspero Building

the Lebanese civil war in 2006, and had war reporter training in DC.  He started Bikya Masr, which makes him Sarah’s boss.  Manar is an Egyptian and also writes for Bikya.  She reminds both Sarah and I of our beloved Alex Chapman, with their calming demeanor and purposeful nature.  We waited in Tahrir for them, and I snapped a few more pictures.  Suddenly Sarah yelled, “do you have your camera?” and we were all running, but only a short distance.  I didn’t even know what I was getting; I just kept clicking the shutter.  An ambulance went past, and apparently the coffin of Essam Atta, but I didn’t see it.  By the time we met up with Joey and Manar, Joey had texted again because he heard someone was shot.  Sarah and Hayden asked around but everyone just kept explaining how Atta died (he was tortured to death by the Egyptian military using water hoses.)

Back at Tahrir, Essam Atta’s coffin passes by for the first time.

After that everything went quickly, but with big lulls in between.  At some point I came to know that someone had been killed, but not right in Tahrir.  He had argued with a cop, and the cop had just shot him. He was 19.  The coffin came back around and with it came crowds and chanting.  We were at high ground, on the edge of the grass in the middle of the square (which is really a circle), but we were still surrounded on all sides by over a thousand people.  After going around the square with the coffin again, the crowd headed off, but no one understood their aim.  We eventually set off on foot, and realized they were going toward the American Embassy.  Just the night before I had been to the Halloween party there, drinking Western alcohol and watching adults make fools of themselves.  As we followed behind, Joey kept checking to make sure we had escape routes, and were at a safe distance.

We were crossing another, smaller square when we heard gunfire.

I think it was just one shot, but I read after that there were multiple.  My heart went double-time and I moved away while looking in the direction of the noise, without thinking.  All five of us were, although Joey and Manar seemed entirely in control of the situation.  The weirdest thing is that we were the only ones doing this.  When we realized we were far from the gunfire, it had ceased, and no one was moving toward us, we stopped to watch Egyptians run toward the sound of a gun at top speed.  I think it takes a lot for a person to run toward the sound of a gun at top speed.  I have a feeling they know by now that if they don’t go investigate something for themselves, they will likely be lied to about what happened.

It turns out the Egyptian military shot into the air, probably blanks.  We got closer, and watched protestors try

Atta’s coffin

to climb over the barricades to get onto the street where the US Embassy resides.  Did I mention we oddly ran into several members of the Egyptian army the evening before, marching in formation down the (closed-off, barricaded) street of the US Embassy?  Strange days.

I was thoroughly nervous and uncomfortable at this point, which is when Sarah started telling me Joey’s credentials and asking if I was alright.  Manar spoke a lot with an older woman, and filled us in on what was going on.  Apparently, this portion of the demonstration was in solidarity with Occupy Oakland, which is in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street.  For those who don’t know, the police in Oakland took violent action against protesters a few days before this, arresting some and using batons and tear gas to break up the peaceful camp.  Joey seemed to also be a bottomless pit of knowledge.  He shared such gems as, “don’t rub your eyes if there’s teargas; use coke,” and, “it was just like this with Maspero, but then out of nowhere the army killed a couple dozen people.”  Smart guy, but not the best for quieting nerves.

Onlookers from an office building as we followed the crowd toward the US Embassy

Eventually it became clear that nothing more would happen that night.  We went to an internet cafe so the reporters could upload and post.  I felt all jangled, and jumped about a mile when the men behind me cheered the soccer game on tv.  I couldn’t believe that just a few streets over, children were laughing and playing with toys.  Someone had been shot, a 19 year old was killed, and Cairo didn’t even blink an eye.

Manar went back to listen to Atta’s mother speak, but we couldn’t find her.  We went to find where the man (boy, really) had been shot, but we deemed it a long walk for no pay out.  Just before we turned around, though, we saw young men running as fast as they could back toward the square, dragging the metal barricades with them.  They opened up the square to cars, making the hundreds of people gathered there vulnerable.  We were all a bit stunned by that move, and kept looking back over our shoulders, waiting for screams or scattering.

In the end, we went home, feet aching.  I was keyed up, but for Sarah, Joey and Manar it was another day at the office.  For Hayden, it was the first of what will be many days at a rather unusual office.  The three journalists went to work spreading truth, and I drank tea and checked facebook.  Later, we put on Halloween costumes and drank beer and partied by the pyramids like nothing ever happened.  I updated my status, like that was the most important thing I could do with what I saw–turn it into and experience on a list, a fun fact, bragging rights.

It was strange being with journalists.  They were much more calm and controlled than I was.  They didn’t raise their voices or pick up signs, and they didn’t allow anyone to paint flags on them.  I was with Sarah, so out of respect for her I followed suit.  To some extent, I had this weird thought that my camera would protect me, that being a journalist would protect me.  I know that’s not true, but it felt like a pretty good get out of jail free card, the way my little blue book used to make me feel.  I also know that I’m not a journalist, not even close.  I put myself at the center of every story.  I apply motivation when I don’t necessarily know it to be true.  I am not in any truly dangerous situations.  I don’t write on any kind of deadline, and these days I don’t write at all.  I don’t even particularly write about anything that matters.  Watching Sarah work made me feel small and incompetent. She compartmentalizes her thoughts and opinions, she is thorough and efficient.  Her Arabic has improved greatly, and the articles she writes get the facts out to a population of Americans who would otherwise not read the truth.

Through it all, I saw so many little acts of civic duty.  People directed traffic, or helped us and others to cross the street.  They protected each other, like the man who stood in front of an open man-hole so no one would fall in.  That’s what he did, he just stood there while we all rushed past, nervous and following the growing, quickening crowd.  Any one of us could have easily fallen in and snapped an ankle at the very least.  People helped each other up onto structures and walls for better vantage points, and so many Egyptians beckoned for me to take their photos.

I’m glad I went to Tahrir.  I’m glad it all became real to me, instead of a liberal pet project, one that is so easy to support from a safe room thousands of miles away.  Feeling the terror of just the noise of one single gunshot, and then feeling the insignificance of that compared to those who have witnessed murder in the street, those who have heard hundreds of gunshots with live ammunition, those who were at the Maspero building and those who suffer in the prisons.  It’s so easy to say that there are things worth dying for, that we should stand up for democracy and freedom no matter what.  But to see a minuscule fraction of what “no matter what,” can really mean magnified for me the true courage of Egyptians and freedom fighters all over the world.

What Does Poverty Look Like?

While In Egypt, I discussed how different poverty looks from one country to another.  I remember first arriving in Cairo and thinking I was looking at slums and abject poverty, and then realizing later that I lived in one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in one of the wealthiest cities in one of the wealthiest countries on the continent.

Mind=blown.

Here, poverty looks different too.  It’s hard to judge individual poverty since almost all buildings are crumbling and in disrepair.   Then there’s the small matter of this being a communist country–a doctor’s salary is going to be on par with a bureaucrat, an athlete’s with a teacher.

Then there are the signs that are different here than in the US.  Clothing, for example.  It simply isn’t all that available.  There isn’t a lot of variety to be had.  Falla, who I think is doing okay financially in his capacity as a professor, radio personality and musician, always looks sharp.  He wears suit jackets and dress pants, and often dresses all in black, especially to perform. Then you notice he always wears the same shoes, which is not a big deal.  But then you notice they’re usually the same black clothes.  Finally, you notice those aren’t dress pants; there are cargo pockets on the sides.  So if Falla, who clearly takes pride in his appearance and has done well for himself and his family, can’t get a couple full suits, how the hell can anyone else?

What do you think poverty looks like in the US?  We often hear that it’s invisible.  Many families go to great pains to look outwardly normal, to remain in the same tax bracket they once occupied even if it’s only in appearance. We hear about parents going without food so their kids grow up healthy, and picking up second and third jobs so their kids wear normal clothes and go to college like everyone else.

What does poverty look like here?  The peanut man, yeah, he’s probably poor.  The people with undocumented residences, also known as ramshackle huts?  Yes, they’re not doing well, but they’re way out of sight, especially from tourists.  Sometimes you notice that a friend is incredibly thin, even though they hide it well in their well-worn clothes.

But then I remember, I live in Vedado.  This is a wealthy neighborhood.  In the economic center of the country.  A country that is often chastised for its “greed” with reminders that it is prospering in comparison with other Latin American countries.  In Padrino’s neighborhood, the rooms are tiny and the plumbing is almost non-existent.  In Alex’s section of our own Vedado, people have gaping holes in their floor and possessions are often stolen.

I’m still trying to calibrate for the Cuban scale of poverty, and even trying to grapple with class and poverty in this, the alleged utopia of the poor.

Learn from Experience

I think it’s important to pause and reflect before, during and after every adventure.  While I did some of that because it was mandated for Egypt, I also did a decent amount of that for this blog.  More often, though, I tried to make this a way of reflecting in a sort of “together” academic sort of way.  Post-Egypt I hit the ground running, so here is a look back at what I’ve learned, whether it be for my next trip to Egypt, travel in general or writing this blog.

When I go back to Egypt:

  • Cairo Jazz. I tried often, but never made it, and I hear it was a blast.
  • Alexandria. We were the definition of gilded cage while there, and I barely got to see any of the great Euro-Arab hybrid city.
  • Speak  more with locals. I’ve got a lot more confidence about my ability to intimidate/tell off strange men or hustlers, so I should stop whining about how the boys get extra practice and just get some myself.
  • Take more pictures. This gets into a bit about traveling as well, but there’s a lot of my experience that I didn’t capture, whether that be Egyptian friends or the khan el-khalily market.  I have a million pictures of ancient things, and I think it kind of burnt me out.
  • Sinai Peninsula. This place is wicked important historically, politically and scuba-ically.  We all wanted to go but weren’t allowed to because of our security detail, and I’ve heard from many that it’s must-see.

Travel:

  • Pictures again. I want to take more pictures of people, and less of stuff, as well as to try to avoid picture burnout.  It should be neither an obligation nor a chore.
  • Pack lighter. I will always and forever say this.
  • Wander around more. We were so busy in Egypt that I didn’t explore nearly enough.  Luckily, with Havana being much safer and my time frame much longer, this should be easy.
  • Plan ahead. I didn’t realize how little time I would have once I was there.  This meant that I didn’t know how much I wanted to do something until my time was almost over.
  • Collect local music. Every day in our vans we listened to some great music, but unfortunately only Wa wa wa made it back.  Cuba is world renowned for its music, and is in fact one of the aspects of Cuban culture I’ve researched before, so I plan to pick up some great CDs.
  • Plan souvenirs ahead. Buy throughout, instead of mostly at the end (so stressful!)
  • Think in the local currency. After all, that’s where you are.  If you don’t heed Miss Asha Fierce’s wise words, you’ll go broke.
  • Carry pen and paper always, and don’t be afraid to take notes. In fact, I want to go one better and bring a voice recorder too for when my thoughts get going too fast for my pen.
  • Buy smart. This applies to everything, but I thought of it when it comes to myself.  The Egyptian skinny jeans and the handmade mirror I bought are among my favorite souvenirs, and they aren’t silly knick-knacks, they are things I will wear and decorate with for a long time.

This Blog:

  • Pictures! I know it makes a big difference when I’m reading the blogs of strangers.  Unfortunately, my internet and computer situation in Egypt made this basically impossible.  I hope to go back and update some old posts with pictures, as well as to post WAY more pictures from Cuba
  • Loosen up. Sometimes I need to just show the basic, emotional part where you’re processing a million things at once, instead of just the polished academic.  The downside?  It makes my mother nervous.
  • Be honest. There are some things I couldn’t be honest about in Egypt, and some things that just would’ve given my mother and Gram a heart attack.  But really, a lot of it wasn’t so bad.  I’d like to show people a more realistic picture, if I can.
  • Take video! I took one or two videos but they were awful and I never posted them.  I have the power, so I figure why not?  In the near future you may see a youtube account with some rough videos off of my canon still camera.
  • Encourage comments. I know how many people read this, and I have a vague idea of who.  At this point, it’s mostly me just saying whatever I want, or occasionally answering questions I’ve heard in person from friends and family or reacting to relevant news pieces.  For those of you family members who are not quite so into the internet, reading a blog without ever commenting/making your presence known is called lurking.  And yes, it’s meant to sound that creepy.  I KNOW you have questions and things to say–people email me or they ask my mom or, more often, they will tell me months after I return.  So comment!  an interactive blog is a fun blog!  I’ve been making an effort lately to encourage comments, which is something I never really did or thought about in Egypt.

What about you?  If you have been to Egypt, travelled or blogged then you should have some suggestions!  Also, since you’re here you read this blog, and doubtless have some suggestions for what I could improve.  For example, Eena requested captions for the pictures, since the few from Egypt don’t really have explanations.  So when I’m in Cuba and all my photos have great captions, you can thank her.  As for the rest of you, what are your suggestions?

An Americaine in Cairo

Recently, I mentioned the time I spent in Egypt to a young (late-20s early 30s), liberal, well-traveled woman, and was surprised by the response.  I gave my usual one-sentence opener, which is that I was there for six weeks this summer, loved it, and can’t wait to go back.

Really?!  I’ve lived everywhere, even Beijing, and that was the worst city for being a woman.  I was so uncomfortable all the time.”

Um, wow.

Granted, that opening line is designed to intrigue, confuse and incite discussion.  But this is the first time I’ve encountered someone who not only had actually been there, but is in pretty much all the same demographics as me, and does not want to go back.  Not only that, she was thoroughly uncomfortable.  So in light of this, I think it’s about time I reflect succinctly on my time there, through the lens of a young, white, liberal, ostentatious, middle-class American woman.

Oi, what a mouthful.

First, I need to emphasize the ways in which my experience was different from that of the average tourist.  I honestly believe that I have a very different view of the country based on my education before and during my trip, as well as the nature of my trip (ie length of time and breadth of cultural immersion).

  1. I speak Arabic. This is huge.  I am not amazing at it, I was nowhere near the best in our group (VERY much to my chagrin), but I made a sincere effort and that changes both how people treat you and how you are able to assess any given situation in-country.
  2. I have studied the culture and politics far more than your average person. I am by no means an expert, again, but I do believe that I am better versed in religious and cultural practices, as well as the politics of the region and Egypt in particular, than most westerners.
  3. I had Ilham. This is a biggie.  Ilham is not only academically versed in the Arab World, but she straddles western and middle east culture.  Born in Lebanon, educated in France and the US, she was able to help us through some of the roughest of cultural clashes, successfully staving off culture shock as well as making us smarter, better people.  In short, as the Pasha would say, “Ilham is a bomb lady.”
  4. I stayed there for a long time, by tourist standards anyway. The people in our neighborhood got to know us and left us alone.  I also became quite used to the Egyptian way.
  5. We had security. We’re not entirely sure for who’s benefit they were there, and sometimes they were more present than others, but I was definitely treated differently at Khan el-Khalili market when a suit was overseeing all my haggling.

Now there were a few things that helped me thrive in Egypt that aren’t necessarily specific to my trip, and that I highly recommend for anyone traveling to that area.

  1. I have a good eff-off face. This is key on the subway, in the market, and walking down the street.  People know to leave you alone, which is how I was able to walk through the market in Luxor, by myself, and be left mostly alone.
  2. I went off the beaten path. This is  one of the biggest points of our program, Dialogue of Civilizations.  I talked to Egyptians who had never spoken to Americans before.  I went to the other side of the Nile in Luxor, where all the natives live.  I went to a tiny village where there is virtually no crime or illness.  If all you see is the pyramids at Giza and the men and children who hock their wares, you will have a very skewed version of the country.  It would be like coming to the US and only seeing Disney World, or a rural WalMart.
  3. I had a support system. Every day, I had intense cultural discussions with Janine, Sarah, Allyson, Katie, Alex and Anthony.  There were 25 of us Americans, all experiencing roughly the same things, and we really helped each other talk through every awkward, uncomfortable or confusing encounter.  If I hadn’t had a bunch of smart, kind people to  air these issues with, I probably would’ve internalized them and gotten upset.  I highly recommend not going alone for your first time in Egypt, and definitely talking about the issues you encounter.

Alright, now that the full-disclosure is done, here’s my take.  Were there uncomfortable moments, derived entirely from the fact that I was female?  Yes, of course.  There was an incident in a restaurant and a similar one outside the train station that freaked me out.  There were men who didn’t realize I knew what they were saying.  There were times when I was really angry at the American guys I was with for not understanding when we needed protection and when they were just a nuisance, pleasing themselves.  But unlike the woman I spoke to, I was comfortable walking around alone during the day, at least in Zamalek.  The first week we were there I took a cab alone.  An intense experience, of course, but I got through it just fine.

On the flip side, a lot of this has to do with my own personality.  I pointed out the restaurant thing to the girls I was with, who were disgusted.  I later told some girls about the train incident, which no one else witnessed but was clearly directed at me, and they were all shook up, and kept asking if i was okay.  It was disgusting and undesirable, but I was in no way hurt.  As for the cab, one of the guys pointed out that I was one of the (if not the) only girls on our trip to do that solo, especially so early on.

As far as Egyptian women, I did not have the same perception as the woman who told me she wouldn’t go back.  I did see them walking at night, and I did see them by themselves.  On the other hand, I know from my research the ways and frequency with which many of them are cat-called or physically abused, and it is revolting.

So, my conclusion?  Yes, I still would go back.  And I know I will, someday.  There’s a sort of balance between cultural understanding and maintaining your personal integrity.  There’s also that balance between my own feminist ideals and the reality of life in Cairo.  Yes, I did once  tell off a cab in colorful Egyptian because I had simply had enough of being treated like that, but most of the time I kept my cool about it, the same way I do when I’m treated that way in America.  I don’t mean to make excuses for men behaving poorly, but I honestly don’t think it was much worse than how I am treated here, with just a few exceptions.

I think the biggest measure is that in the end, when I reflect on my time in Egypt and what it meant for me academically, personally and socially, the catcalls aren’t even on my mind.

Division of Labour

We visited the ICRC (Red Cross/Red Crescent) and met with a rep in the hottest room imaginable.  I didn’t faint, but it was dicey for a while.  Despite the heat, it was one of my favorite lectures.  It’s amazing to hear people who are good at this (this being diplomacy, public speaking and representing something other than themselves) field questions.  His job is a mix between relief work and politics, and I was eating it up.

Unfortuntely, some in our number lack the legal background to really learn from the talk.  They spent their time asking uninformed questions and then rudely carried out silly debates during the rest of the q&a.  No, you don’t need to fight about what defines “advanced warning” or “civilians” in international humanitarian law (IHL), because teams of lawyers already have.  When these questions flared up I was really grateful for Kim Jones’ class (Human Rights in the Middle East), and the background I’ve gained from UNA.

Some in our number were freaked out by the morals of the ICRC.  The man was pretty realist (especially about the organization) but not as hardcore as the Arab League ASG.  Some people get upset because the ICRC doesn’t publicly oppose war, or always cause a ruckus over various violations it finds.  However, the ICRC has to face certain realities.  The man we spoke to emphasized that Amnesty International (AI) and the ICRC are both very different, but both very necessary.  AI does field research, releases reports and draws publicity in order to put pressure on various states. ICRC on the other hand does relief work in the field, and don’t go back to their offices for quite some time.  If the ICRC publicly denounces a state r a practice, they jeopardize their ability to help people on the ground.  In the end, there’s only so much merit to being right if you can’t help anyone, as demonstrated by the fact that the ICRC is the only organization still allowed in Sudan.  Being loud and right has its merits, but it doesn’t mean a damn if there’s no one to immediately help in the field.

Meanwhile, some disagree with the idea of relief work as opposed to development aid, the idea being that with proper (western?) development, there would no longer be a need for  relief work.  The ICRC steps in during natural disasters though, and no amount of infrastructure can stop those, and even “civilized” states can have civil war or be invaded.  Even  if the premise that good development aid=no relief work later was true, one would still need the ICRC in the meantime.

After the lecture we had an intense discussion in the van.  Finally, the powder keg of 25 politically minded smartasses went off.  I hnestly can’t believe it took this long!  It was an enjoyable day though, and I actually didn’t argue for a while and just watched others do it–I may have even learned a few tricks.

Nahdet Mahrousa

We visited an incubator NGO (non-Governmental Organization) within Egypt, called Nahdet Mahrousa (Renaissance of Egypt) a few weeks ago.  The incubator selects possible projects and helps them turn into full-fledged, self-sustaining NGOs that are independent financially and otherwise. NM promotes better standards of health and education, as well as tolerance, employment, financial independence and dignity.  They’re a homegrown group of diverse Egyptians who wanted to help combat the infant mortality rates, high unemployment and brain drain that have been such a problem for Egypt.

NM provides legal assistance, research, HR, funding, branding and PR advice, training and project development ideas.  Some of the NGOs they have helped get off the ground include the Young Innovators Award (YIA), which awards Egyptian high schoolers with the funding to carry our their innovative ideas.  This is an attempt to promote more science and technology in Egypt, and often helps the students land jobs with companies that want to buy their innovations.  Another NGO hey helped create was CEDO, a group that has put career services offices in all the public universities of Egypt.  Previously, only wealthy students who could afford to go to private universities got the kind of career advice that comes standard with a college education in the US.  Now, students who never took a university-level english class can have help going over their resume, or preparing for an interview.

Marisa–you’d be so proud of me!  I networked my little tush off!  I got a few business cards and they said I can send my resume to them for the next coop cycle (sorry mom!).  It would be unpaid but phenomenal, and I absolutely need to find a way to get back here, so we’ll see how that goes.  I would absolutely LOVE to work with them, but so far my Arabic isn’t quite good enough.

What’s amazing is that NM just now (after five years) hired their first PR person for their own organization.  They explain their success (and constant interview requests) by saying that, “good news travels fast.”  I can’t help but thinking that wouldn’t exactly be the case in the US.  But then again, in a country where so few people are (effectively) tackling unspoken issues, a group that dedicates itself to just that must stand out.

Obama Dollar

Everybody here looooves Obama!  Or at least that’s what they say when we come to their stores….  People ask us for Obamadollars and will chant and yell about him whenever they see us.  No one even brings up the buffoon.

I can’t get over how strange it is to see the words going from left to right right now!  Tomorrow is my last Arabic class in Egypt and I’m gonna miss it, as crazy as the language is (words include mumkin, shibshib and btishtigil), I really enjoy it.  Of course, I will take it in the spring back at NU and I’m practicing as much as I can while I’m still here.

I WILL NOT GET TO SEE OBAMA

The city is basically shutting down.  We’ve all been told not to expect to get anywhere.  The security at the event (recently announced to be at Cairo Univserity) will be insane, and only fifteen students from each class at Cairo U will be permitted to go.  Most tickets are going to higher ups, and extras are being used to curry favor left right and center.  The embassy people we met wiht a few weeks ago basically laughed at us when we asked about being able to go.  They were befuddled by our idea of a watch party in the embassy’s gigantor auditorium.  As you may be able to tell, things haven’t gone so hot between us an the embassy.

So I’ll probably watch the speech in my local cafe with all the other Cairenes, because sometimes a US passport actually isn’t enough.

side note: my computer is dead.  I dunno yet if it’s a coma or what, but that means I can only get intertubes by bumming a computer from a friend or going to an internet cafe where the owner tries to ask me out.  So yeah, he now thinks I’m married and I have no intention of returning.  So don’t expect much contact between now and when I return, unfortunately.  I’m still writing away like mad, though, and will post asap, even if that means posting entries i wrote in Egypt from the comfort of the Terrace.