Tag Archives: egypt

On the Two Year Anniversary of this Very Blog

Happy Anniversary

Happy Anniversary Blog

Tonight, at my apartment while my roommates are out with their boy things and I just got back from improv practice with an awkward 30 minutes before I need to sleep so I can drone appropriately at the office tomorrow, I pick up my computer from my desk – the same computer I’ve had for nearly six years, the one that’s been with me to several continents and now makes disgusting whirring sounds if it’s left on for too long, and I sit down in bed, and I tell myself that I am going to do this, that I am going to face my bloggerly self, and I log into my WordPress account for the first time in 2 months.

I see a tiny trophy in the corner of the screen where WordPress tells me how much everyone loves me and wonder what I did to earn it this time. Turns out, it’s the 2-year anniversary of This Very Blog. All of the sudden it became clear, my blog had called me to itself for a purpose. It wanted me to remember its birthday.

Let me take you back, all the way to May 26th, 2011 and the birth of Snotting Black.

I had just graduated from Boston University and was another bleary-eyed, short-snouted, two-toned Boston Terrier entering what I hopefully and unimaginatively called the real world.

I was in the middle of a euphoric semi-relationship that seemed like the most exciting thing that had happened in the course of history, had spent a dreamy weekend with my family in Bar Harbor, Maine, a city so quaint even the squirrels have impeccable manners, and then had flown all the way to Cairo, Egypt, where I was entering a one-year Arabic program to finally become fluent in a language I had studied since I was a senior in high school.

I wrote my first blog post from the airport in Boston and was instantly hooked. Turns out, I loved exhibitionism and making even my most ridiculous thoughts available for the world.  I blogged almost every day for a year.

I blogged from the dusty couches and furniture of three different Cairo apartments and one balcony. I wrote about sandwiches and revolutions and expatriates and travel and unicorns and instant coffee as I dealt with the immensity of Cairo and its endless high rise apartments and highways filled with people and as I traveled here and there where I could – Italy, Ethiopia, Turkey. I got out of a relationship and into another one.

The year in Cairo ended. I wasn’t fluent in Arabic and in fact didn’t much care for studying the language anymore. I was ready to go home.

So home I went to Oklahoma, where I co-delivered a knock-out speech at my sister’s wedding, and then moved to San Francisco in order to follow my dreams, which were undefined. Something about writing and performing and being universally loved and known. As the days pass, my blogging dies down. There’s not enough time between relationship, hostessing, babysitting, and job-hunting to keep it going steady.

Then I get a “real job” and time speeds up. I’m busy almost every night, either with improv, which is now a huge part of my life, tech meet-ups, concerts, lectures, or friends. I find it almost impossible to stand still.

I rarely blog, even though I renewed the domain name under snottingblack.com and changed the description a couple of times to try to refocus it. But I don’t know what it’s about, and when I think about blogging I think of sitting on the balcony in Cairo breathing the night air and watching the bats in the trees.

But life goes on: I’ve eaten at over 30 different breakfast places in the Bay Area, ended a relationship, have a hole in my work shoes, and brought my work computer home this past weekend even though I knew I wouldn’t use it.

Two years is not a very long time for a stone or a 30-year old. But it seems like long time for me. Rather, I’m surprised that all those experiences added up to be 2 years. It seemed shorter than that. Am I who I thought I would be two years ago? The older I get, the younger I feel, and the newer the world seems to me. I hope that lasts forever.

I do know that some of the Cairo dust that graced the crevasses of my keyboard in those first months of blogging passion is still jammed in there, and that’s comforting for some reason. Those parts of my life are still around and always will be.

I guess Walt Whitman said it best when he said, “I could talk about myself and my experiences forever.” And that’s why he created blogging.

Happy Anniversary.

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Did You Hear? Them Right Wing Politics Is Crazy.

The mustache says “I’m reasonable.” Everything else says he isn’t.

When I came back from Egypt to Oklahoma and American politics, I was disappointed to find similar political currents in the two countries.

Just like advocates of the Muslim Brotherhood, there are some people in the states who would love to see the ascendance of religion in government. And I’m not talking about Muslim extremists plotting a White House takeover.

Rather, I’m talking about a bunch of rather special conservatives who are doing their darndest to take American politics back a few hundred years.

Take Paul Blair, for example. This is a man from Edmond, OK, a pastor at a local church, who has decided that he wants to run for Senate in order to keep the government from getting any bigger (or better), and defend “traditional, Biblical values and our constitution.”

His biggest selling points are his mustache and his exclusively conservative voting record, if that tells you anything about the environment here. And despite how much I attempt to ignore politics, I have heard about this man and seen his ridiculous mustachioed political advertising, which means he has a crap ton of money to campaign with. Plumber Joe, don’t believe Blair when he says he’s just like you.

One of the things that pisses me off the most about Mr. Paul Blair’s campaign is his logo, which is really dumb. Take a look at it here. It’s an American flag topped with a tiny cross.

I’m sure what Blair meant to convey with this truly horrendous act of campaignage was that he’s going to haul his Christian morals to Capital Hill so they remain in our government where they belong.

What I understand from the flag/cross hybrid is quite different. I understand that Mr. Blair either knows very little about American history and government or is willing to bait voters with dangerous religious rhetoric. I understand that Blair does not respect the division between church and state and would prefer the two again become one. In this way, we can re-create ourselves in the image of great nations like Saudi Arabia, Morocco, and Egypt, where religion is an integral part of state identity.

I understand that just like supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, Blair believes that the government should have a central role in regulating morality, especially through legislation based on a holy document.

Between me and Blair, I believe I am the only one that has lived in an extremely conservative society with a poorly functioning government. (Just to clarify, I’m talking about Egypt here.) There were aspects of Egypt that I liked, but for the most part, I don’t want to see America becoming like it politically in any way, shape, or form. Pluralistic societies are awesome.

So, Mr. Blair, please put down your American cross bayonet before you march into office and start any more ridiculous wars or legislation, and think about the fact that many Christians would be disgusted to see you using a symbol of their religion in order to promote your campaign. While you’re at it, consider how scary it is for many people to see that you are a “Patriot Pastor,” part of an organization called “Reclaiming America for Christ.” Yikes.

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We Can Make America Better

Sunsets can make anywhere beautiful.

I graduated from college on Sunday, May 22, 2011 and one week later I was in Boston Logan International, throwing my sheets away to make weight for baggage and wondering what I had gotten myself into.

Within twenty four hours, I was standing in the lobby of the Mayfair Hotel in Cairo, suppressing the urge to cry as I begged the concierge to let me check in without my passport, which I had left at the airport when I was filing a claim for my lost baggage. No possessions and no identity, I was ready to start the year.

Things looked up from there, however. I made friends with people in my program, found an apartment despite the fact I had never been to Cairo and didn’t speak Egyptian Arabic, and never died on the Metro (by asphyxiation) on my way to class.

That being said, Cairo was not an easy place to live for me. My (subjective) opinion of Cairo is that it’s not a great place for humans to live in general. There’s no room for them and the poverty crushes everyone. Though I had traveled before to the Middle East, to countries with dictatorships and to places with poverty (including the U.S.), I never felt it like I did in Cairo.

This was a people that had been robbed of their money, of their dignity, and in some cases of their humanity. The former regime stole billions of dollars, exploited and oppressed the people, and dis-empowered them completely through poor education programs, through intimidation, and through endless lies.

As the year went by, I slowly became more resentful of the city, of the pollution, of the seemingly endless harassment, of the constant nuisances, and at the bottom of it all I was reminded daily that I, through no power of my own, had been born in America to a nice middle class family. I was a walking symbol of power and of global injustice. The fact I carried an American passport gave access to more respect and opportunities than most Egyptians would ever get.

When people in the states ask me, “Did you love Cairo?” or something about the Muslim Brotherhood or if it was safe over there, it’s hard for me to know how to respond because these questions don’t mean anything to me.

I want to talk about a people crushed by the boots of an exploitative government and how repression reflects itself in every social facet. I want to talk about women’s rights and equality in the Middle East and in the United States of America. I want to talk about how ignorance affects political systems in America and in the Middle East (I’m not saying that people who support the Muslim Brotherhood are necessarily ignorant. That’s a different blog post). I want to talk about how violent crime is more prevalent in many American cities than in Cairo.

Usually I come back from abroad slightly more patriotic. I want to kiss the sweet American earth and hug Uncle Sam while setting off firecrackers and singing “God Bless America.” It was the same this time but different.

As I looked at the rows of American flags in the Chicago O’Hare International Airport and listened to patriotic music in the immigration line, I kept on thinking, “We can make this better.”

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7 Rumors About Snotting Black Debunked

Yippee. Happy Anniversary, bloggy-dearest.

This post is in honor of my blog’s one year anniversary, which I forgot to mention 2 weeks ago.

1. I started this blog 378 days ago after losing a bet to my cousin Darayla about whether or not Grandma would drop her false eyelashes in the potato salad again on Memorial Day.

FALSE. Darayla is a name I made up, and as per my inclusion in a “cult,” I do not celebrate the national holidays of this country, instead using that time to plan its overthrow and enjoy powered soup mixes. I started this blog on May 26th, 2011 after being begged by family members not to plague their inboxes with novellas about my time in Cairo like I had done the previous year when I was in Morocco. However, I soon stopped writing about factual experiences so they still had to communicate with me.

2.  This blog used to provide hard hitting political and social commentary about life in Egypt, and at one point the government even considered it a threat and tried to keep me quiet by to bribing me with a hot tub full of Nutella.

FALSE. I blogged about things like mosquitoes and a sandwich I ate once that didn’t give me food poisoning and one that did. Soon my mind left for flights of fancy and I was writing about unicorn carcasses and self-aware blogs. But it’s true that I did eat enough off and on brand Nutella to fill a hot tub.

3. I majored in International Relations and used to want to become Secretary of State and wear a pantsuit to work.

TRUE. Now I want to “be a writer” and am moving out to San Francisco to “make it big.” I’m still trying to figure out which career path was more realistic.

4. My entire family is incredibly supportive, reading my blog daily and sending me cookies when appropriate.

FALSE. My blog is not for everyone, especially the older and more conservative members of my family who could never understand why (everything I find funny) is funny. I learned from my sister roughly two months ago that, “Grandma doesn’t read your blog anymore.” To be honest, I was surprised that she made it that far.

5. Number five was missing in this blog post until the blogger’s mother asked her, “Did you mean to leave out number five?” after which the oversight was hastily and obviously corrected.

FALSE. There has never been a typo on Snotting Black, especially in one of the Freshly Pressed pieces.

6. 378 days is equivalent to 9,072 hours, 544,320 minutes, 32, 659, 200 seconds, and 58 jello salads.

FALSE. 378 days is equal to 9,072 hours, 544,320 minutes, 32, 659, 200 seconds, and 67 jello salads.

7. Soon, Snotting Black is going to change completely and become a paid community where I carefully curate everyone’s personal details and share them on an organized basis with the other members until all forms of privacy are completely obliterated.

TRUE. See above answer about “cult” membership. We like to call it Stew Wednesday.

Highlights of a year of blogging: Being Freshly Pressed twice (here and here), meeting awesome members of the blogosphere, re-discovering my love of writing, and using the term “blog fodder.”

Low points of a year of blogging: The post “Will it stick: Thanksgiving Edition” and the blog title “Noodle Haste Makes Taste Waste.”

Real search terms that people have used to find my blog: “I used somebody else’s toothbrush and now I have a sore tongue,” “I hate my puppy,” “Abba demonic music,” “my dirt family,” “snot in my ear,” “stump arm,” 44444444444444444444444444444444444444444444444444,” and finally “chacos as deal breaker.”

Happy Anniversary and thanks for reading.

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I Hope My Family Likes Their Piles of Dirt

This one’s for Dad.

My year in Cairo is winding down, coming to a close, kicking the bucket, hiding in the dumpster, etc. Throughout the past year, I was careful to avoid purchasing any gifts for my family, keeping my tradition of delaying present buying  until “later,” which usually translates into “3 hours before my flight when I can only spend $2 on each gift and end up buying everyone decorative paper weights and nun figurines.”

But this time it’s going to be different, especially because the last time I went home, in December, I got desperate and gave my family Digestives and Hobnobs for Christmas. I might as well have put five packages of Chips Ahoy! under the tree. This semester I vowed to do better.

I began my gift hunting early, seeking something that would embody my Cairo experience in a way that my family would both appreciate and enjoy. After looking through all of the boutiques in Zamalek and perusing the stalls of Khan al-Khalili, I realized that these stores sold  worthless knickknacks that lacked the essence of Cairo and were inauthentic pieces of pre-trash.

That’s when I stumbled on the idea of getting each member of my family their very own piles of Cairo dirt, a fun substance that we eat, breathe, and live every moment of our Cairo existence. My family could use the piles as office, home, and lawn decoration and the dirt can also be used as weed killer, teenager-repellent, and an acceptable replacement for some spices.

I wandered through the city, looking for piles of dirt that I felt represented my family. I found one with some horse poop in it and thought of my mom because her sister loves horses, and right near there I found one with an animal bone in it and thought instantly of my brother. Just days ago, I was walking to the supermarket and saw one that had a syringe stuck in it and knew I’d found the perfect pile for my sisters (they love sharing things.) And then finally, I found one with a Twinkie wrapper sticking out of it, and it was as if Dad spoke to me and said, “This pile of dirt is for me, Emily.”

I filled up a jar for each family member so they can place their mini-pile anywhere they want (in the bathroom! the kitchen! the shower!) and think of me and Cairo every time they look at it. The idea might be a little cheesy, but I’m a sentimental gal and I do sentimental things.  I can’t wait to see the look on their faces–they’re going to be so surprised!

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