Tag Archives: holidays

I Plead Ignorance

I know nothing

Dear People of the United States,

I do not know what’s going on in Egypt. I was mildly aware of the political environment while I was there only because my friend practically lived in Tahrir Square and I am in a program with people better than I. There was also the occasional article I accidentally read because it was sent directly to my inbox and I clicked the link thinking  it was going to be a funny montage of fuzzy animals, babies, or Republican presidential candidates.

I realize it’s tempting to think I might know something about the political situation, since I just returned from living in Cairo for 6 months. I can see how you might guess I had picked up a newspaper every now and then, engaged in some political activism, or even absent mindedly absorbed the news on television, which would require nothing besides turning the device on and sitting in front of it. But, again, I have to insist that your guesses and assumptions are erroneous, and any attempt to get a short political analysis of the “sitch” will embarrass both me and you. Me, since I will be once again confronted with my staggering political ignorance, and you, since I will decline to admit that openly and tell you something which may prove to be wrong.

Therefore, upon hearing that I have been studying in Egypt, please refrain from asking me, “Are they going to pull themselves together?” or “What’s going on over there?” or “What about the women?” Though your guess to these questions is not as good as mine, both our guesses are equally likely to be wrong.

Worse still, please do not try to talk to me about your own political analyses that you’ve compiled by reading a few articles in the New York Times. The mere fact that you’ve done this will embarrass me and I will be forced to act like I know what you’re talking about. Please don’t make me do this. Your analyses are also likely wrong, but I will be unable to tell you that since I’ve done none of my own research. I might say something like “if 85% of Egyptian people don’t know what’s going on, how am I supposed to?” This statistic is a lie, but it feels right to me considering how much confusion I’ve felt about the situation, and I refuse to stop using it.

I agree with you it’s a shame I don’t know more.  To that end, I’ve resolved to become more informed on Egypt’s internal politics from now on. But that means that I’m a student, just like you, and hate being interrupted when I’m studying. So…if you  have an urgent question about Egyptian politics, if you and Jerry made a bet at the office Christmas party on which presidential candidate was going to be the subject of a smear campaign courtesy of the Supreme Council of Armed Forces, then I recommend you read Al-Masry Al-Youm and Al-Ahram for starters, in addition to the New York Times. If your thirst has not been slaked, you could continue onto read political analysis from Foreign Policy and Jadaliyya.

After reading every article, please send me a short summary, making sure to include the central points and main conclusion. I thank you in advance for helping me educate myself on the country that I’ve been living in. This is, after all, a group effort.


Emily Drevets

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Home Again. Police Coming Soon.

They made me throw my peanut butter away. You’ll be hearing more about this.

One mad dash in an airport, one jar of forcibly discarded peanut butter, my inaugural first-class experience complete with whisky, five days in a beloved city, three haphazardly finished final projects, a handful of not-so-final goodbyes, and one eager familial greeting at an airport after watching my airplane acquaintance, a man, walk into the women’s bathroom…..and I’m home.

Have I missed Oklahoma? Of course not. I’ve missed the humans that inhabit its suburban sprawls, specifically the ones that populate a small brick structure in an unremarkable town known for its ability to grow children well and then make them to want to leave.

The feeling of home, for me, is a combination of extreme fondness coupled with the intense panic at the thought I might never escape. Escape might seem a strong term to those who find Oklahoma’s tender chicken fried steak more toothsome than even the most succulent Kobe beef. And that’s fine. Here in America we have the sometimes ill-advised freedom to maintain and revel in our ignorance though we risk people on the coasts mocking us for it. I, however, have always needed to get away from Oklahoma, my efforts landing me most recently in Egypt where I have had a most rewarding experience.

Nevertheless, towards the end of the semester, I was looking forward to being in America, where I could walk down the street without turning even one brow, where honking the horn is the exception not the rule, and where there are sidewalks–usable, beautiful, sidewalks. America was once again the promised land, and my home, the most familiar place on earth, was now the object of my yearning.

Despite all this, as soon as I got off the airplane in Oklahoma City I remembered why I had wanted to escape. It’s not because I suddenly recalled how much I resent my dog or the fact my family only got a big screen tv as soon as I had left the country after waiting 18 years to upgrade. It’s not the annoying Central Plains female haircut or the cowboy boots that are as plentiful as Cairo street cats on a garbage pile.

It’s the fact I’m a wanted criminal. Forget all that sentimental mumbo-jumbo. I’m on the run and have been ever since my senior year in high school. After all that crazy revolutionary time in Egypt, I forgot the charges have not been dropped and that police officers with gravy still wet on their whistles will be hot on my tail as soon as I step foot inside my county, which I have already done.

So…thanks for the soup, Ma, and I hope you enjoy the cannolis since I won’t be coming back until some kind of computer virus destroys the record databases, expunging me of all crimes. PEACE!

Note: this is a joke. To my knowledge, I am not a wanted criminal.

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Woah! Snow!

Sometimes, the snow loses its charm

EVERYONE LOOK! THERE’S SNOW FALLING ON MY BLOG! It’s either the magic of the season or the fact I checked the box that said “let snow fall on this blog until January 4th.” Whatever it is, it’s enchanting. The holidays really are coming! Wishes really do come true! Polar bears do love cuddling more than mauling!

Because of these animated snowflakes drifting across my online pastime, I know my homework will somehow be done, though it be of poor quality and turned in late.

Gifts for my family and A-list friends will be purchased, though at the last minute and with the pocket change I’ve spared from my final get togethers with friends at expensive restaurants.

I will survive the next week and a half, though in order to eat I will likely have to borrow money that may or may not be paid back after the break.

And the mosquitoes will die when the sun finally blows up and the earth is burnt to a crisp.

This snow is a continual reminder while I’m looking at my blog that holiday times coincide with cold weather in some parts of the world. It reminds me of the Christmas lights I will be seeing in abundance very soon and the obnoxious old Christmas songs I will once again hear ad nauseam once I reach the United States of America. It is a reminder that nothing is wrong during this time of year, that winter is just beginning and the snow is still a novelty, and that everyone is happy.

Thank you, snow, for doing all you do. I dread January 4th, when you go away from my blog just as people in the Northeast, Upper Midwest, and North-Central plains realize their snowdrifts will not melt until late April. I, however, will be in Egypt, where there will be no snow and no drains in the streets for years to come. I’ll probably be wearing t-shirts and high fiving my friends by early March, laughing at how foolish everyone was to welcome the fluffy precipitation only a few months earlier.

But for now, let me love the snow and look forward to its temporary promise of renewal. Let me imagine the world’s sins covered in a white blanket and Christmas carols. Let me believe in the fable of the perfect Christmas one more time.

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Ready, Set, Feast!

Post-iftar….destruction in the wake of the swarm

I have eaten every day of Ramadan. Everyday, I wake and eat breakfast, wait a little while, then eat dinner, wait a little while more, and then eat my spoonful of peanut butter about 2 hours before bedtime. This differs from how fasting Muslims eat during Ramadan in a number of ways, mostly the part involving eating during the day and probably the peanut butter as well.

From the time of the call to prayer around 3:30 am to the sunset call to prayer around 6:45 pm, fasting Muslims are not to eat any food or drink any water. Though one is ravenous, eating is prohibited even slightly before hearing the sunset call to prayer. Feel free to twirl your fingers in a bowl of spaghetti or dunk your head in a puddle, but none of those substances may enter your body and begin journeying through the digestive tract.

Though I have eaten out in restaurants frequently during Ramadan, honoring my pledge to cook for myself no more than 3 times a month, I have only eaten twice in a restaurant right at the time of iftar, the break fast, the moment everyone has been waiting for with grumbling tummies and cottonmouth .

Tonight was one of those times twain: we arrive to the restaurant a little late, at about 6:30, and it is completely filled with patrons who are neither eating nor drinking. A buzz fills the air as people converse hungrily with one another, the waiters flit around setting food on tables, and others customers stare off into space, tiny drumsticks floating above their heads.

The hour continues to approach; the buzz reaches its height. Many tables are completely filled with delicious treats like hot bread the size of a large pizza and steaming bowls of meat and spices…oh joy! I stare at the food on everyone’s table as they gaze into space, trying to forget about their hunger during these last painful minutes.  The victuals themselves begin to speak in honeyed tongues, tempting the hungry souls:

“I’m a refreshing bottle of cool water….drink me! It’s almost time anyways, what does God care if one of his thirsty and deserving servants takes just one sip before the call to prayer? You know Auntie Fatima is going to elbow you out of the way as soon as she hears it just like she did last night…she’s always the first one to drink and no one says anything because her husband died ten years ago. As if you could blame him for wanting to escape her. Cowards! Drink me! Drink me!”

“I’m a tasty piece of roast meat….look at the color of my skin. Just look at how golden and crinkly it is! Look at it! How tender I am underneath a swift crunch! I just popped out of the oven. Can you detect the meaty scent wafting off the sides of me? I’m getting colder by the second! Auntie Fatima’s fleshy paw is going to grab me before you’ll ever sink your teeth into me. Eat me! Eat me now!”

And just when the temptation seems unbearable and even death would be preferable to this never ending hell, a waiter turns the television up. Could it be?? Yes! It is! It’s the call to prayer ( played 5 times a day on many television stations. I’m not sure which ones). Someone begins drinking water, the rest soon following in a joyous free for all in which no one is blamed for chewing too loudly, putting another mouthful of food in before finishing the last one, or knocking their little sister over while reaching for the juice. Images that come to mind when viewing the scene: my family around a plate of hot cookies, the game hungry hungry hippos, and swarms of any kind, barring swarms of koala bears or sloths.

I find myself eating with extra vigor despite the fact I was not fasting. In fact, I had just eaten my 6 o’clock snack to make sure I wasn’t insane with hunger when we got to the restaurant, in effect avoiding anything resembling a fast. I guess we all celebrate Ramadan differently.

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Twas the night before Ramadan

Some Ramadan decorations…not the most impressive, just the closest

Twas the night before Ramadan and all through the flat,

No one was stirring, not even the mat

In front of the bathtub in spite of its mold,

Not to mention the pile of laundry to fold.

Emily was curled next to her laptop with care,

Playing too much with her freshly washed hair,

As she wondered what sights the morrow would bring,

The possibilities all in her head turning.

She had seen sprucing up for the past several weeks,

Lights and lanterns appeared and people clogged up their leaks.

She saw tapestries hung all full of colours bright

Pleasant figures in Alpha Market’s window one did spy,

The buzz in the air causing life to blur,

Evidenced by families buying twenty kilos of sugar.

“But,” she wondered, “how will this affect me,

I who have not yet embraced muslimery?

When will stores be open and how should I eat

if I cannot slaughter pigs on the street?

And what about alcohol, if I may be so bold?

Where will my 8th rate beer be sold?”

Oh life without urine-like drink did sound foul,

And just when she thought of giving a howl

She remembered the wonder of Ramadan here.

The streets, they say, be they far or near

Fill up with people as the sun departs

From sidewalk to sidewalk citizens satifsying their hearts

And their stomachs with delicious iftar vittles,

Not being shy, or taking too little,

Dates being thrown into the car windows of those

rushing home from their shops after they’ve just closed.

“Oh I wish,” she thinks,  “to eat with these folk

and though I’m not fasting I will hardly croak

at being invited to such a magnificent feast

where I will chow down on all kinds of roast beast.

“Until then,” she informs, “I still do not know

at what hours for my peanut butter I may go

to Alpha Market and for that matter

I remain clueless as to types of Ramadan clatters.

So please stay tuned as I absorb more culture

and I will pass it on to all of you for sure;

less facts than feelings as is my wont

But at least you’ll know all my favorite haunts.”

No complaining.

A few notes: I’ve noticed people buying food in ridiculous quantities at all the supermarkets, which have set up special Ramadan sections with all the necessities for having a proper iftar (break fast, occurs after sundown). One of the most important foods are dates, which are traditionally the first food one eats after fasting all day. Apparently people hand out dates to those struggling to get home in traffic or on the metro before the iftars. Water is also distributed since people fast from both food and drink.

I have been told about big tents that are set up all over town where rich people will prepare huge feasts for the less fortunate, and entire streets are full of those breaking the fast together. If this is real, I will take a picture of it. I will then post the picture onto this blog.

No alcohol may be sold to Egyptians during Ramadan (I think. This might just apply to bars.) and so you have to show your passport in order to get a beer. The hours for liquor stores are especially weird, though other places of commerce also have reduced hours during the day. At night, however, things get crazy. People stay up really late and feast and then sleep during the day. Unless, of course, you’re employed, and then life is a little harder.

More Ramadan madness to come!

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