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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

the day before i leave

I leave the Middle East in about exactly 24 hours.

Ah. I've done a pitiful job at blogging since host families and for that I apologize. I has been an amazing few last weeks, and I have really enjoyed my group and all the activities... Well today was a bad day just because I was physically harassed for the first time and that totally threw me off emotionally. I pretty much hate Cairo right now. It happenned this afternoon and tonight I went for a walk with Linda as we have done on a number of occasions and when I got back my body hurt from being so tense. Just anytime I would pass by a man I'd be afraid one would come up behind me again and the yells and wistles and comments and stares were just a hundred times worse today. It makes me mad because I make it a point to dress modestly (heck I dress more modestly than Egyptian women except for the higab as my clothes are SO much looser and covering than theirs) and I still get the attention. Why? Cause I have light skin and blue eyes? I really don't get it. And it really makes me mad. It's sad cause I was just thinking yesterday that I had gotten used to the men and they really didn't bother me anymore, and that I really did love Cairo and would miss it a lot. Now just because of one incident I'm so hateful toward it all. It's messed up.

I finished all my papers and everything academic is finished. They were hard to get through.
I'm basically packed. Except I need to repack everthing to make the glass things safer and to distribute the weight. I got such cute suveniers for my loved ones, I'm pretty excited.
Yesterday, I was not ready to go home. Today I am. I'll be sad to say bye to my people and honestly maybe Ill be less mad tomorrow and be able to leave still liking Cairo, but they have some serious social issues to work out.

I have a lot of pics to post, and I'll do that when I get home. Right now I want to spend as much time with my flat mates and get packed so stuff wont be stressful tomorrow.

I say my host family today again and said good bye... Ah, I like them so much.
I was also able to get my secret santa gift. Flat 2 exchanged names and we're gonna take a trip to "Costa Caf'e" our hangout spot and exchange them tomorrow. I love love love Christmas and I am really not in the mood yet, which is sad cause I feel like I'll have less of a Christmas season just cause it will be so short. Yet, it will be 12 days of Christmas, as I get back on the 13th and that plus 12 is the 25th. It's kinda apropriate. Maybe I'll get a mint hot chocolate and that will help me get in the mood tomorrow.

If this post sounds so boring, I'm sorry. It's almost 1am and I'm pretty tired but I know I need to update you all. I'm so excited about a lot of stuff... I've learned so much about myself and grown this semester... I can't believe I actually survived a semester in Egypt. It's empowering, thinking about it. It was really hard at points and in the beginning I often thought I wouldn't make it through. After being on travel component I found out that Cairo really is a hard place to be compared to the rest of the Middle EAst. It's a tough country. Just it's dirtiness and harassment. Also the disorganization of everything. It looks like a third world country in some places. That's not typical of the Middle East. Well. Not the cities I visited in the MIddle East.

Guys, going back is not going to be easy.. please give me time to process everything.. Don't expect great things right in the beginning. I've learned and been exposed to a lot of new ideas about things politically and religiously, and I'm still sorting everything out. I don't really know what I believe in some areas, so don't push too hard. I guess just give me space and let me process though things. If I make some out of the blue comment about something and it seems proposterous to you, just know that I'm grappling with a lot of issues right now and just cause I discuss something doesn't mean I actually believe it. For example.. I was introduced to the idea of a Suffi Muslim Follower of Christ. What to do with that? I'm working through it. I bought a book written by him. Does that mean I believe he's a true follower of Christ and that he's right with God? No, I'm just exploring. So pray for me and show me grace to explore ideas in the next.. say... year? I don't know how long it will take to process it all. But I've come too far this semester to go back to the old me pre-Mesp. If I go around wearing my "Free Palestine" t-shirt, please still talk to me. It I pray with prayer beads sometimes please don't stop praying with me. If I vote democrat and tell you, please don't think you need to pray for my soul: I still love Jesus. If you hear an occasional "mumkin" or "aywa" or "la" or "ilhamdulela" in my speech, just bear in mind that I'm now trilingual. ha. ha. Ok I'm not trilingual but honestly one more week with my host family and I'd be able to understand Arabic almost fluently. Seriously, I can't believe how much I understand what I hear. Speaking is different, but heck if you understand a language you're half there. Guys, know that I have not lost my mind and that I am still Juliana. Love me as such and show me grace in my times of seeming insanity, cause this semester that been just that: INSANE. And how is a person to cope with that? By being insane for a little bit.
So there. I love you and I'm coming home.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

I'm sitting on the floor in my room in my dear flat 2. Thank God. Travel component was a-mazing, but boy does travelling for a month get tiring. Amanda is here writing papers next to me. Or... haha as I see on facebook. We basically live on facebook here. It's just hard to be away from family and friends in this Christmas season.. but alas, we need to stay focus and keep our heads HERE cause only have..... thirteen days left?! =) She's actually a resident of flat 5. They all came down at 7am because they smelled gas and saw that gas from the stove was on. So they ran down and we had a slumber party.
I need to write my Iraq paper. It's due tomorrow. I have four papers due tomorrow:
1. Body and Blood, by Gelvin: Why are Christians dissapearing from the Middle East?
2. Iraq: Solve it. (yikes!)
3. 9 Differences between Egypt and Turkey
4. 5 Effects of globalization on the Middle East.
They're all either 6 or 8 pages.
So... I should get to that... Just thought I would give you an update on whats goinon with me today.
<3

For future reference, my favourite Christmas character is elves. And lately I can't get them out of my head. I think bob is an elf secretly, though he fervently denies it. But an elf would.

Merry First Day of December everyone!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Thoughts on Israel.. and her settlements in the West Bank.

Jeremiah 22

Thus says the LORD, "Go down to the house of the king of Judah, and there speak this word
and say, 'Hear the word of the LORD, O king of Judah, who sits on David's throne, you and your servants and your people who enter these gates.
'Thus says the LORD,

"Do justice and righteousness, and deliver the one who has been robbed from the power of his oppressor
Also do not mistreat or do violence to the stranger, the orphan, or the widow; and do not shed innocent blood in this place.
"For if you men will indeed perform this thing, then kings will enter the gates of this house, sitting in David's place on his throne, riding in chariots and on horses, even the king himself and his servants and his people.
"But if you will not obey these words, I swear by Myself," declares the LORD, "that this house will become a desolation."'"

For thus says the LORD concerning the house of the king of Judah:
"You are like Gilead to Me, Like the summit of Lebanon; Yet most assuredly I will make you like a wilderness, Like cities which are not inhabited. "For I will set apart destroyers against you, Each with his weapons; And they will cut down your choicest cedars and throw them on the fire.
"Many nations will pass by this city; and they will say to one another, 'Why has the LORD done thus to this great city?'

"Woe to him who builds his house without righteousness
And his upper rooms without justice,
Who uses his neighbor's services without pay
And does not give him his wages,
Who says, 'I will build myself a roomy house
With spacious upper rooms,
And cut out its windows,
Paneling it with cedar and painting it bright red.'

"Do you become a king because you are competing in cedar?
Did not your father eat and drink
And do justice and righteousness?
Then it was well with him.
"He pled the cause of the afflicted and needy;
Then it was well

Is not that what it means to know Me?"

Declares the LORD.

"But your eyes and your heart
Are intent only upon your own dishonest gain,
And on shedding innocent blood
And on practicing oppression and extortion."

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Israel...Occupied Palestine... ah!!

Ah! It's crazy, the tension here. I'm in Israel. Also known as Occupied Palestine. War zone. Almost. I keep wanting to say "after the war".... to refer to the invasion of Jews. But.. It wasn't a war. It was simply stealing land and systematically shoving the residents out. Cause they needed a place to make a state.caugh caugh.. I mean.. Cause God promised them the land. So it's their duty to go back. Sorry. I wanted to keep politics out of this post. But alas, this place is saturated with politics, there's no way I could talk about being here and not refer to it. I'm pretty confused about my opinion about it, actually. Which is bad because I need to write a 6 page paper about it. But at the same time, I'm not confused about my opinion that it's wrong for a people to come in and force the residents to leave. Descrimination is wrong. Terror is wrong. Terror in the form of terrorizing people so that they leave a land, and terror in the form of suicide bombs. Both are wrong. It's wrong and bad for the US to be supporting Israel the way we do, and not keeping her accountable for her actions. Regardless of whether it's morally wrong or not, it's bad for our image abroad. Really bad. I hear it from people's mouths every day. Egyptians, Syrians, Jordanians, and now Palestinians. Our credibility is really low in this area of the world. Our foreign policy is so messed up. I know that we need to look out for our national interests, but at the same time we could be doing so much better. Changes are possible for the good. It's not an impossible situation. We need to correct our foreign policy or we'll pay deep concequences for it.
Today I went to the West Bank and had lunch with Palestinians from the Al Quds University. The West Bank. I was there. My gosh, it's so surreal sometimes. I truly can't believe I'm here. It was sweet talking with them. They like DAM, the Palestinian rap group that I listen to on youtube. And they like soccer. They're more into the Spanish liga though. They don't prefer FC Porto. Clay from my group is my soccer buddy. We went to a pub in Istanbul and watched a Real Madrid game. It was pretty sweet. He knows more about it than I do, so I'm learning a lot. We're going to try to find a pub or café here that shows futebol games. Porto plays Liverpool on the 28th. Back to the West BAnk... We talked a little about politics. We couldn't go into the school because there had been demonstrations earlier between Fatah supporters and Hamas supporters, so we stayed in the wooded area outside the school and eat on covered picnic tables. It was more pleasant there anyways. Though if I had my choice I would have gone into the school to talk to people. The people we talked to were staunch Fatah supporters. When I asked him what group he supported he said it in such a "Hello, of course Fatah" way. He said that only people with their heads on straight were supporters of Fatah. What else did we talk about.. He's in his fourth year at school and he's studying computer science. I asked him if he would have a job when he graduated and he said that he wouldn't. He would have to open a shop and all he would do is fix kids' broken cumputers and sell cheap cds. Unemployment is high in the West Bank. I asked if the wall was down and he could go into Israel would he be able to get a job? Yes, definately. There are jobs available in Israel. Another guy said he couldn't go into Jerusalem if he wanted to. Do you recognize the state of Israel? No. He said that he had nothing wrong with the Jewish religion, but that the state of Israel should not exist. There are actually Jews who don't agree with Zionism and the settlements. They're the Ultra-Orthodox Jews. They've been in the Middle East area since foever. They're not the one's who've come from abroad. They believe that the Israeli state really shouldnt exist. They work with it, since it's already founded, but they don't truly agree with it. They piss off the Orthodox and the Traditionalists, because they wont serve in the military. Military service is mandatory for all Israeli's, male and female. It's odd and kindof sad to see 18 year old girls walking around in olive green suits with huge guns slung over their shoulders. It's wrecking a generation, really. It's militarizing them. The military changes you. It changes everyone who serves. What about the 20 year old soldier who has to turn away a dying pregnant Palestinian West Bank resident from entering Israel to give birth to her child at a hospital? That's messing with minds. It's going to effect this generation thats coming now. My generation of Israelis. Behind the picnic area where we had dinner there's a wall separating the West Bank. It doesn't separate Israel from the West Bank, but it separates the West Bank and anyone who wants to get to the other side has to sit in long lines to then get harassed and searched before crossing over. Someone said it takes at least 30 minutes at the gate. And that's not the wall leading to Israeli territory. It's just a West Bank check point. These people live walled in. What does that do to a mind? There are no jobs, hospitals suck, there's no power to make change, there's no one fighting for you... That's just the West Bank. Not Gaza. Gaza is hell. It's far worse. Years in these conditions cooks a lot of desperation. Desperation in young boys who have a long bleak life ahead of them. Hopelessness leads to desperation. Desperation leads to desperate acts. Such as suicide bombings. Israel's making it's own mess. And right now I have little sympathy for her. She's needing to correct a lot of wrong that she's been doing. Granting right of return? It's never going to happen. But she needs to do something to restore hope to the Palestinian people if she knows whats good for herself. And the international community needs to pressure her.

So! =) Onto happier things. Lets see.. I wrote about Istanbul. Amazing place. After that we went to Ankara, the capital of Turkey. It was sweet because we were able to talk to some really interesting people. And that's all I can say about it. Basically it really interested me because of my faith. And to protect them thats all I'm allowed to say, but please ask me about it cause it was so amazing, and I'd love to share it with you. There are some super stars out there living some crazy lives for Jesus. Ankara reminded me of DC kindof. It's not so pretty, but busier. We went to the tomb of Ataturk, Turkey's hero. He introduced and fought for nationalism and secularism in Turkey. He's the Father of Turkey, actually. It's what his name means. It was more of a shrine than anything. They had his toothbrush displayed, for goodness sake. And it talked all about the history of Turkey and their war for indepence. Turkish people are SO nationalistic. In the first 15 minutes we were on the bus, Linda and I counted over 100 Turkish flags. They're everywhere.
Onto Syria... I foget almost. Ah! We were only there for a little bit. 2 days, I think. We went to Demascus and they have the sweetest markets. I got a neat clock with Arab numbers. Things are very cheap there. Plus I ate 200 year old ice cream. Well, the ice cream itself wasn't 200 years old. The shop was. It's the oldest ice cream shop in the world. Craziness. Actually, Demascus is the oldest still inhabited city in the world. And I was there! I walked down the .........
Oh gosh the call to prayer just started. I can hardly hear myself think. ......
I walked down the "Straight Street" Where Ananias walked down and met Paul. It's true. I went through the gates he would have gone through. I feel I'm going backwards in my faith. Syria where Paul was, then Jerusalem where Jesus was tried and crucified, then I will be in Bethlehem where Jesus was born... It's really special. It's not like you get this amazing transformation in yourslef and your life changes forever just because you've been here.. Although praying at the Waliing Wall yesterday was pretty meaningful. Just pressing my head against the wall and talking to my God. The temple.. the temple where JEsus prayed. Where people for generations went and sacrificed, to my Lord. This whole trip I've been to temple after temple to all these gods, and mosque after mosque.... Finally I was at MY God's temple. And it was pretty amazing and personal. I felt a little bad because I loved it so much and then when I asked people what they thought of it and if they prayed hearing their reaction that was like, "No I didn't pray. I'm not going to pray to a wall" made me feel a little bad. It's not a wall... It's a part of history. A history of our faith. I'm not Jew but I pray to and love the God who was once prayed to and loved right there by the wall, thousands of years ago. Sometimes I feel like openning up and sharing things and moments that are special to me is like casting my pearls before swine, cause people just don't get it. "Big deal". Idiot, it is a big deal to me. So yeah. I loved the wall. But being in Jerusalem is not as emotional and significant as I thought it might be. The political tension is really visible and felt and overpowers the history of the place a little.
So Damascus was really fun, and I got to do a little shopping and got my Wiekert cousins some cute gifts. If you're reading this, I miss you Jack, Belle, Henry, Courtney and Dave! =) We went to an amazing mosque as well, to the tomb of Hussein and Saladin. We saw Shias hitting themselves there and crying and touching his tomb. I didn't get to touch it (neither did I really want to) because the crowd was SO tight. There were a billion people in a kinda large room with a little doorway that functioned as an entrance and an exit. Fire hazard. Bout got squished to death. Hussein is important to the Shias because he was from the family of ALi, who was a family member of Mohammed. Shias believe that the line of power should go through Mohammad's family. Sunni's believe he should be chosen and doesn't have to be from the Mohammad family line. Any way, Hussein lead a battle and his followers retreated and abandoned him and he died. And now, a thousand years later, they've almost deified him and beat themselves because their ancestors abandoned him in battle. This revolts the Sunnis, that they would beat themselves and act so heneously. So this is a big source of division between the sunnis and shias. So I was there. It made me cry a little, just how much they love him and how they beat themselves and the anguish that they feel. Gosh I'm so sensitive. In Demascus we went to Ananiases'church and house, and that was pretty sweet. To see where he possibly lived. It was underground, which added to the effect. Speaking of underground, a couple days later I went to Cappadoccia. It's where Christians hid from persecution. They made this sweet system of underground houses and tunnels and basically made an underground city there. You know the sign of the fish that I love? It's there. =) It is CRAZY. We went down into the city and explored and then the lights went out and we had to just feel our way around and use flashlights. Then Bob got clausterphobic and we had to leave. But before that we got to sing "Come Thou Fount" down there. How many other songs to Jesus were sung down there hundreds of years ago? How cool is my life? =) I am blessed, I am.
So Capadocia was real. There are some weird rock formations there as well, not related to the underground city. Some people think it's aliens. I think it's weird rocks. I'll post pictures later. This post is gonna be really long. Speaking of singing, I've been convinced by my flat mates to go into singing when I go back to the US. I love singing but am rediculously shy about it. Singing alone in public is just so intimidating. But alas, I do love to sing and my friends like my voice so I'm going to take a shot at it when I go home. What that means, I don't know. I'm not changing my major, but I'm taking singing lessons. And that makes me really, really happy. So Syria was Demascus, and Jordan was Amman. We stayed at a Days Inn and shopped at a Safeway. No kidding. The place is a mini America. ish. Security is nuts. We had to go through security in every building we went in. Including Safeway. I bought Colby Back cheese there. É maluco! I miss speaking Portuguese. We didn't do much in Jordan. Though we did stop by an amazing church in the only town that still speaks Aramaic. Aramaic like the language that Jesus spoke. Yes, amazing. And then I got to listen to the Lords prayer. Prayed in Aramaic. Ah! Are there words to describe..?! It was an experience to remember. I felt like I was listening to Jesus himself.
Then we arrived in Jerusalem. Security was long and crazy. It's like airport security. But a bit more rigorous. They wanted my dad's parents names even. Here in Jerusalem we stayed at a youth hostel for a couple of nights until there were rooms available in a nicer place. We're there now. And there's wireless. Ahhhhh. It's on the Via Dolorosa. THE Via Dolorosa. Where Jesus walked with his cross. Amazing. I love the old city Jerusalem. Day before yesterday we went to the Holocaust museum. Wow. It was really, really good. Wow. So many people. I loved it. Well done. But it's like.. Not long ago you were abused to harshly.. Now you turn around and abuse? Last night was shabbat and we watched the Jews at the wall. And today is today. And so I think I'm (kindof!) caught up! And now I need to go study. =)
Love to all.

Hm. I miss home. Less than a month!

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Istanbul

I wanted to blog about my homestay week before I went on to blog about the travel component, but it's going to have to wait. I'm too excited to tell you about Turkey.
We arrived here on the 1st of November. The flight was only 2 hours or so long, and pretty uneventful except that I sat by two awesome MESP friends and had good conversations. Random thought.... After they gave us our food (fish.mmmmm) I was thinking about what it means to bless the food before we eat it (lately I've been doing that.. instead of praying for the food I think about why I should pray for the food. I'm not going to do it if my heart isn't into it) and I became enlightened by the words from a song... "This is my Father's World". I've been reading about how the world is God's and everything in it, and it occured to me on the flight, that if the world and all good things therein are God's, anything we enjoy and benefit from in the world, everything that blesses us, He allows us to have: He gives us. We deserve and truly possess nothing, yet He provides us with enough from His huge stock of everything. We thing things are ours, but they're not. They're GOd's that He's giving us. We don't tithe because God needs our money for His church. He has more riches than we could ever give. We tithe to show that we are love Him. So anyways, I thought about not only the food I was eating, but the friendship I was enjoying and the clothes I was wearing and the journey I was making.... They are a gift from Him, and my heart was truly thankful.
We arrived at about 2:00, and I could tell from the beginning right in the airport that there was something very different about Turkey. It's very modern and not as backward-looking as Cairo. It's not dirty and it's not crowded. Thank God. There's space to breathe. We got our bags and headed out. Cold. Oh, the chill was AMAZING, it felt so fresh and clean and freeing. I wore my sweet black coat and my dark red comfy scarf and I felt SO good. I was in my element. It's been chilly here but not enough to not want to go out side or for it to snow, though it's rained a couple nights. I'm so glad it hasn't rained during the day, preventing us from exploring the city. We rode in the bus for about an hour and a half till we came to the sea. It was beautiful. This place reminds me A LOT of Germany. So much. It's so European. The way people dress (classy, darker colors, Paris-ish), the architecture, the people, the way they view and practice their religion (there are mosques but the call to prayer isn't overbearing and I haven't heard it once since I've been here. People arn't praying on the corners and there are much fewer head scarves, at least here in Istanbul).
I have to go soon because I need breakfast before our first speaker this morning.
Being in Istanbul has been so amazing, and so realiving. I feel like the moment I stepped off the plane I left certain things I was struggling with in Cairo, back in Egypt. I feel like a new leaf has turned and finally I have found relief from those inner conflicts. Other issues have come up to take their place, of course. We're never without burdens on our mind and heart. But here, things are different, and I am happy. I've gotten over this wall that was so hard to climb, and now I have relief. This is going to be one of my favorite cities I've ever been to. I havent felt so happy in a long time.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Nile Cruise

just a little update...
(sorry that theres no capitalization in this post. im at an internet cafe and the shift button is sticking terribly)
i got back from the nile cruise last night.. the cruise part of it didnt impress me, but i loved watching the scenery along the nile. it was absolutely beautiful. we took a 13 hour train ride to aswan then took the cruise four days to luxor where we went and saw the valley of the kings and the valley of the queen among other sites (a million temples) and then took the train 10 hours from luxor back to cairo. it was a long trip, but i like traveling as it gives me thinking time and time to wrestle through things in my mind that i otherwise wouldnt have time to think about. i could look out the window for hours just me and my thoughts and the view. and i did. and it was good. it was like a picture book. a fairy tale. men in their galabeias 9 robes that they wear here)... donkeys.. palm trees....mud houses....cement houses...clothes lines...little gardens...fields and fields.... the nile... i loved it. i also loved the tombs. they were so colorful, and the hylographs so preserved. the ceiling was my favorite. it was cobalt blue with gold stars, and there was a woman and her body was encircling them, to keep the stars from hitting the earth. it was beautiful and i think i will paint my room's ceiling that when i get home. it was just so beautiful.
tonight i meet my host family, and they take me away. my main concern is them stuffing me with food cause i already got sick once this week and im still coming off that, so being stuffed with foreign unclean food is the last thing i need. ana kwais! shokran, shokran!
im excited about my host family. i dont even know what to expect... i dont know how to imagine it will be like, so i wont. mostly thats what i do here. nothing is really as you expect it and there are always new situations so i just go with it and dont think about it so much before it happens. i think its better that way. better for my sanity. speaking of my sanity, i have 3 papers due this week, plus an arabic final next monday. pray for juli. =) it's gonna be tight.
i love you all.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Sunday

It's Sunday. Here our weekends are Friday and Saturday. Too weird to think that people are going to church today, in the States. I'm a bit homesick today, but I keep telling myself that when I'm there I'll wish I were here. Doesn't really help a lot, but it keeps me a bit more focused.
What do I miss of home. Let's see... I miss driving. Man do I miss driving! AH. I don't mind taking taxis everywhere here, they're super cheap. But I miss the act of driving. The speed, the convenience, and the thinking time. I miss my family. They're super cool. I miss American cereal. Ah... how I long for my Lucky Charms. I miss uncrowdedness. I'm a person who needs space. Give me trees. And oh it's fall! Ah! Give me beautiful trees! North East US. Ah, gorgeous. I miss the piano. I don't play horribly well but I practiced over the summer and just love sitting down and playing some chords. I miss music in general. My ipod and my cd player both broke the week I got here. =( I miss my Christian friends. I miss the stablility and comfort of my school and chapel. I like being challenged to think and test my faith but a heart gets weary when there's too much doubt going on. I've learned so much through this doubt though, and I will come out stronger.
I miss rain and cold. Juli have you lost your mind, you hate the cold! No but seriously there's something raw and exhilirating about walking out to fall chilliness. I'll be excited for the snow in January in Ohio.
So yes. I am homesick today. It makes me appreciate all I have back at home.

I just finished my Islam paper for the Islam final. The exam is tomorrow at 9:30. Pray for me if you think of it. It has been Islam bootcamp for the last month and my mind hurts with so much info. Pray that I will do well on my final. Tuesday is service projects, then Tuesday night we take an all night train to Aswan and take a 5 day cruise trip to Luxor! Ah! Coolness. Actually I'm so tired now Im not so excited about it. I've had sensory overload for the past long time and I am tired! Tired of new things. Tired of new people. It's true. I had a cultural missunderstanding a couple days ago and right now I'm not so interested in talking to Egyptians for a while. It was with my friend Aya, and she totally misread something I did and was a bit mean about it. She said she preferred one of my friends over me cause my friend is "kinder". Ah!. It was because one day, the day I got my nose peirced, I didn't want to hold her hand the whole time. I held it for like 30 min and then it got super hot and I let go and so now apparantly I'm not friendly. It's true that I'm not totally a touchy person, and in this culture, that part of me got me screwed. Way to be, Juli. She kindof ignored me the rest of the night and only talked to my flat mate. Hm. Sometimes I miss being around people who know me and my ways.
So after the cruise is home stays, and after homestays is a month of travelling which I'm super exctied about. Then a week to de-brief, then home. And that's whats going on.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Mt Sinai pics

I stole Bob's Mt Sinai pictures.
Thanks Bob.




We were tired after the three hour hike so we napped after watching the sun rise.
I wont post a picture of the ledge I slept on. lol.






How beautiful.....? Are there words?



These pics don't give it justice. It was out-of-this world. It was weird though I couldn't get the song by John Denver (?) about being on top of the world out of my head...."I'm on the top of the world, looking down on creation and the only explanation I can find, is the love that I've found ever since you've been around, you're love's put me at the top of the world."










Yay! Juli at the top of the world.
I think this is the most peaceful place I've ever been at.
The only thing missing was all the people I love. I wish I could share with you all the feeling of being there.



























Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Football

Sunday night we went to an African Cup semi final game!!!! It was so much fun.. It was just like in the Azores when we'd go to Santa Clara football games. The excitment...plus everyone was dark skinned. heh. Really, the men look so Portuguese. The fans (including us) were nuts. Some of our group had jerseys (I didn't cause I didn't go to Siwa and that's where they got them) and a lot of us had Egypt flags. The teams were Ahly and Tunisia. We (Ahly) won 1-0. It was a sweet goal. The coach (Manuel José) and fitness trainer are Portuguese!!! woohoo!
heres a youtube video i posted:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RWIcnzjipIs





Saturday, October 06, 2007

Without Condition

You find this situation just a bit uncomfortable;
You'd rather stay far away from reality.
For you to understand would be clearly impossible;
So you shut your eyes and swear you can see.
Claiming there is a God, but does that mean anything?
So condescending to those that you don't understand;
Just too easy to make them your enemies.
Like an ostrich, you bury your head in the sand,
And then shout about all the things you believe.
But if there is a God, don't you think you can see
What you really mean? What you're doing?

Chorus:
You can't find the answers
Till you learn to question;
You won't appear stupid
Just ask for directions.
You're insecure and it clouds your perception
So stop and listen
And learn a lesson in love without condition.

So place all the souls that you know
in their own little box;
Quite convenient to handle them that way;
You're the only one you know who carries a cross
You don't care what they care about anyway.
And You talk to your God,
Prayin' for those who sin,
For their eyes to be opened.

by Ginny Owens
(you'll get her music if you know whats good for you)
:)

Thursday, October 04, 2007

ana mineen... ?

I hate it when people ask me where I'm from.
I don't know what to say. Just ask me where I live! Ana sakna fi Agouza! I know where I live. I know how to answer that. But where I'm from... Do you mean where I grew up? Do you mean where I study? Do you mean where I go when I'm not studying?
Maybe it's weird, but sometimes I feel like I don't exist, because I don't have a place I call mine. I'm a freaking nomad.

On to less depressing news... I went to a coffee shop today a bit far away from the flat with Allison. We were there for an insane number of hours, writing papers and getting expresso highs, and then she went home and I went to the store and on the way back I got lost for an hour. Oh wait that's depressing too. I finally got a taxi and there were two men in it and I asked for Agouza and the driver nodded so I figured he understood. K well we're not exactly supposed to get taxis alone at night but I was desperate and my feet were cursing at me and the men's eyes looked safe so I got in. So then we start driving and we go over the bridge... Oh good, now I know where I'm at.. Um, Agouza's back that way, why are we going over the bridge... Oh God where am I going.. "Agouza???" I ask. The driver smiles."Zemalak". =| God, they've taken me hostage. For about 10 seconds I thought I was dead. Then the other guy turns around and in perfect English says "He's dropping me off in Zemalak first and then he'll take you home." Thanks for letting me know that when I got in the car, punk.

I'm in Agouza alone with Allison and Amanda and Tony, the rest went on a weekend trip to Siwa. Oh wait did I say that in my last post? I can't ever remember what I posted about last. I'm happy to be here. I need to get studying done and some serious sleeping. I wake up at weird hours though, and then can't fall back to sleep. Last night I got no mind rest. I woke up thinking about what I fell asleep thinking about. Bugger. I hate it when that happens. It's like, did my mind even rest? I did dream though. I dreamed that I broke a cat's paw. It sucked. Then I dreamed that my baby brother was dating and that was insane. Well he's not a baby anymore, he's a teenager. But still, that is just too weird. Both of my brothers are insanly good looking though, so they'll be hooking up soon prolly. Ah.

I'm writing a paper on a book, "Civil Democratic Islam" by Cheryl Benard. It frusterates me a lot because it isn't personal. It's all about US foreign policy and how we can conform the Middle East to satisfy our national interests and how to make it look appealing to them. -You won't have to wear the higab (head dress)! Oh actually, you won't be allowed to, cause we're going to give you freedom from religion!-
I am not an expert, but I'm going to say this anyway: Democracy is not for everyone. Not now, anyways. There are places not ready for democracy. Maybe one day they will be, but not now. The US foreign policy is in such a mess right now... Between our support for Israel and her human rights violations, and our presence in Iraq, our credibility is the lowest it has been for a really long time. In my opinion we need to get serious with Israel and make them accountable for how they're treating the Palestinians and we need to stick it out in Iraq untill there's stability. If we pull out of Iraq it will be a vacuum for Syria and Iran craziness and will destabalize the region even more than it is now. Egypt is scared spitless of Iran, by the way. I heard a top guy (I'd tell you who but... it's pretty much top secret. =) ) speak about the ME and it was insane how much he talked about Iran.

Oops, I'm out alone past my people-who-are-alone curfew so i need to go now.

My neck is feeling better. I can acually turn my head to the right now. We had a dance party (it's ok dad, it was girls only) at our flat last week and I was air guitaring behind my head and then I pinched a nerve and I couldnt turn my head or this pain would shoot up from the bottom of my neck to my skull, it was insane.

Ramadan karim guys! Only 8 days left and kosheri restaurants will be open again, halelujah.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

I have been here a month and 4 days. Amazing.

Haven't posted a lot lately... Been really busy.... I'm taking a long weekend off though. Thursday through Saturday with nothing planned. Nada. Nothing. I cannot wait. The rest of the group minus one of my flat mates are going to Siwa, an oasis in the desert. They'll be in the desert sleeping under the stars, and while I'm a bit jealous and have reconsidered going a lot, I know I need this time. I'm learning I just need to respect myself and my limits, and stop pushing myself till I crash. I'm planning on coming back here one day for sure, and I can go to Siwa then.

Basically nothing exciting has happened.. Life has finally seemed to develop a routine which I am so thankful for. In two weeks that will change though. The week of the 15th is the Aswan cruise and then the week after is our home stays. During our home stays we will still be having classes as usual but we will be sleeping and spending our evenings with an Egyptian family some where. I'm really looking forward to that a lot. Like, a really lot. It will be the true cultural immersion and I can't wait to get to know the family... Its gonna be quality. The only down side is the whole classes-still-going-on thing. It'll take longer to get here in the morning which means we'll have to wake up earlier (like 6:00) and I hear that the families keeps you up really late. Oh well, it will be so worth it. I teach English to refugees in about a half hour so I need to go and meet my group soon. I will post again soon... A lot has been going through my head and I feel the need to write it out so Ill do that soon.
Please be praying for me.. I'm doing well in general but am a bit discouraged today.

grace and peace

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Fishes and God

Wow. Never have I been so challenged as I am here, now. The views I am being presented... The questions I am being asked... Then I don't have the time to process it and it all just sits in my head screaming for attention. Then on top of it all these books are being recommended to me and I want to read them so bad... Ah I love reading. But truly... being here has taken me to a whole new level of being...of living...of thinking. I can't even explain. My mind has been pushed farther and to places that are new and scary and mysterious and exciting and uncomfortable... But they are alive. There is a lot of thinking to be had in this new place. I don't know where I stand yet... There are a lot of things to work out, work through. It's like when you're writing a paper and think there's no more information to be gotten from the books you've read, then you're given a huge stack of loaded new information. It's like, gosh Juliana you know nothing. Nada. You think there's nothing really else to know and you're taken to a whole new library. Truth. There's more truth out there than I have.


Our Bible. It's a Middle Eastern book. It's not an American book. A Western book. Yet the Middle East sees it as that. And so reading it is in a way deserting their culture. To a lot of Middle Easterners, its the western book. The Western religion. Um.... Jesus wasn't born in America. As Western Christians, why do we think we "take" Jesus to the Middle East? Heck He was from the Middle East. I have been humbled by this thought. Missionaries come to the ME to take Jesus to people. People need to be coming here to find Him. He is still here. I'm getting to know Jesus in a whole new way. I've put him in a box and thought I new about all there was to know about him, and boy was I so wrong. I feel like every day I get to know a different side of him, and I love it. I will never be able to get my mind around him. I may be able to look at his life and make a set of rules for me to follow that would make my life similar to his, but that is not knowing him. The question of Jesus' place in general revelation has been on my mind a lot lately. If people are able to know Jesus without having to have a Bible, it would make so much more sense to me, and the trinity would be more understandable. The Bible would be more understandable and approachable. If you can know God with out having to have scripture, through general revelation, then you have to be able to know Jesus. Then yesterday I read a verse in John (8:56): Abraham knew Jesus. He did. He came to know him. Jesus has been here, forever. He is knowable by all. Accessible. I can't explain the walls that broke down for me. Jesus is more than a person. An answer to my sin. He is God, the Almighty, the beginning and the end, the Creator of all. He did not appear in the scene for the sole purpose of taking away my sin so I wont go to hell. God was God always, majestic and wonderful and oh so creative. I went snorkeling day before yesterday in Dahab, and the fishes and coral screamed His name so loud I was humbled and honored to witness such praise. The glory His creation gives Him testifies enough to His love. How could a mean god make such beauty? And then allow us to witness it? There is no way. He loved me by creating me and letting me live in this world. By giving me life, He loved me. Then when I screwed it up, He gave me life again. God damned Himself on the cross, so that Life could kill death. He died so He could be resurrected and in His resurrection we have life. The law is our death, and He finished the law. Now we get to live for Him. But His redeeming us is only part of who He is. He is so much more. There is so much more to find out. Ah, how God can be known so much better when we stop thinking that its all about us.





So..


Dahab: amazing chill place. I will post pictures soon. oh food...two words: coconut milkshakes.


fav fish seen- sweet retro half black half white fish, bright pink and green striped fish, then purple coral.


I saw Saudi Arabia across the Red Sea. =-O


Mount Sinai: Moses must have been a beast, my body was dying by the time I got up there. Worst hike ever. Physically. Most amazing experience... to watch the sun rise over the mountains.. to see everything from way up there, close to God... to sleep on a ledge and wake up to find you're on top of the world and its the most calm place you've ever been... I think that was my favorite part. Waking up there.


In one month our travel component starts. The place I'm looking forward to the most: Palestine. Place I'm looking forward to least: the bus. I get motion sickness when I get off buses here. I can deal with the motion when I'm on the bus but when I get off my body is still swaying with the bus but the floor isn't = dizziness and vomit.











Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow


Praise Him, all creatures here below


Praise Him above ye heavenly host


Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Mt Sinai!

In one hour I'm leaving for Mt Sanai! Ah!
We leave at 6:00 and we drive through the night, then we hike 3 hours up to the top to watch the sun rise. How amazing is that going to be. Then we're going to Dahab for swimming and snorkling. I love snorkling.

I just got back from getting a pedicure. I actually hate them, they tickle me to death but my feet were looking horrid, so yeah. I went with an egyptian friend! Woohoo! I met Aya in a store on the corner and she speaks English pretty well, so I got her number and then called her yesterday. I first actually asked her to coffee and then I remembered she was fasting so I took it back and asked her to the salon. lol. It was great. Kate came too. She's a flat mate. We had a blast. Aya is amazing. She looks Lebanese actually.. not so much Egyptian. She gave me a Ramadan lamp key chain! She's so kind. I will treasure it. But yes, she's fantastic. Plays the piano, composes, sings... Plus she lives on the next street over. When I get back from Sinai we're going to go..... well I'm not going to tell, but we're going to go get something done. =)

Arabic and Islam exams today. I think they went well... I'm so tired now tho. Didnt sleep much last night.
Ah short nights. And tonight's going to be shorter. But I am not complaining. Mt Sinai. How amazing...
I miss my family and friends today. I miss them everyday, really. But maybe more today. It's good to know I'm where I'm supposed to be right now though. And I really feel like that. There is absolutely nowhere else I should be.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Al- Azhar

Today MESP went to Al Azhar to break fast with the students. Al Azhar is the most prestigious school of Islamic learning in the Middle East. It took Dr D 2 years to get things worked out of students to visit there, so this trip was a very unique and rare opportunity. I decided to fast the day to make the breaking fast more meaningful and because I felt like I needed to fast (I'll write more about it later, but I'm starting to see the importance of prayer and fasting and how it's absence from my life has robbed me of blessing) so I did and boy was it difficult.. I asked my new friend Jami if it was difficult for her and she said it wasn't because she's been doing it since she was little. I envy her a little. A Muslim's life seems so much more devoted than mine. I wish I could say that I pray 5 times a day and am a religiously disciplined person, but I'm not. Not right now, anyways. Things are changing and I'm working to become a more disciplined person in my spiritual life, but still, I wish it was instilled in me since I was a child. We arrived at Al-Azhar at 3:30 and sat down at this long table in this conference-type room. We were told to sit away from each other, with empty seats by us so that the students could sit among us. Then the students came in. They seemed to be our age... from 18-23 years old.. The women were in conservative dress, which means higab and long sleeves and skirts. Some girls had their face covered. The girl next to me was completely covered. The men were dressed formaly. We were told to dress our best and our most conservative. I wore a purple long sleeved shirt and black dress pants. After they came in and the speaker, one of the directors of the school, was introduced and properly thanked for the opportunity for us to be there, there was a time of questions. We asked different things: the school's opinion of the role of women in Islam, the different sects of Islam, how Islam is being "misinterpreted" by the West, and how Al-Azhar is engaging Egypt's youth. It was not very interesting, honestly. Nothing surprised me about what he said. He said a lot that Christianity and Islam were very similar and there needed to be peace and tolerance (Can I just say that that word is SO overused and misused. It frusterates me a little. It's a loaded word.) and that the Koran teaches that women are equal to men and that that's how it was when the prophet was alive and that's how it should be now (Yeah. That's why women now are allowed to pray with men in the mosque. Oh wait. No they're not.) . He totally ran around the question of the sects of Islam, saying something about... peace and tolerance. I mean, I shouldn't be so critical. Juliana, don't be so critical. At least it's a moderate school, teaching moderate Islam and trying to spread a peaceful kind of Islam around the world. But, really. Is that what is truly taught at that school? I cannot accept that Islam is all about peace. That Jihad is only for defensive purposes and that all Muslims want things to be like they were in the prophet's time. Um, no that's not true. I feel like I've been fed a bunch of modernist propaganda, while the Moderates are the solution, not the problem. I want to hear some of the problem. The fundamentalists and traditionalists... Ok they're a minority but they are out there and I want to know more about them. I know we can't meet with them, I'm tired of being told Moderates are all there is. Ok I guess I'm just spoiled. I've met a number of Moderates and now I wanna meet Fundamentalists. Or at least Traditionalists. Maybe Fundamentalists would be more interested in killing me than meeting me. Anyway, after the questioning time there was a "small group" time where we got together with who ever was around us and talked in smaller groups. I LOVED this method. I'm scared spit less of asking a question in a group of 60 super smart people but get me into a small group and I thrive. I talked with two girls and we talked about the differences between Christanity and Islam and it was so eye-openning to me. One girl thought that our Trinity was Jesus, the Holy Spirit and Mary. I was like, "What?". She wanted to know what it meant when Christians crossed themselves. Then I had to explain the difference between Catholics and Protestants and between Americans and Christians and that not all 18 years old were automatically "free" from their parents and that "free sex" wasnt a truly Christian thing... My gosh, I hate it that the US is looked at as a Christian nation. I was so embarrassed at some of the things I had to explain to her. Shakira is NOT a true believer. I am NOT Shakira. I do not do "free sex". Yes I read the Bible, no I'm not Catholic, yes I believe Jesus died. Yes I believe Jesus is God. No I can't explain the Trinity. Yes three can be one. No there arn't three gods. No Mary is not a God. No I don't fast regularly. No I'm not Shakira. No I wasn't "free" at 18! haha. YES I like Avril Lavigne. You too? Cool. Who else do you like to listen to?... haha. We became friends. Music. It trancends cultures and brings rockers together.
Anyways, at 6:00 after the call to prayer we broke fast. It was amazing but I ate too fast I guess and got a belly ache. And the girl next to me took off her face veil and I about passed out. I didn't notice that she had taken it off and I looked away then when I looked back I was like, holy cow who are you? =) Not really but it took me off guard. It was good to finally see her smile though. And see her mouth as she talked. I rely so much on watching lips to understand people. She spoke English fairly well... enough to talk religion. I really dont mind talking to people who don't speak English. I like using my hands and face and noises to get my message across. We laughed a lot. Words are so over-rated.

So I broke my first Ramadan fast today in an Islamic school and made new Muslim friends whom I hope to get to know better and bond with in the future. Right now I'm in the Columbus café with Rachel, Alli and Sarah. I love this café. Its classy and it has couches. There's a soccer game going on right now. It's a bit more noisy than when we got here. Feels a little like home..

Happy Ramadan!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

travels

Today I galloped on a horse in the desert around the pyramids. Ah!!! I adored it. It was fantastic. Its one of those things you put on your life's "to do" list, but rarely does it actually take place. But it's true... I was there and I bought a beautiful green scarf at the sphinx and so I wore it and.... Ok I just felt like an Arabian princess. :) It was great. And I rode a camel. That was pretty magical. I kept thinking of the peoples of the past and how camels were their form of transportation through the desert... I felt like I fell back in time a little. Maybe some 2000 years. :)Today I got to live in the past a little and that has blown my mind. Seeing those ancient creations reminds me of how small I really am in history. It's comforting, really. I just forget about my troubles when I think about how small and insignificant I really am in comparison to 3,000 years of time and millions of people who have lived here and dreamed here. The people who lived here when those pyramids were being build thought like me. They had feelings like me. Their heart could break too, they could feel sorrow, they could feel joy. They felt the same heat and walked in the same sand as I did today. It makes me think that I am part of something bigger. Yes we change a bit from culture to culture but we have so much in common... Our ability to feel and think and love beauty... We're just a part of time, and there is nothing new under the sun. Plus, God did spectacular things here. I was reading in the Psalms yesterday and David was going over God's blessings to Israel, and he talked about every thing that God did in Egypt... Turning the Nile into blood, the flies, the killing of the first born child...right here. Where I am.

Last weekend I went to Alexandria... That was interesting. It wasnt as beautiful as I thought it would be and the men were such harassers. So much worse than the men here. It was nice being along the Mediterranean though.. It reminded me of Sao Miguel. Plus I got closer to the people in my group, and we made memories. Like being in Radio Shack for an hour trying to buy alarm clocks. Then being attacked at night in the water by about 15 women and children. They love Americans here! Nice people, but very in your face at times! I actually loved that experience though. I talked to the women and they helped me with my Arabic and I could tell they were kind and we were all in good spirits. I went to coffee shop there in Alex and saw a wall clock and was inspired by it. I really want to open a coffee shop one day. I always have. But I think I should. It's what I'd love to do. Any ways Alex was once a center for amazing minds, it should be more taken care of! But the Egyptian government doesn't have enough money to restore and keep up their historical buildings and antiquties. They have more important things to worry about, like the fact that they're severly over populated... Ill post about that sometime. Egypt is very interesting.

1. The view from our hostel room!
2.We chilled on the wall by the sea
3. My hostel mates: Amanda, Kara, Alisson

People have been asking about my classes so here's what and when they are:
-Breakfast and devotions (our chapel/church)at 8:00
-Arabic language at 9:30 (our teacher is a professor at the American University in Cairo. We have an AUC ID and can use their facilities which is great for researching and chilling with westerners when we need a break)
-break between classes when we eat "fishar" (popcorn =), and "aish" (pita bread) with nutella (our new obsession here)
-Islamic Thought and Practice at 11:30(Our professor is an Islamic Architecture and History expert. So far we've had a tour of 3 mosques and one in-class lecture. She is amazing and I love her voice. It's slow enough to take notes which is key to me and she always sounds like she's telling a story. I'm going to know so much about Islam when I leave here...)
-Lunch at 13:00 at the villa.

We will eventually have People and Culture, and Conflict and Change classes... After we finish our Islam class. Sometimes in the evenings we have lectures at the Dave (the director's) flat. We've had 4 so far. They're on different issues.. Poverty, social issues, women's issues, living in the Middle East... The people who lecture are so intelligent, and many of them talk to us "off the record", so we get to hear their personal opinions. One day we went to the Arab Political Strategic center and heard two directors speak. Amazing and controversial. I am incredibly blessed to be able to be studying here. How could I better learn about Islam than from a Muslim Middle Easterner, in the Middle East? And to learn about Middle Eastern politics from a director of the Arab Political Strategic Center, at the center and off record?
I'm also taking tabla (Arabic drum) and bellydancing lessons. They're a total blast.
So yes. This week has been much better than my first week. My first week was terribly hard, I'm not going to lie. I'll talk about it maybe in my next post. I'm doing much better now and I know I'm going to love living here for the next three months.
Oh and I know my sending address now. Send me a letter! =)

Juliana Shepherd
Middle East Studies Program
Po Box 213 Zemalek
Cairo, Egypt.

Sadly no pacages are allowed (customs issues).
Yay for old and beautiful places.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Expectations

I've been in Africa a week. Wow. Amazing. It has been more chalenging then I thought it would be, but at the same time, I didn't really think a lot about it before I came. I pretty much kept an open mind on how it would be. I'll tell you what I didn't expect though, was the backwardness of this place. I was talking to Bob about it tonight and he said Egypt is about 20 years behind China. I thought there would be malls. I thought that there would be computer shops. I thought more people would speak English. I didn't know so many women would be waring higabs (veils). I thought it would be more advanced in technology. But alas, I've found no malls, no computer shops (though some internet cafés), and few English speakers. I'm told "I love you" about 5 times a day by random men. No one has grabbed me though. I'm afraid, for their sakes, of someone grabbing me. I just can't see myself passing it off. I'd whack them then give Americans a bad name. People here in general like Americans and are very kind to us though. Men and little boys are the ones who are sometimes disrespectful to us woman, but men have it great. I thought I'd see more women out and about during the day but I see many more men than women. That's hard because it limits who I can talk to- limits practicing my Arabic. Again, the guys have the advantage. MESP sent us a list of things to bring and things not to bring and on it they said to bring 3/4 length to full length sleeved shirts only. We'd be able to wear short sleeves some places but not very often at all. But now that we're here we're told it doesnt really matter. Shorts are innapropriate, but we're allowd to wear jeans whenever and they don't mind us wearing short sleeves. I personally wear a cardigan over my short sleeves when I'm out, and just take it off when I'm in my flat or at the MESP villa. I dont wear skirts very often. I see so many girls here not wearing them, I feel it's not disrespecting their culture to not wear them either. Dr D said something that really impacted me, and that's that we are cultural embassadors. These people don't see westerners that often, so to them we reflect the west, we are America.

I didn't expect to be so close to my group as I have gotten. They really emphasise community and love among the group. Two nights ago we had a commitment service, where we committed to unity and caring for each other. I hadn't really thought about that aspect of the trip before coming. Now it's central. It's not so easy for me, cause I'm a pretty independent person. I need my alone time. I love interacting with people but I can spend hours alone entertaining myself and be perfectly happy. But, getting closer to these people I've started to wonder if that independence is because I truly am an independent person or if I really long for dependence and more people around me but am too shy or insecure to pursue closer reltionships.

I didn't expect to get so sick of the food as I have already. We eat pita every day and for every meal it's there on the table, and after 7 days I'm ready for a break. I've eaten way too much falafel and shwarna... I've been apetiteless for 2 days and that's just hard... Trying to make yourself eat foreign food when you're not hungry...
I need to try kosheri.. I hear it's really good... And yesterday I had a hamburger from Naema which was good. We love Naema. It's wicked cheap and close to our flats. Plus it looks pretty clean. I got sick yesterday from something I eat and it was not fun.. I spent all of last night making runs to the bathroom.

I didn't expect Arabic to be so hard, but it is. While I can understand what people say often, and can communicate my way, through pointing, sound effects, and facial expression, to learn all those vocab words and to try to remember them when you need them is so trying. My memory is horrible anyways (though I did impress myself today by knowing all the 31 names of the people in our group).

I didn't expect to play the violin so much. I play for devotionals and played for the commitment service and will play for the old people in my community service on Tuesdays. I go to the Sisters of Charity orphanage. It was founded by Mother Teresa. My motivation for choosing that place to serve was wrong, but God has used it for good, and I'm finding that though I am not a person inclined to serve in the area of touch (playing with old people and babies) which is what most MESPers go there to do, there is a place for me there. That's encouraging. I spent yesterday making a sign they needed made, and drawing a picture of Mother Teresa on a big chalkboard. It was odd. I was drawing the sign and a sister came in and gave me a picture of Mother Teresa and told me to draw it on the chalk board. It looked really cool afterward, I was happy with it. So next week I'll be playing for the old people. I'm excited.

So basically there are a lot of things I'm facing that were different than I expected. Which, I kindof expected to not expect a lot of the things I'd experience here, if that makes sense. I'm going to work super hard and learn as much as I can here. It will soon be over and it would be a tradgedy to not have taken full advantage of the experience. To have just "gotten by"... I want to push myself and find that I can do more than I thought I could and take risks that I thought I was too scared to make, and see that I can become a deeper and a more mature person in my knowledge of people and Islam and world affairs... my knowledge of God. I want to know the roots of my faith, I want to know why I believe as I do and I want to know Jesus better.. as the Son of God, why He is not just a prophet, why I believe He is God Himself. I watched "the Message" tonight and it was amazing.. It's a movie about Muhammad and his life and the roots of Islam. I have to say, more interesting than our Jesus film. Maybe because I've seen the Jesus film about 400 times. The Message was so informative.
Why do I believe in the Trinity? Where is the trinity in the Bible? Maybe the doctrine of the trinity isnt so correct. What then? Does my faith crumble? What of my faith is the doctrine of man, and what is actual truth? Regardless of what I find, Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and I there's no way to get to God, but through Him. Of that I am sure.
I am aware of the fact that the more questions you ask the more questions you will have. Things dont get less complex as you dig. That's alright. Unanswered questions are better than unasked questions. Asking a question assumes you seeking. At least you'll know when you do find an answer.

peace and grace!

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Haggling

I can't take being ripped off. "You from Amreeka? We love Amreeka! Come eat here!" They're very excited about us. The vendors treat us very kindly, but when it comes to paying for their product we pay double of what the average Egyptian would pay. It bothers me so much... For instance today Bob and Tara and I took the metro to the Mubarak stop looking for food (after stopping at two other stops that were obviously places where we should not be). We found a place (or the place found us...). If you just glance at a stand a stand tender will come up in front of you and try to get you to buy. We were starving and the food looked decent enough (last night we had a health talk with a nurse so that we know what to eat and not to eat so we dont get parasites or tyfoid like last semester's group) so we got a coke and a water and 3 "shworka" and a "falafel" ( I LOVE falafel). The food was great but when the bill came it was 35 LE. At Naela, the shop next to us in Agouza, sells shworka for 1.75 LE and falafel for .75 LE. They charged us 5 LE for each item! I was like, no way. There was a man standing near by and I pointed at the falafell and said "khamsa genea?!?!" (5 LE?!?!) and he came up to the waiter and talked (well, no one talks here. They all yell.) to the waiter and the waiter kept telling us 35. Finally after some arguing, the man took 20 LE from Bob and gave it to the waiter and the waiter left. Arh! No Egyptian would pay 35 for that, and even 20 was too much. But. Given the fact that 5.64 LE equals one dollars, I only saved like 3 dollars. But still. It's the moral of the thing. And then there was the taxi driver yesterday that after we had decided on 5 LE before getting in the cab, only gave us 3 LE change for our 10. I just looked at him. "itnein genea!" haha He gave us the two other geneas.


I can't wait to go back to the khan market. There you haggle for everything, and I intend on making some good bargains. I want to find a bottle that looks just like the genie lamp from Aladdin. And I'm not paying more than 10 genea.
Falafel!

Saturday, September 01, 2007

women in a muslim world

Today we went on a scavenger hunt that sent us all around Agouza and another part of Cairo. It was fun to see the places that we'll be so used to by then end of our stay. It's so odd to think that we will be able to navigate through Cairo by ourselves and go shopping and haggle in the market and semi understand the language by the end of our stay. Something I noticed and bothered me today was the way I need to act being a woman here. Right now I'm so tired of not looking men in the eyes and not being able to talk to men..... Josh, my scavenger partner, had to be the one to ask for most of the things we needed and stuff. Which sucked, cause we needed directions. =P But really, I'm already tired of being treated as a lesser being. I'll walk where I want, I'll talk to whom I want, stop looking at me and calling to me... stop ignoring my human-ness and rights and treat me as an equal, not as a cheap girl, or an object. Its not all of them.... It's a small percentage, really, of men who make comments, but still I feel it. It's what they dont do, which is respect me and talk to me as an equal and allow me to approach them.
Why would any woman convert to Islam? I understand being born in it... but to willingly be a part of a religion that disrespects you, that hugely favors men.... The space at the mosque where the women pray is much smaller then the men's space. They are not regarded in the services. And what is promised to women in muslim heaven?
My heart breaks for these ladies. Maybe they're happy with it. Maybe they're used to it. But after living such a life of descrimination and limited freedom here on earth, to face an eternity of ever lasting fire..... May God have mercy on them and reveal to them His truth.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Agouza, Cairo

Today the call to prayer woke me up in the middle of the night and for a second I was startled, but when I realized I was in Cairo my heart was so happy.. I felt such peace and just leaned out my window untill it was over, then fell back to sleep.
I arrived Wednesday night. It was a loooooong trip. Left Dayton at 11:40am on the 28th and had stops in Detroit, New York, and Frankfurt before arriving in Cairo at 8:00 pm on the 29th. I met my team in New York. It was weird to me cause Im going to be closely living with these people for 3.5 months. I hate the pressure of first impressions. But after an hour and confusing names a million times, we ate and were friends. There are 29 of us. Seventeen girls and 12 guys. It doesnt seem like that many anymore. We're getting tighter. On Tuesday night we're having a community service where we commit to each other for the semester, to lift each other's burdens, to love each other, to serve each other... I'm in the planning committee and will be playing the violin accompanied by a guitar. I brought my electric violin and am pretty pumped about it. Every day we start out by having devotions on Dr. Dave's (our director) roof. Its covered, and we sit together on these cool legless rug chairs on the floor and there are colorful rugs covering the floor. The roof is covered and there are ceiling fans... it's very pleasant. I love it up there. I'm seeing that the poeople in my group have very different denominational backgrounds. I find that freeing. I'm going to learn a lot here.
From what I've tasted the food here is great. Karina, an Egyptian woman, cooks for us at the MESP vila where we eat most of our meals, and she does a good job. After this week we'll be making our own dinners in our flats and I think then Ill only be eating vegetarian. All the food in the market has flies on it... except the meat.... cause it's been sprayed with bug spray... =D We eat "aish" with every meal... it's thin pita bread. It's growing on me though the sawdust filler makes me a bit uneasy. Today I pulled a little peace of wood from a peice of aish. Nothing like splinters in your tongue. I like it with nutella though. And jelly. Or you can fill it with anything.
So for best stuff, here are my pics so far:






I saw the pyramids from the plane!!!! It was a pretty smoggy though. Cairo's a dirty place!



So far I've seen a Cinnabon, KFC, Mc Donalds, Chillies, TGIFridays, and the Pizza Hut and Hardies in the picture. It's a mini America. Well not really, but it's all there. No Walmart, but some pretty cool little shops that will be fun shopping at. We need TP in the flat so thats our next mission.
Whatever ground that is not being built on is being farmed on.








The buildings are generally cruddy. People almost never walk on cross walks. There arnt really lanes in the streets. Cars just go and then honk when theres something or someone in their way. I like it.


Giza.





We went hijab shopping for our mosque visit. There were so many and they were beautiful all together.


Heidi and I with our teal hijabs. They looked pretty on us the next day.








The veiling.




Hookah!! Or Shisha, as it's called here. (J was immpressed with my skills haha)


We packed the place out. Got a 50% discount too.

I had a picnic on a boat on the Nile today.
















Lop sided. =) picture of the Hyatt hotel... one of the (if not the) most expensive in Cairo. We want to go to the round restaurant above and see the view and sip 20 Egyptian lb (4 dolars) tea. Things are pretty cheap there. You can get a meal for $10 in a nicer restaurant on the Nile.




No one fell, yay. We got warned about parasites in the Nile if you get in the water. Gross, Ill wait for our cruise to Luxor to swim. =))







This Nile was once blood. Many years ago. When God was freeing his people.



I was there. It's true. If I didnt have these pics, I'd think it was a dream.

Well, more later.
For now, know I know that miss you all and wish you were here.
Salaam.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Amanha!

This morning I woke up and all I could think of was "Tomorrow, it's happening tomorrow". Needless to say, I'm pretty pumped. At the same time, I just want my suitcase to be zippered up and to be on my way to the airport. I hate good byes. I have to say them a lot, but they don't get easier. Yesterday I missed my family a lot. We're pretty tight. AND my little brother just started college at PBU in Philly so I hate it that I can't be closer to him.
While I don't exactally feel as prepared to go as I should be, I feel like I'm prepared as I'll ever be. I feel emotionally prepared but intellectually lacking. This summer I studied Arabic and I know some basic words... man, child, milk, in, on, under, walk, run, jump... Words like that. But not much conversational Arabic. Like "Hi, how are you?" Which is kind of crazy cause that's what I'll be really needing in the beginnig. eh. Oh well, there's always thumbs up. I learned to read Arabic though, and I can do so pretty well. I just dont know what half the words mean. heh. It's a beautiful language. I have to say my favorite words so far are "salaam" (peace) and " hud-hud" (pronounced 'hood-hood')(humming bird).
I met a sudanese refugee in a coffee shop this summer and I got together with him a few times and he gave me some pronounciation tips and Egypt tips (he lived there for a while) and we talked politics and God. It was crazy, really. After I get my undergrad at CU I want to get a Physicians Assistant degree and then I'm planning on working in refugee camps. So, I met my first refugee, but I didn't help him... he was the one who helped me. I think that applies to the rest of my life really. I will be helping other people, but at the same time, they will be helping me. They will be teaching me, as I help them. I think I will learn soooo much in my career. I just hope I have an attitude that is teachable, that I wont be proud and think that people need me, but that I dont need them. My going to Egypt is partly about the classes and the credits and the sites, but, I'm going for more than that. Honestly, I want to find God there. Maybe God will find me there. I want to be away from all that keeps me comfortable and keeps me planned and I want to find my Lord. I want to feel the cleansing heat of the desert, the rawness of living where Christianity was born, I want to meet the people that will teach me about the world. Arabs, Jews, Muslims... I think they're more like me than I realize. I think we make differences between cultures bigger than they are. We are all in God's image... we are all human, we are the same deep down. God loves us all equally, and passionately. God who gave the Arab breath is the God who gave me breath.
Tomorrow... it's Cairo or bust!

Friday, August 17, 2007

So, this is my current feeling:


Someone pinch me. Am I really going to Egypt?
Hah. I told myself that I'm leaving for PA (my fam's taking my little bro to college, then I'll be in OH till I leave for Cairo) tomorrow so that I'd pack today and not have to stress about it tomorrow. I packed but there's still laundry to do and a trip to Wal Mart and the mall to be had, so I'm not really packed yet. But, I have in front of me a medium sized suitcase and it is full but def not busting at the seams. They keep telling us to pack light, so thats what I'm doing, but I'm afraid of getting there and regretting not bringing stuff. But hey. Basically I can buy everything there I would need except cosmetics so I think I will be ok.
I had a semi stress atack about a week ago and had to visit a friend and as we say in Portugal "desabafar"... basically means unloading with someone. Then I talked with God and we got some things worked out and had an attitude check, and since then I havent been very stressed or worried. More excited and expectant. I don't even know if "expectant" is a word, but it means that I am expecting great things to happen in me when I am there. I am preparing myself to be changed. Searching my heart and giving every area to God. And doing that everyday, as a way to prepare for this adventure. I've also been reading my Bible and doing word searches. I love Biblegateway.com. I go there and type in a word and read all the verses that talk about that subject. It is very enlightening. I'm finding that when I submerge myself in the BIble and in meditation on God, it is not hard to "bring Him up" in conversations. It just comes. Memorizing scripture leads to meditation so I've been trying to do that too.
I hate the media. It's always so negative and it makes me hate the world sometimes.

This is my Father's world
Oh let me never forget
That though the wrong seems oft' so strong
God is the ruler yet



Eleven days.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

I've gone egyptian! I am spending a semester studying in Cairo, Egypt. I'm starting this blog so I can post all the happennings and experiences and thoughts that I have. Oh, and pictures. Lots of pictures. I will leave on the 28th of August so I'll probably only really start posting a couple of days before I leave. Read and comment!