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Two weeks ago on a Saturday morning, I awoke to the tragic news of a terrible , (yet preventable) accident that took place in Assiut, in upper Egypt. A school bus was crossing train tracks to take a group of students to a school located 20+Km  away from where they lived to their school, because there isn’t a school nearer to them. The crossing guard was fast asleep at his post with the television on and supposedly with a sheesha in hand too. He didn’t pull the lever that could have saved many lives. The crossing guard, a government employee failed to do his job, which resulted in the death of fifty young lives, whose blood stained the front of the train. Those at the scene couldn’t find words to describe it, they said it was unlike anything they had ever seen in reality or in any horror movie.

This is not the first accident of its kind in Egypt and it will not be the last either. Why? Simply because, our government is and has always been negligent and does not put money back into the system to help maintain machinery, buildings, roads, trains …etc. (God forbid that people should ever feel safe when they have the opportunity to line the inside of their pockets). I am not surprised that it happened again but I am deeply saddened at the suffering and loss that so many families have to endure due to greed. Two of the many families have lost ALL their children in the accident and to add insult to injury, the government initially offered them 5000 Egyptian Pounds blood money per child, which is approximately 817  U.S Dollars. That is less than the price of an IPhone!!

An Egyptian T.V. Talk Show host, Amr Adeeb, totally lost his temper on his show and was infuriated not only because the accident had happened but because the amount of money was a despicable amount to pay for a life of a child. He called all Egyptians, President and the country a failure and said we should be embarrassed. (I would have to agree, we are great at talking the talk but do very little to improve our situation. we would rather sit back, ezzaz (nibble) on lib (sunflower/pumpkins seeds), watch T.V, smoke sheesha and have someone else do it). Adeeb’s ranting and raving did have an impact though… The blood money was bumped up to 50,000 Egyptian Pounds. It’s still not worth the life of a child and it will never take the pain or loss away. I still think they could dig deeper into their pockets and pay a few hundred thousand pounds more per child especially if they are able to spend millions on finding ways to block porn sites.

With bated breath last Thursday I hopped on a train to Alex to see my parents for the Thanksgiving weekend, after the train accident in Assiut,  I couldn’t help but wonder if I would reach my destination intact. Not long after I arrived and was sitting with my mother updating her on what’s been going on in my life the past couple of weeks, I logged into face book and twitter  and saw my news feed full of colorful descriptions of Egypt’s President elect. (eyes rolled in their sockets and ‘What has he done now’ said the voice in my head)

As a storm brewed over head I wasn’t able to watch ‘THE’ mother of all speeches on satellite so I turned to BlackBerry messenger and Facebook Chat and what I was being told by friends was equally worrying and humorous. Our ‘Democratically’ elected President Morsy had declared himself above and beyond the law. He’s so far above the law that any cases against him from the time he had taken office will be dropped. No one but ‘He’ has the right to dissolve the Shuraa part of the Parliament. He has new evidence against the Mubarak family and their constituents, so they will be retried, (just to name a few) . In less than a year he has given himself more power than any president this country has ever had. He declared himself Caesar/Pharaoh! (yeah, Ceasar/Ramsis II has been reincarnated and is alive and well in Morsy). People sat on their couches with their mouths gaping wide open, with eyes buldging out of their sockets in disbelief! He just pulled the Coup D’Etat card on us!

Naturally people went ballistic!!!

This very man gave his acceptance speech just months ago swearing that he would do right by his country, his people, those who lost their lives, preserve the revolution and will do everything legitimately…. IF he’s forgotten, we can play it back for him, it’s been recorded and there were thousands up thousands of people watching him here in Egypt and throughout the world! If I was to pull the Coup D’Etat card on my country men (not that, I would but if that was my plan) I wouldn’t have done it now… I would have done it after I had won the hearts and minds of the people. NOT NOW when you’re still going through the public’s probation period!

Did he honestly think that people would take it lightly? We got rid of a 30 year dictatorship, we didn’t sign up for it to be replaced with another one with MORE POWERS than the previous one. This is like  something out of Greek Mythology, Slayers behead the beast and the people hail their bravery and victory of slaying the beast, only to find out later that the beast wasn’t dead, it had grown another head !

So, now what?

Do we all run out and buy Aabayas (burkaas) and galaabeyas? Do bars, cinemas and night clubs go extinct or underground? Does the age for marriage drop below puberty? Do women find themselves back behind the kitchen counters mastering grandmother’s old recipes and popping out kids every 9 months?

No!!! We make our voices heard and let him and his bearded buddies know that not everyone supports his decree and that he needs to take it back! The following day, Friday November 23, people across Egypt who opposed Morsy’s decree took to the streets in protest! Several Egyptian governorates made their voices heard! They did not and would not accept his ‘temporary’ power at the helm of Egypt! He infuriated people so much that they stormed the Freedom of Justice Party offices in several cities, looted them and in Alexandria they found a bra, which the stormers held out onto the balcony to show the watching public! Then they torched the place.

Last Tuesday another protest was scheduled and the friction between the pro and anti Morsy fractions could be felt on the streets. Many schools decided to not open that day for fear that there might be violence and that students and teachers might not get home in time before the show down.  The MB in Cairo were scheduled to march that day too, but decided to post-pone it to a later date for fear of violent clashes. In Alexandria there was a stand-off between the two parties but I didn’t hear of any major incidents. Mansoura demonstrated their disapproval of the president’s decree and also stormed the FJP headquarters there. Mahalla got the brunt of it, Morsy supporters were out in full force and fired live ammo on the protestors, resulting in many casulaties.

Today is Friday, November 30th and another protest is scheduled to take place today… tensions are running very high especially with the threat of MB and Morsy supporters threatening to lash out on those who do not support Morsy.

Presently Egypt is divided into two unequal fractions. Those who support the president and his decree and those who don’t. If we are going to be honest, we are out numbered by the supporters, which automatically reminds me of Lord of The Rings and the battle for middle earth. I hope that things end as well as they did in the book for Egypt and her people’s sake!

Don't be silenced by shame, Stand Up and Speak Up!

A few weeks ago I was on a walking tour with some my colleagues in Islamic Cairo on a chilly and somewhat gloomy Saturday morning. I was the youngest female in the group and the only one who had lived in the Middle East for 3 decades. Pete, one of the people on the tour approached me and asked me how I cope with living in Egypt and how do I handle ‘the men’ and being harassed on the street. I told him that I had written an article about Sexual Harassment and it had been published in Community times. Interested in my views and article he asked me to send him a copy and if I would consider being a guest speaker and give a talk to High Schoolers, I agreed.

I am always willing to share my work with others and get their feedback, but as the date for the talk loomed closer I wasn’t so sure if I could follow through. The memories and the feelings of the experiences I had and trying to find the words to describe the situations and how it affected me wasn’t as easy as I had thought it would be. I found myself in a tug of war ‘don’t do it, you don’t need to go through all this again, it’s in the past.’ ‘You have to do this, you have to speak up and let the younger generation know that this isn’t acceptable and that women and men shouldn’t brush this under the carpet any longer! Women have been silenced long enough; you need to speak up and out about it.’ My worry was resurrecting and awakening the emotions that I had worked so hard to tame and keep locked away. Would I be able to handle it even after all the time that had passed?

The voice of reason won the battle and I didn’t bail out. To help me I wrote out key points to help me stay on track as a guide line to the discussion and talk. I knew that if I let my emotions get the better of me; it may turn out to be a bawling session and a mockery of something that I feel very deeply about.

The day of the talk, I had butterflies in my stomach and when I saw the young faces of Egypt’s future I became more nervous, my face flushed a bright red and my skin burned, my voice quivered and my hands shook, but I kept going.

After introducing myself to the class, giving my nationalities and making sure that they knew that although I am of mixed ethnicity that I was also ‘ONE OF THEM’, an Egyptian woman. This seemed to wake them up a bit and grab their attention. I discussed the different forms of sexual harassment (Degrading and graphic terms said, the skin crawling looks of being undressed and devoured by the other person and the physical (which on its own comes in many forms))

I told them that most people assume that women or teenage girls must have done something or dressed provocatively to have provoked or asked for the attack to happen. I then told them that my earliest memory was between the ages of 10 or 12 and I was in a shopping mall with my family when I had my first experience and that is when I saw the students get their wake up call! I had reached them; they were seeing it not only from an Egyptian woman’s point of view but from a kid’s point of view. They knew that there was no way at such a young age I could have provoked an attack or had known what sexual harassment was.

Unfortunately children here lead very sheltered lives and do not know what dangers await them outside their apartment doors. They know that there are bad people and that there are thieves but they aren’t made aware of the others that are lurking about. Our girls are clueless and defenseless, I am certain that none of them would know what to do if they were put in a situation like that.

There are many subjects that are taboo in this part of the world and have been locked away in a dark corner of everyone’s mind, simply because they choose not to believe it exists and it will go away on its own. In a perfect world, perhaps it would work, but we do not have that privilege.

Not talking about ‘Sex’, ‘The Body’ and ‘Sexual Harassment’ makes things worse, the predators and prowlers who take advantage of the women walking in the street minding their own business may not have been made aware of what some people will do and how they may violate them. They mightn’t understand or know what their instincts are telling them when they sense an intruder in their personal space. Women being shamed in to guilt and silence just make the offenders more powerful and willing to repeat their acts on other innocent and unsuspecting women?! How can we condone such a thing? We need to arm these women with knowledge of how to recognize a potential offender and how to fight them off. Letting them walk around unarmed with the basic knowledge is just as bad as the person committing the acts themselves.

I know full well what goes through a woman’s mind and the mental torment that follows after an attack. The incident replays itself over and over in your mind, you wonder what you may have done to have provoked the attacker, what you could have done differently. How dirty you feel and no matter how hard or many times you try to wash yourself, the dirt doesn’t seem to go away. It seems to linger on and beneath the skin. You just want to curl up somewhere dark and hide away, BUT if we do that, they win and they strip us of our dignity.

After one of my attacks, I said enough is enough, I will not be silenced! I am not doing anything wrong and I certainly DON’T WANT this to happen! I am going to fight back and I will not let them silence me. This is MY body and they have NO right to touch me!

The examples I gave not only hit home with the girls in the class but it also hit home with the boys. Especially when I told them that on more than one occasion there were men who saw what happened and did nothing. No one came to my aid and I had to fight the sicko off myself!

It isn’t only the women who have to stand up but it’s also the men who have to as well.

I am grateful that the school and the teachers are broaching the subject and are discussing it openly and honestly with the students. I feel that more schools and homes should do the same, If we are ever going to make the streets safer for women to walk down without constantly having to be alert of everyone one around her.

After the talk, four of the staff members who had been present for my talk said that not only were they moved by the talk, but that the students seemed to really relate and were fired up about bringing about change and doing something to make more people aware.

I know I had my doubts about giving the talk, but I am glad that I did. I may have reached someone that day and given them some tips to recognize the warnings and let them know that they are not alone in this.

I have been a victim of Sexual Harassment, I will NOT be silenced and I AM speaking out against it.

NB: My Mom just called me in a panic, because she thought that I had been raped and not told her about it. Sexual Harassment doesn’t have to be an assault to that degree. No, I have not been raped, but I have had men full clothed try to force themselves on me and touch me in places that is in appropriate. That is also sexual harassment and it isn’t right!

Primary School Students in Alexandria-Photo by Thom Harwell

Primary School Students in Alexandria-Photo by Thom Harwell

The entry below is hypothetical; it is something I have been mulling over in my mind for quite some time. Being an educator I have found that one of the many joys of teaching is being able to pass on knowledge to the future generations. I have dreams and hopes that one day the Egyptian people will climb back up to the top and impress us with their capabilities once again and achieve great things.
For decades we have been experiencing a brain drain. Families who have had the means have immigrated to foreign countries to seek a better life and education for the children. The education system I regret to say, presently is not nurturing our nation’s future. With classrooms that hold between 30-70 students in a single class, how on earth can the system expect teachers to be able to reach or teach students? It isn’t a wonder that there is an abundance of private tuition that goes on!
If Egypt is to change, the education system and its curriculum has to be one of its focal points.
If I was given the opportunity to be Minister of Education, I would make a lot of changes, which  would also probably put a price tag on my head and move me to the top of many people’s HIT LISTS, but somebody has to step up to the plate and take charge.
Egyptians at one point in history were the leaders in Science and Mathematics, the Pharaohs were living proof of that. Over decades our position among the leading educated nations has slipped to the lower end of the spectrum which is very upsetting.

 
The public school system, (by public I mean government run schools) is lacking in so many areas that it is very difficult to find a starting point. Below are a few areas that I have been thinking about, but before I do that, let me paint a visual picture of what a ‘Government School’ is like; the following paragraph you are about to read is an excerpt from my Masters Comprehensive Exam Essay;

 
“For me to describe the ‘high quality education’ that I envision for schools in Egypt In the 21st century I need to give a brief description of what public/government run schools are like presently.”

 
“The land and building on which the schools are built on are not only structurally depressing to look at but to be in. The exterior walls of the school are colorless and lifeless. They look more like prison blocks than they do institutions for learning. The classrooms are small, poorly lit, desks are crammed in tightly next to one another to form as many rows as possible. There is a huge worn out chalkboard at the front of the room where the teacher stands and regurgitates and spoon feeds lessons. Students from as low as 30-70 in a classroom is best described as a can of sardines. The play area is a small patch of land with sand. I won’t even go in to describing the washroom facilities because I will only make you queasy. The sounds that ring out and across the school are mainly the voices of teachers shouting their lessons, banging their desk, children reciting and repeating phrases and scolding. “
This is not learning… this is programming. If the founding Theorists of Education could see the state of these schools, they would probably be turning in their graves. I don’t know how we as a nation have allowed or permitted education to be put on a back burner and for our countries future to be taught under these conditions.
For the school system to improve we need to improve not only the conditions of the learning institutions but we need to rectify teaching methods, because they are stuck in a time warp. Teachers need to teach not only for the present time but for the future.  Educators need to be re-educated themselves, sending them all back to school probably isn’t going to be feasible and will be very expensive, so an alternate way to go about doing this would be by asking teachers who have gained their Teaching Certificates or Masters in Education to volunteer their time to show teachers different methods and techniques for teaching phonemic awareness, reading, math fundamentals, writing, free thinking as well as how to plan a lesson. These courses would cost the teachers nothing and it would be in the form of ongoing professional development that in addition to asking teaching professionals, we would also extend the invitation to professors to lecture them in theory and practices as well as child psychology.
While the teachers are being re-educated I would have the employees of the Ministry of Education evaluate the current curriculum and together decide what areas need to be amended, changed or dropped all together. Part of the revamping of the curriculum will include hands on learning. Let’s face it, there is so much you can learn from a text-book and not everyone can absorb what the teacher is lecturing about.  According to Howard Gardener there multiple Intelligences, (http://www.infed.org/thinkers/gardner.htm ), in summary means there are several ways people learn and we as a nation need to understand and accept that. Knowledge of the world and its people is something students need to be exposed to. We fear what we do not understand, the more we understand, the less fear we have of the outside world. I would also insist that trades men from the rural areas demonstrate and show students their trade and teach them some of the skills. This would be a stepping stone to start building pride in professions as well as a sense of community.

I don’t expect that with the wave of my pointer all shall be fixed and there won’t be any problems. A lot of damage has been done and a lot of rectifying will be met with resistance. I don’t expect everything to be fully implemented for at least 5-10 years, but changes would be underway before the start of the academic year of 2012, if I had my way, that is.
How to put money back in to the schools and the school system?
I have no idea what the government’s budget is for education or if there are any funds for that matter, so I am going to presume that we have NONE.  To find funding for this enormous project is far from being easy. One idea that does come to mind would be to re-invest a percentage of the sales of the needed textbooks and uniforms back in to the schools as well as having a percentage of our salaries taxed to be reinvested in to the education system. By this we would be making sure the classrooms would be in a condition that is safe and a comfortable learning environment.  We would also be able to reduce the number of students in classrooms and increase teachers’ salaries. Each classroom would have the proper lighting, ventilation and furniture and eventually resources. The bathroom facilities would be sanitary and the playground a place where students can enjoy running around and playing at recess.

 
I would also look for private and public donations by setting up an account for people to donate money to help improve the education system. I’m sure along the road my team and I would find other ways and means of finding funds.
I know that I am probably going to be shot for having suggested that we pay a tax where the money goes towards the education system, but if we profess to love this country as much as we do, shouldn’t we reinvest in it and by doing so through the education so that the future generations of Egypt, lead this country out of the third world country bracket but towards the 21st century and a better nation?
Education is the weapon to fighting ignorance and I hate to be the one to admit it or to point it out, but there is a lot of it here. For Egypt to make a 180 degree turn in the right direction, we need to educate the people of this nation, re instill the self-worth and pride in who they are. If we accomplish that, trust me their voices will grow strong along with their spirits. We need to start from ground zero, from those who are less fortunate than most and work our way up. Think of it as rebuilding our heritage.

On a final note, from what I have been reading on twitter, there is a movement called #tweetback that is working towards raising money for a slum on development projects, aside from regular donor packages, they are adding a twitter campaign component. The recipients of the donations are Ezbet Kheiralla. I know that they are also working towards improving the conditions of some of the schools in that area, if you would like to contribute;
“#tweetback  donations: CIB Bank, Semiramis Branch, acct number 2240000220-SWIFT CIBEEGCX 002, under name Peace and Plenty.
As relayed to me by @TravellerW-Mohamed El Dahshan on twitter.

I have lived in the Middle East (Saudia Arabia and Egypt) for 30 years now. In both countries I have witnessed and been a victim of sexual harassment. One of my earliest memories is of, going to the Mall in Saudi Arabia with my family for an outing and I would be holding either my mother or my father’s hand and Saudi men would try to pinch my behind or try and pinch me in other inappropriate places. At the time I didn’t understand why they would want to do that, I still don’t know what it is about  10 year old girls that would turn on a man. I begged my father to buy me an Abbaya (long black cloak that women wear in KSA to cover themselves up). He fought me tooth and nail and opposed the thought of his daughters having to cover up at such a young age, but when the situation was explained to him, he gave in and willingly bought it. It’s odd how a black cover would act as a protective shield against unwarranted and wanted attention.

When my family and I moved to Egypt in the early 90s, shortly after the first Gulf War, I experienced different kinds of harassment and on different levels. I remember going for walks with my younger sister and mother (who is blond and blue eyed), and constantly being harassed. The men would walk up to her confidently and ask her “how much?” or offer her “1 pound” for her services. The fact that she was married with children didn’t faze them in the least bit! (What high morals they have and great examples of  ‘Good Muslim Men’-NOT). If that wasn’t enough, some men would be a bit sneakier in their approach and try to follow us home to find out where we lived. Luckily we were very observant and would notice their predator tracking behavior and go in to a shop, where we would know the shop keeper and tell him that someone was following us. He, his sons and employees would come to our aid and go out and ‘greet’ the prowler with heavy slaps on the back and rough him up a bit. Other men in the neighborhood would then join in and descend upon the poor guy like a pack of wolves encircling their prey.

As I grew older and matured, the same would happen to me. I would be very conscience of what I would go out wearing in public. I would check and double check that I was conservatively dressed and wouldn’t attract unwanted attention, (Shoulders covered, check! Cleavage covered, Check! Shirt or t-shirt  is below  waist length, Check!) I became paranoid! (I still am to some extent)

The funny thing about that is, it wouldn’t matter how much clothing I wore I would still get harassed by men in the street. I have had cat calls some very flattering but mostly very degrading! I have been groped, grabbed, pinched, rubbed against, followed on foot, followed in cars by men of all ages (including those who are meant to serve and protect us), pushed up against a wall where a guy tried to smother me with his lips and have had someone jump in to my car window and try and put his hands all over me. I have also ( I think everyone has had) the crank callers, the heavy breathers and the ones who are gutsy enough to describe their dirties fantasies on the phone too.  I have so many stories and instances that the list just goes on and  to this day, it still continues to grow…

The instances mentioned above are mine, but I know of many other situations that have happened to people I know. Can you imagine coming out of a building and having a guy push you back in against the iron gates of the elevator and ejaculating on you?! Now tell me that she asked for that, when all she wanted to do was get to her car and go back to the safety of her home.

After an attack like that, you feel dirty and violated. You just want to cry a river and cleanse yourself, but not matter how much soap you use or scrubbing, you can’t get rid of that feeling. It takes a lot of talking, time and support from people who care to get over something like that.

I am tired of having to torture myself by replaying the events back in my mind, action for action wondering and question if I wore something that provoked the attack or if it was my body language, did I look the person in the eye and did they take that as an invitation?  I constantly wonder if I did something to provoke them. Every time, the answer is the same, ‘NO’. If you are going to debate the matter with me and tell me it’s because I’m not veiled then, please stop reading and continue your web browsing elsewhere. Don’t you dare insult my intelligence and say that the reason it happens is because my hair isn’t covered! Don’t! The truth is even women who are veiled are subjected to the same kind of harassment, if not worse!

When are people going to stop being in denial and face the facts?!

We don’t enjoy it and we certainly don’t provoke it! So, if it isn’t us, then hmmm…. I wonder who might be the problem. Whose brain might need to be rewired?

Why is it that (those kind of) men think it’s o.k. to treat women with such disrespect? We aren’t sexual objects or rubbing posts. That isn’t why we were put on the planet. I know that Islam is all about treating women with dignity and respect. So,  can someone please tell me where are they learning this form of behavior? Why have the women been quiet about this for so long?

Last year Community Times dedicated a page every month to sexual harassment and I was one of the contributors. I took the step to come forward because I wanted other women to have courage to speak up and know that they are not alone!

Before the revolution an Egyptian an Arabic movie 678 came out and hit the cinemas across the country. It’s whole purpose was to shed light on sexual harassment in Egypt and how even when you tried to report the incident at a police station women were be belittled or made to feel that they were the reason behind the act. In my opinion it was a powerful movie with a strong message. I hope women here and in the region will answer to the call and stand up for their human rights and take a stand against sexual harassment and bring an end to the tolerance and the acts.

I still think twice about what I’m wearing before walking out the door to go somewhere, but when I am out. I will not allow anyone to touch my body. It is my temple and I will defend it. I will not allow them to turn me in to a defeated or whimpering victim.

I am against sexual harassment and you should be too!

I am beginning to feel that perhaps the guy who had broken my heart four years ago was right. That perhaps I am not worthy of being anyone’s girlfriend, that I am not attractive and that no guy would want to go out with me.

You’re probably wondering what triggered this train of thought…. Well, what else would send me in to a spiral storm of total loss of self-confidence? … A man of course!

I just wish men would come forward and say exactly what it is that they are thinking, rather than make me write a mental list of all the possible things I might have said or did that may have pushed them away. As well as open up my closet of endless flaws  and go through each and every point that could have contributed towards the rejection.

Just when I was taking steps towards getting back in to the dating game and taking the risk of opening up, I have been knocked back in to my shell and buried back under a rock, while trying to be brave by holding back the hurt and holding back the burning tears.

Is any of this really worth it? I’m tired of feeling undesirable… Perhaps it’s best to stay in my shell, keeping my head down and continuing to be a work-a-holic. At least I know I’m good at that and won’t get rejected.

 The academic year of 2010/2011 has been one of the toughest I have ever had to endure. I was ‘blessed’ with a class of 21 very unique students. All of whom are very different from the other, but all are interesting, strong-willed and very opinionated.

I have never had to work so hard to gain students respect and trust. I’ve had to work even harder to make the academics interesting enough for them to want to stay seated and silent long enough for me to teach the material, skills and concepts necessary.

I had thought on numerous occasions to just throw in the towel and call it quits. The money isn’t worth the daily struggle to be heard and I don’t think the students would even notice if I didn’t show up to work. I would convince myself that it wouldn’t be professional to walk away from a teaching post in the middle of an academic yea, it wouldn’t be fair to put such a burden on my colleagues  and I gave my word and being a bit old-fashioned, when I give my word, I honor it to the very end. People break their contracts and their word all the time, surely I’m not that stubborn or masochistic to want to continue to endure this? Is it something deeper or stronger that keeps me from packing up my books and resources?

I would also question my path, the direction I took in to becoming a teacher. Why, oh why!??!?! I could have been a litigator arguing my way in courtroom, a child psychologist or a woman in the corporate world making close to a six figure salary by now. Did I misread the signs? Did I miss my true calling?

For the past two days I have been hauled up alone in my apartment with infected tonsils. I’m the type of person who has to keep busy or I will start climbing the walls! I did some revision and reading for my upcoming masters course, cleaned out the fridge, vacuumed, mopped, blitzed the kitchen, cleaned the guest bedroom and moved things around to make it look homier…. Just to pass the time. I was about to start on my bedroom (again) when I came across an old file filed with some of my teaching resources and amongst the papers I came across a paper that I had printed out three years ago. It was an e-mail forward about a teacher. I’d like to share it;

“Perhaps this will cause all of us to look at those who choose the teaching profession through a different light.

The dinner guests were sitting around the table discussing life. One man, a CEO decided to explain the problem with education. He argued “What is a kid going to learn from a person who decided his best option in life was to become a teacher?”

He reminded the other guests what they said about teachers “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach” To stress his point he said to another dinner guest, “You’re a teacher Bonnie. Be honest what do you make?”  Bonnie who had a reputation for honesty and frankness replied. “You want to know what I make.” (She paused for a second then began)

“Well, I make kids work harder than they ever thought they could. I make a C+ feel like a Congress Medal of Honor. I make kids sit through 40 minutes at a time when their parents can’t make them sit for 5 without an iPod, Game Cube or a movie rental… You want to know what I make. (She paused and looked at each and every person around the table)

I make kids wonder

I make kids question

I make kids criticize.

I make kids apologize and mean it.

I make them respect and take responsibility for their actions.

I make my other student from other countries learn everything they need to know in English while preserving their unique cultural identity.

I make the classroom a place where all my students feel safe.

Finally, I make them understand that if they use the gifts they were given, work hard, follow their hearts they can succeed in life.

(Bonnie paused one last time)

Then when people try to judge me by what I make, I can hold my head up high and pay no attention because they are ignorant…

You want to know what I make.

I make a difference. What do you make?

There is much truth in this Teacher’s statement. Teacher’s make every other profession. “

Thanks to Don Liston, I know know who the author of the forward is; the above was written by, Taylor Mali

(end of email forward)

 Having read the above, I now know why I haven’t been able to walk away, because even thought I might not see the results of my efforts immediately, I Do Make a Difference, each and day, of every working week or every academic year. So, if people want to turn their noses up at me because I teach, that’s fine. At least I had a hand in sculpting the future… and I can sleep with a clear conscience.

I have heard time and time again how are people to know what you want if you don’t speak up and ask for it. I have to be totally honest, I can’t argue with that. As much as I would like people to be able to read my thoughts as well as understand the workings of my very odd and somewhat complicated mind, they can’t, so, I have no choice but to speak up and ask for what I want. In Paulo Coelho’s book ‘The Alchemist’ and Rhonda Byrne’s, best-selling book that tells of “The Secret’ they say that ‘The Universe Is Conspiring To Work In Your Favor’ you just need to ask for what you want in a positive way and the universe will work its magic and in time, it will have it sent to you when every thing is aligned and it’s meant to be yours. ( I even have a few vison/dream boards to help me visualise what I want)

I have to admit that it has worked in my favor many times from the smallest thing like a parking spot to the job I have been dreaming of! Each time I receive what ever it is I have asked for, I make sure that I express my sincere gratitude for receiving what has been granted. Having said that there are 2 things I am still waiting on… 1) my books to be published  and 2)  to meet or be introduced to my life partner. In the past I have had the worst luck when it comes to romance! I’ve seen and experienced so much I would have the right to swear off men completely but I still have hope and a little faith left that I will get it right the next time. Although the experiences I have gone through have been enough to turn ones blood cold and cause great heartache, I have learned a valuable lesson from each and every one of them. I have learned to recognize those who are genuine in their affections and those who are only around for a bit of fun and to pass the time until another damsel catches their eye. The genuine ones are becoming fewer these days and are rare to find.

So, if all I have to do is ask, then so be it; I have a lot to gain and nothing to lose by simply asking politely

Dear Universe grant me the following if you please;

I would be eternally gratefully if you could orchestrate for an honest, reputable and professional illustrator and publishing house to show interest in my children’s books and offer me a book deal. I would like to be able to share the Egyptian culture that is part of my heritage with the rest of the world and show it through the eyes and lives of the characters in my books. With that a small handsome fortune that will assist me in taking care and looking after my parents.

My parent’s are comforted with the fact that their youngest daughter has found the man she wishes to spend the rest of her life with. They would also like to see me settled too while they are still able to dance to a beat. The man I am looking for first and foremost must be single and eligible! He has to be one of good family values, he needs to have sterling manners socially and at the table, he needs to be a man of intellect, one who is comfortable in his own skin and whom can speak and read Arabic and English very well (if he can speak more than 2 languages that is a plus). He must possess a sense of humour and finds enjoyment in music, movies and dancing. He needs to be responsible, respectable and successful at his job. He needs to be a man who is honest, genuine, kind, faithful, understanding, flexible and generous emotionally as well as financially.A man who is willing to help out around the house and have a hand in raising our children. I need a man who can appreciate me for who I am and who can understand my multicultural background as well as my liberal way of thinking and living. A man who is ready to settle down and have a family and to be a partner in the marriage as well as a good father.  If this man could be of mixed ethnicity, tall, with broad shoulders, fit physic, good-looking, have nice teeth, nice hands, nails and feet, with warm smiling eyes and good health, I would be very thankful.

Please grant my sister and her husband a healthy, happy and prosperous life together. May they always be blessed.

Please grant my parents health, laughter, joy, love and sound minds in the years that are to come.

Please help the people of Egypt, Libya, Bahrain and Syria find the strength to regain control of their country and take back their identities. Guide them to a brighter, happier, prouder and prosperous future.

As you know universe, I love food! The tantalizing flavours and their many combinations are delicious. I have been successful these past few months in controlling myself and I am very proud and pleased with my accomplishments thus far, but if you could continue to help fuel my will power to reach my target weight and the image that I am aiming to achieve that would be grand!

Please continue to guide me a long life’s path and shine your light down on it to help me see the way, continue to show me the signs that I need to take note of so that I may continue on the course that I’m meant to take.

Universe, I would like to thank you for the small and big opportunities that you have brought my way. My life and career has been blossoming and moving in the direction that I had and continue to visualise for myself. I have been able to pay for my teaching certificate and masters without any financial aid or assistance. I have earned a reputation as an active, caring, creative and animated teacher. You have brought people of great value and friendship in to my life and have blessed me with a loving and caring family. I have grown to be a strong opinionated independent woman. You have opened the door for me in the field of writing and I have had many articles published in magazines. The list is endless and I am humbled by your generosity, thank you.

N.B The Image for my blog post was found at; http://www.photography-match.com/wallpapers/6862_digital_universe_189/

As I may or may not have mentioned in previous posts my little sister was getting married. It didn’t look as though it would happen with the recent events that took place in Egypt, but we were able to pull it off and celebrate the union of my sister’s marriage to her husband.

I was bestowed the title and the responsibility of Maid of Honor. One of my responsibilities was to organize a bachelorette Party or Henna Night, but due to dodgy security and safety issues in Egypt, I decided to host it in my flat in Cairo. The only problem was that I had never attended a bachelorette or henna in my life, so I had no idea what the hell to do!! I asked a few friends and the grooms sisters for some insight as well as the brides in put. I didn’t want it to be a cock-up…, I wanted everyone to have a cracking good time with lots of laughter!

So, I decided to go with more of a (tame) Western approach to the bachelorette. I sent out an e-vite to all her friends and colleagues, came up with a menu, (which was partially catered) and the only thing left to do was to come up with a theme and entertainment… easier said than done! It’s a good thing I plan ahead of time… because I started a month before the party date!  I decided to go with a blue and white theme, which was a lucky choice, because I was able to find plates, napkins, place mats, cake, cookies and flowers to match. Bachelorette Parties are not popular here, so decorations were none existent, but being a teacher and having some creative talents I made them myself along with streamers hanging from the chandeliers!

With the security situation in Egypt being close to none existent for civilians throughout February and March, I had been suffering from insomnia. People’s homes were being robbed at all hours of the day, people being kidnapped and held for randsom, making sure I was home well before the curfew hours and school buses being attacked by bandits during the early hours of the morning, robbing teachers and students on the buses. Many of which were close to where I worked. So, as you can imagine it was a  tough time! As tired as I was of being on high alert all the time, I didn’t want to let my sister down, she had been through enough, with having the excitement of buying her dress buried under the events that followed  January 28th, so I pushed myself through the exhaustion to make her party a memorable one.

On the 1st of April it was party time! I had done everything I could possibly do and I just prayed it would be a night she would enjoy as well as remember. The party was due to kick off at 3pm, but due to Egyptians and their terrific sense of time, the guests started to arrive at around 4pm, which was probably a blessing in disguise because the caterers were late too and that was the day we had a mild Earthquake…talk about getting things off to a shaky start!

When the guests and the food finally arrived, I got the party started with an ice breaker and then when straight in to the games! I wish I could go in to juicy details, but, what happens at the bachelorette party stays at the bachelorette party. What i can disclose is that my sister and her guests had a hysterical time. The enjoyed the entertainment, the food and the company, which in my opinion is all that matters!

The week that followed was the signing of her marriage certificate (registry) or as it’s known in the Middle East, Ketb Ketab. I took 2 days off of work to be able to help out and attend the civil ceremony. Which was touch and go… My sister for some odd reason decided to go to the bank that morning and got held up, which made her late for her hair appointment and their was a protest on the street we lived on which made traffic build up, which made her very late getting home to get ready for the ceremony which (luckily) was being held at home. She arrived 3 minutes before the groom and the registrar! When the ceremony commenced she realised she didn’t have her I.D, so I had to run down the corridor to her room to find it in a dress and high heels, I felt like a penguin on stilts. (for those of you who don’t know me… dresses, heels and I don’t go well together. Why you ask? I don’t think I do dresses justice, high heels kill my feet and are super uncomfortable I don’t care what it does for posture! THEY HURT LIKE HELL) Once that was settled the groom had a look of panic on his face and he kept mouthing something to me, he had forgotten something in his bag, which meant I had to do another high heel marathon down the hall way! From that point on, it was smooth sailing!

5 days later, 15th of April was the BIG Wedding reception. By this time I am so sleep deprived that the night before my Mum insisted I take a sleeping tablet or I would burn myself out which was one of the best suggestions she could have come up with because the day of the wedding I was running around the hotel grounds like a quarter back out on the field, from one block to another. By the time the bride was dressed, with her hair beautifully styled, pictures had been taken and we were ready to get the party started I could have curled up next to Rip Van Winkle, but no… Dad wasn’t answering his phone, so I had to go ahead of the bride and groom to find my father to tell him to be at the stairs waiting for my sister. Again trying to run across the hotel compound in an evening dress and heels isn’t an easy thing to do and it slows you down considerably…. so, there was only on thing to do, take off the damn shoes, hike up the dress and hold it one hand along with clutch and camera, while carrying the shoes in the other dashing to the building where the reception party was being held, (I am not making this up! I have scores of witnesses!!).  I run in to the hotel reception and to the left is the bar where many guests decided to go and wait because they got tired of waiting…wedding was due to start at 6pm and bride didn’t get there till about 8pm! I run in to the bar barefoot, dress hiked up, shoes in one hand and yell ‘She’s coming!!! Yella!! Everyone up stairs! Let’s get this party started!’ only to spin around and run up the spiral stair case two steps at a time to the hall and come face to face with my father’s cousin who sees the sight of me and falls about laughing as I rush past him and burst in to the hall, my poor father seems me just as he’s about to put a handful of nuts in his mouth and takes my uncouth entrance as a cue that she’s ready and needs to go and stand in position. I run over  to my mother to tell her we are starting and she just grabs me by the arm and says…’NADIA, that is not the way to make an elegant entrance, PUT YOUR SHOES ON NOW!’ After that it was a good, good night! All the guests had a fantastic time, everyone was up dancing, singing to the songs and the people who attended genuinely were happy for the Bride and Groom! I have never seen my sister so radiant and happy. I’m going to miss not having her in the same country…but at least now I have a valid excuse for leaving the country to go and visit her!

You would think that after all of that I slept right?… WRONG! The party went on till 5am, I opted out at 3:30, only to be locked out of my room because a power surge canceled my key card and I had to get another one. I was up later that morning at 9am, at the dining hall for breakfast and out lounging by the pool by 11am. It wasn’t until Sunday after having taken my sister to the airport and my parents had gone back to Alexandria that I finally slept a full night after almost 2 months of surviving on maybe 3-5 hours sleep a night or a week.

I love my sister and my new brother – in -law dearly and being given the title and duties of Maid of Honour is truly flattering to have bestowed upon you, but trust me, it isn’t what it’s cracked up to be!! I don’t understand why people get their knickers in a twist if they weren’t chosen for the role!

So, as you can imagine with everything that has been going on, it was hard to find time to blog with everything that I had piled high on my plate.

I’m having one of those weeks or days where I just physically can’t convince myself to do anything after work. It’s like the motivation that I usually have to get things done has evaporated!Washing dishes seems like a tedious and exhausting task.
Do you ever feel like that?

I feel so emotionally drained right now, that i feel like there is a huge weight on my chest making it hard for me to take deep breaths, the pressure below my eyes are just as heavy. It feels as though they are both waiting for the final straw to fall for an eruption of tears to commence! It’s weird! I’m not a person who resorts to crying… I see it as a sign of weakness or wasted energy that can be used in another way. Perhaps I have reached saturation point due to the events of the past couple of months?
Do you ever feel like crying?
I am not feeling very social either if I’m going to be honest. I would much rather stay at home and be curled up under my warm duvet sleeping like a bear in hibernation for winter. Maybe I’m in a state of depression and I don’t know it.
Do you ever feel like crying without knowing why?

Since the strike of midnight to end 2010 and ring in 2011 we have heard nothing but depressing and horrific news. Floods, Earthquakes, Landslides, Storms and now Tsunamis. It’s almost as though Mother Earth herself has had enough. She’s feels under appreciated, is being used for personal gain, under appreciated and is tired of watching those that inhabit her surface causing physical harm to others and mistreating the natural resources that she has provided free of charge. I think it’s safe to say that she is REALLY pissed off!
My heart goes out to the people in Japan and those who are holding their breath in anticipation of the possibility of being effect by the after shocks.

Dear God, I pray that you will show mercy and will extend your gracious hand to those in need and will spare lives and end unnecessary suffering. I also pray that your children will wake up and come to realize that they are their our own worst enemy and that the barriers that we create are what separate us. You created us all the same way, I hope that they will soon come to realize it and will improve their ways.

God Bless and Protect Us All.

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