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I was recently invited to make a guest appearance in a High School Social Studies & Politics class in Vermont by the teacher who follows my twitter feed and reads my blog. I was deeply humbled by the invite and by the fact that the teacher had gone beyond the call of duty to ask someone from the Middle East to answer student’s questions.

I liked the idea a lot from an educator’s perspective. What better way to build bridges and to shatter false images and misconceptions painted by the media than by exposing students to someone who is Egyptian and actually lives there?

A trip to Vermont would have been ideal but out of the question at the beginning of the academic year, so thanks to modern technology, I could be in two places at once with the help of Skype. After  a couple of test runs and agreeing on a day and time that suited both time zones, the questions which the students wanted to ask were sent to me in advance so that I could mull over how I would answer them and what I would say. As well as checking information and sources to make sure the information that I was discussing was indeed factual.

As the day approached my nerves were on edge as well as boiling over with excitement. I was nervous because I was stepping out of my comfort zone and talking to a group of young strangers thousands of miles away and I felt a bit like a diplomat representing my country. I posted the event in my group on facebook so that my readers would know. I was quite flattered by all the words of encouragement from friends and acquaintences who sent me words of encouragment and told me how proud they were of me for doing this.

The day of the interview I was invited to my sister’s in-laws for brunch. I was terrified that I would not make it home in time for 3pm, so I took my laptop and all my research with me just in case, (and it was a good thing I did too). I have to thank my brother-in-law and his family for allowing me to take up a corner of their sitting room while they session took place. I am very grateful.

Friday 28th of September at 3P.M Cairo local time the Skype video call began …                                                                                                                                          (I can’t remember all of my answers verbatim, but I will do my best to recall my responses as best I can)

The teacher that I had been communicating with was present along with another Social Studies teacher, the Principle of the school and the students        (talk about nerve-racking!!).  For 45 minutes I was asked questions and discussed Egypt and the region.

The first question I was asked was ‘Why did you agree to Skype with us?’

My answer was simple, Why not? How else are we going to build bridges and destroy misconceptions if we don’t learn from one another?

The second question was ‘Would there be any repercussions for speaking with us?”

No, not in my case, I’m not a political blogger and I don’t write anything negative about the government, the president or religion so I have not been red flagged.

What is the current political situation in Egypt?

Well, we finally have a president! Part of the parliament has been dissolved, the president tried to overrule the decision and allow them to be reinstated but he was over ruled again by the Supreme Court, so we don’t really know what’s going to happen with them.  Then there’s the writing of the new constitution.

Can women run for public office in Egypt?

Yes, they can. We had a woman named Bothaina who was in the presidential elections but, she didn’t get enough votes to carry her through. We also have other women in parliament.

 

What was it like for you during the Arab Spring?

(Never a simple answer and I couldn’t help but let out a big sigh)

Having lived in Saudi Arabia and remembering the signs of what happened during the Gulf War, I knew something was going to happen. I started to read and follow many of the revolutionaries on twitter. I prepared myself for the worst, made sure I had provisions in the house and on the 28th of January I asked a Canadian friend and colleague of mine to come and stay with me because she didn’t know what was happening and didn’t speak the language. There isn’t a word in the dictionary to describe what we experience. We had no clue what was going to happen from one minute to the other. There were riot police and then the police were dissolved. Saturday 13000 prisoners were released from prison taking the ammunition that was in the stations and that’s when chaos broke loose. Boys your age and younger were out in the streets armed with whatever they could find, planks of wood, kitchen knives, candle stick holders, Molotov cocktail bombs to defend their neighborhood and their homes from petit thieves and dangerous criminals who were heavily armed. It was a terrifying experience. Things have calmed down a lot since then, but even months afterwards you always looked over your shoulder.

How do Egyptian people view the United States? Is there a difference between how they view the government and the American People?

Egyptian’s don’t hate Americans. They don’t dislike foreigners. We need foreigners to come to Egypt for our tourism. Tourism is our source of money (I had meant to say income, but the word escaped me). We just don’t like your foreign policy.

(I am sure many will disagree with me on this point, but that is how I perceive things to be)

There were many questions that followed these but I cannot remember their chronological order or how I answered them.

While answering the questions I didn’t notice how fast the time had passed and when the bell rang I couldn’t believe a class period had flown by. I wasn’t sure what the student’s impression of the video call was. It was hard for me to see their faces and to know if they found it engaging or not. Once the student left the class I spoke with both teachers for a little while longer. I won’t know the verdict on the experience until next week, but I did get an email from the class teacher the following day. It read;
“Hi Irish!

A number of students have come to me and said they enjoyed speaking with you and wondering if they would be able to do it again. That’s a good sign. Our principal who left three quarters of the way through was very impressed with you and happy that you too took the time to speak with our students. He actually said he got chills up his spine a couple of times when you were speaking. Again that is a good sign. Thanks so much for taking the time to do what you did. It’s a great learning experience for myself and my students. Hopefully we can find some other ways we can break down some of the misconceptions of both Egyptians and Americans with our students. If there is anything you can think of or anyway we can bring students together through this source of media please let me know. “

An even further update on how the skype talk went;

” You have received many positive comments and none negative. Greg who you talked with after the class felt that you had a great persona on camera. I agree with him on that and its not easy to do on skype.

I spoke to one student’s mother who said her son came home and talked  about the class’s conversation with you. He said he really liked it.  This is from a student who usually doesn’t appear to interested in  class.
The students commented on your English and how good it was.. They wondered if it would be hard to understand you. They all said they would like to do it again.

I hope you would be willing. As I told you I think if they get more comfortable with you and you them it would be interesting to see where the conversation leads just in regards to daily life in Egypt and the United States. Perhaps the average person’s goals, dreams, hopes for the future etc, so that they see people are not really that different regardless of what country they live in.

I asked them if they felt you had answered their questions and they felt you had done a good job of that. I heard them laugh a number of times during your talk due to the expression on your face in regards to a question or answer. This indicates that they picked up on your facial expressions and body language. I believe they felt that you were much like them instead of this perception they may of you. “

I thought this picture I took in Dublin was best suited for the topic

If I had a Pound, (Euro or Dollar) for every time someone asked me ‘Why Aren’t You Married’, I would have a hefty retirement fund!

It has reached a point where, I wonder if this is all people have to worry about?! I meet people for the first time and naturally they’ll ask if you have a significant other, but they shouldn’t feel the need to lecture me on ‘Why I Should, Have One’. Even some of the doctors I’ve had consultations with seem to be more concerned about my marital status than my ailments. I appreciate the fact that close friends and some family members want to see me settled down and happy. What I don’t like is those whom I hardly know appoint themselves to play match maker with determination. (What do they get out of it? Is there some jackpot or prize you get if your match is a good one?)

Let me clarify, once and for all to those who are adamant to find me a significant other (based on THEIR wrong criteria to find me a ‘PERFECT’ match) and to those who can not get their head around the idea of me flying solo. I have great respect for marriage and all that is stands for. I do think it is a beautiful thing to be able to live ones life with another and share the burdens and happiness that come their way together as a team and to justify their union and love by having children, so their family tree can continue to blossom and grow. HOWEVER, I DO NOT believe that I should marry for the sake of being married. Just so that I can have a wedding band placed upon my ring finger along with a nice big sparkly one, have a big party and not be alone! If I want to wear a ring, I’ll go buy one. If I want a party, by GEORGE I shall throw one! If I’m lonely, I can go out to social events mingle with people, invite people over or go visit family or friends.

Marriage is a commitment that I would take seriously and I would want it to be forever, (not to use as an escape to move out of my parent’s home. Which doesn’t apply to me because I don’t live with them anyway). I do not want to marry the first person that comes knocking at my parent’s door asking for my hand, especially if he knows nothing about me, my family or upbringing.

In the past I have had mothers of sons and men see me walk into a store or driving my car and find out who I am through 6 degrees of separation, get my parent’s home number and call my father up and ask for my hand in marriage without ever having spoken a word to me! The last time someone did that my father took great pleasure in telling the caller that I had recently just been released from a mental institution, (NOT TRUE OF COURSE) and that he was a garbage collector. I found it extremely funny, while the person on the other end of the line was not as amused!

I want to marry someone who understands how my mind works (well, to some degree), who appreciates and understand my mixed ethnicity/cultural heritage (and doesn’t want me to change who I am or make me choose one culture over another),  has similar characteristic traits, shares some of my dreams/interests, is a bit adventurous, likes to play sports and can deal with my loony family and relatives! He must speak ENGLISH quite well, (if he can speak more languages, excellent! but he has to be able to communicate with the Irish Clan), likes to hold intellectual conversations, reads, well-traveled, has a playful side, very good sense of humor and doesn’t mind getting his hands dirty, because I won’t be the only one doing all the hard labor around the house and changing dirty diapers. Oh an most importantly is financially independent from his family.

Marriage to me is a partnership, where two people promise to look after one another and share everything. I am not the type to marry and be told to stay home, not work, cook/clean all day long, have children and raise them alone. While hubbiness goes to work, comes home, eats, naps, showers, changes and goes out and socialize with his friends.  (If that’s what I wanted, I would go for Don Draker, from MAD MEN). That is a recipe for my misery and driving me to the brink of insanity ! So, those kind of guys need to be taken off your must introduce her to him lists! That is if you really do have my happiness and best interest at heart.

If you’re miserable in your life and want company… then please don’t set me up with anyone.

If a guy comes from a well-known, respectable, rich family it DOES NOT automatically make him a nice guy and my dream man! Money is great to have, but it isn’t a recipe for a successful marriage. The person’s personality, ethics, morals, values, mentality are things that I find more important than the wrist watch he wears, car he drives, his home address and the size of his PARENT’S bank account.

‘Friends’ of mine, (who have now been demoted to mere acquaintances) wanted to introduce me to a guy who was VERY wealthy and was quite liberal. Now, I am not one to judge a book by its cover, but why would anyone want to introduce a 20 something year old girl (my age at the time), to a guy in his mid 40s who is extremely over weight, has lost half of his teeth, from lack of dental hygiene (due to excessive smoking and drinking) and has little social etiquette? Clearly these people didn’t take the time to know me or to choose wisely either.

I have met, socialized and been out with several guys who fall into this category. I have to say a small minority of them have been raised to be gentlemen of great integrity and are very decent men. While others have been toads dressed like princes.

Players and Cheaters… What can I say? I have been played and burned by both. Not the most pleasant of experiences and I have learned from my mistakes and have grown wiser and stronger because of it. These two are like trying to domesticate a tiger!! Woman can not ‘change’ or ‘reform’ them. They have to sincerely want to and they have to be the ones to take the steps. If/when they are ready, I’ll gladly give them consideration, until then, I’ll Pass, Thanks.

Just because a guy lives abroad and holds a foreign passport like I do, doesn’t mean it’s a match made in heaven! The same goes if he’s of mixed ethnicity too.

So, to sum it all up. I would much rather be single and continue to work on improving upon myself and experience what life has to offer than jump into a marriage with someone who is not compatible with me (and vice versa). I don’t want to be put in a situation where I marry someone and find out 2 kids later, that I can’t stand being around him and be forced to make a decision to either stay in the marriage to keep the family together while I am secretly miserable and hide my pain behind my smiles as a sacrifice for their happiness or break up a family and watch the children go through pain I could have had a hand in preventing.

So, That is WHY, I am not rushing to the altar to get married. Let me live and let live!

If you find someone who meets MOST of the criteria I am looking for then we can talk. If not, DON’T even think about it!

The day I decide to tie the knot and take the plunge and say; I DO. I’ll let you know. Until then, no one should lose any sleep over me being happily single!

Isn’t she embarrassed walking down the street with her head uncovered? How immoral!

Since the fall of the former President of Egypt, Sexual Harassment has been rampant like a forest fire throughout the country. Horror story upon horror story of attacks and incidents on women have been surfacing and making headlines. It’s getting worse and worse with each day that passes. Since Egypt’s first Democratically Elected President had been announced another serving of worry has been served up on to our plate.

The President as many are all well aware is a former member of the Muslim Brotherhood, which has a lot of the élite, liberals and women quaking in their boots worried about Egypt’s future on many fronts and their place in the new Democratic Egypt. There is a vast majority on the other hand who find that our President previous association gives them the carte blanche to do as they please, when it comes to educating the public on what is right or wrong in the name of Islam. Sometimes I feel like things are looking more and more like a Mad Max movie.

Self-appointed groups and individuals feel they now have the right to tell people what to do, how to dress and how to behave. A couple of weeks ago there were two incidents in different places in Egypt that sent a ripple of fear and dread through the country. The phrase we are turning into the next Saudi Arabia or Iran was on the tip of everyone’s lips.

(If things don’t change and social order isn’t put in place, then I will have to agree)

In Suez an engineering student was badgered by 3 bearded men, who demanded to know his relationship with the woman he was walking with. When he told them to mind their own business they stabbed him. The stab wound was fatal. The woman was his fiancée.

Story has it that the men were caught and will be given the death penalty.

http://english.ahram.org.eg/NewsContent/1/64/46784/Egypt/Politics-/Suez-knifing-stirs-fears-of-moral-policing-in-Egyp.aspx

Another story was that a young man was playing his guitar during the call for prayer in the governorate of Ismaleya and others found this to be a sign of disrespect and took it upon themselves to teach him a lesson.  The lesson rumor has it resulted in a severe beating which lead to his death. It was also reported that a group of bearded men went into a café in Cairo’s, Madinat Nasr area and told the customers that they should go and pray. Unfortunately I cannot confirm these stories to be 100% accurate, but having lived in Egypt so long, when there is a story there is always some element of truth to it.

I can confirm two others stories from women that I know personally and experienced some very disturbing events that worry me and honestly have me concerned for the future wellbeing of Egyptian women.

The first story is of a woman who works at a hair and beauty salon in Alexandria. She is a single Mom of a 4-year-old girl. She said she was walking in a district of Alexandria holding her daughter when a car drove by. One of the passengers in the car sprayed her with an acid like substance that ate through her clothes. It made huge holes in her dress which caused her undergarments to show. Embarrassed, scared and shaken she got into a taxi to go home. The reason for the passenger spraying her was because part of her leg was showing in the dress that she was wearing.

The second woman I work with and this is the straw that broke the camel’s back and pushed me to write this post. Yesterday she posted a warning to all her contacts on her Facebook page, so that we would all be made aware of what may happen if women decide to take a public mode of transportation. My colleague along with her brother, sister and future brother-in-law were boarding the car at Sadat Metro Station (El Tahrir) and just as the doors were closing a guy pulled her by her hair. She said she didn’t hear the full sentence of what he said but it had something to do with her not being veiled. This is NOT the first time she has experienced something like this.

Over the past 20 years since I moved here with my family, I have seen the country grow more and more conservative. It wasn’t very noticeable at first. It was rare to see veiled women, now you are most likely to see veils and niqabs than a woman with her head uncovered in Alexandria. I have no qualms with people becoming devoted in their beliefs and dressing in the way that they think is modest or more appropriate. What I DO have and issue with is other people, particularly strangers who don’t know me and demand or try to dictate to me how I should be more respectful and how I should dress.

I know that one of Morsi’s spokes people came out and condemned the actions of these individuals but I’m sorry that isn’t good enough for me. If the President himself doesn’t come out and say that he will not tolerate and accept these actions of harassment on people’s personal liberties and that people will be held accountable and punished for them, then he might as well have a pom pom in each hand cheering them on. His silence is a sign of condoning of what has happened and what will continue to happen. (That’s how I am interpreting it)

If President Morsi meant what he said in his speeches that we are free to live our lives as we have in the past, then I think he needs to not only say it repeatedly until it gets through people’s heads but to show that he sincerely means what he says. Otherwise these self-appointed groups and individuals will continue to badger, harass and attack innocent people who are minding their business and just going about their day-to-day lives and it isn’t right!

I lived in Saudi Arabia for 10 years, where the Mutawaa’s (religious police) would patrol the streets and make sure that people were abiding by the country’s code of conduct. IF this IS the direction that our new Elected President is going to guide Egypt towards then, I fear all hope is lost for Egypt. If Egypt sccumbs to becoming a country with blinkers on and where people are no longer permitted to be themselves and live freely, then we will be pushed back decades behind the rest of the world and that in all honesty would be DREADFUL. Egypt for centuries has always been a land that made history and has been (and continues to be), studied with fascination, awe and respect. I would hate to see a country with such a rich past and HIGH potential for a bright future be shut away and put down in such a manner.

How do we counter act this? How do we push back the threat of this wave that is hovering over us? I honestly do not know. I think WE are ALL open to suggestions, if anyone has any.

Otherwise the cartoon below might be what lies ahead for Egypt and for us;

This morning I came across this post on a friend’s facebook page and it PISSED ME OFF!

I want you to watch it first and then we’ll talk http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FFW3ZNC8sjw&feature=share

Now that you’ve watched it, let me just make something very, very clear! That “scholar” does not speak for me or all Muslims. He is a fundamentalist and radical in his thinking! It is scholars and religious clergy men like him that continue to tarnish the true meaning of what Islam is these people’s actions and words fuels the fear and hatred in to the hearts and lives of those who do not know what Islam is. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that people get so nervous around people who look like they might be Muslim or that they have such a BAD misconception that has been painted.

So, saying Merry Christmas is worse than fornication, drinking or killing someone… well if that’s the case then, pass out the Stella, Sakkara and the Durex to prevent people from wishing those who celebrate the birth of Christ, by saying Merry Christmas! Well, I guess that means I’m going to be serving a few life sentences in hell, not only do I say ‘Merry Christmas’ but I also write and send ‘Christmas Cards’ and presents!!!

I am not a deeply religious person, but I fail to see how ‘Merry Christmas’ is worse than taking a life? Surely that would be worse but what would I know? I might be a Muslim, but in his eyes, I’m probably a traitor or possessed by the devil!

If these are the people who are coming to power in Egypt and are going to govern our country, we are seriously screwed! If they are the ones teaching our youth then the cancer is deeply rooted and it would take a bush fire or a volcanic eruption to be rid of this. Our people have been brain washed to the point that I fear can not be rectified by a counter actions.

What happened to respecting others beliefs and trying to accept people for the way that they are?

On that final note, I would like to wish every Christian world-wide who celebrates this holiday a blessed and very Merry Christmas!

God Bless and may the coming year rid of us mad men like him!

Sit or stand and rise to the occasion

Sit or stand and rise to the occasion

We are all faced with situations at some time or other. There are times when we choose not to rise to the occasion and to let things slide or sort themselves out. I believe in my heart of hearts that 2011 has been a wake-up call to many of us. Especially those who have always chosen to be bystanders. This year I believe many of us have not only risen and stood up for our beliefs and rights as a nation but we have done so on an individual level too.

We have had to deal with situations and circumstances that we never thought or dreamed of occurring. The bombing of the Church in Alexandria on New Year’s Eve, was a trigger of a series of events. The explosion blew off the blinds that had been pulled over eyes to the growing conflict of Muslims and Christians in the country. Many people prior to the explosion lived in the past, where at one time religion was regarded as a private and personal topic that should not be discussed or questioned. As a woman who has parents of two different faiths, I still believe that a person’s faith is their business and no-one else’s, but as the ‘Wahhabi’ traditions continue to migrate westward to northern Africa, particularly Egypt, our culture is evolving before our very eyes and is continuing to influence people’s ideas, thoughts and practices. Which I believe is infecting the minds of many especially those who are not as well-educated or are below poverty level.

A couple of weeks after the Egyptian people erupted like a volcano that had lain dormant for decades. After the uprising in Tunisia, they smelt the winds of change and decided that they too should be shed of the shackles that had held them down and the muzzles that had been keeping them silent. The 18 days that followed were very scary and dark days, but the people stood up and showed that even in the face of danger they could rise to the occasion and face what was to come and what was meant to be. The world watched and held its breath as the reign of one of the longest-serving presidents in the region came to an end and then there was Libya, Bahrain, Yemen…and now America

I think the countries that stood out the most in my mind were Japan after the Tsunami and Earthquake hit the country in early March of this year. After a devastating force ripped through the nation and left devastated nation behind, I do not know if I could have found the will to pick myself up and try to rebuild the country after witnessing something of that magnitude. They are to be commended and held in the highest regard. I have never been a fan of ‘Libya’ and I think that my lack of interest in the country and its people was caused by its former leader, but hearing and following the harrowing accounts that came from the people on twitter and their determination to break free from the iron fisted tyrant who ruled its people through fear was not only brave but inspiring.

2011 seems to have been a year of not only a rude awakening but a year of reckoning for some.  In addition to that, I also believe it has been the year where voices have been granted to those who felt they had no voice and a restoration to those who had been muffled or silenced for their ideas and opinions.

In the post Mubarak era a new chapter in Egypt’s long history is beginning. This past November a parliamentary election was held and many of those who ran had probably never thought of a life in politics before. I was not only a witness to the event but a participant too. For the first time in the 20 years I lived here, I stood among my country men and women and cast my vote and voiced my opinion as to whom I would like to represent me. I was amazed at the people’s resilience to stand for hours in the rain awaiting their turn. Old men and women who could barely stand or walk, would be helped in to the poll stations on the arms of strangers or carried in on chairs, just so that they could have a say. It was beyond moving!

Now we are faced with another challenge, which direction will the country go in? Will the adrenaline that the nation was injected with almost a year ago ware off and allow the nation to be run by conservative and closed-minded thinkers? Or will the liberals take a leap of faith and venture beyond the borders of their comfort zone and tear a page out of the Muslim Brotherhoods book, become more organized, proactive and get their hands dirty by going in to the more rural neighborhoods and making themselves known to try to counter act the decades of seeds that were planted years ago in the people’s minds? Will the liberals rise?

I hope they will…

On a personal level, I never thought that I could be pushed or be challenged the way I have been this year. I had the choice to go back to Alexandria and be with my family just hours before the chaos of January 28th began, but I chose to stay in Cairo for a couple of reasons. One was, I had a very close and dear friend of mine who would have been in Heliopolis on her own and I didn’t want to leave her during such a dangerous and unpredictable time in a country that was not hers and where she didn’t speak the language. A small part of me also wanted to believe that things wouldn’t escalate. Thirdly, if I am going to be honest, I subconsciously wanted to know how much I could endure before I would seek the shelter and comfort of my parents’ home, while, a BIG part of me longed to be with them, in their warm embrace where I felt safe. I simply needed to know and discover what I was made of. My father whom I love dearly, has cast a very thick protective cloak over my sister and I and I needed to know my true inner strength.

I rose to the occasion and I did face danger head on but it did take a toll on my mind and my physical wellbeing. I lost days’ worth of rest and sleep worrying, thinking, and recording the events. My main concern was getting my friend home to her family safely and then home to mine. During the days of duress, I learned a great deal about myself and what I am capable of. I am a lot tougher than I look and by God could I stand my ground if I needed to.

Once the uprising had passed and the President stepped down, I had to find a way to push the memories and events behind me to complete my Masters. The mind is an incredible thing; it is our best shield and weapon I believe. It can tune out and tune in on command. I was able to tune out long enough to finish my Masters and graduate.

After graduation, the events of the past few months and my true state of being came over me like a tidal wave… I had a lot of baggage that needed to be sorted through and a lot of releasing and making peace to do to. I am in a much better place than I was in May, but I still have a lot of ‘cleaning house’ to do.

I took a leap of faith and decided to accept a more challenging job in the field of education as well as in a more international environment. I had my doubts about my capabilities and how I would fit in, there are times when I still have my doubts and question whether the move was a worthwhile one or not, but I believe that I have risen to the challenge. It hasn’t been easy sailing, it has taken a great deal of adjusting, patience and learning and there has been a great deal of struggling. A month after starting my new job, my mother had hip replacement surgery and my poor father was left to care for her himself, I couldn’t leave my father to deal with it on his own, so I would travel back and forth every weekend so that he could get 2 nights of uninterrupted sleep, while I took over for the time I was there. It was very draining and tiring but I would not and could not, not be there for my family. In the beginning  I felt as though I was drowning and doubted that I would make it through the three-month probation period for new hires, it’s now December and I am still there and still standing. I think that I have proven to myself once more that I am capable of much more than I like to give myself credit for.

After four years of being a wall flower and maintaining my ‘single status’, I got back in to the dating game. I felt like a fish out of water, but the person whom I was seeing put me at ease and made it seem very natural. Unfortunately the relationship was not destined to last long; it ended before it had really begun. Breakups of any kind are never easy and it can sting especially when the person you were with moves on and has found happiness with someone else and you are left waiting for your turn to come again. Usually I would crawl back in to my hollow and hibernate for months on end until I am numb and can no longer feel the painful disappointment, but I have decided to be more outgoing and social. Why should I choose to mope and wallow in misery and self-pity when I could be out living, being proactive and being positive ?!

We have risen; I have risen, have you? Will you?

women waiting in a long line to cast their vote at a poll station for Nov 28th parliament elections in Egypt

As the day for elections loomed nearer and my decision to go vote fluctuated between to vote or not vote due to the instability and safety of Cairo and Alexandria during the second wave of the revolution. I finally made up my mind and bought my train ticket and made my way up to Alexandria Sunday evening.

You could sense the excitement and anxiousness in the air in both cities. There was a state of confusion and worry among the citizens of this country. Numerous questions echoed everywhere you went; will it be safe to go and vote? Will thugs have been hired to attack polling stations? Will it be rigged like last time? Who do we vote for; we don’t know half the names that will appear on the ballots? There are over 60 -100 names to choose from on the ballot, how am I to know which person I want to represent me? These were just some of the questions that had been asked over the course of the past couple of weeks and on the train ride to Alexandria.

Once I got home a very heated debate and discussion ensued. The house was divided as to what to expect at the polling station and who to vote for in the Attareen area. None of us were familiar with any of the names of the political candidates, their parties or what their beliefs are. In the end I had to call up on a friend who was in the same boat as I was. We are both Alexandrian, from the same area and although we have very similar views of how the country should be run, we both come from different religious backgrounds, but at the end of the day we wanted the same thing, liberal civilian government. We talked about our options, he gave me a summary of the different parties’ beliefs and then when it came to the candidates, we were both stumped… There were far too many to choose from. He said that a friend of his was voting for 2 of 3 guys and that is what he was going to go with too. When I relayed the information I had just learned to my family, it was decided that we would go with the party that Naguib Sawiris backs, ‘El Kotla El Masreya’, whom are (supposedly and hopefully) liberal, they have both revolutionaries, young and old people. As for the candidates, I still know very little about them and found it hard to find any information on them so, I just followed the heard as they say. I had decided that I was going to give my vote for one labor and one professional and luck would have it, both belong to the same political party that I had decided to choose.

My Dad, God bless him had figured out where my Mom, Aunt and I had to go vote, got our registration numbers and which poll booth we belonged to. (A Great Time SAVER!)

Monday morning, when I woke up for a brief moment I had forgotten what day it was. Waking up in my room in Alexandria caused a brief moment of disorientation and confusion, being there usually meant that it was a weekend or a holiday of some kind. Memories of the night before came flooding back and I leapt out of bed and got myself ready for to go vote.

The weather wasn’t the best it could have been, it was over cast with dark gloomy rain clouds, the wind had a cold chilly bite to it but it didn’t dampen people’s spirits or deter them from coming out to vote. I was lucky, I didn’t stand for as long as other people did to cast my vote, other people stood in line for hours in the rain and cold. Their sheer determination to make their voices heard is uplifting as well as inspiring.

The poll station wasn’t too far away from where we lived but we did find it quite odd that we weren’t closer to our house, when there were other polling stations nearby. The school that we went to was the marooseya school, near the Raml area. It is down a very narrow and hard to find passage way, if my dad and I hadn’t done our research ahead of time I doubt we would have found the place. It was literally wedged between a cluster of buildings and a church. If you walked by you wouldn’t know there was a school there. (Thank you Google Maps!)

We got to our designated area fairly early and there was a cue of women waiting patiently in line. There were two lines set up, one for the elderly and those in need of assistance and a line for the younger and more able voters. There was a very noticeable and heavy security presence. Police officers and men in blue uniform, I believe either a sect from the navy or military police, I am not certain.

The poll station didn’t open on time due to the tardy arrivals of those who were in charge of the station or were meant to be working there. As we all waited patiently in line a man shouted out instructions but I couldn’t hear him well to be able to understand or pass on the information, which lead to people getting more and more confused.

Once the officials who were working at the poll station arrived things were slow going. My mother, who is still recovering from hip replacement surgery and is on crutches along with a few other elderly women were the first of a handful of people to enter the premises to begin the voting process that morning. My aunt and I had to wait in line for another hour while we waited for our turn.

I have great admiration for military in general and other security forces, but it is with great regret that I cannot say that my admiration extends to Egypt’s. They have shown their true colors over the past year and it is one that disturbs me greatly, having said that they showed a very polite and softer side of themselves on Monday. They were very helpful and respectful when addressing people when asking them not to take pictures or to stand in line. They were being too nice… which made me very skeptical. (It also made me ponder… if every poll station across the nation had this amount of security, where were they in January when civilians had to defend their neighborhoods and businesses?)

Things got a bit tense twice when I stood in line, a woman from the back of the line walked up to one of the high-ranking officers and yelled at him for not opening the station on time and inadvertently accused him of foul play, by this time it was 8:30. They apologized and tried to explain that it wasn’t them who were holding up the process. The second time was when screeching of tires was heard and guards ran to the main street to see what the cause was. thankfully a False Alarm!

As I stood in line tweeting away my eyewitness accounts of what was going on, people in line were talking and communicating with strangers about what they think about the revolution, who they are voting for and why and what the results of this election might mean for the future of Egypt. As I stood listening and tweeting I heard a women confess that she didn’t vote during the referendum last spring and she had now wished she had. She said that this time she was determined to have a say and to vote for what she believed in. At this polling station there were women of all ages and social classes standing in very close proximity of one another and it was in that brief moment that everyone looked equal. There was no division of class, rank or education; we were all just women, who had finally been given a voice.

Although many have mixed feelings of those who are standing their ground in Tahrir Square and in other areas around the country, one thing is for certain, that our presence at voting stations today would not have been possible if they hadn’t stood up to corruption, poverty, injustice and demanded their given right to have their voices heard. Many lost their lives so that we would have that chance today, others bare the wounds of the battle that may heal and then there are those who will have the wounds that serve as a crippling reminder every day of their lives a price they were willing to pay for us to have a chance to make a change and a difference. As I stood in line listening to the women around me conversing, I recalled a conversation I had, had with a former president’s nephew years back. I told him that the day will come when another revolution will happen and the people will rise up either because the poor are getting poorer or the mentality of the people will change and Egypt will become a religious state like Iran. He laughed at me and said he doubted it would happen… I wonder if he’s laughing now?

As I gazed around at the hodge podge of women, it became apparent that there was quite a strong Muslim Brotherhood following at the station I had been assigned to. One I find worrying, but not as worrying as Salafi supporters. I have to give them credit though; they have been the most organized party and have been promoting themselves well, so if they get voted in, they would have earned their places. After all they have been working towards this moment for decades. I do not endorse nor support them in any way, if they do get voted in, then I fear for Egypt’s long term future. If the country turns in to another Saudi Arabia, Iran or Afghanistan, that I will have to abandon Egypt with a very heavy heart and move elsewhere. I lived in Saudi Arabia for 10 years, I do not want to have to watch women’s rights wash away and be forced to cover up again.

After an hour of waiting a desk was brought out and a man sat at it with booklets of photocopied papers, with people’s names and ID numbers, he was trying to speed up the process and tell people which room they should go to, to cast their vote and to ensure they were waiting in line at the right place.

The were two  highlights to my day, the first was seeing my mum emerge from inside the school with a victorious look of satisfaction on her face. Although she is not of Egyptian blood, she got the nationality from being married to my Dad for (well) over a decade and she made it a point to go and vote! The other was the feeling of self accomplishment after having voted.

When, I was finally allowed to make my way in to the school, which was a lot further in than any of us had thought, we had to walk through the school playground (square patch of sand) and up almost 2 flights of stairs. 3 classrooms were designated for voting rooms; luckily mine was empty, so I spent less than 10 minutes waiting, while other people had to wait longer because they would only allow two people in at a time, which slowed down the process. The officials in the room wore vests that indicated that they were overseers of the voting station and checked our IDs, had us sign and gave us our ballots. There was a small cubical for you to go and cast your vote. The ballot boxes were made from glass and had wooden frames encompassing the glass and a big padlock on each one. Things seemed to be in order.

The ballots were 2 different colors and 2 sizes. The ballot to vote for the political party was a light salmon pink and was slightly smaller than A4. The ballot of individual’s names was an A3 paper, with numbers, symbols and names of the political candidates. I checked the back of both my papers to ensure that they had the official stamp on the back to make sure that my vote would be counted, otherwise it would have been void and I would have had to insist that the judge of the polling station sign it.

Knowing who I was going to vote for and what party made things really easy, otherwise, you would have had to read through the entire list of names and that is what took people a long time! By the time I left with my Aunt the line where we had been standing hand quadrupled in numbers and went around the block in 2 directions.

When I got home I continued to follow the elections on twitter across the country and to tweet my accounts. Some of the accounts that were coming in were very hopeful and others were not. A lot of people had to blow the whistle on many polling stations, politicians and parties for not following procedures. There were reports of poll stations not opening on time, ballots not being stamped, judges refusing to sign the ballots to make them valid, polling stations being closed without an explanation, party members trying to buy voters votes are just some of the things that were made. There are still mixed feelings about the elections in general. Some people believe that this is a step towards democracy and change. Others see it as a scam and that it won’t matter what people vote, the decision by security forces has already been made. In all honesty, I am not convinced that this will work, but I had nothing to lose by voting today. If I am wrong and this is legit, then my vote counted for something. If it is all just a smoke screen for what is to come, I didn’t lose anything by trying. I know one thing for sure though, if I hadn’t come to Alexandria, to be here today, I know I would have regretted it for a very long time.

Now all we can do is wait and hope…

Nathalie Atalla

August 21st of 2011 was the 40 day memorial service for my sweet departed friend. In this part of the world, 40 days after a person has departed there is a memorial service held in their honor. I hopped on a train and headed down to Cairo especially to attend the service.
Fabienne, Nathalie Atalla’s sister had asked me to read the Irish bereavement poem that I had used at the end of my written tribute to her.  No matter how many times I read those few sentences allowed or to myself, I couldn’t help but feel as though that I was choking on held back tears and my lip would disobey direct orders from my brain not to quiver.
When I reached Cairo I busied myself trying to put my closed apartment in order, while thinking about the upcoming service. The reason the service weighed so heavily on my mind was because, when I heard of Nathalie’s untimely departure I had just arrived in London. As much as I wanted to get back on a plane and turn around and go back to Cairo, I couldn’t. So, although I understood that Nathalie would no longer be walking among us in the flesh, my mind hadn’t fully come to terms with it.
As I sat in the church and was a few pews from the alter, where a beautiful picture of her smiling back at all of those who were in attendance, the reality of it all came crashing down. My eyes burned with restrained tears as did my throat, but I knew that she wouldn’t want more tears to be shed and especially not on her birthday. Yes, her memorial service coincided with her 32nd Birthday. A day where we would have all come together to rejoice and having a gay o’l time, but instead we were remembering her life and how she touched each and every one of us.
At the service I saw her two brave adorable girls, standing at the front of the church with their aunt and grandparents, behaving beautifully and comforting their grandmother in the midst of the service. Once the service was over, the two girls greeted the attendees at the entrance of the church with angelic smiles on their face, warm hugs and handed every single person a brioche (it’s like a hot cross bun). As I watched them, I couldn’t help but admire their innocence and how they have bounced back from having their mother tragically taken away from them at such a young age. I could see many of Nato’s qualities and she would have been very proud of them.
In the reception hall on the grounds of the church, friends and family went to pay their respects. A group of friends sat in the hall and sang ballads, two other close friends of Nathalie’s stood up and said a few words about her. Fabienne, gave a very moving speech that brought us all to tears and moved us deeply. I agree with Fabienne, Nathalie wouldn’t want us to continue to cry and be sad, she would want us to celebrate her life, remember her and smile and apply the lessons she taught us to our daily lives.

With the over flow of emotion, my little speech was over looked, but that is fine, what really mattered, was that we were there for her sister, her daughters, her parents and that we were remembering her and what she meant to us.
I finally had closure and came to terms with her passing, but although she in no longer with us in body, Nathalie is still here with us in spirit and she continues to inspire us every day!
Nathalie, you have inspired me to love myself and to take care of my health. I have returned to my favorite sport, swimming. I could barely finish two laps without gasping for air, when I started at the beginning of July but with daily practice and persistence, plus  having your voice encouraging and cheering me on, as you have for the past few months. I have now made it to 110 laps. I look better, feel better about myself and I’m beginning to feel more like my old self. Nathalie, thank you for motivating and inspiring me!

As the famous song goes; every breath I take, every move I make, every single day, every time I pray, I’ll be missing you…

http://www.nathalieatalla.com/ to leave your  thoughts and comments.

London Riots 2011 (http://jafarianews.com/en/?attachment_id=10725)

On Sunday I vaguely remember hearing something on the news about riots in London, but I didn’t pay much attention until the following day. On Monday there were more reports on the vandalism that took place the previous night and that a building had been set ablaze. The scenes struck an all too familiar nerve and brought back the raw memories of the looting that took place after the 13,000 or so convicts had escaped from prisons across Egypt. I stayed up Monday night watching the news, with my blackberry in hand following the instant tweets that were appearing on my mini-feed. What made the horror of what was happening in London frustrating for me is that my sister, who is newly married just moved there to be with her husband and they live a stone’s throw away from Clapham Junction.  For a moment I thought history was going to repeat itself, when my parents and sister were in Alexandria and the governor’s office building across the street from my parents house, was looted and then torched. While I was in Cairo and could only contact them via  the land line phone. I felt helpless as I heard their coughs and dismay on the receiving end. I prayed that she would not have to witness the same fate twice. The un-necessary destruction that those hooligans have been causing, isn’t helping their situation, their families or the economy in any way. It’s making it much worse. If the reason for their acts is because they are angry at the government for taking away University (in the sense they now have to pay for it) and that there are no jobs, how does destroying your own neighbourhood and local shops prove your point or help the circumstances? How does setting a store on fire, where residence live above it make it O.K?

If they are going to say that they are discriminated against because of their ethnicity, then they are fueling people’s views. If they are going to say it’s because they live in poverty, then they need a reality check. If they want to see REAL poverty, they need to be brought to Egypt, to the City of the Dead, where people live in tombs and cemeteries, where there is no electricity or running water because the government doesn’t subsidise or provide them with housing! (http://www.todayszaman.com/news-200122-living-people-in-cairos-city-of-the-dead.html) Perhaps ‘Hayat Zabaleen, where people live in a sea of Cairo’s garbage?!  If not Egypt, then perhaps to drought and famine stricken Somalia where thousands, upon thousands of children would give their left eye for the benefits that they have, instead of wasting away and dying. If they compare their standard of living to those who really live in poverty, they will find they have a lot to be grateful for and by comparison live like kings!

Egypt's city of the dead- National Georgraphic photo

 

Many are comparing the riots to the revolution in Egypt. These are two very different incidence, Egypt had been oppressed for decades and the people were denied the right to voice their opinions, basic human needs/rights and the poor were getting poorer. The teenage punks terrorising London don’t have a political agenda, their agenda os selfish. The public service men and women are not standing by letting things get out of control they are trying to fight crime, but they are out numbered. The rioters are not armed dangerous convicts who escaped from prison who are walking around with swords, spears, machetes, hand guns, rifles or automatic weapons, these are kids. The only thing these two incidents have in common are the crimes that have been caused, violence against other civilians and terrorising people and making them fear for their safety.

Cryodon London-Donna Newberry

looting looks the same no matter where you are

I do hope that the Police and Scotland Yard can get matters under control, if they are unable to then I hope the army is brought it to round them up. If the army isn’t dispatched then, there are only two other alternatives in my opinion; 1- The people of London, do as the Egyptians did and take to the streets to defend and protect their businesses, property and homes. I’m 75% sure that the little terrors will be too chicken to face a mass confrontation of neighbourhood watch people armed with frying pans and rolling pins! (I’m not poking fun, I’m serious). The Turks, Kurds and Asian immigrants took to the streets to defend their businesses last night. If more people do that, there is a chance this will be resolved sooner, rather than later. 2- If confrontation isn’t something you think you can do, then make sure you’re well stocked for the long haul and that you have enough provisions to keep you for a few days, have your homes securely locked and pray that no one gets hurt.

I sympathies and understand the overflow of emotions that the Londoners and other  districts of England are feeling and experiencing. I hope all of those from the UK who happen to be reading this remain un-harmed and stay safe. I pray that the madness ends soon.

When it does end I hope those responsible are held accountable and have the book thrown at them and receive just punishment for the crimes they have committed.

Operation Megan Fox

I am going to be completely honest with myself and whoever else is reading. For the past few years I have been dealing with lots of changes, recovering from heart breaks, disappointments, injuries to both feet, physio therapy and lack of confidence in my appearance. So, I took to self-medicating myself by eating my way to almost 90KG!! For a person of my height (5’4’’) and build that is OBESE! I had always been fit and somewhere along the way I lost myself…
With my sister’s wedding in April, I didn’t want to be the frumpy maid of honor on the video or in pictures. So, my new year’s resolution to myself was to get back in shape and to drop the pounds. So, I purchased an elliptical bike and took all my Mum’s Slim Fast shakes and stuck to it for four months. I am proud to say I lost 10Kg (22Ibs)! I felt lighter, more energetic and for the first time in a long time I felt a bit attractive. I looked healthier and the best I had in years. I must confess that my Gillian self-made boot camp didn’t continue past the wedding. Why, you might ask? Well, in the months that followed I was not only working full-time, but I was studying for my Masters comprehensive exam and finishing the academic year and writing up report cards. However, I was still wise in my food choices but my exercising went to pot!
Now, that I am on summer vacation I have no reason or excuses for not exercising. So, I stepped up to the plate and got back in to swimming after decades of not training. I am not going to lie, it was far from being easy, I started swimming at the beginning of July and I could barely complete two laps without gasping for air! Panting after only swimming two laps scared me. There is a history of diabetes, high blood pressure and heart problems in my family and I didn’t want to fall victim to that if I could have a hand in preventing it. I went  to a sports shop and bought two kinds of kicking boards to help me get back in shape, one to hold on to for just leg movements and the other one prevents me from using my legs and forces me to use just my arms. The first week was a killer and my shoulders and arms were killing me! It had been over a decade since I had actually used all the muscles in my arms. By the second week I could feel my strokes getting stronger and my stamina improving too. By the end of July I was able to swim 50 laps none stop!! I am so proud of myself for persevering!
I have gotten on the scale at home a few times and the scale hasn’t budged, which is very frustrating! I eat lots of fruit, vegetables, yogurt, and grilled meat. I have cut out juice and soft drinks but I do drink LOTS OF WATER! I do occasionally indulge in a bar of chocolate or ice cream.
With Ramadan being here I thought this would be a perfect time to get my healthy eating habits back on track and get back on the Slim Fast regiment as well as swimming! I can tell you that after swimming laps without having had breakfast, by the time I’m done, I am HUNGRY and could eat a horse! By Iftar time, (the meal we eat at sunset after a day of fasting) I am more thirsty than I am hungry and when I’m eating I try my very best to watch my portion control and not to eat too many carbs.
So, why Megan Fox? You can’t deny it; she does have a killer body! My target is to try to get myself back in to tip-top shape and looking as HOT as Megan Fox (not like Megan Fox, if that was my ultimate goal then I would have paid for cosmetic surgery) I need to fight my way back to bring ‘ME’ back. Justin Timberlake’s song ‘Bring Sexy Back’ is my theme song to keep going!
So, what’s my ultimate goal? I am presently stuck at 75 Kg I would love to lose between 10-15kg. I want to see my body toned, the flabby stomach reduced and my thighs slimmer. I have no set time for wanting to reach this but if I can reach it by December or by April! I am not going to rush the process, I want to do it at my bodies pace and healthily.
August 4th 2011- I was able to swim 70 laps none stop, alternating between different swimming boards and just swimming.
I will keep you posted on my progress over the coming weeks and months.

August 16th 2011- I finally was able to swim 80 laps, alternating between swimming boards. The scale is being discouraging and the needle isn’t pointing south, it’s actually stuck on 75Kg, which isn’t reflecting what I’m seeing in the mirror. However, I tried on a cocktail dress I bought 2 years ago and I FINALLY fit in to it! I don’t have to worry about a protruding tummy or love handles coming over the sides of the dress! I still have a stomach but it has shrunk a great deal and so have the unwanted ripples. I have till the 24th of August to reach my target of 100 laps, then I need to find a pool in the Heliopolis area of Cairo where I feel comfortable swimming for the next 3 months to keep on going with my efforts until the weather turns colder, then I may take up plates or yoga! If not that then back to Salsa dancing !

August 18th 2011, My goal was to increase my stamina and grow stronger, so that I could swim at least 100 laps before I head back to Cairo, to start the academic year of 2011/2012. There was an element of doubt in my mind, but I did as Dori in ‘Finding Nemo’ did and just kept on swimming. I am not going to lie, I use different swimming apparatus to help strengthen my arms and legs. I am proud to say that I didn’t’ just reach my target I exceeded it! I swam 110 laps in a 20 meter pool, none stop for 2 hours, alternating between swimming and using the different apparatus, without stopping once! I have to say, I feel lighter, fitter and toned. I can now look at myself in the mirror without having a deep cringe on my face! I just have to keep the momentum going once I’m back at work ! (fingers crossed)

Thursday, November 10th, 2011; It has been over 2 months since I last up dated you with my progress since I started work. I wish I could say that my exercise routine has been great, when the fact remains it has been none existent. Up on starting my new position at my place of employment I had hoped to be able to use the pool to keep up with my swimming but the building in which the pool is situated was declared unsafe and won’t be functional till January (fingers crossed), my work keeps me on my feet till 4pm and by the time I get home I am too tired to lift a finger. I have been trying my darndest to watch what I consume and I had been doing very well up until 2 weeks ago when I had a MAD CRAVING FOR CARBS and Chocolate!! The cravings are subsiding and I am getting back in to my healthy habits of eating and eating more fruit and vegetables. I have made a conscious decision to make more of an effort to stop working late every day and to go to an exercise or dance class at least twice a week.

Saturday, November 12th; I am ready to get back on track to reach my goal weight and shape! I know that the final 10-15Kg are going to be the hardest to lose and I am going to have days where I would threaten to throw in the towel and just indulge in calorie and sugary sin, but I am at an age now, where I really need to treat my body as a temple and look after it as best as I can, because although in my mind I’m still a wee lass, my body is reflecting a different image. So, I am going to bring this mission to a new level; It is now Operation Megan Mila Kunis Fox (2 HOT women, with attitude). When I posted my intentions on my status a friend of mine commented and said; “Call it operation N E. You will be a healthy weight that will make you look your best.” She does have a point, But I know I will never look like those two ladies, but I can be my own bombshell, which is what I am striving for… The real name of the mission is ‘Improve My Health’, but I think the one I go by sounds much cooler! I start exercising tomorrow morning… I’ll keep you posted on how I do this week, keep reading!

November 22nd 2011; So, almost 2 weeks after Eid, I feel a difference in my figure! I had started an exercise routine and was doing well but report cards completely messed that up! I have been so stressed about them that I hardly slept. I went 4 days without sleeping and I am still recovering from the effects. I started back on SlimFast, which seems to be a bit of a waste of formula considering that my appetite has shrunk to less than the normal calorie in take a person should take. I think the break up I recently went through also contributed to my disinterest in nourishment too… . The current situation in the country, has just added to my worries and stress level and I can’t think of exercising to be honest. I should use my elliptical bike to tear myself away from twitter, the net and TV just to keep the blood circulating! I’ll let you know if I am able to get myself out of this slump… stay safe, stay healthy.

March 3rd, 2011:

It has been almost 4 months since I last updated my blog or my progress on my mission to regain control of my life again and get healthy. The slump that I faced back in November passed thankfully and I am back on track. I signed up for Zumba classes twice a week and was getting really in to them. I just LOVE latin beats and moves, that’s the way I enjoy exercising and let me tell you I didn’t hold back! After each class I felt rejuvenated and PUMPED! I would leave happy and my endorphins would be KICK’N! Unfortunately the instructor suffered some health problems and was instructed to take to her bed. So, a colleague at work, suggest that we walk around the track on the days that we would have been taking Zumba classes just to keep in the spirit of exercising. After hearing what happened to the female UN employee a few weeks ago, along with people trying to kidnap children out of their mother’s arms in cars, I decided to add self-defence classes to my regiment! For 2 reasons, it’s not just about the grueling boot camp style work out, it’s also the knowledge and skill that I would need to defend myself that I am enjoying. The great thing about the walking and the self-defense classes is that they are all at where I work, so I can take my workout gear with me and not slack off, everything is right there and I don’t have the excuse of being too tired after a long day at work or having to endure a long ride home.

In addition to working out regularly I am also watching what I eat at home, at work and when I go out to restaurants. I try to make healthy choices! Lots of Vegetables/Fruit for fiber and vitamins, protein (mainly grilled chicken or fish, occasionally I’ll crave red meat) and I try to minimize my carb in take, but if I have a craving for it, it’s usually brown pasta! As for my love of sweets…I have been fairly good, but it isn’t easy to walk away from chocolate (cake, candy, ice-cream), so I allow myself some indulgence every once in a while.

In January at the school I work at, the idea of having a Biggest Loser challenge to help those drop the holiday pounds was brough up. I signed up for it. I weighed in at 77KG (12KG away from my goal weight), the second week of the way in I had dropped to 75.5KG!! (I have no idea how I did that!!) The weeks that followed were very discouraging I plateaued and lost nothing. 2 weeks ago I finally lost a quarter of KG! I am trying not to let this minor hiccup damped my spirit, but it is disheartening! I haven’t taken a picture of myself recently, but as soon as I do, I will post it!

June 28th, 2012 ; The Biggest Loser Competition was nowhere near as challenging as the TV series. I wish Bob or Gillian had been included in the package. It just wasn’t enough to motivate me and although I didn’t win, that hasn’t stopped me from continuing to eat healthy. I have to admit the last two months of work, I stopped exercising and that’s when I lost my will power and let myself go slightly. The stress of work and deadlines had gotten to me and I began to indulge in many guilty pleasures, (I just can’t resist Ice Cream and French Fries, just not served or eaten together). I got on the scale last week and I expected to read that I had put on a few Kg, but to my surprise, I had only put on 1Kg. That extra Kg, did feel like a lot more. It made me feel bloated, heavy and it really added extra strain on my joints. Now that School is out for the summer, I am seizing this opportunity to do what I did last summer and that is swim and work out daily. For the past 5 days (so far), I have been watching my daily in take and I am pleased to say that I haven’t had a single carbonated drink, juice box, or anything with refined sugar! I am feeling a lot lighter, healthier and energetic. I wake up early in the morning and use the Ab Master that my parents have been using as a laundry rack and the Elliptical Bike which is used as a towel drier. Later in the morning, if the club that I swim at isn’t being used as a venue for an event, I go and swim/exercise in the pool for 3-4 hours. Where I do laps, use different boards to strengthen my arms/legs and do some resistant exercises with my Mum. I had expected to be out of shape and back at square one again, where I could barly do 2 laps without gasping for air, but my exercising throughout the year, has helped. I was able to do 10 laps none stop, before I took a break. A big improvement from last year! I am hoping that by keeping this up for the next 3 weeks, I will be trimmer as well as toned before leaving to go on my summer holiday to England and Ireland to visit my family and attend a cousin’s wedding.

August 11th 2012; From June 23rd- July 16th I kissed soft drinks goodbye and took up drinking water like my life depended on it. I have only had 2 soft drinks since then because I had an upset stomach. I can honestly tell you that it does make a world of difference. I feel the difference in my skin as well as my body. For food, I would eat healthy and regularly and not eat passed 8pm. For exercise, I needed to intensify it to make up for the months I had fallen off the wagon, so I put myself through my own self inflicted boot camp. I would wake up early and do several sets of crunches, sit ups, jumping jacks and use the toning elasticized bands and get on the elliptical bike for at least one hour. Then I would go to the pool for 2-3 hours almost daily. I was pleased to see that I hadn’t lost all the strength and stamina I had gained the previous summer, but I wasn’t able to complete 100 laps at the get go either. I kept pushing myself like this until my mother and I were due to leave on vacation. By the time I left, I could see traces of the ‘old’ me in the mirror, my waist line was shrinking, my arms were getting toned and my stomach was getting flatter and my appetite for junk food and sweet treats was also diminishing. I have to admit that I was worried that I would pile it all back on again while I was away, but to my surprise I was quite sensible in my food choices. I made a conscience effort to make sure I drank water, ate decent sized portions of vegetables and fruit and I didn’t feel bloated when I got back. I didn’t ‘exercise’ but I did do a lot of walking in London and in Ireland. While I was away I summoned enough courage to get up on to a scale that tells you not only your weight but how much body fat you have. I am happy to say that i am now down to 40% body fat and I have 13 Kilos to lose to reach my ideal weight! (this will be the hardest to lose, but I will by hook or by crook, within this year or the next!)

Having returned, I can’t seem to get the momentum going, the temperature is not encouraging and they have heated the pool! (Don’t ask! I’m still trying to figure out why ANYONE would heat the pool in August in Egypt! It is a conundrum, that I can not fathom!) The heated pool makes me feel heavier and really knocks the breath out of me. I can’t do two laps without panting. The water is supposed to help cool your body down, but this does the complete opposite, it overheats it. The temperature outside of the pool is cooler than being in the water! I have 3 wedding to go to in the next 4 weeks, so I am being very tough on myself. I have come a long way from where I began and I don’t want to roll backwards.  When I’m back at work, I think that I will go back to self-defense classes as well as re-learn how to Salsa and take up a form of Yoga, once I have been to an Orthapedic Surgeon to make sure the pains that I have been getting in my hip and feet are nothing to worry about. As always, I will keep you posted on my progress, till then; Drop it like it’s hot!

My before and after pictures thus far…

Top left in Grey is me at my heaviest in September 2010

 August 15th 2011, sorry about the picture quality!

sorry about the picture quality. August 13 2011October 21st 2011 dressed for a friends wedding

October 21st 2011 dressed for a friends wedding

October 21st 2011 dressed for a friend’s wedding
 

Former President Hosni Mubarek in the cage

History was made today in Egypt, when Mubarak, the former Egyptian president actually appeared in court in a white jump suite lying down on a hospital bed with an I.V. in his arm, (contents of IV are unknown). He appeared in court along with his two son and other accused. One of whom was the former minister of Interior and security Habeeb El Adly (who is already serving 12 years sentence for corruption and could be facing the death penalty if found guilty of having a hand in the murder of the victims of the uprising for allowing the security forces to use weapons and live ammunition).
Lawyers from both sides took turns speaking in to their microphone, declaring whom they represent and what requests they would like the judge to consider during the trial. For the prosecution there were over 130 lawyers, many of whom were not permitted to enter the courtroom. Most of who represent the people and the families of the martyrs from many different governates in Egypt.
The lawyers when speaking were reciting verses of the Holy Quraan and would harp on and use fancy words and phrases, which the judge didn’t care for and insisted that the lawyers got straight to the point. At times the circus of lawyers fighting for the right and time to speak in to the microphone looked like a classroom scene where eager students were trying to answer questions to impress their teacher. At one point in time the judge insisted all the lawyers be seated and come up to the microphone one at a time in an orderly fashion. There were a few lawyers who stood out, some demanded that Gen. Tantawi be brought testify as well as Anan former Vice President Omar Soleiman. Another brought charges against the phone networks Mobinil, Vodafone and Etisalat for cutting phone lines, one lawyer pulled out and ink pad and demanded the finger prints of the former president and his sons to open a criminal file against them. The lawyer that stood out the most was the one who wanted a DNA test because he believed that the man in the cage wasn’t Hosni Mubarak but an imposter who has been posing as him since 2004, because he believes the real Hosni Mubarak is dead.
The momentous moment for me was hearing the Prosecutor read the charges against the defendants gave me chills. To see the country’s former giants in a cage in a courtroom in jump suits hearing the charges brought against them was surreal. Never did anyone in this nation think they would see the day when a former leader and his crony’s being brought to justice. Mubarak’s sons who remained standing beside their father’s bed blocking the cameras from getting a clear shot of their father were chocked up and emotional when they heard the charges against them being read.
When the judge (Rifaat) asked for the defendants to show themselves and prove that they are present and asked them how they plea to the charges that were read and brought against them and hearing their answers of ‘not guilty’ to me was a moment to remember. I didn’t think that I would ever live to see a trial of this magnitude or significance take place in Egypt.

I am glad that the Judge has split the cases, Mubarak and sons will be tried separately from Adly and his aids. Adly and aid’s case will resume tomorrow, August 4th and the Mubarak’s case will be brought back on August 15th.
Mubarak has been ordered to be held at a hospital on the outskirts of Cairo, on the Cairo Ismalia road. I know that many people felt sorry for Mubarak and believed him to be seriously ill. I am skeptical and think it’s part of an act. I do however admire his sons standing by his side and trying to block camera’s view and showed unity, (that doesnt change what I think of them though).
We have to wait and see what will happen until then…. Never the less it’s all history in the making and possibly a significant step towards true democracy.

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