Friday, December 2, 2011

Article 19: Freedom of Expression

This has definitely been one of those “Cairo, you’re making me question my sanity” weeks. I normally wouldn’t consume a whole box of dates in two days or box of Digestives biscuits in one sitting but it seems that my stress levels have sky rocketed to something unfathomable.

I can usually handle the continual shouts and whistles from cars speeding by but I’ve felt so uneasy this week. Maybe it’s because of some papers regarding women’s rights in the MENA region or simply because of all the horror stories and articles I’ve had to read to prepare for them.

On Thursday I gave a presentation on sexual harassment in Egypt and was just appalled at the behavior and responses of many of my classmates—yes, even the women. While doing research on the topic I noticed  that sexual harassment is not specifically addressed or even defined in the Egyptian constitution *which will be reconstructed in the following year—who knows if women will even be able to participate when writing the constitution.* There are in fact only three articles *Yes, just THREE* that can be applied in cases of harassment. The articles pertain to insulting behavior, indecent behavior, and sexual assault. All of this information I found extremely frustrating and belittling, especially because Egypt ratified the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)  in 1981.

It is so very obvious that these rules are not being implemented within society and I don’t think that many people in the classroom even knew about these articles beforehand. I understand that it can be hard to talk about this touchy subject in Egyptian culture, so humor may be involved to lighten the mood and make conversation a little more easy going. However, I found myself so frustrated that a few of the male students could not wrap their brains around what I, along with my professor and some foreign classmates, was trying to speak with them about. There were plenty of opportunities for all of the Egyptian students in the class to speak up and freely express their concern and experiences with this problem but some only joked about the matter or had only sexist things to say.

*Please take note however that there were a few among us, men included, that were really interested in the topic and asked fantastic questions concerning the implementation of certain policies and the current initiatives that are being created in Cairo to combat sexual harassment.*
If there is no respect in the classroom (a safe haven in the middle of Cairo where freedom of expression is allowed, for the most part) when discussing an issue such as sexual harassment then how is there going to be respect for women on the street? Is it okay for women to be groped and shoved in the Metro or when they are trying to assist protestors in Tahrir? Absolutely not.

On another hand, I am completely ready for December 8th to arrive! One of my best friends, Jayanni, is coming from Tennessee to spend two weeks with me here! I’m REALLY looking forward to seeing her in the midst of this chaos—she’s always been my breath of fresh air. We’re planning on going to Alexandria, Luxor, and ALL of the sites in Cairo that I have not been able to see yet (there are too many to count)! Inshallah!

Also, I’m really looking forward to going to Filderstadt, Germany in just three weeks! I’m hoping that it will be beautiful there during Christmas and hopefully snow will be everywhere. I’ve been waiting for so long to go back—these next weeks will be almost unbearable!

A break from Cairo and all of its hustle and bustle is just what I need.

Friday, November 25, 2011

"You're a desert girl now."

Sometimes I go through these maddening stages where all I want to do is write. I have this lovely little journal that I purchased before I came to Cairo. I’ve written bits and thoughts of things that I’ve learned, heard, seen, or tasted. Sometimes I also find dessert (also DESERT) crumbs and varying colors of coffee stains that make a nice addition to the bare pages that I started to write on, which is quite humorous because that helps me to remember where I was and what I was doing on that day.

However, life has been a bit chaotic lately and I tend to get dates and times mixed up and frequently forget how to function properly on a day-to-day basis. Perhaps this means I am adapting quite well to Egyptian society? Let’s hope so. I have fortunately laid off of the shisha but have found other devices of self destruction, such as Haribo gummies in the shape of teeth and cinnamon porridge, to help my daily advances.

In the last few weeks I’ve experienced some rather interesting things, one topic concerning the outlook of AUC students and its female population in general I will have to save and elaborate more on during another blog.

This is definitely one of the best things that I have done in Egypt so far. After getting a late start and having to drive a bit longer than expected, which was perfectly fine due to the fun music and great company, I found myself in the middle of nowhere. In this case, the middle of nowhere looks like a mirage—nothing but desert sand and massive, beautiful dunes for miles. I’ve never seen anything like it in my whole life. 

As my friend Angela and I were unloading the truck/trying to make ourselves look busy, the tour guides quickly gave directions to another party that came in a different caravan. They started climbing and slipping up to the top of the dune and slowly began to slide back down while sitting on their bottoms.  I then heard, “Whitney, yalla!”

I found myself clambering up the sandy dune and began to wish for death. It was outrageously hot and I felt like an injured mountain goat, or perhaps a rhinoceros, while making my way to the top. FINALLY I was able to reach the peak. It took longer than expected from immense amounts of laughing and buckets of sand in my socks and eyes. I stood up and tried to take everything in—the view was surreal. All I could see was the beautiful desert that at times looked an eerie shade of blue. The rays of the massive sun and the cool, salty wind teased my skin and hair. Goose bumps covered my body. It was a breathtakingly, gracious reminder of why I had fallen in love with Egypt. I was startled that this place had remained somewhat the same for thousands of years. I was lucky beyond belief to experience such a creation. 

I felt a nudge on my shoulder and realized I had to go down at some point. I decided to be a scaredy cat the first time and sat down as securely on the board as possible. It started moving through the sand so quickly and I completely forgot what I was supposed to do after leaving the top of the dune. Fortunately, I screamed my way down the dune and ended at the bottom without any battle wounds. The second trek to the top proved to be as successful and I actually managed to sand board without falling all of the way to the bottom of the hill! It was so invigorating and exciting! At this point I was exhausted and decided Angela and I needed nourishment.

After several peanut butter and strawberry sandwiches later, followed by apples, grapes, and popcorn, we continued to trek around the desert. I felt like I walked miles and miles in my bare feet as the day began to grow cooler. Before we knew it we had spent hours playing and the sun grew tired of our frenzied adventures. We marched for the last time up to the top of an untouched dune for the most beautiful sunset that I’ve ever seen. The sun didn’t look like a sun at all. It was so strange and pink, like a huge glowing candy ball without any rays beaming off of it. The setting sun was selfish and only stayed for a few moments before it melted into the horizon.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?

Signs of my beloved Autumn and the beautiful Tennessee season.
The best apples to use when making candied treats for Halloween.
Slightly provocative and absolutely carefree—how I always feel when wearing red.
My favorite color to wear on my lips—MAC Russian Red, to be exact.
The cloak that conceals my favorite fairy tale character’s brave little face.
Dreams of the perfect crimson shoes that I have yet to find.
Strands of my mother’s fiery hair while she works on her garden and the rays of the country sun setting after.
The current blush of my face, I just stumbled out of bed after tossing and turning all night—bewildered and exasperated.
A sign of the building resentment in my tired green eyes.
RED—my blood is boiling.
RED—the only color that I can see.

It means STOP.
Not go, damn it.
Why is it than when a woman says, ”STOP” some men have a tendency to GO?
For instance, last night my friend was in a taxi on her way to meet me for shisha at Villa 55, perhaps one of our favorite afternoon places in Maadi, Cairo. While on her way to the restaurant she noticed that the taxi driver kept looking back at her legs, even though her modest skirt came down to her knees. When giving the driver directions of how to reach the restaurant the driver commented on how good her Arabic was and proceeded to reach back and rub her legs. My friend quickly pushed his hand away and he grabbed onto it while she was resisting and forced his way onto her legs again. She yelled “NO” and “STOP” but he kept driving the taxi until she opened the side of the door and began to drag her feet on the ground until he came to a complete stop.

Is this necessary, to have to throw oneself out of moving vehicle to feel safe and secure? My initial thought would be no. I’m not trying to generalize. Not every taxi driver in Egypt is like this and a majority of men in the world would not behave this way, although occurrences like this happen all over the globe at every moment of every day.

I can’t help but think of the several instances when I was back in Knoxville working at FIZZ in Market Square. A slightly deluded and deranged man would often come into the boutique to browse around drunkenly, possibly buy a few things, and stare at me with immense interest. He began to frequent the store more often and I would have to dash to the back of the store and the manager would have to appear so he would leave without bothering any customers or me. It got to the point where we had to buy a bell to keep at the front of the store to ring in case the man came in (often times my co-workers and I would forget about the symbolic importance of the bell and would sometimes make up little tunes to play if no one was in the store, then whoever was in the back would race to the front to make sure that the creeper wasn’t doing something outrageous…which he did on a few occasions). He even decided to give me the nickname “Little Red Riding Hood”.
Finally, it got to the point where I was being stalked. One day I was opening the store for an hour by myself and the man came in. Like a wolf he cornered me behind the desk of the store and I could not get to a phone or away from him. He tried to touch my red hair that he was so fond of but I couldn’t hide my face from him. At this point I backed away and said, “No, stop please.” Then he began muttering about guns and how I should protect myself. He asked if I liked guns and I felt my knees buckle beneath me. I prayed for a cloak of protection. I begged God for him to leave. ***My closest friends and family have always been concerned about my lack of the “sixth sense” that most women possess. At this moment ALL of my senses were raging and I felt like someone was stabbing me in the stomach, making my inside writhe with the strangest pain. I felt so trapped and confined—which is my biggest fear, to not be able to move or go when I want.*** Two women walked into the store and at that moment I swore they were angels. Then, like the evanescence of a dream, the man left after a few terrifying seconds. I miraculously pulled myself together and managed to walk out from behind the counter to call the police.

I’ve heard so many stories of small assaults such as this and know that my own loved ones (my beautiful and strong sorority sisters, amazing church  and family members, and unforgettable mentors) have experienced such injustices. One should note that women are not the only ones who receive this type of treatment! My best gay friend has also been the subject of harassment and unwanted contact.

Cairo has reminded me on a daily basis of why I have come here. Fortunately, it’s not to the point where I’ve had to get one of these bad boys but they are a rather interesting invention. Who's afraid of the big bad wolf now!? Rape Axe: Take Back the Power
I’ve had to behave a bit differently and have had to wrap myself in a sort of meekness that I am definitely not used to but you can bet your bottom dollar that my cloak is not a boring and dull, old thing. It’s effervescent, full of life, and most importantly…RED.

"Smoke your shisha like a man!"

Chaotic. Confusing. Charming. Chanting. Classes. Cruising. Carrot-free…Curses.
My muse of a younger sister, made me realize that I have been away from home for more than one month now.

She unknowingly made me think about how I have been blessed beyond belief with the ability to make friends with most anything or anyone, making the transition in Cairo much easier. If I were stuck in a room with a Venus flytrap for example I’m sure we would be having conversations about how it is not humane to play with one’s food and how it’s rather unladylike to sit around all day with one’s mouth hanging open.
Speaking of one’s mouth hanging open…the food in Cairo has been as satisfactory as I remember, although it’s been difficult at times to get all of the nice green produce that I desire. McDonalds, KFC, and Papa Johns are just a few of the fast food chains that deliver most any time of the day! Fortunately I have not succumbed to this temptation but instead have inhaled tragic amounts of shisha upon my arrival. My fantastic roommate, Melissa, has also surrendered to the great pipe and has bought a precious little shisha from Khan el Khalili (along with apple, plum, cherry, and energy drink flavored tobacco).
***Yes, we admit we have a problem but there could be worse things—such as NOT having a Sephora branch in Cairo.  ***
Life here has been nothing short of challenging for a number of reasons but I think I’m adapting quite well. The most annoying thing about living here is the male population, mostly the uneducated and lower class. In Gulu I experienced quite a bit of heckling but here it’s always constant. Men here seem to be a bit more brave and vulgar. Car horns honking, hissing and lip puckering, as well as other choice words that might include profanity are becoming a part of my daily routine. Although the worst incident by far was just a few days ago when two young boys, they couldn’t have been more than 8 years old, started throwing fist sized rocks at my roommate and I because we honestly did not have any spare change to give them!

I’ve also been able to see quite a few interesting things concerning post-Revolution issues such as the Israeli Embassy being thrown about like confetti and Egyptian students on campus tearing down the American flag from its pole in protest of the current AUC President, Lisa Anderson.
Even though this sounds pessimistic it is not meant to be. Many Egyptians here have been embarrassed and ashamed for the acts that have been occurring throughout Cairo. A driver last week informed me that it was completely unnecessary for what happened to the embassy. He stated, “What will happen to our embassy in Israel? I fear for it now and for the humility of the Egyptian people. I do not want to live in shame.” It’s because of statements like this remind me why I love Egypt.

Rarely will you be able to go out into the world and find a place so diverse and captivating. There are mansions and villas that align some of the finer streets in Cairo, but there are also tiny little shacks on the street beside of them where a family of five will live as happily as possible. Women wearing full niqab will stare at me in disdain or curiosity as I walk through the streets wearing a three quarter length top and a quite the long skirt, while they sit in a movie theater listening to curses and watching small forms of sexual acts—this I experienced last night after seeing the film Horrible Bosses, which was absolutely hilarious by the way…and probably quite inappropriate for women wearing niqab to be watching but who am I to judge? My mind is constantly brewing because of this insanely fascinating culture and the Egyptian way of life. Speaking of brewing, I could really use a chai tea latte. This kind is so tasty!
(I blame the religious studies deparment at UT but) this constant thinking, looking, and analyzing has become really quite exhausting which is why I must go for a little nap before “studying”.

Sweetest dreams wherever in the world you may be.

1st Day of AUC Orientation!

Dear Family and Friends:

I am currently on the bus to AUC—which is not marked that it is actually an AUC bus! Barely made it…the great/creepy taxi driver was kind enough to let me call his English-speaking friend so I could help him navigate to the bus stop. “Hennah, hennah, hennah!!!” “Stop, stop, stop!!!” I told him once I saw a herd of studentesque people standing around a sign next to an intersection. I called out to an Egyptian girl, luckily she spoke English and confirmed my suspicions, and I barreled out of the taxi just in time as the student bus smashed it’s way through oncoming traffic.

So here I am. All around me I hear chatter about orientation, government happenings, Mori sushi, and what new mascara Dior is coming out with (this is the most exciting news thus far).

My coffee and peach yogurt are not settling well, along with the other food that I have been trying to eat for the past three days, due to nervousness/a certain someone-sickness and lack of sleep.


I was very blessed last night and received quite the miraculous gift! It turns out that I have discovered the perfect roommate in Egypt. Melissa, who I thought was actually French, is a wonderful red haired Canadian who has a fondness for saving little furry animals (we now have a precious, meddling kitten meandering about our flat) and enjoys late night adventures to the grocery store. I’ll have to talk more about the grocery store later.

Finding a flat mate has been such a relief—even though I did not want one at first. The flat that I am staying in for the time being is quite charming. The kitchen is pink and green with bits of red splashed around it (not my personal choice but I do love a nice shade of pink—as long as it doesn’t resemble Pepto Bismol, which fortunately this one doesn’t). There is also a little balcony that overlooks the outskirts of Maadi. Melissa has decorated it with some small plants and was able to find a barbq for cooking whatever our hearts desire! My ol’ heart could really use some German barbq right now…the kind that Seb prepares that is covered in six tons of garlic and a field of onions—yum, yum, yum!

One of my favorite parts of the flat is the icy air conditioner. If I could have a relationship with an air conditioner, I would. This little fella’ kept me company all night and he didn’t hog the blankets!

Well, we are just arriving at AUC. Eeeeeeeeek!

"Don't Expect Too Much..."

I have always had high expectations for myself and out of others. Granted, it may take me awhile to achieve my goals simply because I am the worlds greatest procrastinator but when I do something worth doing the results should be northing short of excellent. It’s in my nature to sit back and evaluate all the darkest corners of a situation. I want to speak as clearly and precisely as possible about an issue while keeping the emotions and feelings of the other party in mind. ***Note: Most issues where you have to care about the general wellbeing of another party should not be discussed while under the influence of wine.***

With that being said, what does one do when others do not expect the same thing? I’ve found it’s quite difficult to approach certain people when their guard is constantly up or when they are so narrow minded, numb, and afraid that I would have been better off caring about a blade of grass or a cube of sugar.

I’ve found that one of the most complicated things is caring too much and putting all of your efforts (this can include but is not limited to night long talks, delicious meals out and sometimes in, evening walks and dancing, sporadic shopping trips, rain checks, late night texts, etc.) and time into those you love. When this is done I often forget to take care of myself. Food often goes untouched or unthought of and the idea of sleep is almost laughable. Who needs sleep when Starbucks has developed those tasty little coffee packets that are so easy to pour into your water bottle!? Or when one of your best friends is so insanely addicted to Starbucks that he has a gold card that he uses about 20,198 times a day to get free refills?

So the greater question is, what should I expect once I leave the U.S. and Germany behind me? What is going to happen in the next month? I can’t help but wonder what kind of person I will morph into (hopefully a pink power ranger if all else fails). When traveling I often think of this quote that I’ve grown to cherish because it’s very true and surreal.

"You get a strange feeling when you're about to leave a place, I told him, like you'll not only miss the people you love but you'll miss the person you are now at this time and this place, because you'll never be this way again."
-Azar Nafisi, Reading Lolita in Tehran

Maybe it’s just best to sometimes expect the unexpected. I guess I will just have to wait, as patiently as possible, and see.

YES--I am still going to Cairo.

YES. For goodness sake…YES. I watch the news. YES—I realize that Egypt is still not considered the most stable of countries right now. YES, I know that the nation just went through a revolution. YES! I understand that there is a curfew and that elections are just around the corner. YES…I know that some Egyptians do not always treat women with the respect that is supposed to regularly be found in the Western world (although women do not always get the respect that they deserve, even in the U.S.).

And YES—I am STILL going to Egypt.

Each person only has one life to live (unless you believe in reincarnation but that’s a whole different story) so why not say YES and try something new? People are so afraid to say YES. I hate it when I ask someone to do something or try something new and they say no or maybe. This world is so big for a reason—so humanity can share their cultures with one another and not live in fear. So choose YES and go somewhere new, read about a religion you know nothing of, and make friends with those who are from different areas of the world.

This is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Don't make me start a revolution in Knoxville! I would appreciate congratulations first then one can scrutinize me and share your concerns about why I should be careful or cautious in Cairo. Asking me not to go or telling me why I shouldn’t go should not be on one’s to-do list.

I have been obsessively planning to go back to Egypt ever since returning from Uganda in August. I am extremely appreciative of every single friend, family member, professor, and flabbergasted Panera Bread customer who sat down and looked over my application materials. I have poured over journals, books and magazines, news broadcastings and radio shows just to learn as much as I can about Egypt’s recent past and present. Better yet, I have continuously been in touch with friends and professors in Cairo about the revolution and I know that Egypt is changing slowly for the better. Please don’t assume that I am an ignorant, young American woman or that all Egyptians are anti-American, governmentless, radical Muslims (YES, there are Christians in Cairo!!!) and so forth.

Thanks to God. Yes, I am still going to Egypt.
Enshallah. :)

"I flit, I float, I fleetly flee, I fly!"

Goodbye” is something I’ve been saying a lot lately and truthfully there has not been much good about it. After some pondering and punish amounts of sleep I have also decided that I am not very good with these goodbyes at all. How does one become satisfied with the thought of losing something that they care for even the slightest amount? Is a goodbye really losing someone, or something, or in my case, just misplacing it for a short while? There are all sorts of goodbyes that I have encountered--sweet and savory ones, tearful and hurtful ones, awkward and bitter goodbyes, and even rambunctiously hilarious partings.

With the New Year being here it is probably best to move on from the objects that one clings to. A short, swift goodbye should do the trick! However, the things that I cling to tend to be the things that I love the most, such as ice cream and uncountable visits to the bookstore. Alas, there is no possible way that I can get rid of these…
So another problem occurs. How does one decide what to dispose of in their life? Out with the old and in with the new, right? Not necessarily...

I tend to make pro and con lists for absolutely everything. At any given moment you can find at least seven or eight of these hidden in the depths of my room or in a bag that I may be carrying. I’ve created just a few of these lists recently to help me decide what I can live without and what I can say goodbye to. Items such as old clothes and make up, ancient research papers and notes, random gummi bear wrappers (gross, I know), almost empty hair products, and bits of bad memories were quickly disposed of—never to be seen again.

Then I became exhausted with the thought of rummaging around the abyss of my room and the edges of my tired old mind. It was painful to think of the more important things, like friendships and relationships that I have lost due to goodbyes. Death has stolen my dearest loved ones, jealousy and greed has torn just a few of these relationships apart, and distance has stood menacingly on the road between me and a couple of others while challenging my trust, passion, and other intentions for them.

My most vivid goodbyes, the ones I remember like yesterday, I can still recall impulsively…
--Proudly watching my best friend step through security at the airport on her way to her next big adventure in Colorado (only to return to me 10 minutes later with a hunting knife that had been found in the bottom of her carry on…oops)!
--The last time I saw my grandfather’s big icey blue eyes. He told me to keep playing my music—but, of course,  I haven’t.
--Literally running through the airport in Egypt and being too tired and confused to cry or even say a proper goodbye. Perhaps that wasn’t meant to be a permanent goodbye since a proper one did not occur? One can only hope.  :)
--Bittersweet hugs, precious moments, and unspoken words in Nashville. Sometimes dreams can’t become a reality just yet.
--Telling my best friend in Uganda, Christine, goodbye in the middle of the market place. She held my hand throughout our one hour walk even though others were staring. That was the first time I ever bawled in public but I didn’t even care.
--The first time I left home to drive to UT by myself. My mom stood in the driveway and watched me drift down to the very bottom near our stream. She was still outside when I couldn’t see her in my rearview mirror any longer.
--A sweet kiss on the cheek was how I ended my junior prom date in high school. Thanks to Bongo for being a groovy dancer.
--Senior goodbyes at my last Gamma Sig meeting. My heart swelled with pride because of my amazing sisters and all of the good that they have done for this world.
--Somehow muttering farewell after a night out with Ellie during our time as OL’s. “Officer, I’m a vegetarian here at UT.”

 Many of these goodbyes have not been bad ones but I still dislike them nonetheless. I suppose because of all of these farewells and departing salutations I have developed a sort of immunity. I have strength on these rainy days. The small puddles are invigorating and promising—they make me happy. I have felt pure in this snow and long for summer when I can show my newly cleansed skin. I miss the sun kissing my skin and freckling the top of my nose and cheeks. Even though the sun is gone I know it will return brighter than ever in the spring. I look forward to the changing of the seasons and know there will be goodbyes within each of them. I also know that I too will change with the seasons and can only hope that my roots will grow deeper within this earth, helping me to find myself and grow because of the people that I meet, lose, and love.

Adios, Ciao, Arrivederci, Auf Wiedersehen, Au revoir, Goodbye.

"And We Could Make Fasionable Little Hats!"

DECEMBER = Undergraduate graduation, precious holiday unmentionables from Victoria’s Secret, Christmas cookies and music, too much hot chocolate and paper cuts from vicious wrapping paper, and…FINAL EXAMS.
FINAL EXAMS = My untimely death.
I am currently at Panera Bread drinking unfathomable amounts of Hazlenut coffee and “writing” my thirty page paper that is due to an utterly ridiculous course that will never again help me in my life. My apologies for unnecessary amounts of pessimism and gloom. It’s quite possibly because I haven’t felt the sunlight for over a week and because my professors would not appreciate it if I came to class with a margarita in one hand and  ear plugs in the other.
However, Christmas is right around the corner and I’m getting all toasty and sparkly-eyes just thinking about it. For instance, this Christmas I’ll give my heart to the first man who offers me a plane ticket out of this country. In all seriousness, I’ve always enjoyed the holidays, regardless of the insanity that is my unforgettable family.
Speaking of family, my darling mother has asked me again, “Whitney, you always surprise me…please make a Christmas list?” My response, “…………….”

Whitney’s (Not So Real, Except For Numbers 3, 6, and 8) Christmas List
  1. A hippogriff named Sally. She would be precious and I wouldn’t ever need to worry about killing anyone due to road rage.
  2. Christopher Ross’ entire belt collection.  Christopher-ross
  3.  An electric blanket because I’m 95 years old and like to snuggle after showers.
  4. 3 years worth of Godiva chocolate covered strawberries. White chocolate would be nice too…
  5. A clone of John Mayer to sing me to sleep every night for the rest of my life.
  6. One plane ticket to Egypt, please.
  7. Beautiful sunflowers on my kitchen table every morning.  :)  Sunjpg
  8. Some more winter boots. Purple or red ones would be nice.

P.S. Elliott Nolan DeVore, I love you.

The Art of Confession

Telling the truth is something that I have always valued. When growing up my mother always taught my sister and I to tell the truth. In our defense, we always told the truth…even though the truth may have been twisted just a tiny bit. Many of my friends have asked me about my travels from the summer and how I have felt since coming back to the states. Normally I try to give short answers and details since I can talk on the subject for hours but now I must confess...
I must confess that Egypt was amazing.

Cairo at Sunset
The beautiful view of the Nile from Cairo Tower.

I remember that the music was haunting and the food was astonishing. The all-encompassing religious aspects of the culture were unforgettable. I almost missed a flight from Sudan due to my speculations and complicated religious conversation with this darling Muslim woman in a prayer room in the Addis Ababa airport. My curiosity got the best of me and I was in heaven, to say the least.
Food in Alex
Delicious food in Alex! Queen Sofia ate here. 
I would also like to confess that I have dreamt about frolicking in the Mediterranean sea more times than I can count and have relived Alexandrian conversations (and dastardly sunburns and sand in my swimming bottoms) that don’t even make sense any more thanks to my haphazard ways of being. Frankly, it’s not fair that America doesn’t have figs the size of a fist or crooked, dirty streets filled with little shops where one could buy a tall, cold glass of harroup and a good-luck talisman to put around a rear view-mirror.
Alexandria, Egypt
While I’m on a roll, I should also mention that I have never met more hospitable people than in Egypt. I learned not to compliment on women’s jewelry because they would take it off and give it to me “to remember them by.” I received pictures of friends and family and was often stuffed like a Thanksgiving turkey. I had to strap down my heart so it wouldn’t beat out of my chest due to the kindness that was bestowed upon me.
North Coast
In the North Coast with Mohamed Kammah and Itch (look how well we match)!
That cool morning, when I barely managed to leave Egypt at 3:20 a.m., the straps broke and a part of my stupid and ignorant heart tore out of my chest and jumped into the Mediterranean as the plane was soaring over it. So you see, I believe that I must go back to Egypt to see the rest of the country in order to make myself whole.

I must also confess that I have had a difficult time adjusting since I have been back in the states. I miss the people that I met in Egypt and Uganda and the African way of life. I am thankful however for my washing machine, chest of drawers, microwave, the sushi restaurant across the street, Gamma Sigma Sigma, and the shoes that I left behind this summer. My American friends and family are extra perks, of course, when it comes to being back home. ;)

While I’m doing all of this confessing due to the influence that this experience had on me I would also like to add that I am indeed set on trying to grad school abroad. I am also losing patience for those who can not fathom what the simple words “humble” or “selflessness” means. I confess that it’s heartbreaking to see many of the American women I know suffer under the hands of a man because of the same kinds of oppression that can be found in a developing country. I must also confess that I’ve changed a lot in the past three months from these experiences and I hope that it’s for the best (so please forgive me, dear friends, if I'm a mess).

And finally, I confess that I am indeed very blessed.

"I'm Not So Good with Goodbyes."

I made it back to Entebbe, Uganda (with the mosquitoes, geckos, dust of doom, and other unpleasant things that are not so easy to forget) and will be staying here until August 4th. One could claim that I am quite delirious from lack of water and have also managed to gain about eight beautiful, red, and itchy mosquito bites since my extremely late arrival at the Entebbe airport. I should add that I barely made it in time to the Cairo Airport and had my lovely friend, Kareem, run through the airport yelling in Arabic trying to find my exit gate. I obviously owe him dearly.

Somehow I find myself drowning in this weird, emotional pool of confusion and can’t seem to get my head above water—and really, I’m a good swimmer! I’m ready to leave Uganda but am not ready to go back to Tennessee. I have loved this summer, especially Egypt and my short, sweet time there.

Just thinking about everything that has happened within the past couple of weeks makes me want to do something drastic, as usual. Perhaps something that entails short hair, a ridiculous hobby such as gun cleaning or sky diving, Sangria, and learning French or Arabic? I’m afraid that I’ve had a taste of something sweeter than I could have ever imagined and now I can’t forget about it.

It’s honestly going to be so hard for me to go back to Knoxville and to get my act together! I will actually be expected to FOCUS. I hate that word…F-O-C-U-S. (I am also not too fond of the words ointment, barnacle, cheese grater, amongst some other things.)

So, in honor of currently not focusing I decided to hop on a rather questionable boda-boda and made my way over to a beach hotel and restaurant in hopes to find some kind of non-Ugandan dish to devour. I was picturing something garlicky or chocolaty but settled for spaghetti instead, which proved to be a huge mistake! After waiting for an hour for my food the spaghetti arrived with the CURRY sauce in a separate bowl and with my “grilled” chicken half basted in the sauce. I forgot to mention that the grilled chicken was basically half of an entire chicken with bones sticking all over the place, which immediately made me lose my appetite.

After sitting by the water for a few hours I began to reminisce about the Mediterranean sea and other stolen Egyptian moments and decided it would be best to return to the hostel for a shower before I started laughing or burst into tears like some mzungu maniac. I managed to flag down another boda-boda and scooted back over to the hostel and found myself face to face with the most bizarre Spanish lady that I have ever met. She was sitting almost naked in the middle of the floor, at least she was sitting on a rather raggedy towel, painting her nails with a scarf wrapped around her neck that draped ever so gracefully over her sagging bosoms.

She politely introduced herself and apologized for taking up so much room in the dormitory, however she did not apologize for almost making me faint from such an unexpected spectacle. I asked if she were Spanish, I could tell from her thick accent. We then had great half-Spanish conversations about shopping and paella, works from Gaudi, how Spanish men are supposedly the best lovers, and why it’s so tempting to go skinny-dipping in foreign countries. Honestly, I was rather impressed with myself for still knowing how to carry on a conversation about skinny-dipping and knee-high boots in Spanish.

Have I mentioned how I don’t want to go back to America?

Egypt Bound!

Hallelujah! I leave for the airport in almost one hour! I have had hardly any sleep this past week due to my five-year old excitement (and because the bus ride to Kampala was so bumpy—my tailbone was lost in a pothole some where).

I arrived at the Entebbe Backpacker’s Hostel at 6:00 a.m. and promptly “passshed out” on the closest thing that I could find, which was a conveniently located bunk bed. After bashing my cranium on the wall from delirium I managed to snooze for a few hours and woke up to a nice breakfast of French toast, honey and bananas, and spiced African tea! I could live off of spiced African tea alone…and pineapple…and brownies…Okay, I lied.

Please note that one of the Uganda women claimed that I looked like a lion because of my hungry face and big “furry” hair. Fabulous.

I am currently splayed across a couch with a huge duffel bag filled full of Acholi purses and necklaces that I’ll be using for a little fundraising project, a monstrous suitcase containing whatever I grabbed and threw in, my purse the size of the Indian Ocean (compete with sand and dust from Gulu), and a nice backpack for Egypt, of course.

Hopefully my packing skills will prove successful once I reach Cairo. I’m slightly nervous about what is considered appropriate wear there and what will feel comfortable in 100+ degree weather. If all else fails my back up plan is to go shopping for a few things. Dresses, scarves, jewelry, skirts, sandals…perhaps.

I’m spending the first few days in Cairo then heading to Alexandria! After adventuring there I’ll be heading to the Red Sea and to Sharm el Sheikh. I am hoping that I will have time to go back to Cairo and spend more time there. Thankfully I’ve been put in contact with a few nice fellows that have been more than helpful thus far.

Quite frankly I’m afraid that I’m going to fall in love with Egypt—it’s music, language, food, dancing, and all of the people that I meet there. This could prove to be a real problem, as it was hard enough saying goodbye to everyone in Gulu and at the ARLPI office (this I will have to blog about later).

With that being said…dear Cairo, here I come!

Today's Most Interesting Conversation on a Boda Boda

 “No sir, I shall not have your hand in marriage.”—Me
“But why? I give chickens. You like cows?”—Boda Driver
“I don’t actually, sorry. I’m going to meet friends!”—Me
“Okay, I come too. We have fun and I give you chicken!”—Boda Driver
“Ummm, do you understand English?”—Me
“Yes, every morning!”—Boda Driver
Oh Gulu, how I will miss you.

"Once You See an African Sunset You'll Always Find Your Way Back."

Over the past weeks in Uganda I have accumulated quite a few photos (and have unfortunately left my camera cord in the states so I won’t be able to put more images up until August)! Here are some of the best so far, I hope you enjoy seeing these places and people as much as I have. 
My home in Pece, Gulu. We recently shared this compound with a Sudanese family.
Our lovely front yard. I truly love our neighbors that live in the hut!
My bedroom when I shared it with my fabulous roommate, Rachel. Now the far left screen is broken out of the window due to Acholi children attempting to steal iPods!
Chamise--evil Sudanese baby that cried all the time. I certainly do not miss her. Rachel, this is for you!
Gulu Buspark. Full of matatu's (buses) and men that love to heckle anyone who walks by!
Bishop Ochola's grandaughter, Samantha. This little girl is an angel!
Bahai Temple
The AMAZING Baha'i Temple in Kampala! I was so excited to see this and we got there just one hour before closing.
Rachel, Erin, and I at the Baha'i Temple during our Kampala weekend trip.
LaCho, Gulu. I've never seen a sky so big.
Children in LaCho as my friend Jayanni and I were purchasing soda's for 700 shillings a bottle.
You'll find these winding dirt roads everywhere! I'll miss them once I'm home.

A Magic Carpet Ride

I think I have a serious psychological disease in which my wayward soul wants to travel and move WHILE I am already traveling. I’m not sure why this sickness always twists my mind into a slush of longing but I am currently contaminated with *drum roll, please*…

I have less than one month left in Uganda, about three weeks left to be exact. A teensy voice in my brain (I am convinced this is God) is telling me, in a vibrato that sounds something like Sean Connery, “Gooooo tooo Egyyyyypt! GoooOoOoOOo!”

After making about three efficient pro’s and con’s lists I have managed to turn my room into a winter wonderland of white and pink paper snowballs complete with scorched sticks (used for chicken roasting, of course) to enhance the snowman that I could potentially build. Although I could construct a masterpiece worthy of praise from Picasso himself I am not any closer to making a decision about traveling. Curses.

In case you didn’t know, Egypt is in my top three places to visit! India, being the first, and then Greece following in a tie with you know where. Which make this mysterious country even more of a reason why I should gallivant across the Valley of Kings, paint the desert red, and search for a magic lamp or at least some beautiful scarves!

In all seriousness, I have been stuck in a routine at ARLPI and in Gulu and have become quite restless just because habitual routines REALLY stress me out. I have grown and gained so much here in Uganda and I am so thankful for all of those who have helped me financially and who have blessed me with their prayers along the way. I have also seen many things that I will never ever be able to forget, even if I wanted to.

I’m hoping and praying that an answer of some sort will present itself to me by the end of the week so I’ll be able to rest well without worry--or concern that another Acholi child will try to break into my room!

Until that answer comes (I suppose I’ll be hanging out with Frosty)…

Fieldwork with ARLPI

Fieldwork with ARLPI

Working with the Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiative (ARLPI) has truly been an unforgettable experience. The people that I have met in this organization have made such a difference in Uganda and even abroad. Most of the team treats me like a sister or a daughter and they have really helped me to feel at home with jokes, stories and dances, and by bringing me food to taste or family members to meet.
My favorite project that ARLPI has created is the Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) Prevention and Response program funded by CARE. Stella Atolo is the Alero Field Coordinator of this initiative and she is one of the strongest women that I have met. She moved to Gulu from an area called Teso once the conflict started. I have learned much about the Acholi ways of life thanks to Stella and Geoffrey, our ARLPI driver. They have taught me Luo phrases and words, where to go if I get sick, which bars to stay away from because I might be mistaken for a prostitute, and how to attract good men (even in America, apparently).
While attending these SGBV sessions there are normally at least 20 people present with a good mix of men and women from different villages. Rwot Kwerie’s (local chiefs, which can also be women) usually attend the events are greatly valued for their opinion and life experiences. The SGBV program often conducts their meetings in old IDP (Internally Displaced Persons) Camps because many Ugandans still live in these. It’s difficult for the Acholi to move back to their own villages or even in Gulu Town due to the financial stresses and mental abuse that the conflict with the LRA caused. It’s heartbreaking and at the same time gratifying to see the IDP camps and how far the Acholi have come since the LRA ceased fire.

Conversations posed by the SGBV team focus on domestic violence and how to avoid and prevent it, rape victims (that were assaulted in the bush or at home) and how to cope with the aftermath of the violence, how to share work positions between men and women, etc. The Acholi are able to use humor and seriousness at the same time in order to tackle these heavy topics in order to share previous experiences or opinions that will make their lives easier.

There are sometimes issues that the communities bring up concerning the interns that lead the SGBV program because they are so young. However, ARLPI has properly trained the Ugandan interns and I have been extremely impressed with the way that the meetings are conducted and how easy it is for the interns, Brian and Michael Dennis, to relate to the people that are present.

The language barrier has been very difficult for me and I have often felt that it has deterred from my experience in the field. I have had to focus on other things such as facial expressions, gestures, loudness of voice, body language, and respect that is given in order to determine the personality and characteristics of a group or topic that is being discussed. In essence, the language barrier has been a burden but has also been a blessing in disguise due to the way it has given me a new way to dissect work in the field and when understanding Acholi culture.

"There's No Place Like Home."

These past few weeks I have found that I’ve been subliminally comparing and contrasting Gulu, Uganda to Knoxville, Tennessee (and almost any other place that I have traveled in this great big world). I’ve been pulling apart each little fiber of the blanket that has covered me and sheltered me in each of these towns in order to distinguish what exactly makes a place a home.
What is it I love about Uganda and Tennessee?
Uganda: Mangoes, how everyone (male and female) tries to dance like Shakira, women who make dresses in the market, the huge moon and sky at night, the sense of humor every one has, goats walking aimlessly, strength in women that I have never seen before, ARLPI, never having to worry about my hair cause it’ll get big anyway…
Tennessee: Chicken and dumplings, my insane and wonderful family, the big mountains, Marble Slab ice cream, Oakland United Methodist Church, dancing in the moonlight, Southern accents, how people say yes’sir and yes’mam, Sarah Mitchell Tweed, ahem…never having to worry about my hair cause it’ll get big anyway…
Does being in one place make me fonder of the other? The more I have thought about this the more anxious I get about my future and where I will be living during the next few years and how my time here has affected me and will continue to affect me in the years to come.
I brought the issue of home up to some of the people that I work with. A Muslim member of ARLPI, explained that he has two wives and two homes and that he has worked very hard to maintain those households, especially because of the conflict that consumed northern Uganda. He has also lived and suffered in Russia during the Cold War and has worked in London, England. He graciously described his life in Gulu (how one of his wives is HIV+, how he had to remarry, how he has SO MANY children) and I understood that this place is his home because he worked the hardest here to make something out of his life and ached to come back to the town, even after the war.
Another member that I work with, a Catholic female with two children, informed me that she moved here from southern Uganda when she married her husband. She explained that she has always been in love with her husband, even though their marriage was arranged, and that “where there is love, there is a home.” However, she did admit that living conditions have been harsh during the past decade but that she could not imagine relocating because of the blood that has been shed for her family and household.
With these thoughts in mind I had a devotional session with my friend, Jayanni, on Sunday around 4:00 p.m. After reading a few passages from Psalms and Proverbs aloud I felt a little foolish and slowly remembered that HOME is where GOD is. This was the answer that I was looking for all along.
It doesn’t matter how much I worry about the future because God already has all of the answers. He is always ahead of me, always behind me, and always with me at every minute of every day. I know I could plan exactly what country I will be living in for graduate school, where I could go on vacation, and where my heart’s greatest desire lies but it’s pointless to worry because I am ultimately not the one in charge. Even though it would be great to have some sparkly red pumps that I could click together every time I want to go home, wherever that may be, God is always in control (which is why I have to go shoe shopping so frequently or else my life would surely be in shambles)!
So, I found this short message when I flipped to the index of my bible and searched for the word ‘Home.’ I can’t help but grin because God knows me so well. Home truly is where the heart is and He is my home.
“It is comforting to have God, who is as much at home on one end of the earth as the other.
Where is the end of the Earth?
To me, it may be in China or Africa;
To a Chinese or African it may be New York.
Physically, the world has no end.
When I come to the end of myself, wherever I am in the world, God is there.
And from that seeming dead end He can create new life, and give new strength.
I never need fear that I have not taken him along.”
--Gladis and Gordon DePree

"Heigh ho, heigh ho, it's off to work we go!"

 June 28, 2010

Finally! I have some pictures of my Ugandan excursions; hopefully they will be to your liking! The ones you will see below are from about two weeks ago. A precious girl I work with, named Christine, asked me to go to her house, which was only “a short distance” away from the ARLPI office. I asked my friend, Jayanni, to come along with us since Jayanni had so kindly invited me to the home of one of her friends earlier in the week. By the way, inviting friends and surprise guests is completely acceptable in the Acholi culture. So, after trekking over an hour in the heat with my friends Jayanni and I began to realize that the “short distance” was not getting any shorter but we finally made it to Christine’s home. After FINALLY reaching her home I began to take everything in.
--Some of Christine's immediate family. Christine is wearing the plaid shirt. Ugh, my hair.--

Her family was all in the middle of their outside living quarters and I happened to see that there was a large mango tree nearby. (Lucky me!) Christine took us inside to her house and the first thing I noticed was all of the calendars on the wall containing images of previous presidents and leaders. My favorite calendar was one that contained “The World’s Greatest Leaders”—the first image on the paper was that of George W. Bush. Ahem…the calendars covered most of the four cement walls that made up the living room. There were a few chairs, a couch, a coffee table, and a nice cupboard, which held what I imagined to be many family valuables. Christine asked her sisters to bring mangos to us and also spiced African tea! The tea was simply amazing due to the fresh milk that came straight from the cows. Also, Acholi cows all have very odd humps on their neck that distinguish them from other cows in Ugandan districts.

While we were consuming the mangos, Jayanni isn’t very fond of tea, I fell in love with Christine’s three year old brother, named Griffin. He looked just like his older sister but he was extremely shy and he “feared my white skin.” I’m still trying to find a way to sneak him past U.S. Customs without being too conspicuous. If you have any ideas please let me know.
--Griffin has my heart!--

After eating Christine took us outside to meet her mother and her father, who is much older than his wife. The two elders were very sweet and made me feel really comfortable. We were able to take pictures with the family and of their land surrounding their humble abode. They are currently in the process of building a new and more modern house to live in but funds in northern Uganda are hard to come by due to the post-conflict job accommodations.
When we finished taking pictures Christine wanted me to see a rock quarry that happens to be close to her home. I tried to explain to Christine that I have seen rock quarries in Tennessee and was actually quite tired from the day but Christine was adamant about taking me to see the quarry, so of course I followed her. After walking by groups of small huts, grasses being burned, and more goats than I can count we were led to a huge open area.
--Acholi women preparing for harvest. It was already SO hot this day.--

There were dozens of women working, many with children bundled on their back. Some women were smashing large rocks, which would eventually be grouped into large piles sold for 200,000 shillings each (A LOT of money), while others were carrying huge buckets of rocks on their head and using both arms to carry two monstrous jerry cans of water.  For a while I was speechless, but was also contemplating how much the women got paid and if the work was legal, and felt extremely awkward because all of the women and children in the site were staring at me. I was very much out of place and am sure that they were judging my obvious “American-ness.” Christine, however, chattered with the women as we passed by and took Jayanni and I to the top of the large hill. The sun was setting and our shadows were cast onto the large stones that overlooked the lakes below us. It was one of the most beautiful sights that I have seen in Uganda and I almost felt ashamed that I was enjoying the view of the strange creation below me while the women around us were still sweating from the suns strong rays.
Rock quarry
--Women and children beating the rocks which will be used to make homes.--

I snapped a few pictures while Christine led us back down from the hill and into the market type area that the women had made to sell boiled corn, spiced tea, and some other items. Christine graciously bought Jayanni and I each an ear of corn even though Jayanni and I protested. The women continued to stare at me but a few came up to shake my hand or just to touch my clothes as I passed. On the way out of the rock quarry the women asked me to come and beat the stones that were laid upon the Earth. I hesitated and they continued to jest with Christine and begged Jay and I to move closer to them. At this point I began to feel uneasy, even though I did not mind the humbling ridicule since I have experienced it so much here, and I could sense that Jay did too. We began to walk farther out of the quarry and had to ask Christine a few times to follow us since we had to be present at a dinner that night at 7:00 p.m. The sun continued to set as we bartered for boda bodas to get home and I was thankful not to be walking since we had such an exhausting day. 
--I couldn't help myself. It was beautiful, despite the harsh conditions that surrounded us.--
As we arrived at Boma, a nicer restaurant in Gulu, for dinner (I ended up having chicken in a garlic cream sauce with rice). I saw the last of the sun fall into the curtain of the dark sky and was so grateful for my friends and family here in Uganda and for those at home. It’s been an incredible experience thus far and words truly can’t describe what I have seen and felt while being here. Again, thank you all for your continuous thoughts and prayers.

American Girl in Gulu

June 17, 2010

Today I was rushing to get to the ARLPI office by 8:00 a.m. (due to the snooze button on my lovely phone mysteriously pushing itself multiple times) and decided that I just had to have a banana for breakfast since it would go nicely with the garden tea that is prepared for me every morning by our amazing secretary, Christine.  I stopped by a street vendor and spent a few moments trying to find the perfect specimen.  While sleepily pawing over a few pieces of fruit I noticed that I had an audience piled up by the boda boda (motorcycle) stage on the side of the road. One of the charming men cat called and said, “Hey sister, bring me a banana!” In my morning stupor I replied, “Hey brother, give me your manners.” Clearly he had none and this amused the rest of the onlookers. I managed to pay my 300 shillings and walked past them in their hysterics only to be ogled at for a few more feet until I stepped inside the haven of the ARLPI office.
I am still amazed how men treat women here, especially the white ones. I promise you that I, or any other white woman for that matter, could be wearing a tattered paper bag with dead frogs pinned to it and hair full of mud or monkey feces and most of these Ugandan men would gladly profess their undying love and ask for my hand in marriage. Alas, if things were only that simple in America, right?
Many of my friends and family members have asked me how it is being in Gulu, Uganda as a woman and how I have felt over the past month. While thinking about this an image came to my mind. It’s an image that I have loved ever since I was a little girl, as ironic as that may seem. There is a photo, as you will see below, by a photographer named Ruth Orkin. It is a snapshot of a beautiful American girl walking bravely through a busy street in Italy. When I first saw that image I thought to myself, “I want to be THAT lady some day!” I loved how confident the woman seemed and how everyone standing by adored her. Did I mention that she was in Italy, for Pete’s sake? I was jealous of her dark hair and complexion however, but thought that if I could travel the world like that one day then I would be longed for too.
***Note: Darling, be careful what you wish for.***
Now as I laugh to myself I find that I somehow still love this picture, especially because one of my favorite Uncle’s has a copy of it hanging in his home. I suppose if one were to take a snapshot of my mad hatter life at this moment one would call it, “American Girl in Gulu.” The image might capture a daring young woman in a faded black cotton dress, strawberry hair all astray, shoulder bag full of bottled water and books, with her head held up and green eyes lowered slightly. This is the life of an American girl in Gulu.

"I Want to be Educated."

June 7, 2010

This past Friday I had an incredible self-realization experience.
It happened after I left the ARLPI office at 5:00 p.m. trying to rush home before the storms came again. (Earlier that day it had rained so much that water was coming up to the doorway in the small office where I have been working. I absolutely love the rain and it was refreshing as it splashed through the window and onto my hot bare arms and face.) I couldn’t make it back to my home in Peche, and of course I forgot my rain jacket that morning, so I had to stop inside of a small store to wait for the storm to pass. While I was waiting there was the most beautiful little girl standing inside the doorway wearing a slightly dirty pink dress. She came up to shake my hand, as most Acholi children do, and I asked for her name. She didn’t respond at first so I asked her what she wanted to be when she grows up. The child said, “My name is Stella. When I am old I want to be educated.” At that moment I couldn’t say much due to the lump in my throat. When I was able to speak I couldn’t help but vow to her, “You will be.”
Fortunately I made it home without drowning and somehow managed to hold myself together. I sat there in the little Peche house watching the rage of the storm. I heard the little Sudanese baby wailing next door and saw the wind terrorize the branches of the huge tree outside of our secluded compound. I was overwhelmed with the fury of the rainstorm and was in awe that something so beautiful and purifying could be sent to me after having such a mentally exhausting day.
In my stupor I realized that I was suddenly ravenous and pulled a huge mango out of my bag that I had bought earlier that day in the market for 1000 Ugandan shillings, which is quite pricey for a mango by Ugandan standards. I cut up the fruit and began devouring it. It was truly the sweetest, most delicious piece of fruit that I had EVER tasted. My senses were overloaded—the crack of the stunning lightning, the sticky juice running carelessly down my hands and arms, the cold air blowing in through the screen and tousling my wild hair, the thought of something more powerful than anything on this mortal Earth blessing me with that moment by myself. I couldn’t handle it.

I began to cry…
Big, fat tears clambered down my face in utter confusion. I couldn’t decide if I was weeping because I missed my own home and my own way of life or because of something else. After a moment the face of the little Acholi girl appeared in my mind. I became angry that she may never be able to go to college and that other women have had their lives ruined because their lips have been cut off or they were raped in the bush at the age of 12 by an LRA rebel. I was angry and exasperated that Americans take so many things for granted such as running water, food, electricity, and the ability to live.

 I then remembered that I was BLESSED. I was born in America, I have an education that absolutely no one can take away from me, and I can wear what I want and say what I want without being beaten or spat upon (and if a man tries to do so, may God help him). I am a WOMAN.

 In the midst of this moment I found that I had somehow managed to maneuver myself to the floor and was sitting with my wet face pressed to the barred doorway. I stood up to wash my hands but opened the door instead. Rain came flooding in and without hesitation I stepped outside in my bare feet. My tanktop was quickly soaked and thick mud covered my toes. I’m not sure what came over me but I raised my hands up to the dark, threatening sky and I danced. I don’t know how long I twirled around but I do know that happiness consumed me and that my face was cleaned and my spirit was too.