Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Introduction: Who is Nicole?

Welcome to Nicole In Cairo!

Since this is my first post in a brand-new blog I wanted to talk a little about myself, and why this blog exists. I'm going to write here in FAQ format, since I've gotten many questions about my travels and who I am that I want to answer!

So who are you, Nicole?
I'm a professional belly dancer and costumer (read my full dance bio at first and foremost, but I have a lot going on in my life right now. I am originally from Seattle, Washington, but now I'm a college student in Oakland, California; where I have been generously sponsored by my school to go to Cairo, Egypt and study there for a year. I'm an International Relations major, Women's Studies and Business Economics minors, plus I intend to continue on to business school for an MBA in Entrepreneurship and International Finance somewhere in the Bay Area once I finish my undergrad years. The short story is that I'm going to be in college for awhile!

Why Egypt?
I usually just say, "why not?!" but belly dance is initially what led me to Egypt. Through belly dance I became interested in Arabic music, then Arabic language, Arabic culture, Arab politics--I was hopelessly hooked! Cairo is the Mecca of belly dancers, and a major site for anyone interested in politics of the Middle East or doing business there. Once I started belly dancing in the Bay Area everything became much more concrete because of the great dancers there that make the trek to Egypt all the time, and shared with me their amazing stories and experiences. I can say honestly I've been planning my study abroad in Cairo for years, although the motives have subtly shifted. I've studied Arabic, I've learned about regional politics, wrestled with registering and bureaucracy, but now the final messy planning stages are about to be out of the way!

What will you be studying in Egypt, and what do you hope to learn?
In school I will be working on electives for my International Relations degree that focus on regional politics, including some work on Political Economy, and ground work for my senior thesis. The exact subject of my thesis is not decided yet, but I will know by the spring of this school year so stay tuned! I will also be working on preliminary research for my Fulbright Scholarship application and project. Through school I'm hoping to gain an on-the-ground perspective of Arab politics that I can bring back to inform my studies in the US, since this is the area I'm most interested in doing research and I feel is most misunderstood or ignored politically.

For dance, I will be studying with a variety of teachers to gain a broad perspective of Middle Eastern dance the way I want to perform it: real, authentic Egyptian style. I'm sure I will expand more about my feelings on the different styles of belly dance in the future in this blog, but what I am looking for is a true Egyptian feel to my dancing. It's got to come from the source, so where else to go but Cairo?

Isn't Cairo a dangerous place though?
Part of why I am going is to find out what the political and social climate is like in Cairo, so you'll have to ask me once I've gone, but what I hear is that it is quite a safe place in terms of everyday living. People are said to be friendly and helpful as long as you have a sense of humor and patience. Apparently homicide and violent crime is unusual in Cairo, but I have been warned about petty crimes, and sexual harassment. I'll definitely report more on this topic as I go through my first weeks in Cairo, but as it stands right now I am not too concerned with my personal safety.

When do you leave?
I left the Bay Area a few days ago for Seattle (where I am now) and am flying out of the country on June 10th! It seems like a very long time from today, but there's plenty to write about before I go, and the time is going to go fast with all the logistical preparations I'm finishing!

Please comment with other questions about me or the whys/hows of my Cairo trip that you want answered!

Next time:
How does someone go about studying in Cairo anyway? + How I got into Bellydance

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