Friday, November 6, 2009

Update Time

As time goes by, it seems I just get lazier and lazier about updating! I feel bad to the folks back in Seattle who keep up with my blog, and those dancers who stay tuned for any little scrap of dance-related info I may occasionally throw out there, because school is literally trying to eat my life right now. I sincerely apologize for it's rudeness.

A Partial Theory on Various Sources of Stress
Oho, they all said that the Swine Flu Vacation (see my previous post) was going to be so great and so much fun. And then they got surprised at me when I was angry and upset about it...why? Well, everyone understands why now. Class 6 days a week was bad enough, but now finals and term papers are beginning to descend upon us and suddenly the scene is looking quite nasty indeed with everything crammed into an already short semester. My brain's response to stress these days has been, "no no, you can't make me!" and then a prompt shutdown, which can't be good because usually I respond to stress quite well.

Then today my toilet exploded.

I was innocently flushing it just before walking out the door to go see a costumer when I literally heard it making a rumbling noise. As in thunder, or a large train passing nearby. Not so good. I poked my head back into the bathroom, then cautiously approached as I noticed the tank was steaming...uh oh. Really, really not good. At this point something went POP and my bathroom started being flooded with steaming water. I'm not going to lie, I screamed and literally wrung my hands! After rather brief hysterics I realized I needed to do SOMETHING as my bathroom was half an inch deep in water that was luckily not sewage-y looking.

I ran to the balcony as fast as my little legs would allow, and scanned the street below for my bawwabs. The policemen looked at me curiously as I looked probably a bit shell shocked. Spotting Sallah, my favorite bawwab, I screamed in Arabic something that pretty much translates to, "Come, please! Come quickly! Big water! QUICKLY, PLEASE!" and waving my arms which caused the policemen to move from curiosity to outright amusement. Good to know my Arabic hardly holds up in a crisis. Sallah hustled his butt up to my place, hiking his galabeya up and wading in, only to shake his head, smile at me and twiddle the knob that controls water flow to the toilet, causing the flood to halt. He then pointed out a plastic hose on the back of the toilet running to the bidet that had burst from pressure...thus explaining why the water was clean and hot, and not totally disgusting. I nodded with as much dignity as I could while still being in my shell shocked state and managed to inquire if he could bring me the required part today. He said sure, and went off to procure it while I opened the floor drain and began scraping the water towards it with a dustpan. A few hours and $10 later all was right with the world, but I'm still paranoid to flush the toilet!

Winter has arrived!
Fun and games in Cairo all the time, clearly. It IS starting to get cold these days though, although by cold I mean it's in the low 80s during the day and mid 60s at night. I assure you though, it feels cold after a summer of 100+ degree weather every day! We're wearing sweaters to school now, and the bawwabs have started wrapping little white turbans on their heads to keep warm, while the AUC crowd is surely looking forward to donning little Gucci jackets and that crap.

Eid is coming up--the second one, the big one! This will be the feast where animals are slaughtered for their meat and often meat is given to the poor who normally cannot afford to eat it. If you go into the poorer areas right now you can find pens of lambs and goats right next to the street, waiting to be slaughtered. In Mariuteya the other day I drove by a tent/pen with huge fluffy lambs eagerly feeding from a huge troth, their fur dyed in swaths of pink and yellow to look more festive (I suppose). Hallah tells me that she stays in on the day with windows, curtains, and ears firmly shut--apparently it is quite the bloodbath. I can't really see that happening in Maadi though, as the foreigners are doing there thing quite a bit more here, but I suppose we'll see as I am staying in Cairo over the break.

Dance Things
There seems to come a point--or many points--in a dancer's life when we are cut off from teachers, from resources, and community and must turn to only ourselves to keep practicing the art. It is difficult, requires a lot of discipline, and love to go on dancing like this. My whole college experience has pretty much always turned dance into an individual, internal practice for me from the first night I arrived, dancing in my dorm common room on a table while one other girl kept me company playing piano, to now. In between there has been a lot of practicing in tiny dorm rooms, that are no where near a proper "dance studio." My last room I was practicing/living in was literally 10 feet by 15 feet and contained a twin bed, a desk, my dress form, assorted bags of sewing work, sewing machine, nightstand, and a book case (everything else got shoved in the closet) but I danced anyway because I had to keep practicing. I don't know why exactly, but I felt driven, I was not directly attached to the community but I was a member of it, and a professional dancer within it so I had to practice to stay on the ball, to become better.

But I didn't...the truth is that it is so easy to fall off the horse, practicing all alone, in a tiny room, without a mirror but with your schoolwork laid out next to you on the bed. It is so easy to instead go, "oh crap, I haven't gone over those Genetics notes" or "I need to review for that midterm on Thursday!" or worst of all, "I'm just so tired, I really need some down time." The only way I kept myself motivated this last school year to dance like this was to keep improving for my coach, to keep my weight down, and so that I could be good enough to stand in front of teachers in Egypt without being embarrassed. I told myself I only had months to go before Aida Nour or Liza Laziza or (heaven forbid!) Dina was breathing down my neck saying the last girl had been SO MUCH BETTER. I danced like a maniac when I could, would stay up an extra hour after my school work was done because I was afraid I just wouldn't be good enough. Dancing was just more important than sleep to me at that time, I had to do it!

Then I got to Egypt, and the bottom fell out from under me, dance-wise. The teachers here are tough to have a relationship with, and I really want not simply a teacher of moves but also a mentor, plus my problem is that they are expensive and I don't want to waste my money on the wrong person. Coming to another country was expensive enough, getting myself set up in a proper apartment was also tough, AUC wants my soul, and after that I just don't have much time and money left to take lessons or find the people I really was sure I wanted to take lessons from.

I wasn't expecting the emotional jolting and draining I would experience from the second my flight landed. Egypt is tiring. It makes me tired and lazy to live here, I was expecting to get my sea legs within a month and be back to dancing every day like I used to. It didn't happen, I have only danced at weddings in the last two weeks, I have barely even danced in the comfort of my own apartment and it is making me incredibly depressed. Cairo was the goal, getting here and being good enough to be here as a dancer was the goal, but once the goal was attained, I lost my direction completely.

Yes, I am taking lessons from someone right now (it's a secret so don't even ask), and she's fabulous, but she doesn't have much time for me so I go a long time in between private lessons which I used to have once a week back in California. I feel disconnected from something that I'm surrounded by. There is great dancing happening in Cairo, there are fabulous people, but I can't quite get at them because I'm broke and no one knows me. So I'm having a pity party for myself here on the blog...moving on:

What am I reading and writing?
In complete change of subject, I am reading "The Liberation of Women" by Qusim Amin right now, who is excellent. He is an Egyptian philosopher, a disciple of Muhammad 'Abduh, who basically expands 'Abduh's thoughts on educational reform and brings those reforms into conversation with women's status in Egypt. Basically Amin is all about education of women, inclusion of women in the public sphere, including in politics, bringing women out of seclusion and out of veiling practices. Personally I have mixed feelings on veiling and I think I am actually going to write a piece for Gilded Serpent on it, so stayed tuned for that--it'll probably have a taste of Amin's theories in there. More on him later when I'm past the first 10 pages! I want to see what points he makes on Quranic interpretation and hermeneutics--always fun stuff!

Right now though, I'm writing a piece on parties and weddings in Egypt for Gilded Serpent which is nearly finished and I'm thinking of writing a piece on popular music and concerts in Egypt since I seem to keep ending up at them!

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