Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Truth

Nobody cares.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Part-Timing My A**

I have no idea why I'm in this office right now. No seriously... no clue! I also have no idea why in heaven and hell I volunteered to come in the office today... what an idiot.

I'm supposed to be a part-timer. I'm supposed to work 3 days a week. Felxibility is good, stupidity is bad.
But I always try to get some sort of kick out of it anyways. So..ahem.. right now, in stead of working on an introduction to the hugest presentation I had ever seen in my life and in stead of working data on (yet another) excel sheet, I decided to watch Glee! My new absolute favorite show.

Into good music, highschool retards, outrageous slushie-smacking and a whole load of perfectly delivered lines by an ex-army-hitperson-horse steroids-consuming cheerleading coach? Watch it! Just let me say that this show isn't for everyone, this kind of show isn't in the grey area at all either; you'll either love it, or you'll hate it.
You have been warned.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Pop Tarts and Their Mystical Powers

I walked very casually into the Quick store. Just browsing, nothing more.

Their vast array of imported sweets, candy, snacks and cereal proves to be irresistably tempting more times than not, but after much effort and wasteful money spending, I had finally taught myself how to resist the irresistable. So now I just walk in very casually, buy a pack of Egyptian made gum for 1 pound 75 pt and just as casually walk out. This time, however, something happened that made the system I had programmed myself on go haywire. There it was, sitting innocently on a shelf was a box of pop tarts... not just any pop tarts: S'mores Poptarts!
Now, I'm not a poptart fan or anything; wrapped toaster baked thingies don't really get to me; it was the word "S'more" that did me in.
20 pounds later, I walked out of there with a memory in my pocket.

First time I tasted s'mores was almost a year and half ago during my first ever All-American camp night and I have to admit they were sensational. Who could ever say no to fire roasted marshmellows sandwiched between biscuits and melted chocolate?

            Recipe with a "Skinny" twist              

That specific camp night is one to be cherished, not only for this exquisite introduction to what may very well be the most delicious dessert on Earth, or the magnificent view and open greenfields I have never seen in my life before, but also for the spectacular introduction to fireflies!

Like most people I've heard plenty of stories and songs about fireflies, -mostly about how people try to catch them and put them in jars- so when I first saw some light blinking about 2 meters away from where I was sitting after night fell on the camp sight and the camp fire was almost out, I had to blink twice and register what I just saw. However, seeing how "out of it" I was at that moment due to a sever case of s'mores-over-consumption, what I registered was that someone was walking the distant trail with a flashlight and that they weren't 2 meters away at all, more like 200.
...not very bright with too much chocolate and marshmellows in my system it seems... it took me at least another 5 minutes and 10 more blinking fireflies to realize what I was looking at.

Getting up ever so slowly, I walked closer to where they were.. or at least I tried. Fireflies are mischevious creatures, they flash their fancy lights, and just when you think you know where they are the go dim and reappear 50 meters away, how on Earth people manage to catch them still baffles me to this day. The thing is, the more you concentrate, the more you can see them; you could be walking right through them while immersed in a conversation with someone and you won't even notice they exist, but if you're out there in the wilderness with the soul purpose of finding them, you'll find them every where you turn.

After some chasing, I decided to stop. Watching them dance around me was beautiful enough, there was no need to waste so much energy and breath in trying to catch something better left alone: wild, free and provocatively stunning.
And in that I learnt the most important lesson of my life.

The poptarts didn't taste so good afterall, but the forgotten memories and lesson were definitely worth every piaster..

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

To Learn and To Label: Venturing Into Delta

Almost a month ago, I -finally- found a project-based job that I consider to be appropriate for someone aspiring to be a respectful economist; I'm now part of a team working on a development plan for one of Egypt's new yet run-down cities (to me it isn't just a worthy job, it's one I could've killed for, for many many reasons; working with a multinational highest-ranked consultancy firm being one).
In addition to some economic research, analysis and reviews of 442 638 pages of strategic development reports, this new job requires that I sometimes make short one-day business trips outside of Cairo, usually to Delta region cities, seeing as it is the main region we're concerned with.

Delta Fields (pictures I took)

Now, as an upper-middle class young woman who was raised in Cairo and has only ever been to the beaches and tourisitic cities outside of Cairo, having to make business trips to cities like those in the Delta was a huge step outside of a certain bubble I grew up in... not to mention of course an enormous step outside my comfort zone.

First time they asked me to go? Almost cried trying to find an excuse to get out of it. I didn't want to travel 2 hours by car to some rural, run down city and I definitely did not want to go meet a bunch of old Eyptian bureaucrats who'd most probably regard me with disdain seeing as I'm a woman with no scarf on her head covering her hair.
End result? I found no excuses. I ended up going. I also ended up enjoying the experience, the exposure, the ride, the company and the lunch we had on the way back.

The second time I was asked, it was a different situation and a different city and it was by far more intense than the first. This city is one of the biggest cities in the Delta with almost 200,000 inhabitants and being the capital of the governorate.
I called every single sane person I know trying to find only one who would tell me not to go and not to waste my breath even considering it.
I ended up going after all; my curiosity peaked one hour before we were supposed to move out and as usual it had to be satisfied. So again it turned out that I enjoyed the experience, the exposure, the lessons learnt, the ride, the company and the lunch on the way back even more than the first time, even though admittedly this time I sensed a certain odd vibe from officials and people on the streets.

A gas pump on the side walk... right next to a qahwa!
(Our French co-worker made fun of me for acting like a tourist and taking this pic)

 The whole city is one big informal settlement

Last time they announced an upcoming trip to that city? I was all for it. I wanted to go. I needed to go. I knew I would learn more if I go, I knew I would have a chance to discuss things about my work there and I knew that I could have had a lot to offer in the discussions and findings because I know I worked hard preparing for it.

End result? I never went.
This specific business trip included -among other more important meetings and discussions with officials- piloting a quantitative survey. In plain English, we would've had to walk around the city and ask random people specific questions that we need answers to.

What happened? Well...I got a phone call the night before:
"I don't think you should come along with us this time, even though we really need you there"
"Because we'll be out on the street, and it wouldn't be safe for you"
Because I'm a girl?
"Yes, and not what people there are used to typically seeing"
"You see... your hair isn't covered and you significantly look like you're from out of town...and that might attract unwanted attention."

Unwanted attention. Interesting what young female Egyptian aspiring economists can be labeled as sometimes.

** Links are from wikipedia (which is shameful) but no other website has any info on any of those places!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Lame John

At the age of 12 my mother handed me down 2 Beatle's tapes. Having been bought in the 70's and survived almost 3 decades, I guess it's safe to say they're vintage.

I still listen to them daily, and I still sing along with every single song. Honestly, you can't help not sing to those ballads. The songs are short and to the point, usually with the same verse being repeated over and over and over, so it isn't that difficult to know every song by heart.

I had a friend in the car one day as the cassette played and she made a comment that immediately rang truth: "those songs are made for simpler times and a simpler world".
Well... it isn't entirely true seeing as the Vietnam war was underway, Japan was still going through its post A-Bomb reconstruction and Egypt was still in a state of War with you-know-who and had just witnessed its greatest defeat at their hand. "A simpler world" isn't really the right description, but we get the gist of the comment: musical tastes were simpler and music itself was more to the point.

Take the song Michelle for instance: who on our planet today could ever get away with a song in which the chorus says "I love you, I love you, I love you" in the cheesiest way possible? Some might... but I doubt they'd win a Grammy for it and I guess it would hardly ever be the 42nd most played song in the world.

Rumor has it was John Lennon who suggested this "I love you" bridge to McCartney (who was the mastermind behind the song that was intended originally as a slight mockery of the French Rive Gauche culture that was taking England by storm).

Oh John... how lame!