Thursday, May 2, 2013

Naguib Mahfouz

My birthday was two weeks ago, and on my wishlist was The Cairo Trilogy by Naguib Mahfouz. The man was a huge deal--internationally known, Nobel Prize winner, translated works, contemporary writer, etc. I don't remember how I heard of him and his writing but it wasn't much earlier than a few months ago.

I'm sitting here trying to do homework for my middle east history class, and I somehow ended up looking up Naguib Mahfouz's bio. I can't wait to start reading--the book is sitting at home, the size of an encyclopedia, because I knew if I brought it to my apartment I'd be way too distracted to study. I can't wait until it's after finals and summer so I can just get completely lost in the writing. I can't read official formal Arabic well enough yet, so I'll have to stick to the translated English version, but I know it'll still blow me away.

I'm just really excited to feel connected to Egypt again. I'm excited to be able to talk about all of this with my dad--every chapter or quote or scene that evokes something in me, that I know only he will understand. I can't wait til I read something that makes me feel like it's okay that I spent only 3 years out of my now 21-year old life in that country, but that I can't get away from it. I wish my feelings were socially acceptable, even though it really doesn't make a difference to me, because I feel what I feel and I know most people just will never be put into my situation to understand how I feel, let alone evaluate me for it.

I don't know. I'm not as depressed as this post probably makes me sound. I just can't wait to get started. This will probably be the first book I've picked up since I got to college that I can probably get through--double majoring (double degreeing) in humanities will make you lose all desire to read for fun very quickly.

Here's til I get started...

Sunday, April 14, 2013


"In college one day, I'll tell my mother on the phone that I want to go back to Cuba to see, to consider all these questions, and she'll pause, then say, What for? There's nothing there for you, we'll tell you whatever you need to know, don't you trust us?
Over my dead body, my father will say, listening in on the other line.
Years later, when I fly to Washington, D.C., and take a cab straight to the Cuban Interests Section to apply for a visa, a golden-skinned man with the dulled eyes of a bureaucrat will tell me that because I came to the U.S. too young to make the decision to leave for myself--that it was in fact my parents who made it for me--the Cuban government does not recognize my U.S. citizenship.
You need to renew your Cuban passport, he will say. Perhaps your parents have it, or a copy of your birth certificate, or maybe you have a relative or friend who could go through the records in Cuba for you.
I'll remember the passport among my mother's priceless papers, handwritten in blue ink, even the official parts. But when I ask my parents for it, my mother will say nothing, and my father will say, It's not here anymore, but in a bank box, where you'll never see it. Do you think I would let you betray us like that?"

Sub [Cuba under Castro] for [Egypt under Mubarak and Morsi] and you have my life story.

--We Came from Cuba So You Could Dress Like This? By Achy Obejas

Friday, March 29, 2013

Las Malvinas

"I remember, I think I was in middle school. It was me and one other boy in my class. Everyone was talking about the war with Britain and how we were going to win and gain the islands. And it was just me and him who said, Are you kidding? We aren't going to win las Malvinas [the Falklands]! There's no way we're going to beat the British! It's all a lie!

And I realized that it was not what people wanted to hear. Everyone else thought we were crazy for speaking up. And so I began to realize. I shut my mouth and began to read and read, everything and anything. And it was many years before I opened my mouth again."

--My Argentine Spanish Literature professor, on growing up during the Falklands War and learning to doubt what is generally accepted.

Monday, March 11, 2013


When I lift up my hand to rest my chin on it, I can't help but notice that my skin smells like tabeekh. Tabeekh is the Arabic word for cooking; this cooking usually involves a variety of spicy and strong smells like that of onions, garlic, tomato sauce, etc.

My skin is stained with my culture. I barely make tabeekh. But I smell like it anyway. When I pick up things from home, I don't notice until I'm back in my apartment that my clothing, the fabric of my backpack, even my suede boots smell like my mother's cooking. It smells like Egypt. It smells like home.

It's a classic example of East meets West. It's like I couldn't escape even if I tried. Egypt won't let me go. The East is relentless. Don't ever underestimate its power.

And I'm forever grateful.

Sunday, March 3, 2013


I've figured out part of the reason why I love dancing so much.

I think we do a lot of things halfway. How much concentration does it take to drive down the highway, or vacuum, or wash your hair? These are all things we do often, and they don't require that much skill, really. We've grown up doing them. We can bake a cake while thinking about a conversation we had with someone. We can go grocery shopping and turn a single thought over and over again in our minds the whole time.

But when I dance, I get to use every bit of every count and every movement. The whole point of dance is to create something bigger than yourself, to expand and push the ceiling as far as it can go. It's all about how believable I can make this movement feel, how deep into my emotions I can go through this expression. I may just look like I'm stretching out my hand, but with that movement I am trying to relay to you just how deep my love is for you, or my heartbreak. I feel so deeply, and I need to express it as deeply as I can as well.

So while everything else in life is about how quickly I can finish this certain thing and move onto the next thing, dance is all about how much I can stretch out this second of time. How much story I can tell with these few movements. I may only have your attention for a few minutes, or I may only have my full attention for a few moments. I have to create the best art I can, and I have to do it as genuinely as possible. That's when time stops and I am engaged on every level. Everything just feels right for a few moments, but those few moments feel like minutes, hours, entire days.