Monday, February 01, 2010

Egypt Journal: Children in the Siwa Oasis

Ragheb, Mousa, Moustafa, Rabiah

Ragheb and Mousa

The Screaming Game

Moustafa

Ragheb in Sunglasses

These four kids, all from the same family, ran up on me when I was at the base of Siwa Mountain (the old Berber fortress in the heart of Siwa. Siwans descended from Algerian Berbers generations ago, and have retained much of their culture in this desert oasis. In fact, Siwi, not Arabic, is their first language.) We played around for awhile, and I let them take a bunch of pictures with my camera. Though most of the pictures were blurred, they had a ton of fun pointing and shooting, and learning how to use the viewfinder. They also loved to see their own images light up on the LCD sreen.

At one point they started playing what I've called "The Screaming Game," which was literally just that. They all started screaming, but couldn't contain their laughter for long. It's a fitting game for Siwa and Egypt as a whole, actually. For, even though life is tough for the vast majority of the people here, their ability to smile, and to embrace one another is quite remarkable.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Egypt Journal: The Siwa Oasis

Siwa Sunset


Siwa Oasis Salt Lake at Sunrise


Siwa Mountain: An Old Berber Fortress

Transportation

True Love

Egypt Journal: The Great Sand Sea, or There's Something About Nothing

1.31.10

Sea Shells on the Desert Floor (80 million years old)

Tracks

A Grain of Sand

Spine

Rolling Dunes

Friday, January 29, 2010

Egypt Journal: The Great Sand Sea & The White Desert

1.27.10

The desert is a paradox. It dwarfs us in an expanse of sand, under the endless sky. Makes us feel so small, disconnected and insignificant. But we must remember that even a minute grain of sand came from a stone, which broke from a boulder, which fell from a mighty mountain.

And we, too, come from something much larger than our own individual selves.

Since I've been here in Egypt, this lesson has been made so clear to me, time and again. Bedouins in the Sinai mountains, Alexandrian car mechanics, Siwan safari guides and Cairo football fans, all have pulled me into the fold. I like to think that their kindness comes from reflecting on the cycles of life. We are born into this human body; we grow old, together, and pass on, leaving behind a little of ourselves in everyone we've come across. We are monuments to our own shared past, and what we leave behind is dependent on the zest with which we have lived, the people we have shared with.

We are living history.

Here in the White Desert I'm thinking of my Amma, and June Jordan. They, as much as any others, inform my thoughts and feelings. Inspire my actions and interactions. Though they have withered away physically, both from breast cancer, their legacies are tangible.

The extent to which my life will be meaningful depends upon my own abilities to share what they have passed on to me. Namely, that alone I am small, indeed, but the deeper I connect to the People of this Human Body, the greater Life can be.

L'Humdil'Allah.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Cairo Journal: Crossings

1.24.09

I love the anarchy of Cairo. In so many ways the people here, despite living under a true life dictatorship, are freer than we are in the states. I say this because there is an imperative here for one to make their one way, and an understanding that everyone else is trying to do the same. This creates an atmosphere of tolerance for behaviors that, in the US, are sources of major frustration.

Crossing the street, for example, is much more than a Pythagoran attempt to get from Point A to Point B. It's a statement of purpose, a declaration of intent that everyone around respects. People generally don't wait for traffic signals--whether on foot or behind the wheel--instead they wade out into the waters, letting one car pass, stepping in front of another which will gently swerve to the right or left, pushing the flow of traffic with it. The lanes are merely suggestions. They represent orderliness, regulation. Control.

But people are not meant to be controlled. We are not meant to have our lives contained within four walls--the apartment, the elevator, the cubicle--where we avert our eyes from our neighbors'.

That old Greek mathematician may have been correct, that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, but here one learns that there are other things to consider beyond physical distance. In a place like this, where human interaction is a form of currency, weaving amongst the human tide opens the path for new, uncontrollable possibilities. For, we must see one another, work with one another, and trust one another to act in ways that are mutually beneficial.

It's a recognition that your journey is as important as mine, and I see you making your way.

And we're both going to make it. Insha'allah.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Cairo and Calculus

1.21.10

"Infinity doesn't interest me
not altogether
anymore"

If you love the People they have the opportunity to love you back. It's a simple sort of calculus. The kind of human mathematics that eschews the infinite abstraction of numbers for the reality of you standing in front of me. And face to face we exchange our human resources that can carry us into a beautiful, and just, future.

And perhaps the governments that have allied to wall us out of Palestine, and wall Palestinians in, know this quite clearly. Perhaps they understand that the economy of human resources, of direct exchange between people, each to each, nullifies their power. Maybe that's why Dictator Mubarak's wife "offered" to allow our material aid through, but kept our selves out. We were the largest solidarity delegation in human history--1400 people from 43 countries. There's no way to account for the returns on a mission of this size and nature. No way to predict, or control its possible outcomes. And in systems built upon tightly orchestrated actions and reactions, our unlimited potential is terrifying.

Though these governments succeeded in blocking our entry, their victory can only be seen as a temporary one. Here in Cairo we have been able to open cracks in their walls. We are too creative, too persistent, too many, and too real to be perpetually denied.

We will keep pushing, and keep organizing. We will keep teaching, and keep photographing. Writing and singing. Our skills and desires are infinite. And this interests me a great deal!

Poem on a New Year's Eve
~June Jordan


Infinity doesn't interest me

not altogether
anymore

I crawl and kneel and grub about
I beg and listen for

what can go away
(as easily as love)

or perish
like the children
running
hard on oneway streets/infinity
doesn't interest me

not anymore

not even
repetition your/my/eye-
lid or the colorings of sunrise
or all the sky excitement
added up

is not enough

to satisfy this lusting admiration that I feel
for
your brown arm before it
moves

MOVES
CHANGES UP

the temporary sacred
tales ago
first bikeride round the house
when you first saw a squat
opossum
carry babies on her back

opossum up
in the persimmon tree
you reeling toward
that natural
first
absurdity
with so much wonder still
it shakes your voice

the temporary is the sacred
takes me out

and even the stars and even the snow and even
the rain
do not amount to much unless these things submit to some disturbance
some derangement such
as when I yield myself/belonging
to your unmistaken
body

and let the powerful lock up the canyon/mountain
peaks the
hidden rivers/waterfalls the
deepdown minerals/the coalfields/goldfields
diamond mines close by the whoring ore
hot
at the center of the earth

spinning fast as numbers
I cannot imagine

let the world blot
obliterate remove so-
called
magnificence
so-called
almighty/fathomless and everlasting
treasures/
wealth
(whatever that may be)

it is this time
that matters

it is this history
I care about

the one we make together
awkward
inconsistent
as a lame cat on the loose
or quick as kids freed by the bell
or else as strictly
once
as only life must mean
a once upon a time

I have rejected propaganda teaching me
about the beautiful
the truly rare

(supposedly
the soft push of the ocean at the hushpoint of the shore
supposedly
the soft push of the ocean at the hushpoint of the shore
is beautiful
for instance)
but
the truly rare can stay out there

I have rejected that
abstraction that enormity
unless I see a dog walk on the beach/
a bird seize sandflies
or yourself
approach me
laughing out a sound to spoil
the pretty picture
make an uncontrolled
heartbeating memory
instead

I read the papers preaching on
that oil and oxygen
that redwoods and the evergreens
that trees the waters and the atmosphere
compile a final listing of the world in
short supply

but all alive and all the lives
persist perpetual
in jeopardy
persist
as scarce as every one of us
as difficult to find
or keep
as irreplaceable
as frail
as every one of us

and
as I watch your arm/your
brown arm
just before it moves

I know

all things are dear
that disappear

all things are dear
that disappear