29 January 2011

A Prairie Girl in Cairo

View from our hotel (taken by Shelly)
Watching the protests in Cairo unfold, I've been thinking a lot about my trip there in the summer of 2001. The photo above is of Tahrir Square, with the Egyptian Museum in the background. It was taken by my tentmate on the trip, Shelly, from the hotel where our group stayed for a couple of nights before heading west into the Sahara. The Square has become somewhat of an epicenter for the protests in Cairo.

We stayed at Ismailia House Hotel, alongside some interesting folks. I can still vividly picture us eating our "continental breakfast" of hard-boiled egg, sweet pancakes, and tea in the common room. A young German man sat on the couches opposite me. He didn't speak English, and things were a bit awkward. All of us were trying hard not to stare with wide eyes at the tattoo of a swastika on his neck.

To get to the entrance of the hotel, we walked down an alley and either climbed a few stairs or got into a tiny elevator with a young boy. He would manually latch the elevator gates behind us and take us up to the hotel as long as we had a little "backshish" as a tip.

Although there were traffic lights in the square, not a single car obeyed them, so crossing the street was a bit like playing Frogger. With the guidance of our trip leader who had been to Cairo many times, we would start walking across the street and have faith that the cars would dodge us. If you hesitated at all, you would get a hasty beeping-at. It was up to the cars to dodge you. Needless to say, most cars had a healthy amount of dings. From the hostel, we could hear a near-constant serenade of beeps day and night.

We woke up in the wee hours the last morning of our stay to take a bus to Siwa. We could hear the early-morning prayers at nearby mosques and spotted a few street vendors readying their goods in the alley below. One of them with a wooden crate full of flat bread.

It's hard to know the details of what's going on since the government has cut off all internet and mobile phone service. Egypt is in my thoughts and I'm hoping the damage is not too extensive. Although, photos like this one of Tahrir Square are not all that reassuring.

17 January 2011

Click on the article to read the whole thing

This is an article about my great-grandpa, from Ferndale, Michigan's local newspaper at the time.  He was my Grandma Peet's father and a real sweetheart.  My mother used to sit on his lap while he read the funny papers to her. 

Since I received this clipping in the mail from my mom about a week ago, I've been trying to find my inner Haller whenever I become impatient with customers at work or feel a little road rage.

This, combined with (some of) the national dialogue following the shooting of Congresswoman Giffords, has me liking people a little more these days.  Monte Belmonte had a great series of discussions with local folks on his morning show about how we need to change our political mentality and be a little more compassionate toward each other.  It was hard to get out of my car once I arrived at work.

And, I didn't see the whole thing, but heard snippets on NPR of President Obama's speech to memorialize those who didn't survive the shooting in Tucson.  It's pretty difficult to find a favorite part, but here it is:
None of us can know with any certainty what might have stopped these shots from being fired, or what thoughts lurked in the inner recesses of a violent man’s mind. Yes, we have to examine all the facts behind this tragedy. We cannot and will not be passive in the face of such violence. We should be willing to challenge old assumptions in order to lessen the prospects of such violence in the future. But what we cannot do is use this tragedy as one more occasion to turn on each other. That we cannot do. That we cannot do.
As we discuss these issues, let each of us do so with a good dose of humility. Rather than pointing fingers or assigning blame, let’s use this occasion to expand our moral imaginations, to listen to each other more carefully, to sharpen our instincts for empathy and remind ourselves of all the ways that our hopes and dreams are bound together.

09 January 2011

The end of procrastination for now

It's taken Michael and I around two and a half years to put together our wedding album.  We're not quite there yet, but we took the most daunting step: choosing around 60 photos out of 777 amazing ones (shot by Liesl Henrichsen) to paste into a scrapbook that Michael's sister made for us as a wedding present.  I can't wait to have actual photographs in hand so soon.