Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Mideast Youth..a worthwhile stop

I have a permanent Google News alert that sends me a daily email with all the news items that contain the word "Egypt" and lately Google has expanded the service to include blogs. On the downside I know more about the football team of Egypt, Illinois than I ever wanted to, but today I hit a lovely upside. Following a link on a blog item regarding a recent statement by Egyptian judges against the idea of women being named as judges, I found Mideast Youth. This site is a cooperative venture by a large number of young people with various connections to the Middle East. The authors come from Egypt, Sudan, Bahrain, Iran, Israel, and a few other places as well.

Wandering around the site reading poetry, political blogs, humour and all the other things that they offer reminded me of the gatherings of young people in our house in Maadi when my children were still living at home. There is a wonderful light and breadth to young conversations in this part of the world. Politics are part of the air that they breath and most of my children's friends were multinational children, many of whom had been raised in at least three or four countries, giving them an unusual insight on life.

If you want to have some idea what young people are thinking and feeling, this is an excellent resource, and if you just want to be entertained for a bit, it's a hit as well. This is what blogging is all about.

copyright 2007 Maryanne Stroud Gabbani

Monday, March 05, 2007

The Complaints Department

So I live in a place that is sunny almost every day and I can ride my horses out my gate into the Sahara Desert to visit pyramids and the food is wonderful because it's fresh all year round. So what can I possibly complain about? Today, I can complain about plenty, most of which I can't do a bloody thing to solve.

I have a Daily City Photo blog for Cairo that hasn't had a photo for days because my internet connection is so erratic that I can't upload any photos. Vodafone Mobile Connect is not my friend these days. I sit for hours trying to open one email while the network goes from strong to weak to nothing over the course of seconds. Since most of my email time is spent at night, I'm hitting the pillow one frustrated sleeper and I believe that my dreams are beginning to reflect the situation. I tried to call Vodafone last night but their customer service department wasn't answering. Sweet.

On the other hand, maybe my photo problem is originating from Blogger as well, since every time I click on the little picture icon the magic swirling button on my Mac starts and then stops as if it's forgotten what I'm asking it. At this point, since I need my internet connection to reach Blogger, it's sort of a chicken and egg issue. First thing, I'm going to go after Vodafone since they are theoretically at least at the end of a phone line. If I have to I'll go to their offices as well.

Then there is a more existential problem that has been bothering me lately. I'm concerned over the women (mostly seem to be in their 40's or so) who are falling for some smooth chat on the internet with some of our charming Egyptian males (mostly in their 20's or so) and they contact me with ideas of coming to Egypt and marrying this adoring young Adonis. First, I'm not happy that there are so many women who are so unsure of themselves, so unpleased with their lives, and feeling the need to be loved that they fall for these characters that they are meeting in chat rooms. I also am concerned about the real lack of information on cultural differences and so on which prompts the emails that I get in the wake of some new internet romance.

I have always felt that there was a a basic inequity in the way that society has usually felt that men just grow more powerful and distinguished with age while women get old. Old, my ass. I'm sorry but maybe the packaging is getting a bit tatty, but I swear that at pushing 60 I can outride, outdream, outplan, and probably outtalk (they'll agree to that one!) most of the men I know in my age group. On the other hand, I also don't feel the need to find some adoring male to prove to myself that I'm "still a woman". You can't stop being a women, girls. You are stuck with being a woman. However, the aspect does change and we aren't going to be Angelina Jolie all of our lives...for that matter, neither is she. No matter how many times we snip, nip, pull, shrink, whatever, our bodies and faces, we age. It is really sad that especially in Europe and North America, aging is now looked on like a disease...to be cured with diet, exercise and cosmetic surgery.

I have wrinkles in places where I didn't have them at thirty and there are parts of me that are there in places where they weren't when I was thirty, and there are parts of me that simply hurt more than they did when I was thirty. That's because I'm not thirty and I never will be again, thank heaven. Maybe those extra spots are where I've been tucking the wisdom that one has the chance to accumulate in thirty years. I like to think that. I tell these women who email me about this young man who "truly loves" them to think about the future, to think about the fact that nothing in Egyptian society supports older woman/younger man marriages other than the economic reality that a foreign wife is often an asset in that she is likely to be less demanding than an Egyptian wife and more likely to have marketable skills to bring in income. However, the real tragedy isn't in the fact that these alliances are formed based on false pretexts, but in the fact that the need is there to form them.

Living alone isn't the greatest thing in the world. There are times when I miss being able to laugh over private jokes with Diaa, times when I miss being able to argue with him over something. But you can't change what you have before you as you might wish to, so learning to find the joy and beauty that is also there is a skill to be encouraged. I've learned to appreciate my friends so much more, to make the effort to try to see them and to have them out or over for coffee or a barbecue. So it isn't the best thing in the world, but it sure as hell isn't the worst thing either.

The worst thing is when your internet doesn't work right.

copyright 2007 Maryanne Stroud Gabbani