Just another WordPress.com site

Archive for the ‘Travel Reports’ Category

Maui vacation including energy tools, field trips, and massage, April 2014

Maui in the Spring workshop. We’re putting together a dream vacation in Maui, April 5 to 12. Snorkel in the morning, energy tools workshop, field trips to the volcano, sacred sites, botanical gardens and thrift shops, then massage instruction with Donna Dove. Energy Tools workshop on Sunday April 6 then daily shorter versions. Thanks, Gayle

gkimball@csuchico.edu    www.gaylekimball.info

Energy Tools: Kinesiology to balance the body and mind; visualizations to ground, center, achieve goals, protect; introduction to intuitive reading,
Emotional Freedom Technique acupressure tapping and essential
healing tools. Reiki 1 available and individual sessions.

Our beautiful Kihei house photos

Hale Luana 4BR http://mauiguidebook.com/south-maui/vacation-rentals-south/koa-resort-1f/

Pick your bed and night you want to cook in order of who first sends in check to Equality Press, 42 Ranchita Way, Chico, 95928.

$950 for 7 days includes housing with pool, transportation, and breakfast. Each one of us will cook one dinner so bring your favorite recipe and spices. Donna has recipes with a local flavor if you like.

Please book your flight to Kahului, Maui to arrive early afternoon on April 5 and return around noon on April 12. American, United, Alaska, and Hawaiian fly to Maui. Hopefully you’ll have frequent flyer miles. I buy everything on my United card.

Add on trip to Lanai to snorkel on April 3. If you’d like to go try to arrive around noon in Kahului. Let me know so I can book  B&B rooms. It has a great snorkeling cove (I was once surrounded by dolphins) and a lovely garden and orchid collection at the top of the hill. Ferry costs $60 round trip.

Pack lightly as you can buy Hawaiian clothes at an excellent thrift shop. Just need bathing suit, jacket for the volcano, cotton pants and shirt for massage class. Camera, sunscreen, sunglasses. You don’t need to bring beach towel. You can rent snorkel gear at Snorkel Bob’s (Includes mask, fins, Bubba™ dry snorkel & net bag, No-Fog Goop & Fish I.D. card. $35/Week http://www.snorkelbob.com/cgi-local/SoftCart.exe/online-store/scstore/sbservices_packages.html?L+scstore+kryt1743ff814081+1388982493) but someone online recommended “Least expensive would be to buy the mask and snorkel at home, and rent the fins.” I like the short diving fins because my feet don’t cramp and they fit easily in suitcase. Look for a tube with a valve that keeps the water out. As a thin person, I wear a half wet suit which can be rented as well. We’ll practice in the pool first for newbies. Here’s a video link http://www.videojug.com/film/how-to-snorkel-safely-and-successfully

 

Amsterdam travel notes

13-year-olds AmsterdamAmsterdam, 11-13

Photos on Facebook page Global Youth SpeakOut

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.697320013626526.1073741826.160382763986923&type=3&uploaded=1

Flew out of Chico at 6 am, nice talk with another yoga student. She’s off to Mexico. I’ve been needing more Russian youth input into my book, agreeable universe put a Ukrainian who works with Russian teens in Portugal next to me, good talk on the way to Chicago. Her family moved to Fresno after she finished high school (11th grade finishes there) and entered her senior year in a Fresno high school. A total shock because she was used to being with the same group of 30 students since 4th grade. They have a mentor teacher who stays with them their whole school experience, encouraging and watching out for them. She thinks that most of the group went on to university because of their mentor’s encouragement. Nothing like that here. She wanted to come to the US because when she was 17 it cost around $2,000 to bribe university admission officials, although that’s changed now that everything is online. I had three hours in Chicago airport, spent most of the time walking up and down under the light show of changing neo rainbow lights. Then seven hours to Amsterdam. Luckily the seat next to me so I could do some pretzel-like curling up to sleep a bit.

I’m staying in a hostel but my own room—wish they’d told me no soap, towels or glasses. The Dutch are exceptionally helpful and friendly. I saw a UPS driver stop for a cyclist and smile at him. They describe themselves as “curt,” but they seem more relaxed than Americans, even in Chico.  The bike lanes are full of people of all ages cycling.  An Alaskan girl who has lived here for nine years did a “free” tour of the historic city, you tip what ever you want. She is not a fan of Dutch men because she’s found them unwilling to work through issues.

She views the Dutch as historically very tolerant because their priority was making money not ideologies. They were one of their first to legalize gay marriage. Why? In the 16th century everyone had to work together to sandbag the city to keep it dry. Now about half of the people who live here aren’t Dutch. I’ve seen Muslim women in headscarfs, people of African ancestry, etc. We saw lots of canals dug by peasants in the 1600s with over 1,000 bridges, an old commercial building that Rembrandt painted. Many of the old building are tipped to one side because they’re built on sand and wood pillions, so close to sea level here, was a marsh. We walked by the prostitutes in their windows, wearing bikinis. They looked like normal pretty girls, shocking to think of what they feel they have to do for money. I looked at them in the eyes and smiled to let them know I recognized them as sisters. We saw the exterior of the Anne Frank house (we share the same birthdate) and other historic buildings, walked down a street where “coffee houses” sell pot. It’s not legal but the authorities look the other way because of the tourist dollars. I walked along the canals for more hours, looked at the flea market where luckily I didn’t find anything to buy as my suitcase is full of rain gear for the bike trip on Friday. Luckily today was sunny although cold.

Thurs. was rainy so I just went to the zoo. The most fun was seeing the beavers chewing on logs because I’ve seen their dens but never them in action. Amsterdam does a good job of creating green spaces, lots of parks. The older row houses are four narrow stories built around an inner courtyard. One woman told me it’s mostly for looking out your windows. Where she lives, there are five floors and five families. They do have an elevator. Nothing here is natural in the sense that the large park and the forest on the outskirts were all human built after they reclaimed the marshes. The big park has been sinking, so they’re engineering drains. I was told the Dutch engineers are experts, go to places like Hong Kong to create new land.

Friday was a perfect sunny crisp day for a three-hour bike ride to the countryside. Our leader was a well-informed young Brit who has lived here for 12 years. It’s easy to ride through the city because bike paths are on every street (also lots of trolleys and buses, not too many cars, some very small as seen in the photo of the red car). An Australian couple, a guy from San Jose who works for the State Dept in Tanzania, and an Oregon nurse on her way to Rwanda made up our group. Riding over the canals, we soon were on a country road along the river with large houses on one side. We stopped to see one of the few working windmills. It’s also the home to the man who was born there although its been moved to this new location. (see photo) Next we stopped at an 800-year-old farmhouse where the farm family makes gouda-style cheese from their 29 cows. He still had wax on his hands from one round of dipping them. They keep them indoors in the winter, along with the bull who has sired 100 calves this season. The farmer also makes wooden shoes with colorful painted design. We rode through the green podder lowlands, maintained by dikes. If they weren’t maintained, half of the Netherlands would be under water. Lots of waterfowl take advantage of the green fields protected by water, a swan paddled past us, very idyllic. The guide gave me 5 minutes to run into a middle school to find a teacher to give the book questions to students. I found one teacher and asked her to give the questions to an English teacher. And then back to the city and the conference started that eve.

Such a treat to be with people around the world and lucky English is the universal language. Sat. I soaked in info, taking copious notes, for 12 hours non-stop, eating left over breakfast food from the hostel. They provide cold cuts, organic whole wheat bread, yogurt and granola, apples and oranges every morning. Sunday, today, the conference ended earlier. I got email contacts from young activists from Greece, turkey, Spain, Brazil, Childe and Palestine to help with the youth activism book, yeah!!  I celebrated with a cream puff and watched ice skaters in an outdoor rink in a square with lots of people sitting in outdoor cafes. Today was a big celebration for the town. Santa Claus parades around the town, supposedly arriving from Spain. He’s accompanied by lots of blackface helpers who take gifts from Santa down the chimney. A small protest was underway to ask that blackface be discontinued, I think mostly from the conference participants.  Kids wore special hats with feathers and capes and waved flags to welcome Santa.

As to what I’ve learned, themes were anti-neoliberal austerity programs, anti-capitalism, anti-state. I pressed in the question period for solutions. One Egyptian said it’s too early. Some talk about forming co-ops, workers running their own factories, and other alternatives but not a lot of clarity about future society. Some speakers labeled themselves as anarchists, meaning anti-state. The three years of global uprisings were considered failures in that not much has changed, i.e. Egypt still has military rule, Greeks are suffering greatly, etc. But, they’re successes in that people are empowered, knowing they can make change. A lot of the videos showed police violence, including shooting with real bullets in Egypt, but the point was also made that media coverage of police brutality brought the masses to the streets, as in Greece. Some discussion of violence as necessary when confronted with police violence, cool to burn police cars, or a bright Palestinian blind young woman said it’s OK for youth to throw rocks at Israeli soldiers who occupy their land.

The most moving talk was by an Egyptian feminist who was in tears describing the “circle of hell” that often occurs where a large crowd of men surrounds a woman and grope or rape her, several were raped with a knife. She and others have formed protection groups to go in and rescue such women. You can’t really go to the police for help because the government’s position is that women should stay home. You’d have to be very courageous to report rape, as some women have done. Another theme is they believe horizontal direct action organizing works, very anti-hierarchy. Mostly a 20s and 30s crowd, but the plenary speakers were older academics, authors, mostly male American and British. The panels were most interesting because they were the young people on the streets from all the countries where uprisings occurred except the Tunisians couldn’t get visas. The organizers, a Canadian man and Dutch globalization professor (maybe a couple?) have made films about the uprisings so they have a network.

Monday I continued my interest in the narrow Dutch houses by visiting Rembrandt’s home from the 17th century, five stories high (see photos). He wasn’t a good Calvinist. After his wife died at 30, giving birth to four children—only one survived, he hired a widow to take care of his son and ended up in what the museum film called a romantic relationship. She sued him to marry her after I think 8 years of living together. He was obliged to give her monthly payments but sent her to a workhouse for women. Then he got involved with his next domestic worker, age 23. The museum had hands-on workshops, including etching. I didn’t realize it’s so difficult because everything prints in reverse. Then off to find a new place with minimal directions to hear anarchists from Spain and Chile, translated by an American guy who lives in Barcelona. O overall a godsend for contacts for the youth activism book. The most fun was the bike ride to the countryside. I wanted to take a bus to nearby port cities today but it was rainy and cold, thought I better guard my health for the 18 hour ride home. Stopped in Frankfort so I got to buy some German cookies. Lovely to be home now!

S. Korea, 10-12

Korea

The 12-hour flight was made more bearable by exercising in back of the plane with my resistance band, a wonderful travel companion. Also get exercise from window seat to aisle by standing on my seat and walking over the armrests and hoping down so the guys didn’t have to get up. One of my seatmates was a soldier in Korea. His life is so regimented with schedules and how to behave, but I guess it provides security for those who like it. I asked him about women in combat and he said the argument against it is that men would be protective and thus hinder their performance. I said there are strong women and weak men so it makes more sense to make individual decisions as the Israelis do. The flight only cost $100 because I buy everything with my travel credit card, a dollar equals a mile. I’ve had almost free flights to Belize, Tanzania, Bali, etc. recommend it.

Seoul is much more relaxed and less crowded than Tokyo where I’ve often had to wait over an hour in customs. Here a few minutes, no line to exchange money and buy a $9 bus ticket for the 50 minute ride to Seoul and the YMCA where I’m staying. I saw lots of grey high-rise apartment buildings; much of Seoul is fairly new because of destruction caused by the Korean War that began with invasion by the North in 1948, leveling Seoul again in 1950, and other earlier invasions. Like other big cities, you see McDonalds and Starbucks, posters for Western performers—Elton John while I was here.  The city was leveled in the early 20th century. The location has left Korea vulnerable to invasion from Japan (their latest conquest was their rule from 1910 to 1945), China, the Mongols, with Russian influence in North Korea and the US in the south. Buddhism was brought from China and became the state religion in the 4th century. Dictator Park governed for 18 years, until he was assassinated in 1979. He industrialized Korea transforming it from a poor country dependent on foreign aid, as demonstrated to the world in the 1988 summer Olympic Games. Korea became a multi-party democracy in 1987. Park’s daughter is running for president this year, very conservative.

The Y room is small but has a refrig, water, yfi, bathroom, free breakfast. After arriving, I walked to the Gyeongbokgung Palace, the oldest in Korea, built in 1395 but destroyed and rebuilt over the centuries. Luckily a traditional Korean arts festival was going on at the place, with dance, drumming, singing, and demonstrations of crafts like knot tying. The palace has many buildings, one lovely one surrounded by water on two sides .It was a great place to people watch, happy to see how gender roles have changed so much since my youth internationally, with dads carrying babies. People were dressed casually in jeans.  I had traditional Korean dinner after mimicking no cow (moo) or pig (oink) but fish (swimming). The fish is served with head and eyes attached, as in Japan. The food is spiced with red peppers, a bowl of rice and small plates of spicy pickled cabbage and other vegetables. Breakfast at the Y was similar, minus the fish.

I walked all day the next day after hearing half of the disappointing presidental debate on CNN, not a good strategy to not go after Romney. I headed for Chang Deok Gung Place built in 1405, destroyed by the Japanese in the 1500s, and rebuilt later. Between the two palaces is Bukchon Hanok village with some of the few traditional houses with tiled roofs, sprinkled with lots of coffee shops and clothing boutiques.

I passed a private girls’ middle school called Duksung where I was able to talk with two English teachers and some of their students. The students weren’t in class because of exams, loud and boisterous, more outgoing than Japanese students I observed. They talked about the “heat” on them to study for the college entrance exams, as in other Asian countries. The exams are three to four days; students have some choice of subjects drawn from Korean, English, history, math and science. The impact of focus on passing exams is criticized for diminishing creativity, so the government allows some universities to include other admission criteria such a volunteering or awards, and interviews. Miss Lim said this creates additional pressure on students to study to ace the interview. The girls said they’re at school until 8 PM except Wednesdays taking extra courses. Graduating from a good university is necessary to get a good job in a recession, creating a lot of pressure on students.  Suicide is resorted to by some who don’t do well on the 3 or 4-day exams. I asked how the girls cope with the pressure and they said talking with their friends and music.  College is where students can relax and have fun. Students get support from homeroom teachers who spend several hours a day working with students. Miss Lim said she tries to make learning English fun as the girls get bored with grammar, using film and music. Vocational schools are available for students who don’t get into university. One of the teachers said she thinks teens today are more independent and less obedient than her generation. Schools still expect conformity by requiring uniforms and prohibiting nail polish, short skirts, or dyed hair. The government helps fund private schools so teacher Miss Lim said girls from poor families are able to attend her school. The girls and teachers agreed that girls are better students because they’re more mature. Teachers used to be able to use corporal punishment to insure discipline, but now have to find different tactics. She sends discipline problems to older stricter teachers to get in line.

I asked how the girls are different from their parents’ generation. A middle-aged t teacher said they feel freer to have their own opinions, as about how they are taught, while in her youth she was expected to obey her parents absolutely. She said change is slow, but the girls agreed it’s easier to talk with their parents than their grandparents. Of course they mentioned their use of technology, Internet and Mobil phones.

Today, Friday, I visit UNICEF staff people—4 women and 1 man, mostly in their 20s, the visit arranged by a wonderfully helpful educator who I am going to visit in the interior province where he lives with his family. A Korean woman who lives in Chico introduced me to Mr. Yu. The staffers said that school violence and bullying has increased due to school pressure, what Ms. Kim described as “our horrible education system.” Some schools have counselors to help students. When she was in high school she would be in class until 5:30, come home and eat dinner, then study to midnight, to get up at 7:00 am. In her family her father was the absolute boss, but she’s a feminist who lives on her own in a different city. She’s not optimistic about finding a feminist husband.  Japanese teachers in their exchange programs are surprised that the Korean students have more freedom to speak up in class. The high school curriculum is more advanced than the US. A few alternative schools exist.  Some conservative politicians want to nationalize the best universities and turn the best, Seoul University, into a graduate school only. Another problem is students with connections can get into top universities. Over 85% of high school students go on to university, but families want the best.  The UNICEF programs gather youth in leadership conferences to encourage empowerment to create sustainable development, with a majority being girls. For example, the Rainbow Project themes are peace, human rights, cultural diversity, environment, globalization, local culture, and economic justice, global citizenship. Students who participate in the programs sine 2008 do report at the end of the year that they feel more motivated to make change although adults criticize youth for being politically apathetic. They feel young people are cynical as what they read in their textbooks doesn’t match reality and they don’t feel powerless to make change. Their top issue is probably unemployment and worry about getting a job.

I met with 4 young women and male staffers, good dialogue. Went to lunch with one of the women who are a feminist activist, working for the “comfort women” enslaved by the Japanese. She pointed out the same kind of practice occurs around US military bases with Philippinas, etc. She said it’s hard to find a feminist man. She was raised in a typical family where the father rules. Most of them had incredible English. UNESCO is working on youth empowerment, the teens they work with are very creative, and more girls than boys.

Then for a walk in the foothills to get a bit of nature and to an incredible folk museum where you could spend a day looking at history of daily life. Best food I’ve had was on the street, a kind of dumpling stuffed with veggies and rice noodles. Saturday I take the bus to Mr. Yu’s family where his son and daughter will take me under their wings for the weekend, then schools visits on Monday and Tuesday and the bus to the airport.

 

Took the Seoul subway to the bus station aided by the kindness of stingers who helped me buy a ticket on the machine. A sweet young woman walked me to the correct ticket window to buy my bus ticket, to the bus, then went and surprised me with a drink for the hour and a half ride. Lots of yellow rice fields, almost ready to harvest, a few tiled farm houses, but most people live in clusters of the gray high rises. Mr. Yu lives in one, a spacious 3 bedroom 2 bath with a large kitchen and small laundry room. Mr. Yu and his family have shown abundant kindness, taking me out to meals or cooking them with numerous dishes with spicy veggies, so healthy. We walked to his office, the provincial education headquarters, where he works late every night and often on the weekends. We dropped him off on Sunday afternoon and the parking lot was full.  His daughter took the bus from Seoul to join us; she works for the government, lives in a dorm there with her own studio apt. But doesn’t like the atmosphere of the office. They have a hazing tradition where they make newcomers drink till they get drunk at lunch and after work until the next “freshman” is hired. She and her brother (who lives at home and does IT work) recently traveled to NYC and DC with their mom. They were struck by the bigness of things (cars) and the cost—we had a terrific meal last night for $5. The sibs and I walked around downtown. Yesterday we went to a huge Presbyterian Church service, over 5,000 members, with choir and TV screens. I was surprised that there are more Christians than Buddhists here. After church we drove to a lake with historic village buildings with tile or thatch roofs, and a modern art museum. Juxtaposition. The three women drove to what we would think of as a county fair. The most striking difference is the healthy food; mostly fish and other seafood. I added steamed caterpillar to my list of eating fish testicles in Japan and yak butter tea in Tibet. Clowns wandered around dressed like beggars. I’ve been reading student responses to my global youth book questions. The main themes are they don’t like the education system where they’re at school until 11 PM every day studying with lots of pressure to do well on the college entrance exam to get into a good university to get a good job. The current political issue they mentioned is Japanese claims to small islands they consider Korean. As I hear from teachers in other countries, girls work harder and do better in school, although they’re about half of the university students in Korea.

 

 

North India travel notes, October, 2012

(more…)

Explore Sacred Sites of No. India in 2012

Explore sacred sites of Northern India, nourished by frequent Ayurvedic treatments and massage, yoga, and energy tools. Led by a teacher from Delhi, coordinated in the US by Gayle Kimball, Ph.D.

October, 2012.  Our guide for India in October suggests: I would recommend a journey from Delhi to Rishikesh (yoga capital of the world) including Haridawar (the doorway to God) / Anandpur Sahib (City of Bliss and Birthplace of Khalsa) / Bilaspur / Rewalsar (Tibetan Buddhist Monastery) / Dharmshala (home of Dlai Lama) / Amritsar (Home of Guru Ram Das and the Golden Temple).  There could be an option of Manikaren (for hot springs and hot cave) and another option of Kashmir (saffron harvesting and house boat stay).

Included in all stays will be visits to sacred sites, Sikh, Hindu, Sufi temples, with emphasis on the Goddess of the Feminine Divine and Spiritual warriors known as the Nihang Singhs (men without egos).  We will include home stays, cultural events such as weddings and local festivities as the deities and gurus are celebrated.  There will be time for shopping and rest.  We will try to create a balance.  

Now’s the time to give your input about what you’d like to experience. Contact gkimball@csuchico.edu

Interviews with Egyptian Youth Activists and slides of ancient sacred sites, July 2011

slides comparing ancient sacred sites and youth culture in Egypt and England https://gaylekimball.files.wordpress.com/2011/08/england-and-egypt-ptx.pptx

 Video of interview with Egyptian youth activists in Tahrir Square    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VB9FJhSsHYs

Travel Reports to Kyushu, Japan

 

Travel reports: Before my energy tools workshops, I wanted to visit Kyushu, the southern most island because it’s more rural, more traditional. I saw very few [6 geijin (westerners) while I was there and few people spoke English. It’s amazing what you can do with a small vocabulary. I was looking for a little lake, for example, and said excuse me, small water where is it, with my arms making a big circle, and the rice farmers got it. (People say excuse me, suimasen, a lot, and also, hi—yes. People went out of their way to show me what I was looking for. My friend Mariko (a former student) and her 2 kids met me. She had a hotel rented with 3 beds (twins, everything is smaller in Japan, hotel rooms, cars, roads, people—I’m usually as tall as the men standing in trains, food packaging). The next day we rented a taxi and saw shrines and historical sites, including a reconstruction of a village that existed BC with sunken floors and thatched huts. We saw a shrine to what Mariko called a “man-god,” a brilliant poet and intellectual. Then to an onsen (hot springs) with baths that made your skin silky, and buffet dinner and breakfast. We ate a lot of seafood and yummy tofu, etc. We slept on futons, which the maids put out after clearing away the table where often dinner is served in other ryoken (Japanese inns). Efficient use of space. Everyone walks around in the comfortable kimonos that come with the room.

The next day we went to see a man who is like Uri Geller. Of course he bent spoons (I have one), but he also made cigarettes float around, put a knife through a bill without tearing it, changed the shape of plastic cigarette lighters, shrunk coins, predicted what cards would be drawn by an audience member, in what order. He took a Polaroid photo of a young woman with the intention of including the card she drew plus a childhood memory. I saw the card and a white dog near her face in the photo. She was amazed, said a dog that looked just like that bit her when she was a child. The guy gave a little lecture saying our thinking is conditioned and that we can expect unusual happenings.

Then we parted company and I took the train to Nagasaki. Didn’t have time or the guts to visit the bomb museum. I asked for a non-smoking room, but they don’t have that concept except in big hotels. People smoke in restaurants, bus drivers smoke in their empty buses, etc. my only complaint about Japan besides expenses. I took an all day bus ride across the island, stopping to see the active volcano Aso. We could see gas coming up and smell the sulpher but they wouldn’t let us go to the top and look in. The bus stopped at little goodie stores for tourists. They have sample boxes. Their treats are pickled veggies and fish, crisp flat bread with nuts, or sweets (gelatiny coated with powdered sugar, bready with fillings, not much chocolate. Drove through green mts, terraced rice fields, then to a pension in Yufinin. It had it’s own hot springs and served an incredible dinner with salmon sashimi, a small chef salad, corn soup, rice, something au gratin, mushrooms, shrimp with carrots and potato sticks, then yummy black sesame ice cream and a coconut cream. I rented a bike and stopped at shrines, visited the lake a bunch of times. Nice Tori shrine on the lake was very picturesque. A couple of people wanted to take my photo with them, maybe bec. I’m tall geijin?

On Thursday, bus to airport, fly to Tokyo, train to Yokahama, then to Fugisawa. Remember the old folk song about riding forever beneath the streets of Boston, he’s the man who will never return? I felt like that trying to get to Yokahama. I can ask for directions but don’t understand the answer. But I made it to Kaori’s house, had my beach walk and got organized for the workshops. Also did individual sessions, very powerful because they’re not accustomed to getting therapy, a lot happens. So much faster than talk therapy when I locate the issue without them having to talk about it, then use various tools to clear blocks.

Then off to Maui and the Big Island to do some more nitty gritty sessions and swim with spinner dolphins. Both times we kayaked out to the dolphins then snorkeled with them. So beautiful to see them swimming underneath you. I also took the ferry to Lanai to snorkel and see another island. It used to be all pineapple and now the economy is based on tourism. I walked through the two big resorts, one for their snorkeling and the other to see their orchid collection. The variety of colors of the tropical fish and the flowers is an awesome testament to the creativity of the universal intelligence.

Men Dominate Public Space in Some Countries

 

I just returned from Egypt with the same male monopoly of public space as Rita Banerji experiences living in Kalcutta, India. She describes the harassment women experience in her blog as a way men assert their dominance in public so that women don’t feel comfortable even to que up in a government building like the post office. (http://ritabanerjisblog.files.wordpress.com/2011/08/usa-india-puzzle_0.jpg.) In Egypt, men sit and talk with each other, play board games, pray towards Mecca, and smoke water pipes on the sidewalks, and do jobs that women do in the west like clean hotel rooms. Women on the streets move directly to their destination without any play time. I was able to interview three women activists, demonstrators in Tahrir Square. One of them, a nurse, said men want to keep women looking down rather than straight ahead. Wearing hijab and nicrob also bind women. If men are the problem, they should be required to wear special eye gear, not their victims.  I asked a Pakistani student to videotape public space for me and didn’t see any girls playing sports like the boys were playing cricket, or women hanging out. The few women I saw in Hassan’s video were walking directly to their destination, as in Egypt. I’d like to hear from you about the use of public space where you live and have visited.

A Young Male Egyptian Feminist!

 

Omar Ahmed has done a lot for a 21-year-old. Social media officer for Sony Ericsson in Cairo since he was a teenager, he studies foreign trade at Helwan University, participated in the Tahrir Square revolution in 2011, and is the only male staff member for the organization committee at the new Egyptian Union for Women (founded by Dr. El Saadawi). He believes he only has one life so he invests in it fully. His parents are liberal, although his mother wears higab, since she considers it her duty as a Muslim woman. Omar adds that most young women who also wear hagib couldn’t recite verses from the Koran that require veiling. His feminist beliefs started when he was a boy and his nanny read to him, as about Qasim Amin, a 19th century writer. Amin wrote, “The inferior position of Muslim women is the greatest obstacle that prevents us from advancing toward what is beneficial for us.” Amin opposed veils for women as a symbol of slavery.

Omar comments more on the ups and downs of women’s rights in Egyptian history, stating that under King Farouk women had the right to vote and go to school, but when he was overthrown by army officers in 1952, women lost ground. President Sadat’s rule in the 1970s brought Islamic fundamentalism to the fore, influenced by Saudi Arabian traditions. It lives on in the Muslim Brotherhood, whose older members view women as the gateway to hell because of Eve’s sin, not fully human. The younger Muslim Brotherhood members are talking about breaking away and forming their own organization advocating a secular government.

Omar believes these traditionalists have the majority support in the villages. The Egyptian education system teaches obedience to parents, teacher, and boss. Around six TV channels are Islamic. The Brotherhood had 88 members of Parliament under President Mubarak, officially labeled independents since religious parties were outlawed. Omar fears that Muslim Brotherhood majorities in the new Parliament would create a new constitution like Iran’s. However, he thinks that now as a legal party their hidden funding sources will be monitored and that will be helpful, like germs die in the sunlight. Although out of 80 million Egyptians, only 6 to 7 million are on Facebook, it’s expanding to the villages where Omar thinks it will gradually counter the influence of fundamentalists. Facebook members have doubled since the revolution.

The February revolution didn’t have a plan or a unified leadership, it’s main goal being to get Mubarak out. Omar participate because he felt it was his duty to be there with his friends to achieve freedom. He’d been to a few demonstrations before the revolution, but wasn’t a member of a political party or movement. Since the protests started on January 25 women were represented and sometimes the majority. They were the first to bring blankets to sleep in the square. They were attacked by the police and threw stones when the camel drivers entered the square to attack the protestors, just like the men. It was like one big family of 5 to 6 million. No one brought up religion, gender, or age as everyone had the same goal.

With no single movement or leadership, the ones who were outspoken in the media, were not the real leaders. When the former Vice-President Omar Suleiman asked to me with spokespersons, he met with over 100 groups. None of them claimed to be the head; “That’s the beauty of it,” says Omar. I asked Omar where the demonstrators’ focus on peace came from—Selam in Arabic.  He wasn’t sure but heard Gandhi’s tactics mentioned. When I asked if his generation was more committed to peace, he pointed out that in May, on the anniversary of Israeli independence, 1 million MOSTLY YOUTH? called for war against Israel.

After the ouster of Mubarak, the Supreme Council of all male military generals over 70 and the all-male constitutional committee, women’s rights had another setback. The Council abolished reforms for women and children led by Suzanne Mubarak—who Omar refers to as a Queen of Egypt for 30 years. She got 25% of seats in parliament set aside for women, although they were mostly the wives of powerful men. The Supreme Council abolished the quota, because “Our society calls for equality between men and women. Therefore, we cannot allocate a quota for women alone…such a quota might also provide Parliament membership for feminist elements that are not suitable for the task.” (Also, before her leadership, illegitimate children didn’t have a last name and thus couldn’t enroll in school. Suzanne Mubarak got a law passed in 2006 that gave these children their mother’s last name. Currently new family legislation is being considered.

The military went so far as to force 18 young women protestors to undergo medical virginity tests on March 18, saying they had to check and see if they were prostitutes. This harkens back to an ancient tradition in Upper Egypt where a bloody sheet is hung out the window on the bride’s wedding night to prove she’s a virgin. The Supreme Council also didn’t punish the police who tortured and killed Khalel Saeid, despite demonstrations in cities across the country on the June 6 year anniversary of his death and 1.5 million fans on his Facebook page. Despite the power of fundamentalists, Omar is optimistic about the future of Egypt as he looks around the Middle East and sees dictators falling, Syria is going down, Hamas is going down, he said, freedom is asserting itself.

Travel Report: England, 2011

 

The British are very polite, many sorrys, thank yous, pleases. Everyone I interacted with was friendly. Visually England looks to me like Washington State, green with similar wildflowers: Queen Anne’s lace, pink clover, thistles, plus yellow gorse. The difference is ancient history, roads first build by the Romans, Norman churches built by French invaders, stone cottages with thatched roof from the 17th century, huge old manor houses where Elizabeth I or Henry VIII visited on their tours of the countryside. In York, we visited a Roman Villa that included heating under the floors, bath rooms with a pool of warm water, and a place to worship. The family I stayed with took me to Lullingstone Castle, built in 1060, with a manor house added in 1497. The famous Buckingham Palace, Tower of London, and Westminster Abbey are other old buildings we’ve all heard about. I took a photo of the place on the Thames River where the Mayflower was launched to sail to America. 

The most ancient site were at Stonehenge and Avesbury, circles of stones. The only theory people seem to agree on is they were used for measuring the seasons with the sun and for rituals. Some of the stones marked a processional area where they walked to the stone circles. An archeologist on the tour said one theory was they marked a horizontal access to the afterlife.

The educational system is more complex than in the US.  What we call public schools are private or independent. State schools can be affiliated with the Church of England or Catholic instruction. I took a photo of a school founded in the 17th century, connected with a church where boys were trained to be clergy. Girls from wealthy families might have a private tutor at home. Grammar schools are college prep secondary schools. Students take a test at age 11 that determines where they go to secondary school, called the GESE. Some leave school at age 16 and try to find work. In Sidcup, youth hang out on the street in front of McDonalds, considered a problem of “youth disorder.”  With government cutbacks, fewer programs exist to keep teens busy. Now it’s mostly churches and sports activities. The A levels are very important for getting accepted to university like our SATs. Because of grade inflation an A* was added a few years ago, but that too has been inflated so thousands of students with an A* don’t get into Cambridge or Oxford. Some schools are for students who didn’t do well in secondary school and are prepared for the A levels and university admittance. Community colleges also provide vocational training.

I visited Emma’s private co-ed primary school, where as usual, students wear uniforms, including ties and short trousers for the boys. The Nursery school teacher said with all the focus on electronic media, some of her pupils have difficulty conversing, even dressing or feeding them. They don’t know fairy tales unless Disney animated them. Parents have less time to spend with their kids as both are working to make ends meet and pay the tuition of around 2,000 pounds a term. (Currently a pound is worth about 1.6 dollars.) The school has separate rooms for music, art, computers, science, and cooking. The yard has a bench where a student can sit if she or he is lonely, so other students will join her or him. Students bring home a notebook where parents can write their comments and initial that the child read outloud. The head teacher (principal) told me what surprised her about California schools were no uniforms, how large they are, and they’re more tied to a rigid curriculum. One of the teachers is involved with a sister school in Ghana without books, toys for the little ones, or teach training. More to come…..

Tag Cloud

%d bloggers like this: