Cycling Europe Day 43: A Big City Girl No Longer Impressed

This will sound awful but I’ll say it anyway. I think I’m all out of excitement for big cities.

Don’t get me wrong. Prague is an absolutely beautiful capital city. But I’ve been to so many over the years that I think they’ve lost their charm on me.

Did you see how excited I was yesterday when I saw a deer leap across the road right in front of me? On this trip, Girona, Verona, and Arles, all relatively small towns, excited me. Despite the hardships, cycling over a mountain excites me. Hiking on mountains excites me. Seeing a school of hammerheads while diving excites the heck out of me. But the big cities just don’t do it for me anymore.

I walked all over Prague today. I took lots of pictures. I was fascinated by the

Prague's Dancing House

Prague’s Dancing House

architecture as I should be. But I quickly felt like I’d rather use the time resting in my hotel room. I’m tired from all the cycling, of course. That could be a factor. But I’ve been like this with large cities for a few years now. Unless I’m in a big city to eat at a special restaurant, catch a special show, or do some big city shopping, I’m just not that interested in seeing the sights anymore.

So I found a Lebanese restaurant to eat some proper Arab food. Man, did I need “normal” food. It was delicious. I even had some of our typical, what we call in Arabic, “Eastern sweets”. Yummmmmy. When I sat down I didn’t have much of an appetite. I haven’t been feeling quite right today. But the minute those plates were put in front of me: humm humm hummm!

I then found a place to get a massage. I was needing my legs done but half way through

Yummy Eastern sweets!

Yummy Eastern sweets!

I discovered this particular masseuse does neck and back only. Her massage was a bit different than others I’ve had before. It wasn’t quite Swedish and it wasn’t quite Thai. I suppose it must be a special Czech massage. Anyway, it was nice and relaxing. I just really wish I could get my legs massaged.

I still don’t have much of an appetite but I’m going to force myself to have dinner. I need energy for tomorrow’s mega hills. I checked the elevation maps. They look ugly. I need to get through two more days of these hills and then, hopefully, I will receive God’s mercy and arrive in flatter terrain.

Today and tomorrow are presidential election days in Egypt. All I have to say about it is that I am so thankful I’m not there to watch the Revolution crumble before our very eyes. It makes me absolutely sick to even think about it.

The Day We Egyptians Lost Our Moment

There is not a shadow of a doubt in my mind that we, the Egyptian people, have been outwitted.

There are very few moments in time that decide the course of history. They come every 50 years, once a century, or even furtherDSC02825 apart. Our generation’s Moment was January 25, 2011. A critical build-up of recent events amassed the emotions of an already seething Egyptian population and our Moment was born. Millions of Egyptians took to the streets for 18 days…blah blah blah… We all know the story. And we know the ugliness that followed.

Providence gave us a moment because we were able to unite as a people when it really mattered. We saw our chance and held onto it for a full 18 days. And that’s why the story ends there. If a Moment is to truly change the course of history, its people must hold onto it and never let it go. We let go after 18 days and went back to our old ways of conniving, distrusting, and power struggling. (more…)

The Day Egypt Got Its First Civilian President

I left work early yesterday, June 24, just as most everyone in Egypt did. I was concerned that once the election results were announced – regardless who won – it would be difficult for me to get back home. My work is within five minutes walking distance from Tahrir. I was anxious throughout the drive home. Cairo was going through an intense heat wave. The roads were jam-packed with everyone trying to get home before 3pm when the announcement was due to be televised.

As I inched through Cairo’s traffic, I began worrying that I might not make it home in time to watch the announcement. I turned on the radio to make sure I didn’t miss anything in case I didn’t make it. I also decided that if the announcement was made early or if I didn’t reach home in time, I’d park the car in front of the nearest coffee shop and watch with hundreds of others set to do the same. (more…)

Welcome, Egypt, to democracy

The 2012 Egyptian presidential elections are not just any elections. They are the first democratic presidential elections to happen in this country. And they come at a great cost of life and limb from the Egyptian people. There is a lot at stake for Egyptians. Egypt turned over the souls of many of its sons and daughters to their Maker for these elections to happen. Eyes were lost, limbs were broken, and every single person who participated in the revolution risked their lives.

Egypt’s revolutionaries and their supporters wish to see true change in Egypt.  But as it happens, the picture those revolutionaries and their supporters have in their heads of what that change needs to be varies widely.

But what is democracy if it is not to give the people the tools with which to dictate which change is most desired by the majority?

Egyptians revolted from January 25 to February 11 and onwards in order to bring democracy to their country. But did they all truly understand what it means to live in a democracy? (more…)

I’ve voted…God help us

It’s done. I walked into the school where my voting station is. I said a short prayer to God before proceeding. “God, if there is good in this choice of mine, then make it easy for me. If there is no good in this choice of mine, then make it difficult for me. You, alone, know where our best interests lie.”

The young soldier sitting at the gate gave me directions to station number 18, where I was to go. It was a large school. There was no line at all. No one ahead of me. I gave them my name and number. They checked my ID. They gave me a piece of paper with the names and pictures of all the 13 presidential candidates. I checked on the box in front of one of them. God made it easy for me. And it was done.

I walked out of the school feeling numb. As I walked home, I eventually felt as if I wanted to cry. I held it back. A dialogue went through my head:

“What if I made the wrong choice? I have misgivings about every single one of the candidates. Strong misgivings even. What if my misgivings about this particular candidate turn out to be true? What if he wins? What will I have done then to my country? No. Even if these misgivings turn out to be true, the damage will only be minimal. There are other candidates who could do real damage. I’ve avoided them. I’ve done what I can. I’ve chosen to the best of my ability and knowledge. Now it is time for me to leave it to God.”

Last night I decided I needed to avoid reading the political statuses of my Facebook friends. I was getting stressed and upset about the hyper-politicization and missionary styles of some of them in supporting their candidates or their points of view. I was being a bit bitchy myself. I needed clarity of mind. I needed to think without being influenced. Social media has become an important information source for many of us. But it’s also become a major source of stress at times like these.

It’s done. I’m still going to avoid my friends’ political Facebook statuses for awhile. I’m going to do my best to take the weekend off from politics and relax. I’ll be interested to follow the results. But whoever wins in this round, it will not be a life-changing event for me. I will continue to observe. And hope. And pray.

God, the Egyptian people have done everything in their power to bring good to this country and remove evil. We’ve shed tears, sweat, blood, eyes, and souls. Please, God, help us now.

Mr President, Whoever You Are, Beware the Egyptian People

I think I’ve figured out who I will vote for as Egypt’s next president. I’m not happy about my choice. I wouldn’t be happy about any choice I made. I’m not happy about the candidates I have to choose from.

I looked through most of the candidates’ programs. The conclusion I came to was: lots of pages of nice words. They seemed to me to be rather similar in their promises. They all say they want good for Egypt. Good for them.

But what do I want? What I am looking for? I want someone I can trust to clean the State from bureaucracy and corruption. I want someone I can trust to bring to justice any wrong-doers from the previous regime and its various arms. I want someone I can trust to re-vamp our police and security forces. I want someone I can trust to sensitively and smartly deal with our Armed Forces. I want someone I can trust to initiate an inclusive process that will give us a constitution that will protect all our rights and that we can all be proud. (more…)

Why the 2012 Egyptian Presidential Elections Make Me Want to Barf

Egyptian elections are the day after tomorrow. This will be the first time in the history of Egypt that Egyptians will have a real say in who will be their president. This should be a time for rejoicing. For some Egyptians, it is. I am not one of those Egyptians.

As the elections near, more and more I have a feeling of foreboding. I have only two days left and I still do not know who I want to vote for. And I don’t know because I feel that all the choices are bad. Very bad. Not that the presidential candidates are bad people. There is no doubt in my mind that most of the candidates really do have good intentions. But no matter how many times I run the scenarios through my head of what if x wins, or what if y wins, we’re fucked. Seriously fucked. In my opinion, not one of them has the leadership skills necessary to navigate Egypt through a very very delicate process of deciding on what kind of a country we want to have. We’ve already had a sneak peak – more properly called a sneak freak – at what that process will look like. The Egyptian parliament, who we all hoped would guide us through the process of choosing a committee to put together a draft constitution, failed us in the most miserable way possible. (more…)