Sunday, August 30, 2009

Music Monday 37 :: "Dream" by Alice Smith

"Dream" by Alice Smith (2006)

Despite getting a Grammy nod in 2007, Alice Smith is just not getting her due. At least not in my book.

I got this cd before it's wide release, but I let it sit on my desk for a bit and I eventually gave the disc to my sister. She promptly asked me if I'd listened to the cd. Well, you can see how it went: I introduced my sis to a bomb diggity new artist and she in turn introduced the artist to me. Weird.

"Dream" is the first track on Smith's debut cd "For Lovers, Dreamers & Me". It's a sultry track and it's got a long slowness to it. I'm not a fan of ballads, so the fact that I'm hooked is a sign of a good thing. Smith knows just when to drag out a word and bend them in the most contorted ways. The way that "Dream" climaxes is astounding. It's not too overboard, but almost.

Check out Alice Smith's performance on "Ellen" last year.

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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Using the Loo ... Egyptian Style

I never thought I’d have so many points to make as it relates to the toilet and using one, but that time has arrived.

After being in Egypt for three weeks, I’m convinced that many Americans take going to the bathroom for granted. I can say that now, because some of the public restrooms in Egypt have been far from pleasant. It's truly a matter of knowing how to pick a decent public bathroom. It should be duly noted that in Egypt the bathroom is known as a Wash Closet or W.C.

There are several things that are peculiar about public wash closets in Egypt, at least from my American perspective. First, it is not a given that they will have toilet paper. I know that that could also be the case for many public restrooms in the states, but it is a mindset in Egypt. Women are known to check their purses before leaving home to make sure they have a purse-sized pack of Kleenex.

Second, if you do have toilet paper, you are not to toss it in the toilet bowl. The hotel in Sharm el Sheikh had some version of the ‘do not’ sign that indicated that you are not to toss paper in the toilet bowl. I took it to mean you are not to toss feminine products in the toilet bowl. But not even toilet paper should be flushed down the toilet. I have not gotten a full explanation on this one, just that the system is unable to handle a flood of toilet paper.

So what are you to do w/the toilet paper once you are done w/it? In most cases, no matter how scroungy the wash closet, there is a small waste can next to the toilet, and that is where you drop your used toilet paper. I know, I know. That’s a fine idea, if it’s just a ‘number one’, but things get a bit messy (pun intended) with the ‘number two’. At my apartment, the ‘number two’ paper goes down the toilet (until further notice). This is something that I will inquire about to see if there are repercussions for flushing too much toilet paper down the toilet.

The next thing that is unlike restrooms in the U.S. is that there is a hose next to the toilet. I’ve found a hose next to the toilet in nearly all toilets in Egypt even in the newly opened Bibliotheca Alexandrina Library in Alexandria as well as in the bathrooms in many apartments. What’s the hose for? Of course, I asked, but I don’t actually believe the response that I’ve been given. I’ve been told that the water from the hose is for washing your rear! Huh? Maybe it’s my ignorance or simply my American ways, but how can washing your butt be accomplished w/o paper products and w/o making a mess – of yourself and of the wash closet? I am still perplexed and thus refuse to believe that that is the proper use of the hose next to the toilet. If this is true, the Egyptians are practicing a brand of ‘Going Green’ that is not likely to catch on globally. Again, I need to pose that question to a more trustworthy Egyptian. Meanwhile, no shaking anyone's left hand ...

Two more interesting points about toilets in Egypt - some of them are square as opposed to oval shaped in the U.S. What more can I say about that one? And the flushing mechanism is usually on the top. Some times you have to push it in, others you have to pull it up. There's no handle on the side.

Lastly, though not so much unlike in the U.S. the wash closet often has an attendant. You are expected to give her at least 1-2 Egyptian pounds (LE) (one Egyptian pound equals 17 cents in the U.S.) She will usually give you a few sheets of toilet paper. I have never been fond of the ‘pay to pee’ concept, so I am not so happy that I have to carry change - ready and available - w/me in a moment of urgency.

And so I’ll leave you scratching your head (or your ass) w/this final point of Egyptian toilet tidbits… even the toilet paper here is different. I’ve been doing a bit of a test. The Kleenex brand seems to be much less coarse than the brand that was at my apartment when I moved it. Nice that I even had some when I moved in, right? Cottinelle and Charmin are not on the shelves of my local grocer and I’m okay w/that since I do have some options and I don’t merely have a hose next to my toilet waiting to be put to use.

Check out the video below ... it is hilarious.

Check out this blog for more on the squat toilet.

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Sunday, August 23, 2009

Music Monday 36 :: "I Ain't No Joke" by Eric B & Rakin

Eric B & Rakim "I Ain't No Joke" (1987)

What is not to like about "I Ain't No Joke" by Eric B & Rakim? How about Rakim letting his dj Eric B. take the lead and get some of the spotlight...? That was in 1987. Take note modern day suckas.

Love the way Eric B. filters that JB through the track. And at the bridge, Eric B just gives it to ya. And do I need to talk about Rakim's rhymes? His style? Rakim's got that swagger w/o being annoyingly bodacious. For real.

Did he just say "frenemy"?

Check out Eric B & Rakim's "I Ain't No Joke" video on YouTube.

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Climbing Mount Sinai, Egypt

I never thought that I'd climb Mount Sinai. But when the opportunity came up, I knew that I did not want to miss out on it.

What an adventure. I took hike w/one of my colleagues from The American University in Cairo along w/her sister and another of their friends.

We started out w/an hour flight to Sharm el Sheikh, a touristy city w/lots of coral reef. I'll do a separate blog post on that alone. We were at Sharm el Sheikh for a day and a half prior to our hike.

View the full screen version of the "Climbing Mount Sinai" slideshow.

The van for the two hour drive to St. Katherine's picked us up at the hotel at 11 p.m. With passports in hand, we started on our trip w/The Sister's Keepers: the trip organizer, the driver as well as a security guard.

We stopped after about an hour at a convenient store. It really was a smoke break for The Sister's Keepers and a bathroom break for us. The thing is, there was a charge to use the bathroom. It's only 2 Egyptian pounds, but still.

After five security check points, we arrived in St. Katherine's at about 2 a.m. and by 2:30 a.m. we were on the trail to Mount Sinai. Our bedouin, Sobhi, was super nice and spoke very good English. We learned that he's only been taking lessons for a month; that's impressive. We used a flashlight for a good portion of the hike and we stopped a few times just to look up at the sky and check out the constellations as well as the crescent moon.. It was gorgeous.

The path was wider than I thought it would be, but it was riddled w/camel poo. I'm not kidding. There were many offers for us to take a camel ride up. We declined opting to take every step for ourselves. The path was very rocky and sandy and occasionally someone would slip, though no one fell.

We made some friends on the way up ... there was a group of guys who ran past us and we asked where they were from ... they were from Togo and they were quiet boisterous. But soon enough, it was back to our own peaceful chatter.

We learned a lot about Sobhi: he's 20 and a Muslim, his father has two wives, he recently lost one of his sisters, his grandfather - in his 90s - knows about a great deal about astronomy. Sobhi also says he studies English from a British instructor three days a week and also studies about two hours a day on his own. He says he can't afford to go to college. We all really like Sobhi and gave him a really fat tip to show it. Not only that, we have his email address and cell phone number and plan to keep in touch w/him.

There are quite a few coffee shop on the path. They sell candy bars, coffee, tea, juices and what not. We took several breaks ... which might explain why it ended up taking is four hours to reach the top. We were doing a bit of clock watching and at one time I was uncertain if we would make it to the top before sunrise.

Climbing the 750 stairs to get to the top of Mount Sinai may have been the most difficult part for me. You can only get to the top by walking these stairs. The camels can go no further than the stairs. Needless to say, there was a lot of stoppage on the stairs.

But my, how breathtaking to get to the top and see that we did not miss the sunrise, but made it just in time. And it was soo serene up top even with so many people. The people began to come alive after the sun came up. It was quite the scene; so many nationalities but one thing in common - having climbed Mount Sinai. We took many of pictures w/our new found friends. Oh, and it was cool at the top. I'd say about 62 degrees or so. I was thankful that I'd carried my small blanket though I only used it for about 30 minutes total.

It's true that what goes up, must come down. And so the descend began. It started out fine, but soon it began to get warm and eventually, it was just flat out hot; something like 92 degrees. We ended up going at different paces on the way down. My friend, Gogo took off out front; I was about a mile behind her and the others even further behind me. There were groans about feet hurting and the heat and how much longer is it before we're done ... by about 10 a.m. we were all at the bottom and dreaming of laying out on the beach later in the day.

It was an invigorating trip and simply put, I plan to do it again.

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Thursday, August 13, 2009

A Visit to The American University in Cairo Main Campus

Can you image accepting a job in another country and you've never been there to visit? Well, that's exactly what I did w/my acceptance of a teaching position at The American University in Cairo (AUC) in Cairo, Egypt.

I stepped out on faith on this one. So far, I have few complaints because AUC really knows how to take care of their faculty and staff.

What's not to like about my teaching schedule for Fall: Sundays and Wednesdays and meetings on some Tuesdays. On Sundays and Wednesdays I have 10 a.m., 11 a.m and 2 p.m. courses. I'll probably do office hours on Sundays and Wednesdays and possibly on Tuesdays too.

Check out my recent slide show on my first visit to The American University in Cairo main campus:

Now, let me give you a bit of background on AUC. It's been around for a while; 90 years to be exact. Last year, they relocated from the historic campus in downtown Cairo to an all new campus that is about an hour from downtown. From what I've heard, the transition to the new campus was a bit bumpy.

The school does provides free shuttle service to new campus. There are lots of restaurants and food options on campus including a Cinnabon. But traveling to the new campus is like going to a resort. You'll need to have the following items:
  • sunscreen
  • sun hat
  • water
  • book or newspaper to read on the shuttle
And much like many American buildings, the air conditioning is at the freezing level ... so, I'll keep a sweater in my office if it gets too cold indoors. Oh, and I'm afraid of what happens during sand storms on the new campus since there's lots of open space ...

We also have a good amount of holidays both Muslim holidays and traditional Western holidays like Christmas.

That said ... enjoy the slide show! Thanks for stopping by.

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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

My Visit to the Giza Pyramids in Cairo, Egypt

So the site seeing in Cairo continues and it is wonderful.

On Saturday, August 8, we tried get up and out early - 8 a.m. - to head over to the Giza Pyramids. However, because of a pickup location snafu, we did not hit the road until around 9 a.m. We were trying to beat the heat and the crowds. The heat was not so bad ... but there were lots of folks there.

We also went to see the Sphinx. Incredible.

Just throwing out some highlights on this "Trip to the Giza Pyramids" slide show (click the link to see a full view of the slide show. The captions are in a larger font on the main slide show page).

Thanks for looking.

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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

More Pics from Day One in Cairo

Just getting around to editing and downloading pics from last week. It was a whirlwind.

Went to:
  • Step Pyramids
  • Egyptian Museum
  • The Bibliotheca Library of Alexandrina
  • Fort Quaitbey
  • The Catacombs of Alexandria
  • Pompey's Pillar
  • Giza Pyramids

Click here to see a full size view of the "Seeing the Sites in Cairo, Egypt" slide show.

We ate a numerous restaurants and every meal has been tasty. I've come to like a beverage called a lemon juice ... not quite lemonade and not quite just lemon and water; it's a little sweet and frothy. It is sometimes served w/fresh mint.

Well ... enjoy this set of pics, but know that there are more on the way.

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Sunday, August 09, 2009

Come Visit me in Cairo

Here's a Google Calendar w/dates on when I may or not be hosting visitors.

If the calendar says HOLIDAY, there's a good chance that I will not be around to host you while you are in Cairo.

I could still give you some suggestions on where to go and what to do while you are in Cairo.

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Saturday, August 08, 2009

Some Short Videos of Cairo, Egypt

Just going to post a quick video. It includes some short videos that I shot using my Canon A570 IS camera.

The video is a bit jumpy at times. That happened in the Picasa export process. I'll try to redo it, but you'll have something to check out in the mean time.

These are videos from the day I went to the Step Pyramids and also from that same evening.

You can view the Short Videos of Cairo, Egypt on Vimeo or watch below.

Short Videos of Cairo from ohradiogirl on Vimeo.

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Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Another Exciting Day in Cairo

I am posting a brief slide show ... I took waaay too many pics today: 155 and video too. Please note that the slideshow goes a bit fast. I can not adjust that. However, you can pause on each image to read the captions.

It was an early start by visiting the Step Pyramids and some others too. Climbing inside the one pyramid was exciting, but not so much once we got inside.

I think we tipped a thousand people today .. okay, maybe a hundred: our guide, the driver, the waitress at Euro Deli, the crazy smoking taxi driver, the woman manning the bathroom, and many more. Oh, well, such is life in Cairo.

We also went to the market. Very large, very dirty, but the architecture of some of the building is amazing. We managed to haggle w/a vendor and got a shirt for me for about $10. Oh, and I know my mom will not come to visit me here. There are cats in Cairo ... lots and lots of roaming cats and if you know me then you are wondering if I will be returning next week ...

The highlight of the day, for me at least, ended up being the traditional Egyptian dance performance: Al Tannoura. The music to accompany the dancers was very good ... upbeat and not just drums, but I'm not sure of the names of the instruments.

The dancers were fabulous and colorful! I plan to see more of that while I am here.

That is it for now ... though I did not post any pics from yesterday and I will definitely post some video because life in Cairo does not quite come across in a still image.

I will be M-I-A until Friday ... taking a day trip to Alexandria. It's about a two hour train ride north of Cairo on the coast of the Mediterranean. Going to hang out there and see the sites.

Thanks for stopping by ...

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Monday, August 03, 2009

My First Day in Cairo - The Details

I arrived in Cairo, Egypt on time at 2 a.m. on Monday, August 3, 2009.

This was after my eight hour layover in Amsterdam. I did get to see a bit of Amsterdam. My friend picked me up from the train station and showed me around. We also had a late lunch and went to an awesome exhibit at a museum.

Only problem was that I locked my camera w/my personal items at the airport and I did not have it w/me while I was in Amsterdam. That happens.

Chaos seems to be the rule of thumb in Cairo. We got off of the plan on the tarmack and a shuttle took us to the terminal. There I saw the gentleman who was assigned to pick us up. He was quite helpful in taking us through the process of obtaining a Visa, getting through Passport Control and then through Customs. All w/no problem ... just a long wait.

Then he gave me an envelope of money. My living stipend is supposed to last me until my first paycheck on October 1st. We'll see. Many things are expensive here. Like cellphones and a television ... yes, I have to have a television. I am a media junkie. I have to see what they watch and what not.

When I arrived at my apartment, it was probably after 3 a.m. One gentleman took me to my apartment and there was another gentleman inside the apartment to show me around.

The apartment is in a hostel. I had heard that before I arrived and I was a bit nervous. Not anymore. I like the apartment, but it is, indeed, also a dorm for students; faculty have several floors in the building. The benefit of being at the hostel:
  • security
  • laundry facilities on site
  • a television lounge and cafeteria in the lobby
  • a work out facility
  • and the best reason ... Internet access via Ethernet
The 2-bedroom apartment is huge. There are two full bathrooms, a full kitchen, a desk in each bedroom as well as a desk in the living space and a humongous terrace . Very nice as you can see from the pics.

I am very grateful that my university stocked the fridge w/plenty of water and provided me w/lots of other staples until I can get to the store.

Cairo is dirty. I would like to say as dirty as New York City, but it is worse. There is pollution as well. They drive wildly. There are a few traffic signals, but people do as they like. There are sidewalks, but most folks walk in the street because the sidewalks are likely to end in the most awkward place.

Shopping will not be a problem. I saw an H&W and Aldo Shoes on my ride from the airport. The grocery stores carry many American products both food and personal hygiene. They may cost more, but they are there. My friend assures me that the generic Corn Flakes taste like cardboard, so it may be best to go w/the brand.

There's a McDonald's and a Hardees and a Burger King and so much more that is also in the U.S. I have not tried the food at any of those places yet though. There is a Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf. I believe that tea is more popular here than coffee.

Sailing on the Nile was quite refreshing and relaxing and not very expensive. I am sure that I will take a few hours to go sailing more often.

The food at the Lebanese restaurant that we went to was quite nice. We had a variety of appetizers including Homous. I ordered grilled shrimp for an entree. I did eat a lot and I am happy to say that I did not get sick. Everyone has warned me about getting sick as my body gets used to the bacteria in this area. Keep your fingers crossed.

I could go on and on ... but I will save something for the next blog post. I am doing mostly touristy stuff this week. I shall see the pyramids before the week is out.

Thanks for taking the time to read my blog ... soooo appreciated.

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Music Monday 35 :: "Make Her Say" by Kid Cudi

Kid Cudi's "Make Her Say" (2009)

I am on the fence about this song. Actually, I think my actions dictate my position. I really like the music on Kid Cudi's "Make Her Say". But the back story is too much for me.

This song, though, is sooooo catchy that I like it and I sing the hook. That makes me not on the fence because if I wanted to make a stance, I would do that w/no wiggle room. But they got me.

What are your thoughts on this song?

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Saturday, August 01, 2009

My Natural Hair: Locs

A few weeks ago, I received an email from author Lori Johnson. She is so down-to-earth. She wrote "After the Dance". It is a very good book. the characters are well developed as is the storyline. Lori used to live in Cleveland where she was in a writing group w/two of my reading group members. So of course, when Lori got published we had to read her book. For that reading group meeting, Lori joined us via conference call. It was a wonderful discussion. Lori and I have been in touch w/one another since then.

Well, Lori is working on her second book "Natural Woman". I am a bit anxious, since I've read her first book. In preparation for "Natural Woman", Lori's is doing a series of profiles of women w/natural hair. I was fortunate enough to be one of those women profiled. Very cool.
I don't know how long the series will last, but it's been both insightful and resourceful in terms of what women are experiencing as they rock their natural hair and tips and information about natural hair.

Lori also tells me that there is a rather fruitful picking of natural hair groups on Facebook.

Make sure that you can get a complete look at the "Natural Women" series. You might still be able to get profiled for the series. Just send her an email. You'll find her contact info on her blog.

You can also check out a slide show of my natural hair.

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