Archive for January, 2011

PARIS!

Monday, January 31st, 2011

I still can’t believe I have actually been to Paris, so surreal.  We were there from Thursday afternoon to Sunday morning and we spent all of our time sight seeing and eating.  It was amazing.  We started out with two museums, one of them being the Musee D’Orsey, which was really cool.  I’m not an art person but I still thought the art in there was beautiful and I wanted to see all of it.  On Thursday night we went on a ferris wheel ride that takes you high enough to see the entire city.  It was amazing to see that view at night when the city was all lit up.

On Friday and Saturday we saw the rest of the “must-see” sights.  The Eiffel Tower, the Jardin de Luxembourg, Le Louvre, Le Sacre Coeur, Notre Dame, Versailles…I might be forgetting something, but there was so much to see!  Taking pictures in front of the Eiffel Tower was really fun.   It was a bit chilly while we were there so on our way back to the metro we stopped at a stand to get some chocolate/nutella crepes. SO GOOD. When I saw the guy making them I was thinking that they didn’t look like anything special, I was so wrong.  So that was a perfect ending to our Eiffel Tower adventure.

The Cathedrals that were saw were mesmerizing.  I had no idea how extensive the Notre Dame was and I was amazed at how beautiful and detailed it is inside and out.  We saw the Sacre Coeur at nighttime and that was amazing.  It’s lit up and on top of a hill so at night it’s really really pretty. There isn’t as much to see on the inside like with Notre Dame, but there is a little town around it with shopping and restaurants everywhere so we walked around the town for awhile.

We all agreed that eating the food in Paris is a very important part of the experience so we made sure we didn’t miss out on that.  I had a lot of chocolate cake, the most delicious eclair, donuts, and of course crepes.  We also tried authentic french onion soup, and a sandwich called a croque monsieur, that is essentially ham and cheese.

We only had to pay for food and travel while were there because one of the girls we were traveling with has a friend that lives in Paris.  She graciously let us stay in her flat with her for free which saved us a good amount of money.  And she also told us that students studying in Europe get into all of the museums for free, so we did not have to pay at all to go to the museums.  We saw the Mona Lisa at Le Louvre for free, pretty good deal.

Basically I thought Paris was amazing and we saw all we could fit in in 3 days and ate as much as we possibly could, I would consider it a very successful trip.  The one thing that was a bit disappointing to me was that the gypsies aren’t dressed as you would picture a gypsy in your mind.  I thought they would be in ridiculous colorful dresses, jewelry everyone, but turns out they just look like normal women.  While we were on the train from the airport I heard a women whispering something behind me so I turned around and it was a women breast feeding a child saying “s’il vous plait” over and over again.  I was pretty much frozen and just staring at this baby that was attached to a breast right beside my face, and luckily our french hostess, Carole, told the women no so she walked away.  And that was my one and only experience with a gypsy.

The Sacre Coeur:

Notre Dame:

Eiffel Tower: (attempting to get a jumping picture)

Hall of Mirrors at the Versailles Castle

Nutella Crepe:

Is it just me,

Sunday, January 30th, 2011

or does this toilet have a very odd flusher?

There are two buttons.  One button does a light flush, I am assuming just for your urine.  The larger button does a heavier flush… for the other reason.  Strange, yet neat!

Also, don’t worry, I promise the toilet water was clean when I took this photo!  There is just hardly any water in the toilet, it’s so deep.

Maybe toilets are like this everywhere and I’m just a weirdo.

Finally…

Saturday, January 29th, 2011

After a four hour flight delay in LAX, I am finally in New Zealand!

I get to enjoy a three day layover here, then it’s back onto the place and a hop across the pond to Cairns.

I decided that my good friend Quackers (as pictured below) will be a main character in my travel photos.  At home, I am often called Ducky by some of my friends, and ducks are frequently associated with me.  Quackers is the cutest!

It’s time for a shower and a nap.  I will return later!

Almost.

Friday, January 28th, 2011

Well, I’m almost finished packing and then it’s off to the airport in Philly!

I really hope that this snow doesn’t mess up the flight schedules.  I kind of need to be on time.

Concern

Friday, January 28th, 2011

I am very concerned for the people protesting for their freedom, voices, and future in Egypt.

The internet has been cut off nation wide,  some landlines are down, Egypt’s interior ministry has said it will take “decisive measures” . I have know clue what the government will do, but it will be very violent, ending in unnecessary injuries and probably death, unless all protesters are too afraid to make it to the streets, but I find that unlikely. This moment has 30 years of build up behind it. Whatever happens, it will be very difficult for the events to be shared with the world.

In an article written for the NYT by Curt Hopkins, the following disconcerting words were  written.

“CNN’s Ben Wedeman commented, “No internet, no SMS, what is next? Mobile phones and land lines? So much for stability” and asked “Will #Egypt totally cut communications with the outside world?”

That depends, I think, on whether the idea now is to disrupt communications between groups of protesters or to lay a blackout curtain across Egypt to mask a total crackdown. As many as eight protesters, three in Cairo and five in Suez, have been killed, along with one policeman. I think if landlines and mobile go, the question must become, is the Egyptian government planning a wholesale massacre?”

Will the love of power over a country really be so much greater than the love of its citizens?

There are two ways to control a county, one through forceful coercion and the other through ideology. When a “democracy” needs to use violent force against its people, it needs to reevaluate its definition, intentions, and relation with its people. Their voice cannot be brushed aside.

AHHHHH!!!

Thursday, January 27th, 2011

I’m leaving tomorrow and I haven’t even finished packing yet.

Okay… so maybe I haven’t packed at all. ????

I JUST REALLY HATE PACKING, OKAY?

Winter, Be Gone

Thursday, January 27th, 2011

Driving last night in the thundersnow was AWFUL.  I drive a ’94 Camry and she is not well equipped for winter weather, to say the least.

According to the news channel, we got 9 inches; my mother and I disagree and say that we definitely got a foot.

It’s strange to think that after tomorrow I will be thrown into humid summer weather.  To be honest, I cannot wait to get away from this dreadful snow.  I hate driving in it, it ruins plans, and it’s just COLD.

I’m sure in a few days I will be missing it. ????

The Beginning.

Thursday, January 27th, 2011

So… on Friday afternoon at 4:00pm I will be leaving the airport in Philly and starting my journey abroad.  I’ll be flying to LAX, then to Auckland.

And to think I haven’t even packed yet.   Oops.

Because this is a travel blog, I’m going to be completely honest at all times.  For starters, not only am I excited beyond words about this trip, I am also terrified beyond belief.  I know that I can handle myself; I came to school at UMW completely alone and without friends.  I am mostly worried that if something happens at home I won’t be able to do anything about it.  I don’t want to lose touch with the people I love, even if I am gone for just 5 months.

I love my family and friends so much, and I hope this blog entertains you all. ????

<3 Gail

Newspaper Article

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

This was in the NYT. I really liked it since it explains a lot about the cause of the protest, who supports it, and where it may lead.

“Egypt’s Young Seize Role of Key Opposition to Mubarak

By DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK and MICHAEL SLACKMAN

For decades, Egypt’s authoritarian president, Hosni Mubarak, played a clever game with his political opponents.

He tolerated a tiny and toothless opposition of liberal intellectuals whose vain electoral campaigns created the facade of a democratic process. And he demonized the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood as a group of violent extremists who posed a threat that he used to justify his police state.

But this enduring and, many here say, all too comfortable relationship was upended this week by the emergence of an unpredictable third force, the leaderless tens of thousands of young Egyptians who turned out to demand an end to Mr. Mubarak’s 30-year rule.

Now the older opponents are rushing to catch up.

“It was the young people who took the initiative and set the date and decided to go,” Mohamed ElBaradei, the former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said Wednesday with some surprise during a telephone interview from his office in Vienna, shortly before rushing home to Cairo to join the revolt.

Dr. ElBaradei, a Nobel prize winner, has been the public face of an effort to reinvigorate and unite Egypt’s fractious and ineffective opposition since he plunged into his home country’s politics nearly a year ago, and he said the youth movement had accomplished that on its own. “Young people are impatient,” he said. “Frankly, I didn’t think the people were ready.”

But their readiness — tens of thousands have braved tear gas, rubber bullets and security police officers notorious for torture — has threatened to upstage or displace the traditional opposition groups.

Many of the tiny, legally recognized political parties — more than 20 in total, with scarcely a parlor full of grass-roots supporters among them — are leaping to embrace the new movement for change but lack credibility with the young people in the street.

Even the Muslim Brotherhood may have grown too protective of its own institutions and position to capitalize on the new youth movement, say some analysts and former members. The Brotherhood remains the organization in Egypt with the largest base of support outside the government, but it can no longer claim to be the only entity that can turn masses of people out into the streets.

“The Brotherhood is no longer the most effective player in the political arena,” said Emad Shahin, an Egyptian scholar now at the University of Notre Dame. “If you look at the Tunisian uprising, it’s a youth uprising. It is the youth that knows how to use the media, Internet, Facebook, so there are other players now.”

Dr. ElBaradei, for his part, has struggled for nearly a year to unite the opposition under his umbrella group, the National Association for Change. But some have mocked him as a globe-trotting dilettante who spends much of his time abroad instead of on the barricades.

He has said in interviews that he never presented himself as a political savior, and that Egyptians would have to make their own revolution. Now, he said, the youth movement “will give them the self-confidence they needed, to know that the change will happen through you and not through one person — you are the driving force.”

And Dr. ElBaradei argued that by upsetting the old relationship between Mr. Mubarak and the Brotherhood, the youth movement posed a new challenge to United States policy makers as well.

“For years,” he said, “the West has bought Mr. Mubarak’s demonization of the Muslim Brotherhood lock, stock and barrel, the idea that the only alternative here are these demons called the Muslim Brotherhood who are the equivalent of Al Qaeda.”

He added: “I am pretty sure that any freely and fairly elected government in Egypt will be a moderate one, but America is really pushing Egypt and pushing the whole Arab world into radicalization with this inept policy of supporting repression.”

The roots of the uprising that filled Egypt’s streets this week arguably stretch back to before the Tunisian revolt, which many protesters cited as the catalyst. Almost three years ago, on April 6, 2008, the Egyptian government crushed a strike by a group of textile workers in the industrial city of Mahalla, and in response a group of young activists who connected through Facebook and other social networking Web sites formed the April 6th Youth Movement in solidarity with the strikers.

Their early efforts to call a general strike were a bust. But over time their leaderless online network and others that sprung up around it — like the networks that helped propel the Tunisian revolution — were uniquely difficult for the Egyptian security police to pinpoint or wipe out. It was an online rallying cry for a show of opposition to tyranny, corruption and torture that brought so many to the streets on Tuesday and Wednesday, unexpectedly vaulting the online youth movement to the forefront as the most effective independent political force in Egypt.

“It would be criminal for any political party to claim credit for the mini-Intifada we had yesterday,” said Hossam el-Hamalawy, a blogger and activist.

Mr. Mubarak’s government, though, is so far sticking to a familiar script. Against all evidence, his interior minister immediately laid blame for Wednesday’s unrest at the foot of the government’s age-old foe, the Muslim Brotherhood.

This time, though, the Brotherhood disclaimed responsibility, saying it was only one part of Dr. ElBaradei’s umbrella group. “People took part in the protests in a spontaneous way, and there is no way to tell who belonged to what,” said Gamal Nassar, a media adviser for the Brotherhood, noting the near-total absence of any group’s signs or slogans, including the Brotherhood’s.

“Everyone is suffering from social problems, unemployment, inflation, corruption and oppression,” he said. “So what everyone is calling for is real change.”

The Brotherhood operates a large network of schools and charities that make up for the many failings of government social services. Some analysts charge that the institutional inertia may make the Brotherhood slow to rock the Egyptian ship of state.

“The Brotherhood has been very silent,” said Amr Hamzawy, research director at the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut. “It is not a movement that can benefit from what has been happening and get people out in the street.”

Nor, Dr. ElBaradei argued, does the Muslim Brotherhood merit the fear its name evokes in the West. Its membership embraces large numbers of professors, lawyers and other professionals as well as followers who benefit from its charities. It has not committed or condoned acts of violence since the uprising against the British-backed Egyptian monarchy six decades ago, and it has endorsed his call for a pluralistic civil democracy.

“They are a religiously conservative group, no question about it, but they also represent about 20 percent of the Egyptian people,” he said. “And how can you exclude 20 percent of the Egyptian people?”

Dr. ElBaradei, with his international prestige, is a difficult critic for Mr. Mubarak’s government to jail, harass or besmirch, as it has many of his predecessors. And Dr. ElBaradei eases concerns about Islamists by putting a secular, liberal and familiar face on the opposition.

But he has been increasingly outspoken in his criticism of the West. He was stunned, he said, by the reaction of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to the Egyptian protests. In a statement after Tuesday’s clashes, she urged restraint but described the Egyptian government as “stable” and “looking for ways to respond to the legitimate needs and interests of the Egyptian people.”

“ ‘Stability’ is a very pernicious word,” he said. “Stability at the expense of 30 years of martial law, rigged elections?” He added, “If they come later and say, as they did in Tunis, ‘We respect the will of the Tunisian people,’ it will be a little late in the day.”

Mona El-Naggar contributed reporting from Cairo.”

Tweets about Egypt Protest

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

Here are some recent tweets, found from #jan25, #25jan, and #Egypt. Things are looking really serious. I am praying for peace and safety in Egypt for all her people.

Also, when reading these, one needs to keep in mind that people can write anything they want, whether or not it is true. Also, these are mainly supporters so they are presenting a more narrow coverage and cannot really show the opinions of all of Egypt and the impact this will have on things and the big picture. Yet, they are still very revealing.

—–

General

–Please retweet to the world. We are being beaten up to death, arrested for expressing our point of views #Jan25 #Egypt #Mubarak #Cairo

–More and more people coming, people are expressing themselves. “NO MORE TORTURE NO MORE FEAR, TELL MUBARAK THE END IS NEAR” #25jan

–Aljazeera: Arrested protesters are being detained in secret camps and denied access to lawyers #Jan25 #Egypt

–Aljazeera corresp in #Cairo: #Egypt police preventing ppl from organizing funerals of their dead for fear of attracting crowds #Jan25

Mubarak’s regime outlawed protesting and has threatened to prosecute all demonstrators. This is Hillary Clinton’s ‘stability.’ #Egypt #Jan25

Friday Prayer

–Friday after-prayer protests could dwarf anything we’ve seen so far. #Jan25 #Egypt

–Reports that Friday prayers are banned, big mosques closed in central #Cairo to prevent protesters from gathering #Jan25 #Egypt @rassdwehda

–Can anyone Confirm that Friday prayers are banned, big mosques closed in central #Cairo to prevent gathering. #Jan25 #Egypt !!

Suez

– HELP, AT SUEZ THEY TOOK DOWN CELL PHONE OPERATORS, WE HAVE NO CELL PHONE COVERAGE.I BELIEVE THEY WILL PUNISH US #Suez #jan25 #25jan #egypt

–New VIDEO from #Suez. The burning building is the Al Arbeen police Head Quarters.http://youtu.be/ATY3Q81QW6A #Egypt #Jan25

Media and communication

–Guardian reporter beaten and arrested in Cairo: ‘People are being hauled out by police and beaten’ #news http://bit.ly/ffjc8k

– International media, #Suez is THE Egyptian #SidiBouzid! People are being massacred by police RIGHT NOW, we need coverage! #Jan25 #CNN #FB

– Al Jazeera correspondent says that even landlines in Suez are not working.. #egypt #jan25

Mubarak’s regime outlawed protesting and has threatened to prosecute all demonstrators. This is Hillary Clinton’s ‘stability.’ #Egypt #Jan25