Archive for October, 2010

Thucydides 2 – Plague

Friday, October 15th, 2010

According to Thucydides here are the symptoms of the plague that ravished Athens in the second year of the Peloponnesian War

  • A violent heat in the head
  • Redness and inflammation in the eyes
  • The inward parts (throat or tongue) become bloody and emit an unnatural and fetid breath
  • Follwed by sneezing and hoarseness
  • Upon reaching the stomach the person discharges of bile of “every kind named by physicians” followed by an “ineffectual retching…producing violent spasms
  • Externally no sign of fever, but the skin is “reddish, livid, and breaking out into small pustules and ulcers
  • Internal fever and “the miserable feeling of not being able to rest or sleep”
  • Patients usually succumb after seven to eight days, but if they last past that the sickness moves into “the bowels, inducing a violent ulceration there accompanied by severe diarrhea
  • If the patient doesn’t die after this point, the sickness settles in the “privy parts, the fingers, and the toes” which caused the patients to lose those extremities
  • Some surviving patients suffered from a loss of memory upon recovery

From this list it can be assumed that certain symptoms are related to each other based on where in the body the originate from. As such here is a list of related symptoms and the medical theory behind them

  • The Head: Fever, redness and inflammation in the eyes. Based on the fact that Thucydides lists these symptoms first and states explicitly later on that the illness first hits the head, it can be assumed that in Greek medical theory, illness begins with the head and then moves through the rest of the body from there. This theory is backed by the following quote which supports the idea that the head is where illness begins “Dejection which ensued when anyone felt himself sickening, for the despair into which they instantly fell took away their power of resistance, and left them much easier prey to the disorder”.
  • The Throat: Throat or tongue becoming bloody and emitting an “unnatural and fetid breath” followed by sneezing and hoarseness. The fact that the illness moves down from the head shows an understanding on the part of the Greek of an understanding of the connectedness within the body similar to that of the circulatory system in modern parlance. This particular theory can be applied to the rest of systems and will be brought up again later.
  • The Stomach: A discharge of “bile of every kind named by physicians” and an “ineffectual retching” and “violent spasms.” Death can occur after this stage. The external symptoms of the illness can also be said to be related to the stomach in that they seem to appear around the same time the illness has moved into the stomach. From this it can be assumed that in Greek medical theory the stomach and the skin are somehow related and, more importantly, that the stomach is the seat of life, as it were. The discharge of bile is particularly important to this theory in that it shows the connection between the life force and the biles that control life.
  • The Bowels and outer extremities: Diarrhea (in the bowels) and the loss of fingers and some cases eyes (outer extremities). While these two areas of the body and their symptoms aren’t connected in the way other symptoms were, the fact that the illness ends (either in survival or in death) at these points shows modern readers where the Greeks believed things went. It would make sense logically that in a system similar to the modern circulatory system, what goes through the bottom would either leave it through the bottom or through the loss of fingers, toes, or “privy parts.” While the Greeks may not have known about the circulatory system as modern readers do, the end point of the disease shows the beginnings of that theory.

Mark Ronson – Record Collection

Friday, October 15th, 2010

Instead of doing a proper review, I’m instead going to make a list of observations about the album. The fact that I’m doing this at all should be an indication about my opinion of the album in general (I think it’s quite ace for those who are slow on the pick up).

  • The album, including the instrumental breaks, is written almost entirely in minor keys. I wouldn’t call this a depressing album per se, but if you’re looking for songs in the major key, I would suggest picking up a copy of Mika’s latest, or nearly anything else.
  • While Nick Hodgson (aka the Kaiser Chief’s drummer and main creative force) is attributed with contributing to the song writing process on many of the tracks on Record Collection the only song where he is the head songwriter is “Record Collection” which oddly enough features Mark Ronson as MC and Simon Le Bon on vocals.
  • There are exactly three instrumental breaks during the album, which I believe is in a par with Ronson’s last album. This means that Ronson appreciates instrumental breaks almost as much as I do. Go Mark Ronson.
  • Boy George’s voice has changed substantially since the 80′s or I’m miss remembering his voice and he sounds exactly the same. I assume it’s the former though, what with all the smoking and drugs.
  • There is only one song on this album that I truly dislike, but I don’t dislike it to the point where I can’t even listen to it (see “My Interpretation” or “Song for Sunshine” both of the which I refuse to listen to.) This is impressive given how damn picky I can be.

My suggestion, make the effort to take a listen to this album. I’m fairly sure it’s going to be in this year’s top 10 for me.

Hefla ‘eid melaad!حفلة عيد ميلاد

Sunday, October 3rd, 2010

I recently went to a birthday party (حفلة عيد ميلاد) for one of my Egyptian friends here. Her party took place on a small  felucca on the Nile. It was really fun and I got to meet a lot of new people.  I was really glad that everything went well since things were looking a bit ominous before hand. On the taxi ride to the dock, we were engulfed in a brown haze and strong winds. Apparently a dust storm had decided to join us. It was the first one that I have seen and I was quite mesmerized by it. The cities lights were  glowing mysteriously and an edge of anticipation hung in the air.

Unfortunately, my enchantment began to ebb soon after we arrived at the river.  Sand flew into our eyes, stinging sharply as we waited for other guests to join us. We stood around squinting and rubbing our eyes, hoping the storm would die down soon.  Luckily things cleared up by the time we embarked the felucca. It was a small boat, entirely exposed to the elements with cushioned seats lining the sides and a table in the center adorned with syrupy sweet Egyptian treats. Neon lights stretched above us, washing us in a brightly colored glow. Music began to start soon after we left the shore. The first song was “Gasolina”, a raggaeton song in Spanish. Who would have thought? There were several other Spanish songs, but the majority were in Arabic. For the next hour or so we sat and talked, danced to a wide array of music, gazed at city lights, and ate.  The Egyptians sang many songs to clapping and table tapping. These were not commercial songs, but folk or childhood songs that everyone knew. Since they were all in Arabic I could not understand or sing along, but just to clapping along with them and listening was fun. Inshallah, some day I will learn get to learn these songs. I asked about the meanings of some. Some are nonsense, others are about people, and there are even ones about cities. I was told that each city in Egypt has its own song. Since the people present were from all over Egypt songs about their hometowns were sung. Each city has its own accent so when they sang a song from a different city they tried to mimic its accent. At the end of the ride it was time to pay for the boat. There was a bit of disagreement since the guy that arranged the boat ride was German and so was given a foreigners’ price. However, since there were only three of us foreigners there and many more Egyptians, the Egyptians were upset over the cost and felt that we were being ripped off. Even though it was only a matter of about ten U.S. dollars, it was the principle that mattered to them. Somehow everything was straightened out and we set out in good spirits. It was then time to head back to the dorms. Half of us wanted to walk and the other half wanted a taxi, so we split up. I decided to walk back. The forty minute walk back flew by since I was engaged in a really interesting conversation with another girl for the entire trip journey. We discussed almost every topic, touching on religion, school, politics, and society. Sometimes it is hard to believe that I am here, experiencing so many new things and meeting so many new people with their own stories and perspectives that I can learn from.

!مساء الخير

Side note: Thanks to Arabic being written from right to left, the “!” in the title works for both the words in the Roman script and the Arabic ones!

Slow Going

Sunday, October 3rd, 2010

So the past week or so has been pretty quiet. I have been working like crazy here – I swear that I have done more homework here than I have my entire college career. The person who told me this school was easy lied to my face…a big fat lie. I was informed about a week ago that this school is considered the Harvard of Egypt as it is the best college in the entire country.

I did not sign up for that.
School is getting in the way of my vacation. (Just kidding)

However, I did do something pretty amazing last weekend.I got my Open Water Diver certificate. YES!! I am now able to dive 18m deep in the ocean or sea or which ever I so choose. We travelled to Hurghada where we went diving in the Red Sea. I was able to PET a Moray Eel. I PET AN EEL!!!! How many people are able to say that?

I find that while I am here I am trying things that I never really would have while sitting at home. Petting an eel, playing tic tac toe at the bottom of the ocean and dancing with a clown fish were never things I thought I would be able to do. And yet I have done them and it felt as though it was no big deal…crazy.

The weekend that just passed was supposed to be a big adventure. We were going to travel to Nuweiba and climb Mt Sinai. Now, climbing a mountain is on my bucket list so I was ALL about this. However, there was a sand storm which caused the school to cancel our trip. I should not have been surprised, since this is after all Egypt and nothing happens when its supposed to, but I was shocked and pissed off to say the least. I had cleared my entire weekend to be off scaling mountains and tanning on the beach only to have that shattered and left with nothing (that is nothing in the terms of plans).

Ecuadorian Political Crisis…an observer´s perspective

Friday, October 1st, 2010

Hello all!!

By now, you have all heard about the “situation” I found myself in yesterday…the military and police in Quito revolting in all.

So: Here´s how my day went….

Started out absolutely great.  Thursdays I basically teach all day, so I was in with the kindergarteners. And, for once, it was really great. They were responsive, learning, having fun, and I wasn´t stressed out of my mind. Also, it was sunny and beautiful outside.

Then…recess happened. One of the teachers pulled my aside and said, sweetly “the police and military have taken control of the airports and highways and have tried to kill the president. We may have to evacuate the school.”Which was a lovely aside to get in the middle of the day…as you may imagine.

Then, I went on break because another teacher had my kids. So, I went to the library to find out just what was going on, because people were wayyy too busy and running around to tell me anything. THere, I ran into Lewis (my Australian colleague) who was working. In an amusing moment to the day, he asked me to call DHL to check on his girlfriend´s international package to see if he could pick it up that afternoon (because I speak spanish and he doesn´t). I was like….”Lewis…do you have any idea of what is going on??” He didn´t, so i told him and was like, “I´ll check on your package…but you prob. won’t be able to pick it up today”.

Then, returned to my class. In a way that was very reminiscent of 9/11, when I got back to the preschool yard the teachers were all running around half panicked trying to get in contact with loved ones because the situation was escalating and no one was sure what was going on since our school is in the middle of no where Calderon. We just couldn´t conduct classes because we were preparing to evacuate the school and parents were arriving. So, we just gave the kids busy work as people tried to get in contact with other people.

My colleague eventually got in contact with her sons who work in the government after several tries, and they were like “we can’t leave our building or talk, there are men with guns barricading us inside”, so we knew the situation was getting worse, especially as we got news that it was taking two and a half hours to get from inside quito to calderon (normally max 40 mins). Then, the hoard of parents descended on the school, sending it into organized chaos because no one could write down the names of students and track them down fast enough. We ended up running out of the official dissmissal slips very quickly, and they were writting permissions on pieces of scrap paper. Teachers and staff were running around everywhere trying to get students.

Of course, I had my own class. Who, as they are all 5, needed to be kept calm and not scared. Which meant keeping the door closed and them in their seats and not allowing them out into the chaos. Difficult, when several of them have to peel and they just was recess. It definitely dawned on them when students started being pulled out of class, and they all picked up the panicked and scared vibe from the teacher. Eventually, in the entire preschool, a few kids caved and started crying. But we got them calmed down.

Through this, I was worried about getting home because I live on the opposite end of the airport, which, according to reports, was under seige, and I didn´t want to get in the middle of it. When the teacher´s bus finally arrived, I and everyone else was told by our supervisors that we were to get on the bus or risk not being able to get back at all. That, and we were all told that we were to get home and stay there, not to leave at all.

So, worried and a little panicked, we all got onto the teacher´s bus to leave. The driver turned the radio on to the news and took a completely different route initially. So, we were listening to the news broadcast saying that the president was being held in the hospital by police, who were threatening over the radio to kill him if he didn´t give in to their demands. This, while we were watching the street.The road going in to Quito proper was basically empty. Coming out was a different matter all together. It was a complete traffic jam. There was also a small exodus of people trying to walk out of the city. However, we saw nothing that was being described on the news: no fires, no violence, no protest…just an evacuation. Actually, otherwise, most people seemed to be going about their lives.

Then, we passed the airport…..and, nothing. It was highly anticlimactic. We didn´t see any vehicles or signs that anything was wrong other than the eerie fact that all the planes were grounded and there was no one there. It just appeared to be empty.

The bus dropped me off at my stop, right next to the northern most troley station. And…nothing again. It was, to me, weird. People were just going about their lives. The troley and buses were all still running and everyone was very calm. Outside and within my appartment complex, there were kids playing outside and riding their bikes. The only sign that there was a extreme political crisis underway was that almost every store was closed (for fear of looters).

Still. I locked myself in my apartment for the night and forseeable future and turned on the news. WHich was, of course, uninformative and horrendous. The thing about Ecua news is this: It{s aweful. It´s state sponsored/run. Which means, of course, you need to be very very skeptical of anything it says. The only thing on the news was the crisis, of course, discussing the violence and that the president had been kidnapped and was being held at the hospital. Then, almost all that they would show was the pro-Corea/government rallys in front of the presidential palace and the rally in front of the hospital with smoke coming out of it. With no real information. CNN en Español was better, except that it played everything as if the world was coming to an end. So, information was limited. The news tidbit I found most amusing was that a rescue mission for Correa had been planned, but that he hadn´t signed off on it yet. I was like, really, you are the one signing YOUR OWN rescue, from INSIDE the place you’re being held hostage. You’re able to do that???? Those have to be the most inept hostage takers ever, if you can actively plan your escape IN FRONT OF THEM. So….grain of salt.

I spent the evening watching the news and trying to reassure the fam back home that i was in a safe place with no plans to get out. When one of my roomates got home, we talked about what he’d seen before he ran off to the mountains till things calmed down. After he had left school, he went to the center to see what was happening, and witnessed the violence. When he saw people being beaten for trying to take pictures near the demonstrations, he got smart and made plans to leave the city with some friends.

Late, I watched the “rescue” of Correa on EcuaTV. It was quite the spectacular. The images were frightening, men with guns, and reporters talking about bombs and gunshots and the absolute gun battle. And it was a gun battle, people died and were wounded. But it felt…off. But again, that’s my skepticism of state-sponsored tv which has full blown 15minute pro-government propaganda infomercials playing every day. Then, I watched Correa´s victory speech from the presidential palace and went to bed.

So, you would think that after a day full of protests, burning tires, violence, police/military take overs, border closures, presidential kidnapping/rescue, and emergency heads of state meetings that the day after would be…chaotic. Yeah…no. Life as normal just about. Basically, people going about their lives as if nothing happened…because, it just happens every few years. I called the embassy like a good girl this morning, and they seemed thoroughly bored by the entire situation and were basically like “yeah, you´re fine. The city is perfectly fine and safe now.” I was like…seriously?? After all that, going on until practically midnight. You’re telling me that by 9am the next day it´s all good…and, yes, it is.

So, one day, police and military strike (and it was a strike, not a coup. Coup was not even really part of it until after the media said it). Next day…yeah, whatever.

I love this continent.

So, we´ll just have to see how the consequences unfold.
And, hey, i got a vacation day.

Next time: talking about the adventures of teaching kinder.

Ein Sokhna and St. Antony

Friday, October 1st, 2010

Last  weekend I went on a weekend trip with some other students to Ein Sokhna and St. Antony by the Red Sea. It was wonderful and relaxing after an exhausting week.

First, we went to St. Antony which is the oldest active monastery in the world. It is located in the middle of nowhere by a short dusty mountain. We drove for at least 30 minutes without seeing another building or sign of life. There was only brown sand. A few minutes after arrival, we got a tour from one of the monks. I was quite amused by the fact that he seemed very stylish in his sunglasses. He told us that the monastery was built like a fortress because it had to defend itself from Bedouin attacks throughout the ages.  It is a self-sustaining community with gardens, a mill, a spring, and other life necessities. Our guide showed us their spring and sole source of water.  We were told that it was a miracle. No one knows its origin. Scientist would claim that it comes from the mountain top from melted snow or collected rainwater, however, there is neither snow on the mountain top nor does it rain here in any significant quantity. I got to drink some of this miraculous water. It was not bad, but I could not really get a good taste.  My tasting abilities were hampered because just minutes before I tried some of their bread and the its flavor stayed in my mouth. The bread was moist and yummy. What I loved the most about the monastery was the painting in the churches. I really like the Coptic artistic style, which is simple, beautiful, and clean.

St. Antony's Monastery

Faucet providing water from the spring.

Coptic painting on the archway of a church doorway.

After the monastery we headed off to Ein Sokhna, which is a resort town off the Red Sea. On the way there, we passed a GIANT wind farm. The turbines were laid out for many, many kilometers. I think it is the Zafarana Wind Farm, which stretches for more than 250 km. It was very impressive and very important for Egypt’s future and development. I shall discuss energy and the likes in another post.

A small portion of a giant wind farm.

The hotel we stayed at in Ein Sokhna was very nice. It had three pools, spacious rooms, and a private beach. When we arrived, the tide was out so we could walk for about 3 minutes straight into the water and it would not be deeper than our knees. People saw starfish, sand dollars, crabs and fish through the clear, blue water. I did not make it out that far though and just saw a dead crab and a decomposing fish… I went swimming in it the next day when the tide was in. It is so salty that I could float on my back without moving my arms or legs.

Our hotel was chosen because its private beach would allow us to wear our liberal and scandalous Western style swimsuits. Regardless, I still felt kind of strange, for there were many conservative women in attendance. One thing that surprised me the most was the number of niqabee women there. The niqab is the clothing that women wear that cover up their entire body and face with only their eyes uncovered. There were not many people at the hotel to begin with, so seeing at least five women wearing the niqab was a bit shocking at first. I doubt that they went swimming, however, some less conservative Muslim women did. They wore black long sleeved, long legged swim suits, normally with a colorful western swimsuit layered on top.  The men wore a typical Western-style swimming shorts.

When I came back to the dorms later that evening I felt really relaxed and glad I was able to get away from the city for a bit.

View from my hotel room.

Sunset at Ein Sokhna.

!مع السلامة