For Egypt

Tomorrow I’m going to wear my ankh necklace, in the honor of the people of Egypt. I’m going to wear it, even though I often get mistaken for a Christian when I wear it (because it looks like a cross, even though it is covered in heiroglyphs).

Like everyone else, I am watching and hoping for the people of Egypt. I have old friends there, sisters, and I wonder if they have joined the protests. I wonder what they think. I wonder what their father, who lives here in the U.S, is thinking.

Now, this will all end in one of three ways:

1. Mubarak will ultimately step down and be replaced by someone, perhaps al-Baradei, who will slowly transition Egypt into a democratic state.

2. Mubarak will ultimately step down and be replaced by the Muslim Brotherhood, in which case, Egypt will transition into a theocracy reminiscent of Iran’s Islamic Revolution of 1979.

3. Mubarak will hold on, ultimately crush the protests, and things will go back to the way they were.

One quick caveat I would like to add: everyone seems to love theorizing on how the outcome of Egypt will affect Israel. I’ve heard people say that if the Muslim Brotherhood comes to power, they will revoke the peace treaty, and we will return to a permanent state of war.

Here’s my problem with that: though it is possible, and maybe even probable, the millions of dollars that Egypt receives in aid money from the United States (second only to the amount that Israel receives) was contingent on that peace treaty. Sadat held it up as the compromise that he was willing to make in order to get that aid money.

Should the Muslim Brotherhood take over, Egypt would likely lose that aid. Given that one of the central issues for the current protesters is the lack of jobs and thus, decent lives, I think that the loss of that aid will be a hard sell to the Egyptian public…

 

 

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The Interview

I was a good girl. I got up at 8. I went to the gym. I came home, showered, got dressed and left early to make sure that I made it to the interview on time. I sat in a Starbucks to keep warm for the 1.5 hours between getting off the train and getting to the interview.

The first problem involved the stairs. See, I don’t like elevators. I don’t like the whole tiny, windowless moving box thing. I’m not very good at flying, either. However, I know that I might suffer serious psychological damage if I ever got stuck in an elevator…especially if I got stuck in an elevator alone. So I avoid elevators. I was perfectly happy to walk up to the 6th floor. I’m 28, I’m strong, I can walk (and run, and dance!) in heels, so why not?

Except that the doors to each floor are locked from the stairwell. You can walk DOWN to the first floor, but not up to any other floor. I found this out AFTER the desk attendant in the lobby went up the company and got their receptionist to come downstairs for me. I thought I was just getting a key to the 6th floor door. If I had known THAT was the plan, I would just have darted into an elevator with other people. I explained this to the receptionist, and I hope that she didn’t tell anyone else.

I’m kind of paranoid. I’m sure that people are always looking for ways to discriminate against other people. I was sure that any little thing that I did during this interview would disqualify me. Never mind education. Never mind languages. Never mind ability. Someone who is shy and nervous around people will never succeed because to be shy is un-American. Americans must be confident and aggressive to succeed. Most people can do confidence for themselves, but I cannot. I need to see proof from other people that I deserve it.

So I did the interview. I answered the questions as best I could, but I don’t know if they believed me. I took the test and it was easy. But I was nervous. I was playing with my ring and with my scarf and I kept one arm across my chest most of the time (for fear that the scarf would part and the fact that my top was fairly low-cut would not show). They asked me questions about professional experiences and since I have none, I had to answer as best I could. They asked a lot of questions about interpersonal communications. Ummm….I can handle people. I can. I’m just a loner type. A loner type that is hurt by most things that people say and do. A loner type that has no personal support.

They’re interviewing until next week. If they want to see me again, they’ll call for a second interview. That means that there is competition. This is a very bad sign. I don’t win competitions. I don’t get chosen over other people.

Beauty and That Whole “Professional” Thing

I have a job interview on Tuesday. Like many other women before me, I used that job interview as an excuse to go clothes shopping.

That’s where everything went to hell.

I don’t love the whole “professional attire” thing. I like the look well enough, but professional clothing only looks good on skinny women. Those professional pants and skirts are made out of material that does not flatter women (like me) with fat hips. Besides, I’m low-key; I prefer to be in jeans and a T-shirt or a hippie skirt and a cami.

I spent three hours at the local mall this afternoon, looking for 2 simple items: a top and a black skirt or pants.

I went into every store that sells womens’ clothing, even the most expensive, way-out-of-my-budget stores like The Limited and Ann Taylor Loft. In the end, I ended up with a top that I like well enough from New York & Company. Normally, this is my favorite store, but their current stock was disappointing. I tried on multiple pairs of pants, skirts and tops until I found this, which – mind you – I’m not crazy in love with. But it fits well enough, it doesn’t make my upper body look fat and it’s blue: my best color.

The problem with professional pants and skirts is that they are cut incredibly thin, with rigid, unyielding material and very straight lines. I’m 5’1″ and have hips, therefore any pants that fit my hips are several inches too long, and I don’t have time for alterations. Straight lines and unyielding material, given my hip size, are not particularly flattering.

Eventually, I ended up with that top and, after hours of searching elsewhere, found myself back at New York & Company, buying a pair of pants that don’t make me look too fat but are made out of stretchy, almost-sweatpant material. I don’t love them, but they were my last option.

Now, as for the top and the pants together…I hate them. I hate them, but given my size, I have no other choices. I was seriously hoping to go into this interview thrilled with how I looked and, therefore, confident.┬áBefore you lecture me on the validity of that last statement, let me just say that any woman who claims to love her body is lying to you. We say it because it sounds good, but it is never true. Even the skinniest women hate something about their bodies. This is just how it is.

Barring some miracle occurring tomorrow, however, this interview is not going to be what I hoped for it to be.

The “Ugly American” Thing

I was listening to the latest Paul & Storm podcast a few minutes ago. Apparently, the only complaint from a large number of people who went on the JoCo Cruise was from Jamaica. Apparently, when they got off the ship, there were a lot of people standing around trying to sell things or offer tour guide services.

Obviously, a lot of you people have spent too much time in the United States. Get out of the country, and you’ll see that this kind of thing happens in a lot of other parts of the world. I got a lot of this every time I went wandering through Jerusalem’s Old City, which is my favorite place on Earth. I also got a lot of it in Cairo and a lot of it, surprisingly, at the Western Wall.

I guess that my point is that when you leave the country, you can’t expect everywhere you go to be a copy of the United States. Ok, being hounded by sellers may not be fun, but no one is forcing you to buy from them. Accept that you are not in the United States. Take the experience for what it is. Take the place for what it is.

I’ll give you an example: Israel’s bureaucracy is a mess. It’s huge and it’s so inefficient that you will often find yourself being told to run back and forth and back and forth from office to office on different days just to get something seemingly very simple done. But I never let this bother me terribly because a) I knew about this beforehand and b) it’s just a part of what Israel is like. It’s a part of the experience. There is a lot more to Israel that is astounding and warm and beautiful that something like that just kind of slides off. It can even be charming, in a way.

I can’t stand when Americans go overseas and the can’t cope with those small differences. I really can’t.

And then I heard that some of the cruisers actually took these potential tour guides up on their offers…

Yeah, definitely too much time in the United States.

Coffee & Anxiety

I think that I mentioned previously that the mother of a high school friend had offered to help me get in touch with people in local companies.

Tomorrow morning I’m supposed to go to her home for coffee so we can get to know each other. I know that in the real world, this kind of thing probably happens often, but in my world, it is anxiety-producing.

I’m not very good with people.

I also know that in this kind of context, I have to pretend to be a happy and confident woman. I’m not this, either. Sometimes it upsets me that I have to pretend to be to make other happy. I always hoped that people would appreciate me, but I’m starting to realize that all that mushy, sappy idealistic stuff they teach you as a child is a lie.

Anyway, it’s snowing and there’s already around an inch of snow on the ground and it’s still coming down. So maybe I won’t be able to get out of my house tomorrow morning.

The Meeting with the Dance Studio

I was dreading it. I was really dreading it. I haven’t danced in 6-7 years and even then, I never really got past the bronze level (amateur ballroom dance is divided into levels of proficiency: bronze, silver, gold and novice). Thanks to my public ivy university’s rather out-of-the-way location and lack of access to decent training facilities, we had to make do with our more experienced dancers to train the newer dancers. Though I did hold leadership positions on the team, I was never a captain and never handled the training.

I walked into the studio with major reservations about this whole thing. I know that if I had to teach, I would have to do a lot of catch-up training myself. I wasn’t sure how to broach this subject with the studio’s manager, as I had initiated this whole thing by calling him.

It turned out that I didn’t really have to. I filled out an application and had a short conversation with him in which I emphasized my love of Latin dance and the depth of my appreciation of what Latin culture actually is. He seemed to understand and even appreciate that. Score one for me.

And then he informed me that they have had a long list of applicants and were sifting through them one by one and were slightly overwhelmed. I understood this; I think every employer, and even America’s colleges and universities, are increasingly in the position of having more and more applicants for a much smaller number of open spaces.

So it will take a couple of weeks to make those decisions, but if they call me, they will need part-time evening work on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays…ie. my Wednesday night Criminal Minds addiction – which I described simply as a pre-arranged commitment from 9 – 10 PM on Wednesdays – will not be a problem! AND I could work full-time during the days and perhaps make a little extra money DANCING at night. My gym trips would have to be at the break of dawn, but….I guess I could maybe manage that? My cousin hits the gym at 5:30 every morning. I guess I could do that, too?

There’s still the issue of being very rusty; I didn’t broach the subject today. If they call, I will have to decide how to handle it.

Hello

I’ve had a lot of blogs over the last 10 years or so; I started doing this blogging thing in college after my first (and last) heartbreak as a way of venting anger that no would actually be forced to listen to. I started on a site called Diary-X, which I believe no longer exists. Since then, I’ve gone from there to Livejournal, to Blogger, to having my very own domain, and then back to Blogger and WordPress several times. Every time, I eventually lose motivation because it seems that no one is interested.

This time, however, I have a new angle. You see, I am 28 years old. I live in the United States, hold two B.A.s and an M.A. and speak four languages (okay, really, three fluent languages and a fourth that I’m working on fluency in). I hold two citizenships, have traveled some, and have lived in the Middle East. My education is in Middle Eastern studies and Middle Eastern history. I am passionate about world cultures, languages, foreign affairs and womens’ issues.

And with all of this, I am unemployed and have been so for 14 months and counting. I have tried applying to several local retail outlets, to countless administrative assistant positions for which I am probably far overqualified, and for many positions that are actually in my field. I have tried applying part-time and I have tried applying for internships. Thus far, I have not had a single success.

I have an interview tomorrow with a major ballroom dance studio that needs instructors. Their Craigslist ad claimed “no previous experience required” and explained that they will train. I have not done ballroom dancing since college, mostly for lack of funds (dance is a wonderful but expensive hobby), but I am quite the Latin dancer. I’m very worried, though, because I don’t think that I’m qualified to teach and I’m very afraid that I am going to walk in and embarrass the hell out of myself tomorrow. I am afraid that my underqualification is going to be painfully obvious and that my interviewer is going to address me as if I were a petulant child who never should have tried to take up his time. But we’ll see.

The mother of a high school friend is trying to help and I appreciate her efforts very much, but it pains me to see that so many jobs out there seem not to want my skill set. It seems that if you do not have a background in a technical or business field, there is little out there for you that promises a fulfilling career with advancement prospects.

And there’s one more little problem: I am shy. Very shy. So shy that contact with unfamiliar people induces a kind of anxiety that is painful. Oh, I’m very good at connecting with people on the Internet, where there is sufficient distance for my taste, but I know that getting and holding a job will require face-to-face contact with people, and sometimes, with men. This is a daunting prospect for me.

Anyhow, I started this new blog, for the umpteenth time, in the hopes that people who might be facing similar situations find it and maybe share stories and encouragement and maybe, just maybe, suggestions and tactics.