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She Was Asking for It

Keep your shoulders and knees covered.  Don’t show cleavage.  Pull your hair back.  Look through people, not at them.  Don’t smile.  Don’t talk to men you don’t know.  Pull away quickly if a strange man attempts to touch you.  Never follow a shopkeeper to his “back room.”  Ignore insults.  Ignore winks, kissing noises, and the ubiquitous, “Hello, sweetheart”s.  Try not to go out alone.  Don’t encourage them.

I’ve heard various mash-ups of these snippets of wisdom several times over the course of my stay in the Middle East.  After living in Eastern Europe, it wasn’t anything new for me.  In Eastern Europe, however, it was quite easy for me to blend in.  Here, however, I stick out like a sore thumb.  My light brown hair that I leave uncovered and my pale skin act like neon signs blinking over me as I walk through a crowd, drawing stares and other forms of attention.  You all probably know this, but Western, particularly American women are branded as “loose” and “easy” in some places, and therefore are sometimes seen to be sort of public property.  Because of this stigma, I have been told, men feel emboldened to take liberties.

It’s strange–often, for long stretches of time in my day-to-day American life, I am able to forget that I’m a woman.  I’m able to forget that there are differences in gender and sex and I can believe that everyone is equal and everyone is respectful and everyone loves everyone else in a totally platonic way.

This isn’t true everywhere, obviously.  Last week in Istanbul, a close friend of mine was waiting for a bus in a well-populated, well-lit area when four men approached her, shouted insults at her, and then groped her.  My friend, a rape victim, was afraid to leave her room for the next several days.  Right outside of our dorm, groups of men would cruise by in the early evening, approaching the female students and attempting to coax them into their cars.  A few days before I left, as I was sitting on the bus, I noticed a man standing across from my seat trying to take pictures up my skirt with his phone.

Here in Amman, I stick out even more than in Istanbul.  As I walk down the street, the gazes of strangers burn holes into my back.  Men don’t glance, they stare, plundering my face, hair, and figure for the mysteries of the universe.  Shouts of, “Good morning, princess,” follow me down alleys.  Cabbies ask, in broken English, if I have a boyfriend, and, if not, if I would like one.

And I have had more than one person tell me, “Oh, that’s how it is here.  You’ll get used to it.  How were you dressed?  Did you make eye contact?  You shouldn’t encourage them.  Ignore it.”

…Really?  This is my fault?

The prevailing sentiment in this part of the world…No, let’s be honest, in most of the world, is that, by being female, I am asking for these attentions.  If I show a little skin, then I must want you to follow me home.  If I have a drink at a bar, I must want you to join me and chat me up.  If I am walking alone, I must want you to come put your arm around me.  Men the world over seem to have this idea that women the world over are aching for their attention.

Maybe I seem jaded, but as I grow older, I encounter this behavior more and more often.  I’ve seen it from men from across the cultural, religious, and socio-economic spectrum.  I’m starting to think it must be hardwired somewhere in every man, and that eventually, they all show their true nature.

Not all men act on this nature.  Certainly not.  But enough do that it makes me question the future of the human race.

This is a bit of a random, rambling post, and I apologize, especially after not blogging for a long time…I’m just frustrated and halfway tempted to buy a burqa, though I doubt that will solve any of my problems.  I’ll get to the non-complainy, interesting stuff eventually.

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The Land of Multiple Necessary Showers

Istanbul is a beautiful city with a long and fascinating history.  Straddling the fabled Bosphorus, Istanbul sits on both the continent of Asia and Europe, making it a truly international city.  Its beauty, wealth, and history easily capture the imagination, and the humble hospitality of the Turkish people makes all travelers feel at home.

Something the guidebooks won’t tell you, however, is that there are an alarming number of hills in this city.

In an attempt to make us kids see how good we had it, my dad used to tell us that as a child, he had to walk to school uphill both ways, hip-deep in snow, fighting off wolves with a rusty nail embedded in a two-by-four.

Upon further reflection, I realize the uphill both ways thing isn’t entirely outside the realm of possibility.

A couple of friends and I decided to head down to the waterfront for lunch one day.

Little did we realize the huge mistake we were making.

Interestingly, we met no one else on the walk back up.  Either the people who live around here had already beat us to the top, or there was some shuttle that we didn’t know about.  Silly tourists.

All I know is that when I get back, I’m going to have the largest calves in the history of calf-having.  I will also be the cleanest, because the combination of the constant humidity, killer heat, and general lack of AC has me showering twice a day.

Thanks, Ataturk.

I am missing Chi-Town tons at the moment.  At least there I have a fan and an air-conditioned school I can hide in; and I do not have a neighbor that plays the guitar at 4 in the morning and a troop of yowling stray cats that parades through the neighborhood every evening.  I can’t really tell which is worse.  Ah, Turkey.  You are so full of adventure.

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When Can I Start Calling It “Constantinople”?

So here I am in the glorious Orient, and I must say, I think I can finally understand Turkophiles, because

Dear God…

Each one seems to be better looking than the last.

 

There are thousands of gorgeous, olive-skinned, barrel-chested, bearded/mustachioed men everywhere here.  It’s like I stepped into a dream…the most beautiful dream I’ve ever had.  It’s often hard not to stop and stare at all the beautiful men I walk by on a daily basis.  I’m pretty sure staring is rude in this culture also.  Good grief.  Good.  Grief.  I need to invest in some darker sunglasses, or else I could really find myself in an embarrassing situation.  Good looks aside, I can never look at a Turkish man here without trying to imagine him like this:

Anyway, I’ll post stories and pictures eventually, but right now, I’m going to a kahvehane where I will sit at a table on the sidewalk and bask in the glow of the impossible beauty of the passersby.

 

 

 

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Notes on a Summer

Even though I have had ample time to myself these last several weeks, I still have been too lazy to blog.  I fear that soon this blog will devolve into a bullet list of the goings-on in the life a Chicago-based bagel, and the lists would get shorter and shorter over time until I just post a picture of some random thing once every three months…

What is wrong with me?

I guess I’ll just put it in a bullet list:

~One excuse for not blogging more is that the apartment of this bagel is currently internet-less.  My previous internet provider went out of business, or did a merger, or got eaten by Godzilla–I don’t know.  All I know is that they were shutting down my service and gifting me a $125 gift card to Best Buy, which I am OK with.  So I tried to sign up for a new service, and when I couldn’t get it to work, I took it as a sign and swore off home internet.  Crazy, you say?  Yes.  But I’m also going to be out of the country for the next few months, so paying upwards of $50/month for internet I’m not using sounded dumb.

~Another excuse is that I’m leaving the country for the next few months.  I’ve been doing a lot of planning and hostel booking and ticket buying and city-mapping, so I haven’t really had time to come up with something interesting to write about.  The current prospective plan is that I am leaving the 18th (tomorrow!) and I’ll be gone until the end of August.  During that time I’ll be here:

Istanbul

Amman

Larnaca/Nicosia

Athens

The best city in the world, Budapest

It’s going to be a veritable tour of the former Ottoman Empire.  I’m quite excited.  I’ll be going alone with a giant purple suitcase.  I might die.  Should be fun.

~Yet another reason for not posting is that I was drunk for several days in a row after classes let out.  After my last in-class exam, I went to the bar with a couple girlfriends and drank far too many cranberry and vodkas.  About halfway through my sixth drink, I checked my email and found the prompt for my very last exam.  Fairly simple question, 24 hour deadline….ten pages.  My drunk brain thought I had read it wrong, but I handed my phone around the table to make sure I had it right.  Upon confirmation, I lurched to my feet and drunkenly staggered to the library where I wrote the first half of the paper well in cups.  It was great.  Then I re-read it when I sobered up.  Yikes.  Drunk Bagel gets things done, but not well.  Oh, well.  Ended up with an A in the class, but it was an interesting road there.

~More reasons for not writing: There’s a hell of a lot to do in this city during the summer!  These were taken at the famous Chicago Blues Festival where I continued to drink and lounge in the grass while listening to some of the city’s greatest performers.

There were around 40 million people milling around there, a good measure of whom were stoned.  Good times.  I’m not really a blues fan, per se, but give me a cold beverage, a windy mild evening, and a patch of grass to sit on and I’m pretty much set for life.

Anyway, it’s been a pretty good summer in Chi-Town thus far.  I do love this city, and I’ll miss it while abroad.    The next time you hear from me, I’ll be writing to you from the city of Mehmet the Conqueror, the seat of the last caliphate, the great metropolis of the Holy Kebab.  Woohoo!

 

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Le Weekend

You may have heard that the NATO conference is in Chi-Town this weekend.

People haven’t exactly been taking it well.

This sort of thing is something university folks drool over.  My teacher actually came to class yesterday and proceeded to teach us how to say, “Down with the NATO Pact” in Arabic.  Bless him, he’s old and he has tenure.  He’s basically at the point in his life where he can do whatever he wants.  Honestly, I don’t much understand the politics surrounding NATO, because I don’t really care about anyone but myself.  But people here are taking it pretty seriously.  And the police have responded in force.  Apparently, I’m not allowed to ride the Metra with anything other than a small purse.  Also, large portions of Lake Shore Drive and the I-55 are shut down, making getting downtown quite difficult.

So, it turns out I’ll be stuck in the ‘hood most of this weekend.  Being a homebody, this isn’t too big of a thing, really, but I do need to get downtown soon to do some shopping.  I need a giant suitcase because

…apparently I’ll be living in Istanbul for the summer?  I know, it’s random.  I might have to change the name of this blog to, “When Can I Start Calling It Constantinople?”  I’m going to be learning Turkish at a university over there.  Might grow a moustache.  Might marry a Turk.  Might get kidnapped.  Promises to be an interesting summer.

Anyway, I need to get downtown, but this does not seem like it’s going to happen this weekend.  Therefore, I’ll just hole up in the air-conditioned library, have some Five Guys, and catch up on some reading.

Oh, good. Something different.

 

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The Myth

OK.  I’m just going to get uppity and political for five minutes, and then I’ll return you to your regularly scheduled programming.

I recently read this article in the New York Times (which I of course read all the time, and not Regretsy or Failblog…), and a few things came to mind.

I have never, and will never, understand our society’s view on secondary education.  I always hear people saying, “A BA is the new new high school diploma,” “You can’t get anywhere without a college degree,” “You have some queso on your upper lip”–this last one is not really related to anything else, but it’s still important.  While it’s true that furthering your education is sometimes a great idea, it’s most certainly not for everyone.  The high school students of this nation are being lied to.  They are told that going to a really good school and getting a degree in Sociology or Mesopotamian Rope Ladder Construction is going to open doors for them.  This is patently untrue. Unemployment among recent grads in this country is as high as fifty percent.  Kids go straight from high school into college where they waffle around different majors for four or five years, finally graduating with a degree that’s barely worth the paper it’s printed on.  And all to add one more chump to the unemployment lines.  Thousands of dollars for useless degrees for nonexistent careers.  The decline of the trade school is probably one of the biggest calamities to occur in the American education system.  Instead of helping kids develop useful skills that would help them get jobs, we instead funnel them into institutions that are only interested in their money.

Now I’m going to get a little controversial, so buckle up and grab your rotten tomatoes.  This article pissed me off.  I wasn’t really pissed off at the banks or the credit card companies; I was pissed off at the idiot kids and their idiot parents who thought it was a good idea to borrow money in the first place.  I was not a privileged girl during undergrad.  My family was broke and so was I, but I was determined to go to college, because I, too, had been fed the dream that if I could just go to college, I could secure a great job right after I graduate.  So I researched.  I figured out every possible way I could get money for college.  I saved.  Finally, I was able to get enough money in grants from the government, enough scholarships, and enough jobs so that I was able to get through my relatively inexpensive college without any debt.  My grandmother always told me, “Neither a borrower nor a lender be.”  I don’t believe in spending money that isn’t yours; I am totally against credit cards and extremely against borrowing any money from a bank.  I, apparently, am in the minority.  Almost everyone around me at my current university and my last were swimming in debt.  $20,000, $50,000, $100,000–debt that kept getting bigger every year as they decided to explore a degree in Civil War Lit or that they needed to continue their education in grad school because Harvard offers an excellent MA in Applied Ceramics.  It doesn’t make sense.  First of all, the product offered isn’t worth the price.  Secondly, if you’re fiscally irresponsible, taking out loans at every turn and destroying every shred of financial credibility, who in the world would want to hire you?  Don’t they check on that sort of thing these days?

If this is not you, maybe reconsider taking out that loan. …Sometimes I do this when I’m alone, but it’s with quarters. Different effect. More pain.

The bottom line is that not everyone needs to or should go to college.  If you have a concrete idea of what you want to do with your life, save up, find the money, and work your ass off.  You’ll be a better person for it.  If you don’t, wait a few years or don’t go.  It’s not shameful to avoid paying thousands of dollars to have some pompous windbag to talk at you for two hours a day, three days a week–six years later, I should know.

Crazy cat lady is an MBA.  Think about it.

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He Said, She Said

This bagel’s dad visited this weekend.  It was great.  The best part of his visit was the following:

Him (9:30pm, day before departure): Shouldn’t you call the taxi cab and make an appointment?

Me: It doesn’t really work that way.  You call, they come.  Pretty straight forward.

Him: Well, in Small Town, you need to make an appointment.

Me: That’s because Small Town has a grand total of four cabs.  Don’t worry, I’ll call in the morning.

Him (1:30am, a few hours before departure, wakes me from a deep sleep by poking me and shouting): I think you should call the taxi cab company and make an appointment.

Me: Mdnjfhjkn….

Him: You should, because maybe there won’t be any cabs at that hour.

Me: (Snoring).

Him (3:30am, half an hour before departure): Are you going to call and make an appointment with the taxi cab people?

Me: Maybe in fifteen minutes.

Him (3:33am, shouted through the door of the bathroom): I think you should call to make an appointment with the taxi cab.

Me: OK.

Him (3:35am): Did you do it?

Me: ….

Him: BAGEL.

Me: I will, right now.  OK, I just texted them.

Him: Are they coming?

Me (after receiving text):  Here we go….What?! Oh, no.

Him: What?  What’s wrong?

Me: They say they’re all booked up!  Dammit, we should have made an appointment!

Him: Really?!

Me: No.  They’ll be here in five minutes.

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