Archive by Author


10 Feb

Sorry for the delay. I brought the wrong camera cord to the hospital. Explains why I never pursued that career as a roadie.

Maa salama, Egypt!

10 Jun

Melissa has charged with summing up the end of our Egyptian adventure. Since I had charged her with singlehandedly buying a house, I think it’s a fair tradeoff.

Our time in Egypt ended as it began – strange and wonderful and foreign and familiar. Continue reading

And they’re off…

12 May

A quick update. Melissa and Finn left Cairo yesterday morning. It was an appropriate farewell scene — the university sent a smaller car than we expected, so it was kind of like trying to pack a clown car, and then there were men shouting and arguing a few feet away. We wouldn’t want Melissa to leave without one last Arab shouting match ringing in her ears.

Anyhow, they made it to the airport on time and got on the plane, and that’s when the fun began. Finn apparently squirmed and screamed for pretty much the entire 12 hour flight to New York. Fortunately the plane was full of several dozen Mormon grandparents just returning from a tour (and who better to sympathize with a young mother and crying baby than Mormon grandparents?), and on the other end of the aisle was an Egyptian woman who didn’t have kids but wanted them. So even if our prayers that Finn would be patient and still on the flight weren’t answered (dare I say that such a request would stretch even God’s powers?), the surrounding company seems to have been as understanding and supportive as possible.

Bottom line is that they’re back in the US of A, were picked up at O’Hare by our friends Kay and Stacy (pulling the midnight shift), and should be arriving in South Bend right about now. The househunting begins tomorrow!

(We’re still taking entries on Melissa’s last post. Reply now for a chance at a fabulous prize of Egyptian camels!)


We’re OK

22 Feb

There was a bombing at the Khan-el-Khalili tonight, with a few deaths and more wounded. Melissa, Finn, and I are safe and sound at home.

Strange Things are Afoot

15 Jan

I don’t know why, but one of the lines I’ve always remembered from the 1980s classic film Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure comes when they’re confronted with their own selves from the future (or past, I can’t remember the details of the rather intricate plot) in the parking lot of the local Circle K, and Ted says, “Strange things are afoot at the Circle K.” I sort of feel that way about the past couple nights in Cairo.

Melissa & I went out by ourselves the past two nights and had a couple of fun, and slightly strange, experiences. I think it was the first time we’ve been out alone two nights in a row since Finn was born (and who knows, it may be the last).
Continue reading

Some Thoughts on the Election

7 Nov

As Melissa mentioned, this past Wednesday I was invited to provide some post-election analysis at a lunch hosted by the US Ambassador at her residence for 50 Egyptian VIPs. It was quite an assemblage of A-list Egyptians — including leaders from government, business, media, civil society, etc. The event was running late, so I considered ditching my prepared remarks in the interest of time, but I went ahead with them anyhow, and am glad I did so. People paid rapt attention, and several asked if they could receive copies. The embassy staff gushed, and said they’d love to have me speak at other events. My speech wasn’t a masterpiece by any stretch — I wrote it from 7-10am after staying up all night watching election returns, and I don’t think it includes anything that other people haven’t already said — but I guess it beats what they usually hear from bureaucrats.

I’ve included my remarks below, for anyone who’s interested:
Continue reading

Election Day

4 Nov

Happy Election Day! I have to admit, it’s been kind of fun spending this year’s election season in Egypt. It’s interesting to get an international perspective on the elections, especially this year when the whole world seems so invested in what happens today. Although I do miss those incessant negative political ads on TV and being hounded by robocalls during dinner.

It’s going to be a long but fun night for Melissa and me. First we’re going to the Hard Rock Cafe for the US Embassy elections party — it starts at 9:30pm and goes until 9:00am. I don’t think we’ll quite make it all night, but we’ll go for a couple hours before coming home, catching a quick catnap, then getting up at 2:00am to start watching the results come in. For political nerds like us, this is like Christmas — especially when those packages in bright blue wrapping paper pop up — but it only comes every four years!

Through the American Studies Center, we organized a mock election on campus today. I figured it would be a fun way to get everyone on campus involved and excited about the elections — and to give those who aren’t American citizens the sense that they participated in some way. We set up a booth in the middle of campus, and, in the grand tradition of Chicago politics, bribed everyone who came and voted with drinks and candy bars. Given the almost unanimous support for Obama here in Egypt, the only suspense was how big he would win. There were 716 votes cast: 631 for Obama (88%), 69 for McCain (9.6%), and 16 other (2%). For some reason I think the real election today might be just a tad closer. We had a great time, the students were really excited, and we even had one of the big Egyptian TV stations send a camera crew, and we’re going to be on their 10:00 news show!

But by far the best part about the day came when I went back to the history department. One of the Egyptian departmental secretaries gushed about how much she loved the event. She said, “Dr. Mason, you have no idea how much I loved voting. Even though I know it didn’t count, and I don’t have any say in the American election, just having the opportunity to choose between different candidates made me feel valued and alive. We don’t get to do that in this country — you don’t know how lucky you are in America.”

If you read this before the polls close, and if you haven’t voted yet, please take the time to go out and exercise your right to vote. Even if you think your vote isn’t very important and doesn’t matter on a day when 130 million votes will be cast, think about my department secretary — and the other billions of people who live in countries without free elections — and do it for her, and for them.

If AUC goes bankrupt, do the desert rats inherit the new campus?

27 Oct

Apparently word of AUC’s fine mess is getting back to sources in the US. Here’s a link to an article from the Chronicle of Higher Education.

And when you’re done laughing about the desert rats, you can read the surprisingly good investigative reporting in the AUC student newspaper about how the university, in the fine tradition of other over-extended American institutions these days, is losing money hand-over-fist. From this point on, I’ll consider any paycheck I get a bonus.

Painting the town red

21 Oct

One of the classes I’m teaching this semester is on the Civil Rights Movement. I figured it was a good opportunity to give my students a little hands-on experience along with what they read in the books, so I incorporated a community-based learning project into the class. We got hooked up with an NGO working in one of the many slums in Cairo, and later in the semester my students are going to be teaching adult literacy classes for some of the women there, with the theme of educating them about some of their basic civil rights (sort of along the lines of the Freedom Schools in Mississippi in the 1960s). Continue reading

An Egyptian Holiday

4 Oct

– or – “Say, is that a monk on my arm?”

The past few days have been the Eid el-Fitr holiday, which marks the end of Ramadan (the holy month of fasting). I had Tuesday through Thursday off work, so we decided to get out of the city for a few days and do a little snorkeling. We recruited some of our new friends, the Heisses and Sharps, and set out for a fun three-day trip to Hurghada, a popular resort town on the Red Sea coast.

Instead, we had maybe our worst vacation experience ever. Continue reading