Why, hello there, blog! Haven’t touched you in quite a while.

I live in Dubai, UAE, now. I am working in my first career-y job at a management consulting firm as an analyst. This is my apartment:

Maybe this will be the first of many more posts to come?

Israel-Palestine Conflict 102

Copied from “Knowledge News,” a daily email I used to get.  These three emails are copied from January 2009, and include really useful timelines.

The Roots of Arab-Israeli Rage, Part 1

Jerusalem under Ottoman Turk rule, 1860

We’ve surveyed Gaza. We’ve read the charter of Hamas. Now, it’s time to begin our 100-year timeline of the Arab-Israeli conflict, so you have the historical context you need to better understand the current fight.
In AD 70, the Romans crushed a Jewish revolt, sacked Jerusalem, and destroyed its sacred temple–the focal point of Jewish life. Jews were slaughtered, enslaved, or driven away. By 135, when another rebellion met with the same fate, no Jew could set foot in Jerusalem. The old city was rebuilt as a Greco-Roman one–complete with circus, amphitheater, and baths–and Judea was renamed Palestine.

When Rome turned Christian, Jerusalem followed suit, and churches went up around the sites holy to those in the faith. Pilgrims flocked in, and came for three centuries–until 638, when the city fell to a Muslim army from Arabia.

Muslims, too, held Jerusalem holy. Early on, they even faced toward it in prayer rather than Mecca. Within a century, the Dome of the Rock had been built on the site where Muhammad is said to have ascended into heaven, the Al-Aqsa Mosque had gone up next door, and Jerusalem had become an Arab and Muslim city. Except for a century or two of Crusader rule after 1099, Muslims held sway there almost continuously for more than a thousand years.

But then came Zionism, a 19th-century movement rooted in the idea that the Jewish people, dispersed and persecuted, deserved an autonomous home. That’s where the modern Arab-Israeli conflict–and our timeline history of it–begins.

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Israel-Palestine Conflict 101

Jordan borders Palestine and Israel to the West.  Though I don’t live in these countries, their politics are impossible to ignore.  I’ve read statistics stating that Jordan is comprised of anywhere from 60-75% of Palestinian refugees and their descendants.  In a sense, Jordan is a Palestinian state.  Queen Rania is Palestinian.  Jordan has interesting identity issues — the original inhabitants of Jordan, previously nomadic desert-dwelling Bedouin people, comprise a minority, while their Palestinian neighbors from the west make up a majority of the population and lead the economics of the country.  Amman, the capital, has mostly sprung up as a result of the influx of refugees from the foundation of Israel and the following wars.

With this in mind, I thought I’d share with the ten or so readers of this blog a great introduction to the issue I found on the web here.  I have copied the text below.  Read, learn, enjoy!

Queen Rania of Jordan

Queen Rania of Jordan -- considered one of the most powerful women in the world

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i’m on tour

don’t try this at home

Walking down the street, you might think it was Halloween, or that a United Nations meeting just let out. Around you people are donning the traditional garments of the Levant, the Gulf, North and Sub-Saharan Africa, Central Asia, and others I’m not even sure of. Really, like many Americans or Europeans that visit Jordan, they’re just tourists. And while they may have come to see Petra, or the Dead Sea, or well-preserved Roman ruins, the primary purpose of their trip is to visit hospitals, clinics, laboratories and private practices. And walking down this street hosting many of these destinations, I am among them.

Jordan is a new nation, and early on it recognized that unlike its neighbors, it had little to offer in the way of natural resources, so it began to invest heavily in education and national security. Its citizens are highly educated, English-speaking professionals who are leaders in the region for banking, IT, advertising, medicine and law. Jordan is also a secure nation from which the US safely administers its war in Iraq, and many regional corporations headquarter their operations in Amman. Continue reading

there’s so much more to know! and I’m on the road to find out. — cat stevens (aka yusef islam)

wait, is this thing real??

I shook the department head’s hand, grabbed my diploma, moved my tassel, sat down and smiled. Another of life’s rites of passage completed, and I wondered what the next would be.

Since as long as I can remember, I always looked forward to that next bit of freedom. A later bedtime, for instance, or losing my training wheels and the growing legs that pedaled harder, better, faster, stronger. Upon high school I dreamed in red convertibles, awaiting the day I could go anywhere, do anything, I believed. To Wisconsin! …if I wanted. I got my license and bought lottery tickets and alcohol on their appropriate birthdays. At each of these milestones, I had more responsibilities, but more control over my life. I relish growing up.

For Americans, after 21 our subsequent ages don’t really matter the same way anymore, but for me, I still had graduation to look forward to. Until then I was living on my parents’ bill. A dependent. Sure, my parents had always been very liberal with me. I took the driver’s seat and they sat in the back, ready to correct me if I got out of line, but they let me choose the path. I appreciated this, and this is all to say that while I may have remained a dependent, I had felt fully in control of my life for a long time. Continue reading

dead2red race

11pm Thursday March 4th, 2010: Matt B., friend from Wisconsin / Yemen, arrives safely to my apartment.  We begin a year of catching up.  I drink 3 cups of coffee and smoke about half a pack of cigarettes as I prepare.

2am Friday March 5th, 2010: Team Honeybags calls; they are waiting outside and ready.  I bounce around the car, overcaffeinated, until

3am: Huge hidden pothole on the road to the starting line at the Dead Sea explodes two of our tires.  I change one while three army officers amusedly observe the white guy in biking tights in the whee hours of the morning change that tire in no time flat.  Other team members flag down cars and ask if we can buy a spare, but to no avail.

3:30: Team Honeybags is jammed into a car driven by an employee of Bike Rush, our team sponsor, and another employee stays behind to “figure out the tire.”  We speed to the starting line, for if the team is not registered and does not begin with the rest of the participants, said team is disqualified.

4:00: With minutes to spare we register and start.

4:02: Despite shouting all the advice out the window we can, our first biker just can’t get the gears on the bike to work correctly.  From all the jostling on the ride over, something has come undone, and we begin the race like tortoises.   Poor Lydia is pedaling like crazy but only inching forward.  We stop to switch bikes.

The Next Twelve Hours: Dude used rocks to hammer the rim of the wheel back into shape, speeds forward to switch cars with us.  We are now 4 people in a roomy car and one on a bike instead of 5 in a tiny coupe and one on a bike.  We face packs of wild dogs jumping from the side of the road to chase the biker down.  We face a 2 hour sandstorm in which we barely pedal in place, cannot see, breathe, or stay optimistic.  We see teams around us cheating.  “I’m coming up on someone! I’m going to pass them!  Damnit, this is the fourth time I’ve passed them….” They put the bike in the back of their trucks and drive past us.  By the grace of God we reach Aqaba and think we are almost done, but they picked the most outlying hotel for the finish line.  Here is the final stretch, video by Regina:

(Most of the race was through the desert: sand dunes framed by distant mountains, nearby Bedouin villages, and the empty expanse of the soul.  The trees and traffic were quite the change in Aqaba after twelve hours of sandy monotony.)

We finished. 12 hours was the alloted time, we made it in 12:30. We finished. We didn't cheat.

rest my tired legs

One of my complains of Amman has been its lack of public space.  In Cairo, I couldn’t walk a city block without finding a cafe with chairs on the sidewalk, inviting you to sit down for tea and shisha, to read the newspaper, hang out, shoot the shit.  Damascus feels full of lots of tiny little coffee shops with character, and in Yemen, well, they just sit on the street.  In Amman it’s much more reserved, much more private, and its public spaces d0 not invite the passerby to stop and hang out, unless to purchase something.  Coffee shops and other cheap, relaxed atmospheres are harder to come by.  I think this is due to the fact that Amman is basically a new city, and mostly sprung up to accommodate housing for the floods of refugees that now call this place home.

Looks like developers here have noticed that as well, and have plans to change the urban landscape here.  Article below.

Downtown Amman -- from NYT

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