Tuesday, November 30, 2010

My elevated differences book review- I want to get married

She opened the door only to meet Mr. Not-Quite-Right, her technicolor suitor. His shirt was yellow, his pants were blue, and he was wearing purple socks with brown shoes—not to mention the green sweater. "Maybe he is fun and he likes colors", she told herself, in an attempt to convince herself to focus on his personality and brains. The official introduction happened when her father entered the room. "My name is Samy. I'm a physiotherapist," he said. She was impressed until he started rambling about his "imitation skills;" apparently, he could imitate every character in this world. He eventually stopped sharing his talent and asked if the television was working. He turned it on and proceeded to watch a football match. Ghada held in a laugh and tried to pretend that everything is normal, but when her mother criticized his favorite football team, hell broke loose and at the ancient age of twenty-eight, Ghada lost a potential husband. Not only that, she also lost her friend who was angry with her for not being compromising to a "perfect" groom.

I first came across I Want to Get Married! in 2009 and soon afterwards, the blog was turned into a book by a publishing house in Egypt. The blogger/writer is a young Egyptian woman who is a successful pharmacist, but in a country like Egypt, success is measured by your ability to attract a groom at a young age. "The clock starts ticking the day you graduate. Personally, I started feeling like a spinster after I turned twenty-three," Ghada wrote in the introduction to the book.

Currently, Ghada is thirty-two and is still unmarried. After she turned thirty, her family and friends narrowed down her husband wish-list to a man "with a heartbeat." After introducing her to numerous men, from the technicolor suitor to the paranoid policeman who was adamant to get her fingerprints for "research," they gave up on her.

In her book, she chronicles the at least thirty prospective grooms she was introduced to from the age of twenty-five. This is how it works: Someone nominates her to an eligible bachelor, and the bachelor brings his nuclear family to meet her and her family. If she feels something towards him, they start dating to get to know each other. Not only does Ghada hilariously document meeting the men; she also shares the struggles of young women in Egypt who face societal pressure to tie the knot.

Recent statistics state that there are at least nine million unmarried women in Egypt. Social scientists consider rising costs as the main reason to blame for the delayed age for marriage, and they even use the term "marriage crises" to describe the situation of late marriage in Egypt. Diane Singerman, a professor of Comparative Politics at American University, uses the term " wait-hood" to describe the marriage situation in Egypt. She states that women used to get married by seventeen or nineteen in the past and men were ready to get married around the same age or even at twenty-five. Currently, the average marriage age for men in Egypt is thirty-one. Singerman estimates the cost of marriage at eleven times the annual household expenditure per capita. As economic reasons make it hard for couples to marry, women take the brunt of this delay. Ghada is such an example, but she took advantage of the digital age and empowered herself by blogging about her situation. Not only has she established herself as a great social commentator, but she reached out to millions of unmarried women and helped them deal with the social stigma they face.

This Ramadan, after reading the book, I watched I Want to Get Married! as a TV series and today, I will also get the chance to read the book in English as well.

I Want to Get Married!: One Wannabe Bride's Misadventures with Handsome Houdinis, Technicolor Grooms, Morality Police, and Other Mr. Not-Quite-Rights

By Nora Eltahawy, Ghada Abdel Aal
University of Texas Press, Dar El Shorouk
The first suitor was a friend of a friend's husband. Along with his family, he came to Ghada's house. He was a doctor, she was told. Excited at the idea of finally meeting a potential husband, she washed the carpets, mopped the floor, scrubbed the stairs, and cleaned all the windows

350 in Sudan (posted many weeks later)

Yesterday, 10.10.10, was a special day in our lifetimes, we’ll only see 11.11.11 and 12.12.12. My Facebook was bombarded with people simply stating 10.10.10 in their statuses. Millions were celebrating this day, but a certain virtual organization specializing in environmental-campaigning has declared this day “special” a very long time ago!

350, an ongoing online international campaign to create momentum and formulate a movement of people demanding climate change justice and solutions by governments and through community work, has grown at an alarming rate over the last two years. This year, on the 10th of October 2010, millions of environmentally conscious people in 188 different countries organized more than 7300 events. Events attracted thousands around the world, hundreds were organizing in Vermont while 10 people got together in Khartoum to support the cause and state their pledges to combat climate change.

Why 350?

It started out as a walk against global warming in Vermont, a small state in the US, organized by environmental activist and writer, Bill McKibben. A Harvard graduate, McKibben is internationally known as a writer on climate change, alternative energy and the need for localized economies.

The organization’s name is based on a statement made by climate scientist James Hansen statement in winter 2008 when he declared that any atmospheric concentration of CO2 above 350 is unsafe. 350 is the safe upper limit, we are currently hovering at 390 ppm.

Recent environmental catastrophes (floods, increasing temperatures that have led to melting of Arctic glaciers, etc) have led many experts and scientists to conclude that at the current level, our planet and us are far from safe.

Last year, in October 2009, the organization was able to mobilize millions to create what the CNN called the ‘most widespread day of political action in the planet’s history’ with 5200 rallies and demonstrations in 181 countries. Foreign Policy took notice and called it “the largest global coordinated rally of any kind”.

What is happening?

Although the year 2010 has been anything but effective in the climate change battle, with the failure of COP15, 350 continues to mobilize supporters around the world.
10/10/10 was declared as “global work party”, individuals in different corners of the world planted trees, installed solar panels and participated in a number of environmentally conscious activities.

Why keep a notebook

I decided to do the unthinkable this weekend and unpack some old notebooks from dusty boxes in the family’s disorganized library. Some dated back to my freshmen year and contained notes about how to not get lost around campus. For some reason, I went to my advisor three times in September and checked out over 20 books on acting in October. I was obviously a nerd, I constantly raided the library for good books or old out-dated books. I also kept writing notes to myself about reading this partiular (READ: boring) book for my cultural anthropology class on the way to university. I never had the chance or will to finish it, but at least I tried. Everything seems like a lifetime away, but the notebook dates back to 2006.
I also managed to find old pocket-calendars. I spent much of my university years meeting professors, going to auditions and rehearsals and going to meetings. I was active in extra-curricular activities, hence, the need for 10 notebooks per semester to help keep me organized.
I also found my student-reporter notebook. I became a reporter for the student newspaper in Fall 2006. I walked around with this notebook (and another one, yet to be located) for about a year and a half. In the beginning, I used to use random pieces of paper, but my bag was already littered with scrappy pieces of paper. I decided to try being tidy and note things down on a notebook and it worked. I interviewed the facilities and services department about fire alarms (they kept going off for some reasons) on 2/11/2006. The interview obviously didn’t go very well, I didn’t write much down. I do remember the unbearable heat that day; maybe it just made me too lazy to write things down.
Towards the end of the notebook, I have pages and pages of notes on healthy living. I don’t recall reading them after writing them down. I do remember the amazing creamy (expensive) ice cream I was obsessed with in my sophomore year.
One note written by a friend warmed my heart. The person asked for money to get home. My reply was “sure” in bold. We were all poor students, but you we always helped each other out.
In December 2006, I wrote down “ I can’t wait to get home and watch tv”. I wonder if I had time to watch tv in December. Didn’t I have a paper to write?
In 2007, my handwriting didn’t get any better. It is almost embarrassing, but then again, I was a student reporter and students were always too busy to take their sweet time giving me their opinion. It usually took 5 seconds for them to speak. I had to document what they said, consequently, without became w/o and senior became sen.
In 2008, I wrote down “ Dark Star Safari by Paul Theroux”. I stopped using this notebook and I probably forgot about this book. I purchased it in January 2010 to my surprise.
It was a great weekend. I really enjoyed going through a number of notebooks.
They represent memorabilia for me. I don’t have a lot of pictures, but I have notes and notebooks. Memories are written down. I have letters from friends, random notes sent during class, notes in bold reminding me to write, finish or edit papers, one-liners about how university is evil and a certain professor needs to be nicer.