Wednesday, November 30, 2005

wa(te)r, what is it good for?

So, a water main burst just outside our residence yesterday, which means that water was shut off to our building whilst the water company fixed it. We were assured that water would return "later today" and so we waited. We went to the branch of our campus 5 minutes down the street to use the washroom, shower, etc. And we waited. And the water never returned. Yes, from about 10 am yesterday morning until 8 am today, we were without water. I never really appreciated the importance of water until then. Yeah, of course, we're all told it's important and everything, but to actually have NO source of water for showering, tooth-brushing, drinking, doing dishes, etc. was really a rude awakening.

I think you've truly been living in London long enough when they tell you that water should be back in a few hours, and you start contemplating digging a well. The inordinately long time it took to get the water fixed got me thinking "This'd never happen in Canada" which got me thinking how different parts of the world would react to such a situation, here's what I came up with:

Germany: Residents would be provided with a precise time-frame for completion of the project. "eet vill be finish een precisely 37.398 minutes" and using German efficiency, it would be completed in precisely that period of time, no sooner, and no later.

France: The government would provide Perrier for everyone to use for their every need until the water returned. This may seem like a lot, but when you take into account the fact that the French don't bathe, it cuts the quantity down significantly.

Egypt: The workers tell you that "inshallah" (God-willing) the water will be back sometime soon, meaning that it'll never return, ever. You might as well start looking for a new apartment.

Canada: Paul Martin appoints a commission to investigate the cause of the water disruption and promises an election as soon as the report of the commission is published

Tuvalu: Running water? What's that?

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

The Prodigal Son Returns

Yes, Yes, I know, it's been ages, far too long, I am deeply sorry, please forgive me all you procrastinators who depend on my ramblings to kill 7 minutes of your day.

Needless to say, things here have been completely insane. No one told me grad school was going to be hard. So much work to do, so little time. I'm feeling a little overhwhelmed and intimidated to be honest, two feelings to which I'm not terribly accustomed. On the upside though, it means that I'm finally being challenged. After years of being able to skate by with a minimum of work, I'll actually have to apply myself *gasp!*

Well, I'm not even going to try to recount the events of the past while since my last post. I will just make a few general observations

1) Shopping in London has been a huge disappointment thus far, and it's not for want of trying. I've walked the length of Oxford Street several time and have only managed to buy 6 pairs of socks and a pair of pants which I've decided to return. Maybe I've actually just learned some self-restraint when it comes to clothing...stranger things have happened, right? right?!

2) Grad students drink. A lot. We like to turn up our noses at the undergrads we see in running around drunk, but really, we're no better. I think we just have more right to be drunk. We're older, wiser, and ostensibly under far more pressure. right? right?!

3) There is ALWAYS something going on in this city. One night we went to see a dance recital put on by a dance troupe comprised of youth from a Columbian ghetto who organized this dance ensemble to escape the violence, drugs, etc. which surrounded them. At the same time, just on the SOAS campus, in one building there was an Indo-Jazz fusion concert, and in another building, a concert of Sufi music. Speaking of Sufi music, I went to a concert organized by the London Symphony Orchestra of a Sufi ensemble from Aleppo Syria which was incredible. Equally incredible was the concert of Ladino Sephardic Jewish music which I attended this past weekend.

4) This is really just a continuation of #3, but in the short time I have been here, I've had the opportunity to attend lectures by some of the most brilliant minds in the field of Middle East Studies and academia more broadly. I saw Zygmunt Bauman speak and even got his autograph, (ask Kaelyn put it: how does one ask a postmodern existentialist for his autgraph?). I've also seen Joseph Massad, who is at the heart of a huge controversy at Columbia University, speak. He was incredibly well-informed, erudite, articulate and eloquent. Never have I seen anyone handle such hostile questions from members of the audience with such panache and skill. Finally, I also got a chance to see Arab novelist, Elias Khoury speak at the book launch of the English translation of his Palestinian epic, Gate of the Sun. The talk was chaired by Tariq Ali, which was a nice added bonus. Gate of the Sun is widely considered to be the Palestinian novel, but as Khoury explains it, he didn't set out to write the Palestinian novel. He simply wanted to write a love story set during the Nakba (Castrophe) of 1948, but he kept on getting deeper and deeper into it until he wound up with this Palestinian epic novel. I've started reading it and so far it's brilliant, and that's not a word I bandy about lightly.

In the upcoming future, I'll be going to a lecture by Norman Finkelstein, another controversial advocate for Palestinian rights and critic of Israel, as well as attending a weekend conference entitled "The Question of Palestine in International Law" which has some really big names attending it.

Sorry, this update is most likely going to be a huge anti-climax for those of you who have eagerly awaited an update on my blog, but that's really the biggest stuff that's been happening around here, apart from the usual routine of school, work, drink, school, work, drink...we really sound like alcoholics, don't we?

I do promise I'll try to update more regularly from now on, and I'll try to include more interesting stuff. I'll ask the people in residence if I can share some of the stories from over here, because there are some pretty hilarious ones.

I'll also try to post some pictures in the coming days, but the slow internet here is terribly aggravating.

Salaam to all