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

4 Comments:

At 4:45 PM, Blogger Nicki said...

I'll join you in insisting to my dying day that there is a vast ocean between undergrad, Laurier-style drinking and grad school drinking. Drunkeness is totally necessary to coping with the crazy reading.

 
At 2:50 PM, Blogger deena said...

Rice.

 
At 4:48 AM, Blogger The Bedouin Project said...

Nicki: er...readings? yes...the ones which I do so religiously...ummm...yeah

Deena: you hush about the rice. This is a family blog.

 
At 2:58 PM, Blogger Nicki said...

My point exactly! Drinking helps you forget how far behind in the reading you are ;)

 

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