Istabl Antar: when NGO work can make a difference

November 25, 2009 at 9:56 am (Weekly Posts) (, , , , )

For my photography class, I have a minimum requirement of being on 2 field trips. The last one I have been on was to a place called “Istabl Antar” which translates to “Antar’s stable”. No it is not the place where horses are kept. It is the second poorest area in Cairo, that is mounted on a hill near Moqattam area.

So, we had a tour in the area as a group. It wasn’t any different from any other slum area in Cairo. The streets are full of garbage, children running and playing barefoot, and women are a little aggressive, especially when I tried to take one photo of one woman’s kid rolling a tire in the street as a way of having fun. So, that was not new to me; I have been to so many slum areas and witnessed the same reaction with some exception of nice treatment in other areas.

The nice part was when we headed to the NGO we had on the schedule,Twasol or “Bonding”. And I was impressed, again, for I have been there before on another trip. They collect and gather the children who dropped out of school and have them learn a craft or attend classes in this NGO. And I could see a difference in the kids. One instance is that when we stepped into one of the classes, we found the kids stood up as a sign of respect to the visitors they have in the class. I was moved and happy.

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“There is no place like Paris”

November 16, 2009 at 9:42 pm (Weekly Posts) (, , , , , )

Grey Egypt

Yes, we have won the match for which our nerves were almost torn down. I must say I didn’t care much. The scenes in the streets weren’t new to me. I used to see and hear the honking and cheering every match between Ahly and Zamalek, the most famous 2 competing football teams in Egypt.

So, I am wondering whether this whole game thing is what makes me feel Egyptian and love being and belonging to Egypt.

What made me wonder is that last Friday, one day before the match, I met a French friend of my sister’s. It was my first encounter with someone French where we sat down, had lunch together and talked. I also must say that I am in love with anything French, the language, the culture, the food, the music… everything. So our conversation started off with her observations of the Egyptian street, the traffic, the people, the pollution, and the inability to enjoy a walk in the streets, which is true. But because she has been in Egypt for almost 4 weeks for the first time, she mentioned how Egyptians have an amazing sense of humor all through the office boy she has been dealing with. So yea there is a good thing we have.

But when I asked her to tell me about france or Paris, since I have never been there. She told me about how grumpy French people are, but how possible it is to actually have a walk in the streets there. She said one thing that really struck me and made me wish I was in a country about which I could say something like this someday. She told me I didn’t travel alot, but “there is no place like Paris.” It made me even more eager to go and witness the beauty of Paris.

So, it seems different what impact each place leaves on the people living in it. I used to think that because I live in this place, its beauty isn’t as perceptible and appreciated as one who doesn’t live in it sees it. But there she is my French who happens to actually like her city and thinks it is the best place in the world. I think issue now is how Egypt, the place where I live, has come to leave all this dust on my eyes that I no longer appreciate living in it.

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Reflections upon Visiting the Al Kasr Al Aini Psychiatric clinics

October 31, 2009 at 11:11 pm (Weekly Posts) (, , , , , , )

kasr aini

The Al Kasr Al Aini Hospital, established in 1827, is located in Garden City near downtown of Cairo. It is a medical school hospital meant for the students who study at Cairo University to practice there and apply what they learn.

Psychology has always been one of the fields that has ever interested me. I used to read about the psychological theories and their major influential figures since I was 13. May be that is why I minored in psychology despite my sister’s disagreement. As I am graduating, I am taking my last psychology class in the minor, abnormal psychology. I don’t like its name. This particular field of psychology is referred to as psychopathology, not “abnormal”. We have spent a couple of classes on defining what “abnormal” is, yet we didn’t reach a conclusion.

So, for this class project, I have to interview someone who might fit the diagnosis of a certain psychological disorder as we study it in class. So, my friend and I head to the Al Kasr Al Aini Hospital Downtown where we can go to the psychiatry clinic and ask a doctor’s permission to interview 2 cases that fit the topics of our project, schizophrenia in my case and bipolar depression in my friend’s case.

PSYCHOLOGY

Seeking help from a psychologist or psychiatrist in Egypt is highly stigmatized. Above that, according to conducted research on this area, the lower the SES class (socioeconomic status), the lesser the chances that psychological help is seeked.

On the first day we went, the psychiatrist we went to was very helpful. She knows my friends and so she made our life easier finding cases for us. She made us attend a session to learn how the questions are asked and how the session goes. It was VERY helpful. I wasn’t surprised that the psychiatry clinic had the fewest number of patients or help-seekers. It isn’t for the possibility that Egyptians are all psychologically healthy, but, sure, for the stigma of it. But I was happy to see this few being aware that whatever is “wrong” with them can be psychologically explained.

I came out of the session in a state of numbness. I couldn’t help reacting with the client, which is, of course, unacceptable. I was numb, and relieved in fact, because it feels good knowing that I am not alone in this world, complaining about its cruelty and feeling hand-cuffed about it. People are perceiving the exact same things I am perceiving, and they are feeling bad for it.

But I was amazed to observe something interesting. Not only were the clients Cairen Egyptians, but there were also Egyptians from the countryside and people who looked to be of low socioeconomic status. I was wondering about such variety and the reason for it, but couldn’t find an answer. It’s just so unexpected.

The next time we went, we found the 2 cases we needed for the project and we interviewed them. It was quite an experience, I must say! Being out in the field is utterly different from reading the text book or even personal narratives. I felt the urge of going again just to attend sessions with the psychiatrist and listening to people’s problems.

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