Today marks two anniversaries for me: one year since I arrived in Egypt, and the one felt by everyone: the 10th anniversary of 9/11. It’s incredible to think that it has been a year since Egypt; so many things have changed, both for me and for Egyptians, and in world politics in general. In many ways, it seems like much more than a year has passed, but in other ways, the time has flown by. I’m still not entirely sure what to make of my time in Egypt, even a year later.

The Sept. 11 anniversary does leave me with some thoughts, though. I’m not purporting these to be good, or bad; they are merely observations. First- the past ten years have normalized a state of war in a way unlike any in the past, I think. A large amount of people have not had to sacrifice much, nor have they been asked to, in our efforts to combat terrorism. No tax increases to pay for our actions, no rationing, etc. And the war seems incredibly sanitary- we don’t usually see the horrific side of war in the media (i.e. pictures of coffins, the image of Bin Laden). Second- the Middle East has come to occupy a disproportionally large focus in people’s minds and government’s attention. Terribly important things are happening in other areas of the world- Kashmir, the India-Pakistan conflict, China, just to name a very few- with comparatively little attention, at least in the public eye. Third- the utter repudiation of extremist tactics by a new generation of Arab/Muslim youth seeking to assert their influence in their own governments is the best response to the hatred we witnessed on 9/11. I’m forever impressed at the courage we have seen in Egypt, Libya, Bahrain, Iran, etc, in the face of incredible oppression. Finally- the lesson I’m left with is that we in the U.S. must continue to live in an open and free society. Any efforts to close doors or create barriers between our own citizens, or create a constant atmosphere of possible threat, means that the terrorists have achieved their objectives. To not let them win, we must stay committed to a free and democratic society, albeit with the risks contained in doing that. The opposite would be so much worse. Jon Stewart said it best on his first broadcast after 9/11/01 (a summary): Our response to 9/11 must be to unite, not divide. Any fool can blow something up; it takes great men and women and a great nation to rebuild and rededicate ourselves to our principles and ideals. He then said the view from his apartment overlooking lower Manhattan was the World Trade Center when he left on the morning of 9/11; when he returned home that night, the towers were gone, but the view now was of the Statue of Liberty. You can’t beat that.

On 9/11/01, I was in seventh grade, in Ms. Rye’s geography class, when we were told to turn on the TV. We spent the rest of the day trying to figure out what it meant. In ways unknown to me then, 9/11 changed my life. I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for that day. My interest in the Middle East would likely not have happened had it not been for the long national dialogue after that day.

Anyway, this was another great week at GW and in DC. I’m starting to get involved with student orgs here- the Cyberlaw society, the Intl Law society, Street Law, etc. I discovered that I, along with another student, are the first two to ever do this exact dual program between Law and Middle East Studies- which is kind of terrifying but also really exciting. I heard Joan Donoghue, one of the 15 judges on the International Court of Justice and a former GW professor, speak. I saw the Nationals win an 11-inning game. I went to the new MLK memorial and played softball with GW students. I get to hear the president of the World Bank speak on Wednesday, and Sultan al-Qassemi and Philip Howard on Thursday. In the future, I have tickets to hear Mike Mullen, David Brooks, Toni Morrison, David Sedaris, Stephen Breyer, and John Paul Stevens speak, and I have a ticket to see my first professional hockey game ever.

An unbelievable amount of things happen here every day, and we have the remarkable opportunity to be a part of so much of it. I’m trying to take full advantage of everything that I can. It can be quite hectic, but that’s what I love about it.

After raining for about 4 days straight here, it’s beautiful now, so I’m going to stop writing. Enjoy your weeks, everyone.


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Week 2

Short post today. The second full week of law school is finished, and I’m enjoying the long Labor Day weekend, which I spent with the wonderful Michael and Kristen Peterson in Richmond, Va. For me, classes have calmed down a little bit from the first week (or maybe I just worked a little too much or too far ahead that first week!), and I am getting a better idea about the personalities and preferences of each of my professors, and I am also getting to know my classmates better. Things are going very well, and I’ll post more fully next week when I’m back on a normal schedule.

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Earthquake! (and Hurricane!)

My classmates and I thought it was quite appropriate to begin law school with two natural calamities- an (admittedly overblown) earthquake and Hurricane Irene (whose rain I am watching outside as I write this). It looks like we will survive both of these, and we all survived the first week of law school as well- with a few good stories out of it.

On the first day of class, in my first class- Torts, taught by Jonathan Turley- Prof. Turley had been in the classroom for about twenty seconds, long enough for him to walk to the front of the room, drop his book on the podium, and say, “Well, I guess the best way to get started is to get started. Let’s begin with the end of the roster.” And the cold calling began. “Ms. Woods, did you read the first case assigned?” Ms. Woods had read it, but she could not define the first Latin term that Turley had asked about. He was none too pleased. He then turned the beginning of the alphabet. “Ms. Aaron, do you agree with the court’s decision here?” After Ms. Aaron gave a satisfactory answer, Turley turned back to Ms. Woods: “Ms. Woods, I suggest you purchase one of the eighty available legal dictionaries and give it a read. Do you not care enough about your legal education to understand the first sentence of the first case you read for your first class in law school? Please leave my classroom, buy your dictionary, and prepare better for next class. Leave now.”

Well, at this point, about two minutes into our first law class ever, you literally could have heard a pin drop in the room. We were petrified. Absolutely terrified. What have we gotten ourselves into? Ms. Woods stormed out of the room, and Turley went to the board, and wrote, in big letters “JUST KIDDING”.

The release in the room was palpable. Ms. Woods and Ms. Aaron were plants- upperclassmen- to show us how Turley would NOT be teaching his class! But we had been Turley’ed, and none of us will likely forget that in the near future.

On our first day of Contracts, unsure of what to expect, without saying anything to the class, the professor simply started by playing a video, which turned out to be a scene from Disney’s “The Little Mermaid.” Let’s just say, we weren’t expecting to begin our legal study of contacts by watching Ariel and Ursula. But we watched the scene in which Ariel agrees to give her voice to Ursula and Ursula agrees to transform Ariel into a human for three days, with a few other stipulations as well. We analyzed this scene for the entire class. Was there a contract? Was there mutual assent or a meeting of the minds? Did Ursula unduly pressure Ariel into agreeing? Did Ariel have the ability to negotiate Ursula’s terms? Did Ursula also sign the scroll that Ariel signed? Did Ursula’s subsequent interference with Ariel and the Prince nullify the terms of the agreement?

Generally, things have been just great. Classes require A LOT more work than undergrad in simple preparation for class every day, but that’s what I was expecting. Nothing is especially difficult, though- just time consuming and requiring of our full attention. There are 490 new JD students with me, selected from over 9,000 applicants. That’s a pretty low acceptance rate, and our Dean posted some of the really cool things my classmates have done- including a world ranked tennis player, a professional cellist, employees of the FBI, White House, Senators, the Manhattan DA, CBS News, the World Bank, the U.S. Forest Service, and the Clinton Foundation. Makes me wonder how I got in! All my fellow students whom I have met seem incredibly bright and engaging and interesting. I’m very happy to get to know so many of them and am looking forward to hearing all the amazing things they do in the future.

I also went through Elliott School orientation this week, as much as I could at least, scheduling around law classes. I’m REALLY looking forward to getting into that program next year. DC has been really great to live in; it’s a very exciting place. I can go for an afternoon run down the Mall and around the Capitol and next to the White House, which makes for a more interesting run and an easier one to do.

I think that’s all for now. Thanks for reading.

Finally, here are just a few pictures I thought people might like to see:

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Starting Law School

Well, it’s been about eight months since I touched this blog, and I thought I would post again to update any readers about what’s going on. If you’re still subscribed to “The Road Away” and expecting posts from Egypt or the Middle East, feel free to unsubscribe — I’ll be recording my experiences at The George Washington University Law School over this coming year, and then my experiences as a joint degree student at the Law School and GW’s Elliott School of International Affairs for the following three years.

Since I returned for Egypt at the end of December, I graduated from the University of Kentucky, spoke at graduation, had a wonderful last semester at UK, and worked at Challenge House in Hopkinsville, among many, many other things. Also since I returned from Egypt, huge changes have occurred in that country- changes that altered the entire political dynamics of the Arab and Islamic worlds. It was fascinating to watch after just returning, and I treasured being able to communicate directly with young people in Cairo as the revolution was unfolding.

And now, I’m living in Washington, DC, at school at GWU. I’ve been here less than a week, but have been incredibly busy with law school orientation and arranging the details of a new school year and living in a new place. The thing about DC is that everyone is from someplace else. I’ve met many wonderful people already in my law school class, and they are from everywhere- New York City, Florida, Alaska, South Dakota, the Czech Republic, China- who each bring unique and interesting life stories and experiences that enormously enrich the rest of our relationships with one another. DC is also just a great place to live… when I walk out of the Law School, I am looking at the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, and when I walk out of the Elliott School, I can see both the Washington Monument and the State Department. You can’t say that at any other school or in any other city. This is certainly a special place.

My first class is tomorrow morning- Torts, taught by Jonathan Turley, whom you may recognize from his appearances on Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow. I have Steven Schooner for Contracts, Bradford Clark for Civil Procedure, and Cynthia Lee for Criminal Law. I’m really looking forward to getting into class… all we’ve heard for the past few weeks is how demanding law school is, and the apparently magical powers of the brief, and I just want to get into the material and start figuring out what works best for me.

We played softball on the Mall yesterday with a big group of law students, between the White House and the Washington Monument. It was such fun, and such a real experience. It really seems as though GW Law is an accepting, helpful community of intelligent and engaging, yet genuine and sincere and not haughty, people. All orientations are, by nature, a bit awkward, so I hope the process of meeting everyone- my future colleagues- continues.

So, everything has gone well so far in DC, but the tough steps begin tomorrow as I actually start school. I’ll be reading for the rest of today. I hope to post here weekly, not only to give me a distraction from studying, but also to write about my journey through GW Law and Elliott. Hope you’ll follow me on it… it promises to be quite exciting.

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Coming Home

Everyone, thanks for following my blog this semester. I’m sorry I completely neglected it after the Eid break- the reality of actually a good amount of schoolwork, applying to law schools and IR graduate schools, and working on my thesis, and writing articles for the New Era and some UK things finally caught up with me. I’m looking forward to having a little time to reflect on this semester- it’s hard to know what impact it has had on me until I can digest the experience somewhat.

I have about 12 hours left in Cairo- I’m leaving my apartment at 1 am to begin the long journey back to the U.S. I’m flying Cairo-Frankfurt-New York-Atlanta-Nashville. I’ll land at 11 pm local time in Nashville on Thursday. I hope I avoid all these horror stories of international flights stranded at JFK in NY or just canceled/delayed flights in general. No use in worrying, I guess. Just wish me luck! See you soon, Kentucky.


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Lebanon & Jordan

I returned yesterday from 10 days traveling in Lebanon and Jordan, and they were amazing. I will be extremely brief here, though, as I have a lot I need to do and much time to blog: I’m finished law school essays/applications, writing my next New Era article, writing something for the UK Alumni blog, hopefully writing something for the Kernel, studying for my last midterm on Wednesday (Arabic), making plans to see a soccer game & Harry Potter, and writing my Gaines thesis. I’m feeling pretty busy.

Lebanon was really great, although it was not my favorite place I’ve visited. Pictures are here. It is very small, and there is not too much accessible history in Beirut. I only spent 2 nights, and I’m glad I didn’t have much more time. Here is what I wrote in my journal upon landing: “ It seems to be a good mix of Arab and European cultures, closer to Arab. In the middle geographically too. Most obvious mix so far of ruined buildings with brand new, modern ones. It’s quite nice downtown. I saw the poster of Ahmadinejad within 3 minutes of leaving the airport.” I’m actually going to continue to copy from my journal.

On bus to Jbail, sea to one side and rising mountains and deep valleys to the other with big fields of crops. Very green. Everyone very nice and helpful. Better day than yesterday. Police officers just trying to talk with me. Trying to get around in service vans and taxis. Helpful drivers. Most western Arab city I have been to. Fewer police. Little call to prayer. Very nice downtown. Very fun too. I walked about the ruins in Jbail for a while, then found my way to the AUB and the corniche. Quite nice. Watched sun set behind Pigeon Rocks after climbing around the cliffs. The next day, I went to the Beirut National Museum- well worth seeing. Very cool artifacts and a good video showing its almost destruction during the 1975-1990 civil war.

Jordan was amazing! Pictures are here. I spent a week there. Only a few hours after arriving, I met a friend from UK completely randomly- how fun! We are both studying in Cairo, but we had failed at seeing each other so far, but we ended up in the exact same hostel in the same city at the same time. How crazy.

In order, I went to Petra, Al-Shoubek castle, Jerash, Amman sites, Madaba, Mount Nebo, Bethany, Dead Sea, and Wadi Rum. I hope to write more about them all later, but not now. Please look at the facebook pictures linked to above. I could literally write all night about my Jordan adventures, so I’ll save it for when I can give it more time.

Cairo definitely feels more like home now that I have returned here from a long trip abroad. It is good to be back and in my schedule again. 39 days until I come back to the U.S. It will go by before I know it!

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Eid al-Adha

This past week has been midterms at Cairo University, and I am finally finished. All my exams and papers went well, but I am glad to be done. Combined with applying to law school and writing my Gaines thesis, I have been quite busy (and honestly overwhelmed) recently. Also, this blog was picked up by the UK Alumni Association blog, and they posted some of my information there. You can see it here. I hope to contribute an original post to the Alumni blog soon; I am always willing to ‘get the word out there’ on what I am doing.

The upcoming week is a holiday for us; it is the celebration of Eid al-Adha. I’m using the week off to travel to Lebanon and Jordan, so I’m leaving in the morning for Beirut and leave on Saturday for Amman. I’m looking forward to seeing these countries, and I’ll keep everyone up-to-date on how my travels go. I’ll be back to Cairo on 20 Nov.

It’s hard to believe that, by that point, I will have only a month left here. Today, I believe, is the 50-day-out mark. Time is moving quickly, but I’m trying to live life to the fullest and enjoy everything while I’m here. Be back in touch soon.

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