2 Years....Done and Done!

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June 6th 2011
Published: June 6th 2011
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I'm officially done with my Master's program. I can now proudly state that I have a Master's in International Human Rights Law with a Graduate Diploma in Forced Migration and Refugee Studies. My graduation is June 16th which I'm excited to say will be celebrated with my parents and sister. They're arriving on Saturday for a week and a half. I'll spend the first few days showing them around Cairo and all the obvious sites (pyramids, museum, mosques, bazaar, etc.) along with some of my places of daily routine (where I shop for my groceries, fruits/veggies, school) so they can get a real feel for what my life has been for the past 2 years.

Its been a crazy few months - with the revolution and all - things have been quite on edge this semester. Things officially seemed to cool down a bit only a few days after my birthday (after there was a lot of shooting in the square, the people actually took control and said "kahalas" - enough). Since then its been pretty quiet. There have been a few incidences here and there but relatively "calm". There have still been protests every Friday but nothing compared to what they were just over 2 months ago. I'm afraid its only temporary, however, as elections are to be held in September so (thankfully August is Ramadan - month of fasting - so most likely people will be too hungry/lack energy to do much) but just before I'm sure the atmosphere around here will become quite tense again. There are many discussions circulating right now as well re: food and how there is not enough food in the country, costs are too high already, so more and more people are finding themselves hungry which will also have seriously disasterous effects to be seen over the next couple of months.

April started off great - with my birthday which was as always, fabulous! Spent it with great friends - a day at the beach, a few nice meals out with cocktails. I ended up getting 3 weeks off for spring break (since I was only taking 1 course this semester, plus thesis, the day that it fell on also happened to be a holiday) so while we were going to hang around here and go to the beach for a few days we went to India (another blog to soon follow with pics). I must say that I ONLY went after getting permission from my thesis advisor - who strongly urged me to take a break and get away (he was quite impressed with how far I was getting along on my thesis all while being Director of STAR this semester - which while volunteer has pretty much taken over my life for the past 5 months but I love doing it). So he said that I'd be just fine getting away for a bit so thanks to him I went to India with Sarah, Catherine and Amanda.

A few days after my return I got the upsetting news that my Grandma Grace was in the hospital and wasn't doing well. I've been out of the country on and off for my years now and have always missed births, weddings and celebrations of family and friends. Sickness and death is obviously one which you cannot plan for and the inability to be there for such circumstances is definitely one of the hardest parts about being abroad. Her condition deteriorated quite rapidly over the course of a week and she passed away on May 5. It still is so surreal for me because I just saw her around Christmas when I flew out to St. Louis for a week. She's been dealing with illnesses for quite a while now but she's just such a fighter that I assumed she'd be around "forever". To not have her now is well, its unbearable. One of my cousin's installed skype for her on her laptop and she would often skype me late at night - telling me gossip about her friends or what she was cooking the family that night or asking me crazy questions about muslims or egypt. she would just make me laugh. my roommates used to love her skype calls to as she would chat with them as I would sit in the living room with the camera on. i can still hear her voice and the way she would say certain things, or the way she would shuffle around the house when I was there in December, experssions she would make, etc. It just doesn't seem real and well, I don't know when it ever will. I had planned to return for the funeral but some other things were going on so I decided it would be best to wait and go to St. Louis in August for a visit. I then spent 2 days doing things here in Cairo to remember her - went to a few churches to pray one day (including the church where Mary, Joseph and Jesus supposedly stayed when they had to flee to Egypt), went up to Al Azhar park which has a view of Cairo (including the pyramids which she wanted to see) for sunset at the same time as her service back in the States. My roommate Amanda even made a cake (Grandma would have been quite impressed with her baking skills) for us to eat in her memory at the park. She was just one character of a woman - everyone who knows or who has met her knows exactly what I'm talking about - she was one of a kind and an amazing person - a wonderful grandmother.

All while trying to deal with the emotions of what was going on back at home I was also trying to remain focused on my thesis. We were told it was due on May 23 (school started a month late so we were given a 4 day extension - thanks a lot). Well, the day after my grandmother's service I was at school meeting with my advisor who informed me that it would be due THAT sunday (15th) since my advisor and the 2nd and 3rd reader would have to read it and approve it before the final submission on the 23rd. Needless to say I slept very little and was literally glued to my computer for 4 days. I submitted it just before midnight on Sunday night and well pretty much had a panic attack only seconds after. It was as though I had given birth (okay maybe not exactly but you get the drift) but then my baby was just taken away from me....Couldn't believe that a year + of research, work and writing was done, gone and outta my hands. We were then all glued to our emails the following week to see if we were approved or not.

I then spent the week (when not checking my email) editing my thesis and we also had our STAR graduation ceremony - which I'm happy to say was apparently the best ever 😉 I had invited a Sudanese singer to come and play with his band - he was amazing! He was singing these songs that are apparently quite famous in Sudan so all of the Sudanese students and guests were dancing - so emotional that of course I had to cry. Even other people got up and joined in.

I received official notice that my thesis was approved the following Saturday morning - I literally jumped up and down and ran around my apartment for a bit to release all the anxiety that had been built up. I then officially submitted the hard copies to be bound on the 23rd - same day as my last class (which was spent drinking cosmos at one of my fav restaurants in cairo with my professor and the 3 other girls - friends - in my class - haha).

Since then, we'll I've actually been really busy. This is the first summer that STAR is going to be offering summer courses so I'm busy planning all that out. I'm officially handing over my position as Director at the end of August/beginning of September so still have responsibilities this summer. We've also just opened the first library for refugees (Egyptian law does not allow them to access public libraries) and will be opening a computer lab to implement a computer literacy program at the end of this month. I also just started, last week, my new job. Its for as long as I want -not sure how long I want it - but its at least for the summer. I'll be working at AMIDEAST teaching Legal English to Egyptian judges and a few lawyers. Its actually a really great course. I'm implementing a lot of skills/knowledge from my human rights program and the class has shifted to focus on international law, my area of expertise, so its great. Its exciting to be teaching judges new things - they really don't know much, if anything, relating to human rights law and international law. We're doing a lot of case studies and their final exam will be a mock trial. I will be teaching more classes at the end of the month, after my family goes back, for the summer. I"ve decided to stay here until I get a job. Its cheap to live here, so much cheaper than the States, my salary will pay my rent, utilities and give me spending money. I'm going to work on my Arabic this summer, finish up with STAR and well, relax for a bit, while applying for jobs as well! - dont worry mom! 😉 I've actually already applied for about 6 jobs (Liberia, Kenya, Netherlands, Somalia, Thailand and Sierra Leone). Unfortunately, so many require 7-10 years experience so I don't really know what my chances are - don't know what I'm up against. I'll apply for some jobs in the States this month - there just aren't that many right now that are in the field that I want. One was around 40K/year - yea, well thats just not gonna cut it! It was living in NYC (say what?!) and with student loans and the cost of living I wouldn't make it. Plus with my degree now, I should be making at least twice that if I'm going to be working in the States (lots of these other jobs are not as high salaried but they're tax free, housing included, as well as relocation expenses paid for and free flights home to the states - and well, at least 24 days vacation a year)!!

Ill be in St. Louis for a few days in August but won't be home to Vermont til probably November - Thanksgiving!! 😉 Soo that means I'm still here..plenty of time for you to visit OR well, I can meet you...wherever..whenever!! 😉

I have a lot of pics from this semester that I'll put up this week and send out so you can see STAR graduation and other events from the past few months. I'll also write a blog on India this week!

Love to all!


6th June 2011

Congrats/My Sympathies
Hi Danielle! I always love reading your blogs. Congrats on finishing the thesis, and good luck with new jobs and all the wonderful things I'm sure you still have up your sleeve! I am sorry to hear about your grandmother, I didnt know her but it's obvious how much she meant to you, and I dont doubt she was a truly wonderful person! Maybe I will see you in November when you come home, so great that your fam is able to go out there and visit you!! How exciting! Hugs XOXO Meg
7th June 2011

So Proud!
We are all so proud of you, you are such an amazing person to be in the field that you have chosen and have the experiences that you do...it takes a special kind of person to be so adventurous and caring toward others. We all can't wait for your visit in august, miss you and love ya! we'll be thinking of you, ttys...
9th June 2011

way to go....
Congratulations again on getting your master's degree. You've accomplished sooooo much (and still are). Your work is admirable and inspiring! I think you heard that I got engaged. Did you hear I'm leaving UVM? My last day is 6/13. I'm moving to Florida (near Tampa). So the next time you're in Vermont I won't be here, but hopefully I'll see you sometime in Florida or another time when we're both back "home" to see family and friends. Best of luck to you. Be safe, and keep in touch! Hugs, Christine

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