Monthly Archives: November 2009

Museum of Chinese in America Architectural Design Tour & Brown Bag Lunch: Friday, Dec. 4

Museum of Chinese in America
Exhibit and Architectural Design Tour & Brown Bag Lunch
Friday December 4, 12:00-2:00pm
Meet at MOCA- 215 Centre Street- at noon

The Archives and Public History Brown Bag Lunch Series presents the final brown bag for the semester this Friday, December 4. This session will feature a tour of the Museum of Chinese in America led by MOCA staff. The tour will be followed by an open question and answer session. Founded in 1980, the Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA) is dedicated to preserving and presenting the history, heritage, culture and diverse experiences of people of Chinese descent in the United States. The greatly expanded MOCA at 215 Centre Street is a national home for the precious narratives of diverse Chinese American communities, and strives to be a model among interactive museums.

Please RSVP to Keara Duggan kearadugganATgmailDOTcom by Thursday, December 3.

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Guest post part two, by Rick Halmo

If you missed it, part one of Rick’s account of his recent travel was posted on this blog on Nov. 25th. Enjoy!

Jerusalem: The Holy City

I had the opportunity to spend a full day in Jerusalem, although given how much Jerusalem has to offer for a history buff like me one day was not enough in this intriguing city. The security presence was apparent everywhere once we entered the city limits. Coming off the hour-long bus ride from Tel Aviv we were immediately subjected to a security screening into the bus depot/full-scale mall. In lieu of describing the history of the city, I think it is more interesting to discuss the manifestations of “modernity” that have been attempted in the “Holy City,” particularly in the realm of architecture and infrastructure.

One of the more astounding things I had learned during my trip was that the city of Jerusalem has a law stating that anyone wishing to put up a building within the city limits could do so but if they hit an archeological “dig” site that company would have to stop its construction and finance the remainder of the dig. Also, the new buildings would have to be built with the same old-looking stone with which the rest of the area is built. What an interesting roadblock to future development and construction. Only currently is Jerusalem putting in an aboveground rail line (think of the T train in Boston’s suburbs) through the city, and the project has apparently taken a long time to develop.

As I was leaving Jerusalem, I had the sense that this city had trapped itself in the past. Proud of its immense history, I felt that it attempted to retain that history by keeping the city’s entire character contained in the past as well, as if its incredible history could not stand on its own. More likely, perhaps it was just that the city’s inhabitants yearned for the past, a point that gains even more credibility when you consider their reaction to a place like Tel Aviv.

Tel Aviv: Sin City

Tel Aviv is your standard beach city. Its characteristics mirror that of other beach cities that one can think of; the city is relatively more progressive than the rest of the territory, people regularly walk around in bathing suits, and there are abundant clubs and bars that you certainly would not see in other parts of the country like Jerusalem. Tel Aviv has corporate parks and a highly developed, futuristic downtown. Balancing this modern flare, there are a plethora of quaint marketplaces where bargaining is also part of the culture. Around the city there are a number of large parks and exercising areas, and while one may not feel alien in this area coming from America, the feeling of separation between Tel Aviv and the rest of Israel seemed quite palpable.

One of the more incredible things I picked up during my trip to Israel was a free magazine in the Jerusalem tourist headquarters. It was from the “TimeOut” publishing group (from “TimeOut New York”) and they had a magazine cover with the headline “JRS vs. TLV: Holy City vs. Sin City.” Two of their comparisons will do just fine to show how the area views these two distinct cities.

Under the comparison of “Architectural Trademark,” Jerusalem’s section describes, “Jerusalem stone and ancient ruins,” while Tel Aviv’s states that they have, “Bauhaus alongside indistinct contemporary architecture.” In the “religion” comparison, Jerusalem is said to be a place where “Judaism, Christianity and Islam are practiced in synagogues, churches and mosques, built in the name of God, Jesus and Allah, respectively,” while Tel Aviv’s religion is “Hedonism. Practiced in bars and nightclubs. God is a DJ.” The comparisons seem to reflect a kind of distaste for the modern and a preference for the past. Given the history of this region, it is hard for me to blame the inhabitants of the region for that mentality. Even so, I felt my experience of these two cities to be enhanced by experiencing the other one.

As you can see, a weeklong trip provided a lot of memories and lessons that one can only get by living what they learn in class. The trip gave me a better perspective not only on what I am learning in my classes, but also on the way in which people interact in other societies. I look forward to applying what I learned here to future scholarship and future travels.

Special “Thank you” to my professors, Mrinalini Rajagopalan and Maia Ramnath, for being so supportive of my travels to this incredible area.

The Draper Student Organization invites you to a colloquium on SILENCE

with presentations by

Rhyannon Rodriguez
“Silence & the Sound of Difference: The Narrative Qualities of Silence in Horror Cinema”

Jason Slaughter
“Three Unusual Instances of Silence in Music”

Alana Smith
“Silence as Violence – Muting Politics in Humanitarian Discourse”

Tamara Day
“The Powers of Silence in Wide Sargasso Sea”

Friday 11 December 2009 6:30 pm in the Draper Map Room

Refreshments will be provided.

Guest post by Draper student Rick Halmo

Note: Rick has so much to tell about his trip that we’ll be posting in two parts: Cairo today and Jerusalem and Tel Aviv after the break. Happy Thanksgiving weekend, everyone.

My Travels To Cairo, Jerusalem and Tel Aviv: The Story of the Ancient City, the Holy City, and Sin City

I recently returned from a Middle East excursion to the cities of Cairo, Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Reflecting upon my experiences, I find that only now am I able to appreciate just how different these cities were. The trip added a new dimension to my studies in global history and urban modernities; it put our theoretical studies in the classroom into the practical, and thus supplemented what I had been studying all semester.

Cairo: The Ancient City

A majority of my time during the trip was spent in Cairo, a very dense city (just shy of 82,000 people/sq. mile) that seamlessly blends together its ancient history with modern aspects of a global city. The pyramids of Giza, a town right on the outskirts of Cairo, can be easily seen from the Nile River, which is lined with rows of high-rise buildings, expensive hotels, and lavish riverboat cruises. The riverboat cruises in and of themselves represent the duality of this city; on a boat that makes the Titanic look modest, the entertainment for the night consisted of belly dancing and a whirling dervish. For tourists, this city is open for business, and there is no greater proof of this than the Khan El Khalili marketplace in downtown Cairo.

The Khan El Khalili is a famous marketplace frequented by visitors because of its abundance of (relatively) cheap goods, as well as great coffee shops and eateries. It embodies the density of the city – very tight alleys lined with merchants looking to sell you everything they have – and it was a lot of fun to negotiate prices with the merchants to see how low they would go. There were so many tourists that our ability to negotiate prices to what they should actually cost was compromised (because the merchant could easily go find someone who would pay four times what we would pay) but it was still a vibrant atmosphere and it can be quite fun if you enjoy arguing with a stranger. The exchange rate is roughly 5 Egyptian pounds : 1 American dollar, but the real exchange rate (i.e. the purchasing power of 1 American dollar) is about 8 or 9 Egyptian pounds : 1 American dollar. I think this is important for any person who wishes to go to Cairo to know, because the merchants in Khan El Khalili can be tough, and it’s nice to know how far your money can go. Nonetheless, the bargaining is part of the culture, so that particular marketplace is not just for buying souvenirs to bring home but rather is a Cairo experience worth having.

There seemed to be a part of Cairo that was reserved for tourists, and a part reserved for Egyptians. The separation that took place between tourists and the locals reminded me somewhat of Times Square in a way; the locals could go to the tourist destinations (especially the Khan El Khalili marketplace) but why would they do that when it is cheaper to go to a less tourist-populated area (Islamic Cairo or the Village in NYC)? In this comparison I wish to show that the separation of locals and tourists was not that of force, but rather of choice.

I decided to venture off of the tourist path and go see what the more “real” Cairo was like. I was rewarded well for my choice. Once off the beaten trail in Cairo, I found the people to be incredibly nice and open to Americans. I did not know until I arrived in Cairo that I looked Egyptian, but my blonde-haired, blue-eyed girlfriend gave us away as non-locals. Though initially nervous of this fact, the people we met in Islamic Cairo – a part of the city that is no more “Islamic” than any other part, but where very few tourists go for some reason – were so kind and welcoming that I quickly put my guard down.

We ended up meeting a gentleman named Ayman who asked us to join him in his quilt and bag shop for tea. “Conversation and laughter is free,” he said, obviously aware of the people in the tourist areas known as “touts” who offer to lead you around town and then afterwards ask you for money. Ayman was one of the nicest people I have ever met. We ended up sitting with him and talking for two hours until I informed him I had promised a merchant in Khan El Khalili that I would watch the Egypt/Algerian soccer match with him. “Watch it with us!” Ayman said glowingly. I wondered initially who “us” was exactly, and then quickly realized that he was referring to the entire street of people! We were escorted down the street and found roughly 100 chairs, a large sheet and a projector that was broadcasting the game for the neighborhood. Once the chairs were full, the crowd ended up just standing wherever they could see the match. What a sense of community and national pride one could feel amidst this block in the middle of Cairo! It was almost overwhelming, but as a sports fan I was right in the middle of it.

We watched the match (and celebrated the victory, as if we were the reason they won) with Ayman and company, and after the match he invited us to a local café for food and drinks. He was so kind to us, and he did it in exchange for only our friendship. There was such a stark contrast between the Egyptians we had met in the tourist areas – aggressive to make a sale and belligerent at times – and the Egyptians we had met in Islamic Cairo and other less touristy places. We made it a point to avoid tourist places the rest of the time there. The city on the whole was a fantastic experience I would love to go back, equipped now with lessons learned from my first time there.

Party at Draper!

Draper will be throwing a party for students, faculty, and staff to celebrate the end of this semester. We hope you can join us!

Thursday, December 17th
5:00 p.m.
Draper Map Room

There will be things to nibble and imbibe and much good cheer. We look forward to seeing you and wish you a great end to your semester.

Best,
Robin, Robert, Larissa, and Georgia