Saturday, October 24, 2009

The unbearable lightness of being fat.

Oh lamentations! I am dutifully working on my dissertation prospectus and lo I come upon an article in the archives of the Moroccan daily newspaper le Matin called, “Surcharge pondérale,” meaning overweight. As an obese person such articles always pique my interest—not because like the thin people of the world I live in fear of getting fat but because I represent that which disgusts so many people—actually being fat. Anyhow instead of continuing with a useful endeavor, like manifesting linkages between grassroots activism among illiterate women and democratic transition in Arab states, I skimmed through the article until I got to the requisite section on the risks of obesity—we’re an unhealthy, unproductive lot who’re a drain on society—did you know? But the risk section instead told me something I wasn’t expecting. “La personne obèse souffre du rejet des autres et est donc victime de solitude, notamment affective”—according to Le Matin "the obese person suffers from the rejection of others and is thus a victim of solitude, especially emotional." Someone ought to tell my friends that I am supposed to be an isolated, loveless, lonely pariah before the universe implodes on itself.

To be fair I am fully aware that the daily life of a morbidly obese person is different from the life of a thin person. I take up more space on the bus seat, have fewer options when it comes to fashion, and can’t see a doctor without receiving a lecture about my presumed lifestyle of excess despite having no obvious health problems (normal blood pressure and cholesterol, etc.). But the fact that I am also 6 feet (1m82) tall poses many of the same quotidian inconveniences—minus the health lecture. Yes I realize that longevity is more likely if I lose weight, but I can’t resist being annoyed at the aesthetic revulsion of becoming overweight that exists among so many people. There are worse things in life to be, including stupid, morally bankrupt, and hateful.

Friday, October 23, 2009

رسالتي الدكتوراه

أهتم بمشاركة سياسية النساء في العالم العربي خاصةً النساء الأميات وأنشطتهن السياسية.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Plainte à Monsieur l'Ambassadeur

Today is the first day that something Barack Obama did has made me sad. I attended the monthly meeting of the American International Women’s Association (AIWA) of Rabat to hear the new US Ambassador to Morocco give a talk. Before I even made it to the meeting, I was very disturbed by scuttlebutt about Ambassador Kaplan’s credentials. I would universally assume that high ranking appointed diplomats have no knowledge of Arabic. But here in Morocco, I am appalled and deeply disappointed that the new Ambassador can’t even speak French. My immediate reaction is what the f***? Let’s ignore the foppish hair cut and the artless admission of little prior knowledge of Morocco. What the hell President Obama?!? They’re clearly a likeable couple but how does being a lawyer and activist prepare one to be an Ambassador? I suppose I can assume that since it’s the junior diplomats that do the real work, credentials are less important in appointees, but still. I am ashamed on behalf of the US. Why can’t a great nation appoint at LEAST a French speaker? Ugh.

Perhaps I might temper my disgust by reminding myself of one sentiment expressed in the MN Daily: though Mr. Kaplan may “not yet understand all the intricacies of the U.S. –Moroccan relationship…[he and his wife] present a double dose of professionalism, stamina, and exceptional potential…(in addition to their deep pockets and solid connections)…” You can listen to Ambassador Kaplan here and here.

Ugh. I might aspire to those same qualities (or even embody them-scribbly requires stamina for sure) but I’m far too fond of mentioning my first experience with dysentery to anyone who will listen. I have done my best to exhaust all possible nepotism available to me…but without the deep pockets and connections, I actually have to learn Arabic to get anywhere important in Arabia.

Whoever authored this graffito in Rabat’s Les Orangers neighborhood will be displeased with this article about Ambassador Kaplan. (Anticlimax--I can't get any photos to upload at the moment).

Otherwise, my new alarm clock makes me happy beyond measure and terrifies me with its shrieking Arabic devotion--instead of buzzing it reminds of prayer time!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Clean clothes without holes

This weekend marks the end of my first normal, work week in Rabat. In terms of adjustment and jet lag, I feel pretty normal, and have gotten into a routine fairly quickly. While I have only partially mastered the bus system (I can get home from school, but can’t manage to find where to catch the bus to school because of the confusion of the tramway invading the center of Sharia Omam al-Muttahida (United Nations Avenue)) there remain other adventures—good ones mostly. The maid came again and spared me the banal task of doing my own laundry. She also prepared some zaalouk, chicken with preserved lemon and olives and another dish with red bell peppers. On Friday I dared to lunch at a little restaurant around the corner from my house and ordered the Friday couscous. The meal from the maid and the Friday couscous are my only sources of vegetables, as I have been too lazy and indifferent to buy any myself to prepare, and the lures of merguez sandwiches and cumin-y cheeseburgers with fries which constitute my usual dinner are hard to resist. The only time I found merguez in North America was in Montreal during the American Thanksgiving of 2005. I became fond of the delightful Moroccan sausage when I lived in Issy-les-Moulineaux in late 2004 when I first had it at a little grillade nearby.

In non-food related news, I am fond of my Arabic class at Qalam wa Lawh. The other students are extremely good, which both shames me and motivates me to giddy-up. One of my classmates is Maltese, which reminds of the fact that an Arabic teacher I know authored a Maltese dictionary, in addition to having an MBA. My weekdays begin with Arabic class from 8.30 to 1. I then eat lunch at home before I bus to ADFM to work from 3 to 6 usually. I walk home, taking in the city, and spend the evening relaxing from interacting all day in foreign languages. Mornings are all in Arabic and afternoons are in hybrid French and Moroccan. By the time I get home from ADFM, my head is pretty much done in, and I am not sure if I am ambitious or clever enough to keep it up AND get to dissertating. On that note, it’s funding application time once again, and writing proposals does lend itself to dissertation work. So I will give myself the month of October to negotiate how I spend my time, which will necessarily include dissertation work IF I am serious about a year of research in Egypt after this delightful Boren year ends.

I have also been accepted to present at a conference in Bristol in January, which will hopefully include visits to friends I’ve been missing for a while. I must now get more serious about finishing my essay for tomorrow and reviewing grammar and vocabulary.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

What is a Ph.D. (aka PhD or Doctorate)?

Based on my specific education with the Graduate Program in International Studies at Old Dominion University, I have adapted the following information from various sources to inform my intimates about how I've been spending (and will be spending) my life these days.

Usually based on at least 3 years graduate study and a dissertation; the highest degree awarded for graduate study beyond the bachelor's or master's degree to candidates who have demonstrated their academic ability in oral and written examinations and through original research presented in the form of a dissertation.

Latin Philosophiae Doctor

1. Abbreviation of Doctor of Philosophy, a terminal research degree.
2. The highest of academic degrees conferred by a college or university.

Comprehensive examination

Ph.D. students must pass a written and an oral comprehensive examination prior to beginning their dissertation. The written examination transpires over two days and lasts six hours per day. The oral exam lasts approximately two hours. The Ph.D. comprehensive examinations may not be scheduled before students have completed all core, methodology, and language requirements, nor may the Ph.D. comprehensive examination be scheduled prior to the last semester in which regular course work is taken. Ph.D. examinations are scheduled twice a year, at the beginning of the Fall and Spring semesters. If Ph. D. students fail the written comprehensive examination on the first attempt, they may retake the written comprehensive examination only once, no earlier than one semester later. Note: Ph.D. students can only advance to the oral part of the comprehensive examination after passing the written portion.


A dissertation (also called thesis or disquisition) is a document that presents the author's research and findings and is submitted in support of candidature for a degree or professional qualification. In some United States doctoral programs, the term "dissertation" can refer to the major part of the student's total time spent (along with two or three years of classes), and may take years of full-time work to complete. At most universities, dissertation is the term for the required submission for the doctorate and thesis refers only to the master's degree requirement. The completion of a book-length project of independent research is the sine qua non of the Ph.D. program. The Ph.D. dissertation is also a significant and important life achievement that will serve as the defining product of your doctoral career. Preparing a doctoral dissertation is a complex and demanding process which may at times seem quite overwhelming. By definition a dissertation project is an effort at independent and individual work, so there can be considerable variation in how the process works for different students. Nonetheless, there are some basic procedures and minimum standards that apply to all dissertation writers. These guidelines were developed to help clarify that common process.

Dissertation Defense

In North America, the dissertation defense or oral defense is the final examination for doctoral candidates. The examining committee normally consists of the dissertation committee, usually a given number of professors mainly from the student's university plus his or her primary supervisor, an external examiner (someone not otherwise connected to the university), and a chair person. Each committee member will have been given a completed copy of the dissertation prior to the defense, and will come prepared to ask questions about the thesis itself and the subject matter. Doctoral defenses are open to the public. The typical format will see the candidate giving a short (20-40 minute) presentation of his or her research, followed by one to two hours of questions.