I started having back cramps a few weeks before I left. The first time, I thought I’d thrown out my back or taken a hard bump on the bike. By Saturday, I spent an hour fighting off the pain so I could get out of bed. Standing was agony. I checked myself into the ER. The pain had grown so fierce they wondered if I’d had a heart attack. I was scanned, x-rayed, tested. Nothing. No cracked vertebrae, no slipped disc, no heart attack. They gave me muscle relaxants and painkillers. I started seeing a chiropractor, who x-rayed me again. Nothing. By every test we can run, there’s nothing wrong with my back except for sudden, painful, immobilizing cramps.
I had dreaded the Old Fort Amphitheatre. It’s built Roman style, including the stone seating. (Next year, bring stadium chairs – maybe UA will loan). I thought I’d wake up in agony from sitting on that rock all night. I woke up fine. We took the taxi back to Stone Town. I explored a bit while the students explored on their own. At the ATM, I ran into some American college students – a third Study Abroad program (Ole Miss). I gave them my card and asked if their faculty director could contact me.
I met with Julie Weiskopf, the faculty director for the Wisconsin program. We talked about things that did and didn’t work in Study Abroad for the better part of two hours. I didn’t realize how isolating Study Abroad can be for the faculty member. If you come alone, as I did, you have no peers to talk to.
We went to the Old Fort Showings and caught a movie called Mother of George. I wasn’t crazy about it, nor ZIFF’s handling of the film. The movie centers around a young Nigerian couple in New York. The newlyweds are under intense pressur to start a family. When all else fails, the mother of the groom (played by Angelique Kidjo) tells her daughter-in-law to sleep with the groom’s brother. “It’s the same blood,” she says. “All women do this.” The young bride, desperate, approaches the brother and he reluctantly agrees. She gets pregnant, and everyone’s happy until she confesses the truth of the conception. Then the whole family falls apart, but there seems to be some hope of reunion at the end.
ZIFF censored about 15 minutes of the movie. They seemed reluctant to show people trying to conceive a baby – in a movie about people trying to conceive a baby. If that’s the case, ZIFF, don’t show the movie. I’d rather not see it at all than see a black screen cover the actors while they perform.
I also made several contacts: an Egyptian film critic, the head volunteer at ZIFF, and the director of the educational programming for ZIFF. We ended the night at the Mambo Club, the nickname for the large, grassy space next to the amphitheatre. ZIFF brings in musical acts to play nightly. The traditional stuff happens before the movies; night is for club music.
I noticed something at the Mambo club, or a lack of something: veils. Most women here veil, but at night, in the “club”, the veils mostly came off. I’ll have to ask about that.