For the second year in a row, Oakland’s Jack London Square is awash in food carts as part of the eat real festival. Eat real aims to show that fast food can be real food and that sustainably produced food can also be affordable and accessible. The Bay Area food movement has been on display since Friday, but there’s still one day left to sample mobile food ranging from the quintessential street food — tacos — to the more unusual: chowder, soul food, west African cuisine, and creme brulee. Eat real offers more than just good eats. There’s also craft beers, local wines, food making demonstrations, and music. If you haven’t been already, don’t miss the final day of this unusual food festival that is well on its way to becoming a Bay Area institution.
You are currently browsing the monthly archive for August 2010.
June 2010. Last night I watched the sun set over four countries. Jordan, Israel, Saudi Arabia and Egypt are all visible from the beach on the Red Sea south of Aqaba and I had plenty of time to contemplate geopolitical vagaries as I dug my toes into the sand. A hot wind was blowing in from the Jordanian desert and I watched the various families settle in around me. The beach is a liminal zone in Muslim countries, where negotiations of culture, politics, and religion come into high relief.
The public beaches at the Red Sea, the Dead Sea, and the Turkish coast of the Mediterranean all have their own particular local mores and acceptable configurations of the highly contested terrain of women’s bodies. Haram is a very rough equivalent of the word “sinful” in Arabic. As a Western lady working in the Middle East, I hear it a lot. Pork is haram, chicken is not haram, exposing one’s hands may or may not be haram. At first I tried fairly hard to figure out how to behave and dress respectfully, but it is contingent on so many factors that it is incredibly difficult–probably impossible since I am foreign anyway. Even my most conservative mosque-going wear was rejected at the Great Mosque in Damascus and I had to put on an Orko-like cloak to enter. So now I just do what I can in most situations to not draw too much attention to myself, with one notable exception: The Beach. I wear a regular swimsuit and get stared at, but there are usually enough other scantily-clad foreigners to soften the impact. My tattoos also attract attention, perhaps only slightly more than on Western beaches where people pretend not to notice.
Anyway, I will always remember the first time I saw a conservative young couple come to the beach. She was dressed in a full burqa and niqab (face-veil) and he was in short swim trunks. She sat down under and umbrella and fanned herself as he went splashing off into the sea. He occasionally came back to check on her, but otherwise she just sat there, sweating in the 50 C heat.
Since then I have seen this same scenario played out several times, with different age-ranges in different states of dress. I’ve only seen the vaunted burkhini twice, both times on pre-teens who were passing through another liminal state, becoming a sexually mature (and therefore covered) woman.
So it was a familiar scene last night, a woman with her husband and four children, she completely covered and the rest of the family ready for the beach. She sat in the sand while her husband played with the children and splashed around. A scholar that was more sympathetic would probably say that she was still the nucleus of the family, that she guarded with the rest of the beach gear, but she seemed very much forgotten in all of the fun. So, to my surprise, she started playfully throwing rocks at her family and they giggled and dodged the rocks. This continued until after sunset, when she finally hiked up her burqa and waded into the surf up to her knees. I looked around and saw that many women were doing this semi-covert dusk activity and that couples were drawing closer together in the dim light of shisha coals. There’s been daytime swimming as well, women being held tight by their husbands while their burqa swirls around them. I guess it might not be so different than when I wore a t-shirt to the pool as a self-conscious little kid.
I think I will continue to find beaches in Muslim countries fascinating for both the changing ideas of how women should dress and how foreigners are integrated into the social scene.
Where did the summer go? Suddenly it’s the end of August, the fall semester has officially begun, new graduate student orientations will take place this Tuesday and Wednesday, and classes start on Thursday. Since there’s no easing back into school, you might consider diving into some of the workshops that will be offered over the next few weeks.
This Tuesday, August 24, from 5:00 – 6:30 pm Career Services is offering a workshop on “Nailing the Job Talk” in 166 Barrows Hall. Start preparing early for the on-campus interview you’ll hopefully land later this job cycle. Pre-registration is recommended.
For a more thorough introduction to the job search process consider attending Andrew Green’s “Academic Job Search in the Humanities and Social Sciences” series, beginning September 2. Over three sessions, Dr. Green will cover understanding the process and finding job announcements, preparing your application materials, and interviews, job talks, and negotiating the offer. This series takes place Thursday evenings (9/2, 9/9, and 9/16) from 5:00 – 6:30 pm in room 104 at the Career Center, which is located at 2111 Bancroft Way. Again, pre-registration is recommended.
On a lighter note, you can explore Berkeley and enjoy live music during the Downtown Berkeley MusicFest, which runs from August 20 – 29, with bands of all stripes playing at different venues around town. No matter what your musical taste, you’re sure to find something in the schedule that appeals.