Thursday, 28 February 2008

To a Communist

I was going through my journal and found something I had written while I was on a train in Poland this past November. Poland was a very strange place and while Cairo was more foreign, Poland was the stranger. It lurks between the two world of past and present, trying to move forward and yet the past surrounds it. It is not just in a the intangible details of history, but in the streets where most of the buildings are remnants of the Communist era. Only a few places have hidden historical gems, like the old city center of Gdansk (or Danzig, as it is known in German). We were discussing James Joyce's 'The Dead' in my Irish literature class and our professor brought up a poem, 'To a Communist' written by Louis MacNeice, which compares communism to snow. It would have been a perfect read for my trip to Poland.

In order to give a little more context to what I wrote on the train, my host Michael is Polish and his family is quite wealthy. We were their guests at their family home in Sopot and then at the hotel they run in the tiny village of Wiejce (pronounced Vee-et-sah). The hotel was once the estate of a German baron and used as a hunting lodge. Michael is also an ardent believer in true 'libertarianism' and he quickly deemed me a 'socialist'. Unfortunately, he also loves to argue politics (at once point, I accused him of arguing for the sake of hearing his own voice and that in a true political discourse, he would actually listen to what I was saying) and on the train rides which totaled about 12 hours, we were constantly subject to it. Here's what I wrote on the train:

We sit, some beings of ourselves, in our myopic journey of politics. Words flail round, some pretty sound to the harsh consequence of meaning and measure. The landscape calms our dictation in its frost covered world, trees fragile without leaves and the once long rays of the sun mellowing at an early hour.

Our journey had begun in the gilded age of Gdansk, the harbor glittering, reminding of some
other time when merchants were hallowed on these streets and ships were a common sight. The snow softens the harbor and the murkier history of an unforgotten past. But on this night, the light is soft and the air quiet as we stroll along the harbor. We dart into a building, the remains of what belonged to some merchant family. Behind the wooden doors hangs a curtain. We step past its folds to what is a small bar. It is tucked away like some forgotten relic, the lighting becoming more blurred and intricate the longer we stand there.

We climb the rickety stairs to a tiny room full of tables and chairs - the decor recalling some past world. We order 'warm beer', beer warmed like cider and laced with cinnamon and cloves. We settle into what feels like our own private world. But after an hour, Michael tells us we must leave and we all rush outside to catch a taxi. We run down the crooked stairs, past
the curtain, and into the street where we find that the snow has covered everything. The street is empty - it is 10pm on a Tuesday - the cellar doors that during the day become stalls selling amber are shut, the heavy wooden panels a most intriguing sight. There is a golden haze over everything, as streetlights blend into the fog, and standing in the snow, watching the flakes catch our coats, we forget that there is anything else besides this.

After minutes or hours, we remember that we are cold and that Mrs. Danucia is waiting with our Polish supper at home. Michael is quite insistent, not because we are keeping her waiting, but because food is something a Pole would never miss.

Monday, 25 February 2008

Weathering Colds and the Radio

It's raining and I'm at home nursing some variant of the virus that seems to be ensnaring the student population of St. Andrews. This means I feel like doing absolutely nothing and watching tv all day. Oh, wait! That's what I feel like doing every day!

No, I'm just joshing, as my friend Michael would say. I just happen to be a very miserable person when I am sick. That is, sick enough to still do everything but with a head that feels like it might explode, or already did due to the strange side affects of cold medicine.

I was told by a friend of mine today that the Scottish weather has once again returned and brought us winds predicted to be around 40mph. He was upset as he won't be able to golf. I was more upset about the upcoming walk I will have to undertake to get anywhere in this town. Basically, my residence is a mile outside of town and the easiest way to get there is to go through a path through a field. I thought last week's 20mph were bad enough (there are no windbreaks).

St. Andrews suffers from a microclimate, although far from the legendary La Jolla one, due to its position on the Scottish coast. Unlike the west coast, we escape a majority of storms and end up with one of the more temperate Scottish climates. Until the winds arrive. I can deal with snow and frost and rain and sleet. In fact, I like the cold and varied weather. But when you walk through an empty field with no one in sight for miles and hear the howling wind and a few lone crows, it seems more reminiscent of death. Or in Paradise Lost when the devil is about to appear.

On a better note, I am now volunteering at the radio station as a producer. Last Saturday night was my first show. I don't do any announcing - that's what the DJ is for - but I make sure everything goes out on the air, music, DJ's voice, etc., and give feedback to the DJ for the show. The show I'm working on is called Lucien's Alternative to Alternative, which is broadcast at midnight on Saturday nights (that's 4pm for CA listeners). You can stream it online at I believe that is enough of a plug.

I had a ton of fun the other night throwing it together. There were a couple of snags - like when one of the CDs wouldn't play - and then when the DJ forgot to give me the right cue for a song, but all in all, it went well. I'm sending the DJ some track suggestions and hopefully he'll play some of them.

I should get back to my bowl of tea - I was inspired by the French breakfast ritual of drinking coffee out of boules. I also uploaded my pictures from Cairo which you can view here and more of the pyramids here.

An Animated History of Evil

I had to post this youtube video on the history of evil for everyone else who enjoys history and parodies as much as I do.

Saturday, 23 February 2008

Un Cafe Creme, Milchcaffee, etc.

One of the biggest frustrations from living here in Scotland is the absymal lack of good coffee. Originally, I thought I wouldn't be drinking it because lattes are around 3 pounds and who needs a $6 cup of coffee? Luckily for me, I am not even tempted by $6 dollar cups of coffee when they are most similiar in taste to the free burnt coffee you get at church socials or other such events. With the exception of Egypt, where they serve turkish coffee, this is how I rated the coffee of each country I've traveled to:

1. Germany
2. France
3. The Netherlands
4. Poland
5. United Kingdom

Unfortunately my coffee drinking in Poland was very limited. But so far British coffee has been the absolute worst. Tea is another story...

Friday, 22 February 2008

Cairo Continued

I keep thinking about other things I want to blog about, so I better hurry up and finish the Cairo posts.

My Cairo trip was filled with the various tourist sites the rest of the week. I went to the Egyptian Museum and saw the everything they had removed from King Tut's burial site as well as thousands of other objects from the Golden Age of the Pharaohs. Compared to the King Tut exhibit that was in Los Angeles a few years ago, the Egyptian Museum supposedly takes months to go through. For me on the other hand, it took a solid five hours just to walk through the entire museum and take a brief look at the objects. In comparison to the travelling exhibit, the museum gives a much better context and was fascinating. I normally am not very interested in ancient art, but almost everything I saw was brilliant in its beauty and awe-inspiring because of the brilliant craftsmanship and sheer age. To think that these were made more than 3000 years ago!

Another interesting place was Coptic Cairo. It is also known as the Roman Fortress of Babylon and is the oldest standing part of the city. However, Duso and I had a bit of an adventure in getting there. Duso told the cab driver where we wanted to go, but I guess he heard something differently. The next thing we knew we were being driven through a slum that was filled with heaps of garbage and garbage trucks navigating the narrow dirt streets to dump more. The neighborhood seemed to be Christian - the women didn't wear headscarves and there were vendors selling plastic Jesuses. Suddenly we arrived at a gate where the guard asked what nationality Duso and I were and when hearing American, he was satisfied. As for the cab driver, he asked for identification and searched his pockets. When this was done, we continued up a very nice white driveway along the mountainside. We suddenly reached a parking lot where there were busloads of Asian tourists and Egyptian school children. There was some sort of church looking building and grass. The mountains formed a wall around us and on the sides of the hill were carvings of Jesus' life. Under one of them, it read, in English, 'JESUS IS THE SECOND COMING'.

We quickly realized that this was not Coptic Cairo and told the cab driver where we really wanted to be. He took us to the real Coptic Cairo, which I think was one of my favorite places in the city. The churches are in a Byzantine style and there are portraits of St. George all over. There were also tons of palm trees (which reminded me of home) and narrow alleys, giving it a very mysterious Indiana Jones-esque feeling. Afterward, Duso and I had turkish coffee, which I adored.

Besides the Indiana Jones moments (no lost ark, though), I got the whole Lawrence of Arabia feel. One evening Duso and I took a horseback ride through the desert at sunset. We galloped through the sand dunes and took a rest at a campfire set up to resemble some sort of outpost. In the distant, we could see the pyramids as well as the Cairo skyline.

There was the night-time Nile boat tour as well. And no, there were neither crocodiles nor lilies. Mainly there were oil slicks and blackish water. Duso told me not to touch the water either - it was known for having tons of bacteria and chemicals in it.

We also went to some of the few bars and clubs Cairo has to offer. There was Cafe Houria, where they serve Egyptian beer, Stella mostly, and tasty bar snacks Egyptian style, which are little yellow bean like things resembling soy beans. They were really good and salty, perfect with the beer. We also went to Odeon, a hotel, known for its decaying colonial style and rooftop bar. There was the Cairo Jazz Club as well which played live music, but with a cover band (no jazz was to be heard the evening we went).

And then there were the Pyramids. Despite the familiarity of them, there were incredible in reality. The structures are massive and despite the years of Egyptian school children climbing on them (we saw many, adults too, climbing up specifically where it said 'No Climbing'), they are still there. Like everything in the Egyptian Museum, it was incredible to think what marvels of engineering they were! And how they still are standing! The Sphinx was the least impressive and the erosion is extremely evident. It was also strange to see the massive fences and hordes of badly dressed Eastern Europeans posing in front of it.

Overall, I am extremely glad I was able to visit Cairo. I'm not sure how much of a hurry I am to return to it - I think Paris wins when it comes to a fabulous city - but it was by far the most culturally different place I've been to. Though as Duso's American roommate pointed out, he was glad he had had the transition of visiting Europe before moving on to Egypt and the Middle East.

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

The Natural Disaster of Fire Drills

The British are obsessed with fire safety. Well, to be more exact, fire protocol. This morning we had a fire drill at a lovely 7 am and despite being warned the night before, it still came as an unearthly shock. There is nothing more horrifying and jolting than a blaring noise to whisk you from the warm comforts of your bed into the early Scottish morning. Luckily, it now being February, there was some light - unlike December - and it was not raining. Yet I envy all those first year Berkeley students in their flipflops and sweatshirts and lack of frost and frozen ponds. Then again, bed seemed all the better when I did finally return.

I understand the need for fire drills, especially when you live in a housing block of something like 900 students. But my building has been cursed with an unfortunate amount. What was worse was that there is no warden (the equivalent of a Residential Advisor, except usually a grad student looking for cheap housing) specifically assigned to our building and it took one about 20 minutes to arrive the last time. We were later told, after the fire brigade arrived, that the discovered the reason for the alarm. Due to hi-tech software, the alarms record what triggered them. Last time, it was because someone had used too much aerosol deodorant and the fumes had triggered the fire sensor. Today's drill was merely routine.

What I was especially surprised by when I first arrived here was the amount of fire doors everywhere. Not only do they seem to appear every five feet, but they are made from the heaviest wood possible. You must pull to open them if you are indoors (which is the opposite of current California building code, note part d) or as the code states 'in the direction of exit'. The doors in my building often take both arms to pull open and god forbid if you have a laundry basket! Coming from the land of fires, it seems like the British are overly worried. There is a sign in our kitchen about cleaning the hob (the stove burners) as it is a very likely fire hazard. And then we are not allowed to keep our kitchen door open at any time! Another fire hazard! I don't even want to go into the warning we got about leaving our front door ajar and unlatched. Yet, in a four story building, there is only one fire exit - the main staircase. Luckily my window is big enough for me to jump out of and be able to escape with maybe just a broken arm. Too bad for those people on the 4th floor.

I guess there are enough stupid undergraduates at this fine university though. Earlier this week, some fine specimen of British higher education had a candle burning in his room. However, this candle was not very stable and fell over into his shoe and ignited it. It then spread to his laundry, burning his wardrobe and the wall. He's no longer living here anymore.

As for all those poor Berkeley (and St Andrews) undergraduates who live off campus, what happens to them when they don't have a fire drill? Martina and I often had to take down our smoke detector in our apartment last year. The slightest bit of smoke from the oven or a pot boiling over would set it off. Yet at nineteen years old, I think we would have been able to evacuate the building if there was a fire, despite not having a drill. I'm not sure how our neighbor who had just had hip surgery would have done.

I guess the British do have a traumatic history with fire. The fires at Camden Market did not bolster their confidence either. I personally believe they never got over the Great London fire of 1666. (I wonder if Chicago has the same problem after the Mrs. O'Leary cow thing.) Then again, maybe I'm taking too blase a standpoint. But when you are constantly in the midst of natural disaster, you learn to work with it, or at least understand what you cannot do to prevent it.

Although I still wonder if an earthquake just happened every time a lorry rumbles by in a distant street.

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

First Two Days in Cairo

I am starting to wonder what I did in Cairo - but it is all coming back to me. Having been back in Scotland for over week, I have quickly been returning to my Scottish lifestyle and getting away from worldwide traveler mode.

The first day I arrived in Cairo it was 1am. Duso met me at the airport - thank god! - and we went back to his apartment, which is in the Al Manyal district, close to the city center. The airport was not as horrendous an experience as I thought it was going to be. I did get very confused due to lack of signage and got into the wrong line. I didn't help that all the Germans on my plane were equally confused - the plane had left from Cologne, Germany - and Germans do not know how to form a proper queue. The British do know how to do that right. There is even a joke that Brits will get into a queue for absolutely anything and often they do not even know why they are in a queue.

Eventually I made it through passport control. I had to buy my Visitor's Visa for $15 from one of the many banks next to the passport control lines and then had it stamped by passport control and was set free to try to get my luggage and avoid people trying to sell me stuff. By the time Duso and I made it to his apartment, it was pretty late. We had a quick snack and went to bed.

The next day we did a grand tour of Cairo, visiting the old Islamic citadel and the bazaar. The Citadel was built in response to the Crusades as a military strong point for the city. There is also an absolutely gorgeous mosque there and as the whole complex is on a hill, the view is outstanding. In the distance we could see both the pyramids of Giza and the older ones of Saqqara. There are also a strange assortment of museums there including an old Ottoman palace, a military museum, and a police museum. Like any great country, Egypt believes in Revisionist History and Duso and I found it very funny to see which wars Egypt had actually won. We were also very intrigued to see if the military vehicles parked in the garden were made of metal or plastic. They certainly looked like they were plastic, but they sounded like metal when we hit them, and the signs said they were real.

A sidenote - in Egypt, no one follows the rules. We were going to go into the Police Museum, but the guard told us it was closed. We started to walk away when he called out, 'If you are quick, you can go in'. But then we would have had to give him a 'tip' and we didn't really care that much about a police museum. As for the rules, it is most apparent in the traffic. Although there are lanes painted on the streets, no one actually drives in them, creating their own variety of lanes ranging from 2 to 20. If I had driven like that, I would have been dead in instants. But I guess the Egyptians have figured it out as pedestrians follow similar rules as the drivers. I have learned to be an excellent jay walker since I got to Britain - all motor vehicles have the right of way - but no where as near to as good as those who have lived in Cairo.

Later that day, we went to the bazaar. From what Duso was telling me, there is only one true bazaar in Cairo and it is much more a Middle Eastern tradition than North African. I kept forgetting that Egypt, despite being Muslim, is in fact North African. The bazaar was exactly as I imagined it - narrow alleys with vendors selling absolutely everything imaginable. It is a major tourist destination as well so the vendors speak almost every language and try to lure customers in with their best English phrases (which I mentioned before here). Most of the stuff is pretty useless - need a fake copper Egyptian cat with hieroglyphics on it? - although I think my favorite random stuff was the giant baskets of spices and herbs. For some reason all the vendors kept saying, 'Want belly dancing?' and would gesture to a back room. I kept thinking it was the Islamic version of strip clubs and when I mentioned this to Duso, he laughed. 'They have belly dancing outfits', he said. That explained a lot. Although why would I want a belly dancing outfit? Then again, I saw tourists buying tons of junk.

I did make several purchases in the bazaar. Postcards, for one, but I was planning on buying them anyways. Then I, with Duso's help, bargaining for two beautiful linen scarves, one of which I gave to my friend Kat in Germany to thank her for hosting me. The best thing I bought though was a beautiful pair of earrings. Duso and his roommate have gotten to know a shop owner in the bazaar named Hani. Hani and his brother run an antique shop that sells a lot of interesting artifacts from Iran, Iraq and other parts of the Middle East. Hani also runs a jewelry shop where he handmakes all of his pieces. I bought the earrings which are made from beautiful red stones and a carved wooden scarab with copper and turquoise details. Unfortunately, the scarab fell off when I later went horseback riding, but that's another story.

Sunday, 17 February 2008

Culinary Concoctions of Cairo

As a foodie who likes to proudly boast of my latest culinary concoction - earlier this week it was baked trout in a bed of potatoes and chorizo with a marinade of lime juice, garlic and green onions and a salad of arugula, blood oranges and camembert - I found the food in Cairo to be just as much of an adventure as the city.

Initially, I had thought that Egyptian food would lie somewhere between Lebanese and Persian. Wrong, wrong, wrong. As my half-Jordanian flatmate later said, 'Egypt is like the Wales of the Middle East'. The food was not exactly bad, but it was far from the land of pita and hummus. It was not the worst regional cuisine I've had yet - England still wins that one, with Poland being a close second. I will make a distinction between English and Scottish food, one in which I will proudly admit that I adore haggis. That's already on the list of things I will miss.

Back to Egyptian food. The majority of the food I tried was street food. None of it was necessarily bad, as it was all edible and initially I enjoyed it a lot. It's just very boring. For breakfast, Duso and I would normally go to the little sandwich-esque shop and buy a pita-like sandwich that had falafel (or the Egyptian equivalent) and hard-boiled egg. Then for lunch it would be shwarma (or doner, in Turkish, or gyros, in Greek), the roasted meat on a spit in a sandwich. Traditionally, koushari is eaten for lunch. Duso called it the 'poor man's food' and for about $0.20, you get a giant tub of pasta mixed with chickpeas, tomato paste, and spicy sauces.

My personal favorite of all the Eygptian dishes was ful mudammas (pronounced fool), which is traditionally ate at breakfast, although we had it for dinner. Made from broad beans, it was most akin to a bean stew. We asked for spicy, although in Egypt and what seems like most European countries, they have no true notion of the word 'spicy'. The restaurant we went to for the ful was one of the most picturesque places I ate at. Duso's friend, Morgan took us down the strange maze of streets that make of the Garden District where she lives. It is also one of the most colonial areas of the city housing the British and American embassies. When we got to the restaurant, it was little more than a built up stove, several shelves, and a wealth of plastic patio furniture. Lights were strung from every which way and among the variety of plants, it felt like our own personal oasis.

Setting aside, the ful was very good, worth eating again. They served the ful with tomatoes and onions and brought an omelette and bread to eat with it. The other notable items I found were the pastries, although not quite as good as the ones from the Armenian bakeries in Pasadena, and the Turkish coffee. But coffee deserves it's own post.

Saturday, 16 February 2008

My Introduction to Cairo

Luckily it has been pretty warm here in St. Andrews since my return from Cairo. I was a little afraid that the warm days in the high sixties (in a desert!) would leave me unprepared for the Scottish winter. However, unlike January, the pond has yet to freeze over and I haven't encountered any frost filled mornings since my return.

Unlike my past trips, it is hard to say that my trip was amazing, awesome, or any other awe-inspiring adjective. I think out of all the places I have been so far that Cairo was the most interesting and the most challenging destination. Unlike the European countries I've been in, perhaps with the exception of Poland, the language was completely incomprehensible. It's amazing what the knowledge of a few key phrases can do for you. My Arabic vocabulary now consists of: habbibi, or 'dear/love', a constant in all modern Arabic music; halas, 'enough', useful in getting camel ride operators to leave you alone or any other variety of hasslers; shukran, 'thank you'.The other problem I found was being a white woman. It did not help that I was the fairest in colouring for miles around and that wherever I went I got a ton of attention whether it was just stares or people asking 'How much?' in Arabic. In other words, they were asking my male friend Duso, who was the one I was visiting, how much he would sell me for. I did get one of the highest offers - six million camels - which is impressive even for Egyptian standards. Whether it was the amount or the fact the guy knew the word million in English which Duso kindly pointed out, it was still a lot. As for the most ridiculous line I heard, some guy at the bazaar (most of these incidents occurred there where the majority of vendors attempt their best English 'phrases' to win over customers) said, 'Look! You dropped something!' I turned and looked down and when I saw nothing, he replied, 'It was my heart falling as it broke!'

It was also amusing to watch the attempt to approach all cultures. When they saw Duso, who is Asian, the vendors would often greet him with a 'Ni Hao!' He was very offended being Chinese neither in nationally or heritage. What was even better was when one camel driver approached him with an 'Aloha!' Again he is not Hawaiian and what are the chances of someone being Hawaiian in the middle of the Egyptian desert? I think proportionately the chances for Chinese are greater.

In general, as long as I was prepared for the comments, the touching (some girl grabbed me and called me 'Moon' in Arabic - a compliment I later learned, as the moon is a sign of beauty in Arabic poetry - while her friend demanded for money), and the stares, I was fine. There were only a few moments where I was not comfortable - i.e. when some guy kept following me through the Egyptian Museum and a different guy attempted to film me at the Pyramids. Unfortunately for us white women, our media has given the Arab world a wonderful view of us - white, non-Islamic women are considered extremely promiscuous, especially in the Islamic world where dating is not allowed, let alone physical demonstrations or public displays of affection. Suddenly, that literature class I took, Passionate Puritans and the Roots of American Literature, is coming back to me.

I got into several discussions with friends before I left for Cairo over the concept of the headscarf. They felt it was a threat to women, and I do agree that with the abstract concept of it comes the repression of women as seen in the various extremist regimes of the Middle East. However, just as I would expect a traditional Islamic person to understand why in my country I would never follow such a rule, I felt that I needed to have respect for their culture and if necessary, follow their rules. Countering my friends' opinions that they would absolutely refuse to cover their heads even in a mosque, I felt my general philosophy applies: If you want to break rules, you must first follow them. The women that do bolster the general equality of women (yes, feminism) are those who follow the rules but use their position to assert change. I think it is most obvious in the realm of the professional: journalists, doctors, teachers, etc.

Currently in Europe, there is a giant discussion over immigration and the immigration of Muslims. In countries like France and Germany, not only is there a mass influx of Muslim immigrants, but a large portion of them are having an extremely difficult time assimilating. Whether this is due to them refusing to assimilate or the governments ignoring that there was a problem is up for debate. Even in Britain it is a major issue with Pakistani immigrants. Just last week the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams ignited Brits over the Islamic tradition of sharia. However, in regards to Cairo, I must have followed the Anthropological view of 'observation'. Although a few acquaintances of mine from Berkeley tend to take passionate roles, whether politically demonstrating in foreign countries and the like, I decided I'd rather just observe for the time being and then decide what my ardent opinion was. No need to call the embassy to ask for legal advice yet.

I did get the sense of repression in Egypt though - whether it was sexual or otherwise. Most of the attention I got was from men. However, after being in Egypt for a week, there was a general atmosphere of despair. The LA Times recently had an interesting article about the buses in Cairo and the average life of an Egyptian. The writer pointed out the terrible pollution, the rising prices and the stagnation of wages. All of those were noticeable while I was there. The dollar does stretch pretty far - it was about 5 Egyptian pounds to 1 US dollar. Duso lives in a very middle class neighborhood, far from the usual haunts of tourists and I saw a variety of interesting things. His apartment (the picture to the left) was previously occupied by a minor Egyptian tv actress. Outside there was the usual view of a variety of other middle class apartments.

When I first got to Cairo, I knew it was not going to be the ideal desert setting, a la Bogart's Casablanca, but I think I was a little more than surprised at the overwhelming poverty. What I would consider middle class was far from what the middle class there had achieved. What also surprised me were the hours people kept. The streets were packed and busy for what seemed like the entire night. The usual hours Egyptians keep are from 10am or 11am to 3am. The shops are not open before that and often don't close until the wee hours of the night. And no one ever seems to be at work. My general overstatement of the day: everyone just hung out at cafes or the local shawarma stand. There is a joke in Egypt that if they say it will take a week to get something done, it will really be ready in a month. Apparently public sector jobs are even worse.

When I was in Poland, my Polish friend Michael explained the poverty situation. 'They are poor because they are lazy. They just take the money the government gives them and drink it all away', he said. Somehow I doubt that in an extremely Islamic country (I think I saw a total of 3 non-hotel establishments that served alcohol) that drinking the government's money is the problem. Then again I'm just another 'rich' girl talking politics. Or a Socialist, as Michael so kindly put it when contrasting his Libertarian ideals.

An Explanatory Introduction

After little thought and having dodged requests for awhile, I decided to try blogging. Well, I don't think anyone officially asked me to start a blog - that's my own vanity at work and hipster inclinations to be profound - but here are the unneccesary reasons:

  1. To give context to my photos.
  2. An easier way to add images to my emails/stories.
  3. An official way to compare the various coffees I've tried as requested by Krista.
  4. Another means to procrastinate, the official academic goal of all British students.