Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali’s blog about education

On Belonging

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I was in two very different situations I wanna blog about… But they both made me question my place in the (professional) world in different ways.

First, someone asked if my affiliation should be written as “Virtually Connecting” or as “American University in Cairo”. Well, both, if possible. The first is something I co-founded and my main contribution to open, right? The second is my institutional affiliation. One day, vconnecting may not exist but also, one day, I may be working for another institution. But my institution clarifies my geographic location, which matters in most contexts. But vconnecting clarifies how I’ve challenged the marginality of my geographic location in ways to benefit others and not just myself. I’m really uncomfortable with having to be one to the exclusion of the other. I’ve noticed some people automatically give me both affiliations without asking. I’ve also noticed some people in the open community start w my vconnecting and I LOVE THAT so much. As long as we do not stop there. All my other professional roles I can mention or ignore, but in the context of open education, I need to keep both of these. I could ignore my vconnecting in certain contextd where people wouldn’t understand what the heck it is… But not where people might. In an open edu context, should I clarify the diversity I bring as an Egyptian, or the value I bring via vconnecting. Tough call. I’m hoping they end up mentioning both.

The second incident is very different. I was giving a workshop at another institution. A private university. I had previously seen conferences in Egypt where invited speakers were whisked away to eat in a VIP lounge. Away from participants. I didn’t like it, but understand it’s because of crowdedness and such. But it wasn’t comfortable. Today, it wasn’t that. But it was that participants had mini sandwiches to choose from and mini desserts, whereas I got a box just for me with a sizaeable salad and two big sandwiches and a big dessert. I felt extremely uncomfortable and expressed this. I shared parts of my salad, going to every person to ask them to take some. I split both my sandwiches in two and put the halves in the same place as the mini sandwiches. I ended up eating my entire dessert coz no one else wanted to split… But anyway. Something originally intended as an honor became a source of discomfort and elitism for no reason. I mean, elitism is problematic in any form, but in a situation where other participants are also university lecturers and TAs, so really, my equals in all ways that count, I really did not want this unnecessary layer of preferential treatment. The organizer ended up apologizing… Which I mean, I didn’t want to make her feel bad… The intention was good, to honor me, but the outcome was a kind of… Setting me apart from others. Sigh.

First world problems 🙂

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