December 2, 2019 – Legally Blonde (OOTD #587)

I guess dreams really do come true, sometimes.

Attending a session of Supreme Court oral arguments has always been on my bucket list. I attribute it to the Schoolhouse Rock song about the three branches of US government, “Three Ring Government.”  I had a DVD box set of all of the old School House Rock songs, and that, along with “No More Kings” and “Telegraph Line,” (and probably a dozen more songs whose titles I can’t remember right now), I would play on repeat. This was before I had YouTube or Spotify — or even an iPod or MP3 player — so the only way I could listen to the songs was by playing the DVDs on my big square television in my room.

Just describing that makes me feel old. I know I’m not even that old, but the fact that I am now able to describe how life “used to be” makes me feel like my parents.

Anyway, I attribute my early interest in politics and government (and to a slightly lesser extent, US history) to Schoolhouse Rock. I loved that box set — in fact, I bet I still have it in a drawer somewhere in my parents’ house. I got a weird sense of superiority from knowing the three branches of government and basic early US history before all of my other classmates. I was never one to raise my hand much in class, but just knowing that I knew how the balance of power at the federal level worked while other kids didn’t made me feel special.

That’s not to say those feelings of superiority were good feelings, or that I still have them. But they did inspire me to take more interest in government and politics — an interest that died off in middle and high school and was really only renewed after the 2016 election. And just as importantly, they inspired me to consider a career in law for the first time.

I never dreamt of being president — I’m not a natural born citizen, so that’s never been an option for me. I did take some smug satisfaction from telling adults who tried to be inspiring with that even YOU could become President one day propaganda that I literally could not due to centuries-old irrelevant laws, but that’s beside the point. What I did dream of becoming was a Supreme Court Justice.

And no — the dream I referenced in the opening sentence of this blog that came true was not becoming a Supreme Court Justice (yet) — it was simply getting to visit the Supreme Court and observe oral arguments. I had visited the building earlier in the semester for a tour, but the season hadn’t yet begun, so we didn’t get to watch a case unfold.

My friend, Joanna, and I got there at 6AM for doors that weren’t due to open until 10AM. By the time we had gotten there, there was already a line snaking halfway down the street. From our online research, we’d found that they typically only allow in around 50-60 people; from a preliminary headcount, we were in spaces 55 and 56.

We had a mini-panic attack around 8 or 9am when they let in the first round of people to get out of the cold, and they cut off at fives spaces ahead of us — at number 50 exactly. We knew the number of people they let in each session varied, but we were afraid that maybe they would just cut it off at 50, and we were going to have been literally a few people away from being let in. We decided to stick it out though, hoping that they would let more people in just before 10am.

Turns out, they did. There was some speculation for that first case we went to hear (New York State Rifle and Pistol Association vs the City of New York) might end up being a landmark 2nd amendment ruling. Though it became fairly clear that, due to the law that was up for debate being revoked before the appeal made it to the Supreme Court, there’d be no guns rights showdown like some people hoped, I still think they knew it would be a case that a lot of people would want to hear, so perhaps that’s why we got in even after the first round cutoff.

Despite the fact that the case didn’t end up being a big deal in the gun control vs. gun rights debate (protesters showed up anyway — some with free coffee, which Joanna and I much appreciated after standing outside for four hours) it was still fun to watch. I’ll admit, I was a little starstruck seeing the Justices in person, even from the very back of the room. I wasn’t allowed to take any photos inside the chamber, but even if I could, you’d probably only be able to see a blurry image of RBG scowling and Clarence Thomas slumping in his seat, bored out of his mind.

The second case — something about copyright law — was less exciting. Justice Thomas and I definitely nodded off a few times.

I’m so glad I got to go though. Getting no sleep the night before, waiting outside for four hours, panicking when we thought we had just missed the cutoff, and then going to work after it all for three hours in the afternoon — it was all worth it, in my opinion. Honestly, it was possibly one of my favorite things I did the whole DC semester.

That’s about it for today. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one with more updates on my life this semester in Washington, DC. Don’t forget to check me out on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, BloglovinTwitter, and Tumblr! For business inquiries, shoot me an email at!

Jacket: Banana Republic

Blouse: Banana Republic

Sweater: Aeropostale

Trousers: The LOFT

September 26, 2019 – PentaGONE (OOTD #558)

See, as I’ve now gone to the Pentagon, I can say that I’ve Pentagone. 

I’m so clever, what can I say. I need to be hired as a junior staffer on the Hill just so I can make up titles for bills; it seems like they all have a fitting abbreviated name, and someone’s got to come up with them. It’s almost a prerequisite for getting a bill passed — like you think the USA PATRIOT Act was gonna get passed if it was called something like the Hastily Passed Privacy Abuse Act?

I think my favorite class I’m in this semester is one called Public Policy Visits. It’s basically a graded field trip class. I’m going to get (likely) an A just for showing up to these cool places I would have wanted to visit anyway; it almost feels like cheating.

And one of the cool places I got to visit for class was the Pentagon.

In the list of cool places I’ve gotten to go for this Public Policy Visits class, the Pentagon probably falls somewhere in the middle. Congress, the White House, and the Supreme Court were cooler, but then some of our other visits — which I haven’t even written blogs about, like a big law firm and a think tank — were definitely worse. That think tank visit was horrible. I’m not going to name names, but it might have rhymed with Shmeritage Shmoundation.

With the Pentagon, the major drawback was just that there was very little that we were actually able to see. I’m sure there’s a lot of cool stuff at the Pentagon — tanks and vintage military jackets and classified papers about Area 51 — but of course, they don’t actually let you see it.

Most of what you actually see is cafeteria restaurants and offices and pictures of old generals that your tour guide won’t even give you time to stop and look at. We weren’t allowed to take pictures, but being honest, there wasn’t much I wanted my picture with. What was I going to do, pose with the Chipotle sign in the food court?

I did get to pose with a replica Secretary of Defense podium, so there’s that. Not necessarily a position I’d ever really want but…I had a cute dress on, and I wanted something to put on my Instagram story.

That’s about it for today. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one with more updates on my life this semester in Washington, DC. Don’t forget to check me out on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, BloglovinTwitter, and Tumblr! For business inquiries, shoot me an email at!

Dress: Vintage (thrifted, Pops Resale)

Brooch: my Pakistani friend, Haya


September 20, 2019 – Pro Tip (OOTD #565)

Pro tip: fashion for the professional workplace is hard.I don’t know if that’s really a tip so much as it is an observation. I struggle to come up with work-appropriate silhouettes that aren’t receptive and boring every single day. It’s so hard. What am I supposed to do if I’m not allowed to wear ripped boyfriend jeans and mini-skirts every other day?

I think professional clothing is a little unfair to women — “workplace” fashion tends to de-emphasize sexuality. You’re supposed to look plain and unassuming: dark colors, conservative silhouettes, plain cuts. You’re supposed to “not be a distraction to men” or whatever (as if men can’t learn to just…not be distracted). You wear slacks and cardigans and turtlenecks, which, while they can be made to look attractive, are not necessarily the most flattering,

Men, on the other hand, get to wear suits, which are perceived as the most flattering attire for their gender. Think about it — men wear suits for every fancy occasion. They wear them for prom, for weddings, for funerals, and, of course, for work. You see a man at work in a suit and you think, “oh, that man is dressed up.” You see a women at work in a cardigan and you think, “well, she looks appropriate.”

It goes both ways, though. Women are culturally allowed a greater diversity of styles than men are — we can wear dresses and skirts and crop tops and heels and a whole number of types of clothing that men can’t wear without looking “effeminate.” Sure, men wear suits to work, which, due to their associations with formal occasions, tend to make them look dressier, but then they also don’t get to wear wedding gowns and club wear and prom dresses.

Or rather, society says they can’t. I think they can if they want. As they say, “we’re all born naked and the rest is drag.”

That’s about it for today. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one with more updates on my life this semester in Washington, DC. Don’t forget to check me out on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, BloglovinTwitter, and Tumblr! For business inquiries, shoot me an email at!

Jacket: Forever21

Top: thrifted, Ecseri Bazaar in Budapest

Skirt: River Island

September 12, 2019 – Order in the Court (OOTD #561)

I almost titled this “Supreme” in reference to the overpriced fast fashion company that everyone was super into for a hot minute in 2018, but I ultimately decided I disliked Supreme so much that I didn’t even want to give it a reference in a blog title.

After our class visit to the Capitol, our next stop was the Supreme Court. We’re making the rounds to the three branches of government, meaning the White House will get a post later in the semester.

If I had to choose one of the three main government buildings in DC to work in (the Capitol, the Supreme Court, or the White House) based on design alone, I think the Supreme Court would be my pick. The Capitol is huge and rather lacking in windows, and the White House just feels too much like a rich person’s house than an office building. I feel like the Supreme Court strikes a nice balance of austerity and beauty, though it too could use some more natural light.

I know these big important government buildings have to be secure so that no one can just shoot a Supreme Court Justice through a window or something, but there must be some way for them to not be so dark and cold. Maybe they could get some of those natural light bulbs that they use on plants.

To their credit though, at least they’re not in the brutalist style of some of the government agency headquarters here in DC, like the State Department or the FBI. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a building as ugly and sad-looking as the FBI — to be honest, I think that was the designer’s intent. Sure, the Capitol building could use more plants and windows, but I would say that about every structure that’s not an actual greenhouse, and those are nitpicks in comparison to some of the buildings that look like they come straight out of 1984 (the novel, not the year — in terms of years, they look more like 1964).

The Supreme Court tour my class went on was fairly short — as is the case with a lot of these tours of functioning government buildings, they won’t let you see a whole lot. We went before the court season began, so we didn’t get to see any proceedings, but they let us into the main courtroom to sit and look around for a minute. While it’s not a picture sitting in Justice Ginsberg’s chair while wearing a powdered wig, I did get this shot from the doorway, which is more than most people can say.

That’s about it for today. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one with more updates on my life this semester in Washington, DC. Don’t forget to check me out on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, BloglovinTwitter, and Tumblr! For business inquiries, shoot me an email at!

Top: The LOFT

Skirt: River Island

August 31, 2019 – A Monumental Semester (OOTD #558)

Blog title courtesy of Notre Dame’s Washington Program tagline.


Say what you will about Washington DC being a fake city consisting of nothing but tourists and glorified temps who come and go with every election (in fact, I’d probably half agree with you), but I like the monuments and memorials.


I don’t know, I just think they’re cool. With the exception of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial (which is my favorite) and maybe to a lesser extent the Korean War Veterans Memorial, none of them are super provocative, which to me is what makes a good memorial.  However, they’re still fun to look at. No, there’s nothing emotive or honestly really even that controversial about the Lincoln Memorial. In the end, it’s just a giant statue of a guy in a chair. But you can still marvel at the artistry and technique that went into creating the giant statue of a guy in a chair.

I think, for me, that’s what makes the difference between a cool statue and a memorial — a memorial should have some form of impact for the viewer. And that doesn’t have to be in the form of controversy in its creation or design, as was the case with the Vietnam Veterans Memorial (though I do find the story behind its design to be fascinating).


A memorial should make you think or reflect on something — in the case of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, it’s to make you reflect on how terrible war is for just about everyone involved. It’s an ugly wall for an ugly war. To compare, the National World War II Memorial may have a flashy fountain and beautiful sculptures of eagles, but it doesn’t really make you think about anything but how flashy the fountain is and how beautiful the sculptures of the eagles are. For that reason, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial is the better memorial — even if it’s the uglier “statue.”


Like I said, though, that’s not to say that some of the “big statue” memorials, like Lincoln or Washington or Jefferson, aren’t still fun to see. They’re just not provocative to see. Comparing the Vietnam Veterans Memorial to the Lincoln Memorial is like comparing a Francis Bacon to a Pier1 Imports painting of a fruit bowl — yes, Lincoln is pretty to look at and an impressive display of technique, but what did it really make you think about? We all already know what a fruit bowl looks like, and we all already know that Lincon was a good president.

Anyway, those are my thoughts on the monuments and memorials in DC that you didn’t ask for. One last opinion for the road — how long until a woman gets a memorial on the National Mall of the scale of Lincoln or Jefferson? And who do I have to know in order to get to design it?

That’s about it for today. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one with more updates on my life this semester in Washington, DC. Don’t forget to check me out on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, BloglovinTwitter, and Tumblr! For business inquiries, shoot me an email at!

Top: H&M

Skirt: Forever21

August 14, 2019 – How to Take Public Transport from Jerusalem to Bethlehem: A Traveler’s Guide (OOTD #547)

After a brief intermission featuring the World Holocaust Museum, it was back to research on the West Bank border graffiti.

After devoting my first full day in Israel-Palestine to taking a comprehensive tour with a Palestinian guide, all I had left in mind to do with the remainder of my time was go back on my own and have a closer look at the artwork. Easy, right?


More like easier said than done. It shouldn’t have been as surprising to me as it was, but it’s rather difficult to travel between Israel and Palestine. It must have something to do with how the two regions don’t get along with each other (and haven’t for years), and how Palestinians are prevented by law from entering Israel and Israelis are prevented by law from entering Palestine. Just a wild guess.

As a foreigner, you are free to visit both — in fact, you’re even free to visit the Gaza Strip, though you probably shouldn’t unless you’re a specialized humanitarian aid worker. But just because you are free to visit the areas, doesn’t mean it’s a stress-free experience. In fact, for me, it actually was rather stressful because for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out how best to get from Jerusalem (on the Israel side) to Bethlehem (on the Palestine side) via public transport.

This guide ended up being rather useful for me, but as it turns out, it was a little over a year old and difficult to follow at points. I’ve decided to compile my own little guide below:

How to take public transport from Jerusalem to Bethlehem: A Traveler’s Guide (2019) 

Congratulations! You’ve decided to take some time out of your trip to Jerusalem to visit its neighboring city, Bethlehem. Lots of solo travelers visiting Israel miss out on visiting Palestine because of how difficult it is to get there without a tour guide to help you. Good on you for deciding to broaden your horizons and check out a part of Israel-Palestine that many don’t want you to see.

Though the two cities are right next to each other, they’re divided along political boundaries (and with a physical barrier called the West Bank border) that make taking public transport between them rather complicated. Whether you’re going to see the Banksy hotel or the Church of the Nativity, you can use this guide to get from Jerusalem city center to Bethlehem.


Note: when traveling between Israel and Palestine, always remember to carry your passport with you! You will need it to cross any checkpoints. Additionally, you never know when you’re going to be stopped by a police officer or soldier and asked to show your papers. The reality is that they use a lot of racial profiling to determine who to stop, so if you look definitively “foreign,” you may be less likely to be suspected of being a Palestinian trying to sneak into Israel (or vice versa), but it’s best to be safe! 


  • From Jerusalem Old City, you’re going to want to head to Damascus Gate, the gate opposite Jaffa Gate, a common meeting point for tour groups. Just across the street from Damascus Gate, you’ll find the bus station for the Palestinian bus company, South Bus Company. South Bus Company is the only one that offers transport from Jerusalem into Bethlehem; the Jerusalem bus company, Egged, will get you near the border, but it cannot take you into Bethlehem. You can tell South Bus Company buses apart from Egged buses because South Bus Company buses are blue and white while Egged buses are green.
  • South Bus Company runs three routes from Damascus Gate:
    1. The 234, “Checkpoint 300” (formerly the 24) — this bus travels from Damascus Gate to Checkpoint 300 (sometimes also known as the Rachel’s Tomb crossing). It does not technically go into Bethlehem. The bus will drop you off outside of the Checkpoint 300 terminal, at which you will have to cross the border on your own. This is what I did, as the 231 was not running the day I tried to visit. It’s a little scary at first, but with your foreign passport, the soldiers will hopefully not give you a hard time. They’re less concerned about people trying to get in to Palestine as they’re concerned about people trying to get out.
      • This is a good route to take if you’re only interested in seeing the West Bank border graffiti or the Banksy Hotel. They are within a 10 minute walk of the Checkpoint 300 exit. Use Google Maps to navigate you to the Banksy Hotel, and from there, you should be very easily able to follow the perimeter of the wall to see the art.
      •  Checkpoint 300 can be very busy depending on what time of day you visit! Try to avoid morning and evenings of weekdays, as many Palestinians will be crossing to leave for work/return home from work at these times
      • After you exit Checkpoint 300 on the Bethlehem side is a great place to grab a taxi, if you want one.
    2. The 231, “Beit Jala” (formerly the 21) — this bus travels from Damascus Gate to Bethlehem City Center, near the Church of the Nativity. This bus route does not require you to deal with Checkpoint 300 on your own, but you will still have to wait for the police to check the papers of every passenger. Because of this, you may be held up for some time. This is the route I tried to take, but for whatever reason, it was not operating that day, and I had to take the 234 instead.
    3. The 232, “Beit Safafa” (formerly the 22) — this was the route on which I was able to find the least amount of information. I know that it begins at Damascus Gate like the other two, but I was not able to find where it actually terminates. From what I could gather, I believe this bus may go all the way into Hebron, but I am not certain.
      • If you have any information on the 232 route, let me know and I’ll add it to the guide!
  • Fare for one trip is 5 NIS, or approximately 1.42 USD. You can only pay in cash.
  • Here’s South Bus Company’s official website that you can see the latest info on. They only have their website in Hebrew and Arabic, so use Google Translate if you need English (or another language). The site shows you routes and the schedules.
    • Note that in Palestine and Israel, the working week is Sunday-Thursday. From sundown Friday to sunrise Sunday, Jews (so, Israelis in particular) observe Shabbat, meaning that public transport in Jerusalem is not widely available. As a result, on the schedule, you’ll see Sunday-Thursday, then Friday and Saturday schedules.
  • Be mindful of time if you’re traveling very far into Palestine. Within Bethlehem and the rest of the West Bank, there are more checkpoints beyond the initial checkpoint crossing, depending on whether you are technically in Palestinian or Israeli territory. Each checkpoint has certain hours of operation, so you do not want to get caught on the wrong side of a checkpoint after it has closed!
    • Checkpoint 300, the main checkpoint for crossing between Jerusalem and Bethlehem, is supposedly open 24/7. However, I have also heard that Palestinians will queue for hours in early morning in order to ensure that they can get to work on time in the morning, so just because a checkpoint is permanently staffed, does not mean that processing will be efficient at all hours of the day!
  • To return to Jerusalem at the end of your travels, simply catch the bus again from where you got off. You will need to pay another 5 NIS fare. You can either ride the bus all the way back to Damascus Gate in Jerusalem or signal the bus driver (usually a wire to pull or button to press) that you want to get off at any of the stops in Bethlehem or Jerusalem along the way.


Let me know if you have any particular questions or if there’s anything you think I need to elaborate on further! This is all just based on my experience over the summer; no guarantee of course that things will be the same when you visit. If you have any information to add based on your travels, please leave a comment!

That’s about it for today. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one with more updates on my trip to Israel-Palestine this summer. Don’t forget to check me out on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, BloglovinTwitter, and Tumblr! For business inquiries, shoot me an email at!

Top: TJ Maxx

Trousers: J.Crew

August 13, 2019 – Interlude (OOTD #546)

Here’s the thing about independent research trips: you don’t have to do research for the whole time.


Or maybe you do — I don’t know, I’ve never done one before. Maybe a good researcher would spend all of their time devoted to their work. Alternatively, maybe all research trips are fake and people just go on them to travel to exotic places on their university’s budget. What do I know?


Anyway, after a whole day devoted to working on my research project on the West Bank border graffiti, I decided I deserved a break. I knew I needed to go back to the border and have a closer look at some of the graffiti, but it’s not exactly an easy task. I needed another day or two to research how even I could get back to the area safely on my own, so in the meantime, I decided to do something a little more accessible to the average tourist.

What I ultimately decided to do was visit Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Museum.


What I show here are not photos of me at Yad Vashem for what I think should be an obvious reason — a memorial to genocide is not the place for fashion photography. Sure, I took pictures while I was there of the exhibits, but the focus was on the exhibit, not me. As much as I like to make things about me, the Holocaust is far beyond the scope of even my narcissism.IMG_5418.jpeg

I did like my outfit though, so instead, I got some pictures with a sculpture and a nice hill overlooking the city in a nearby park.

It was a great museum though, seriously. That’s coming from me — a person who normally finds museums (except for art museums) to be dull and slow. The best part — as is the best part with a lot of museums to tragic events, such as the 9/11 Museum — were the video testimonies from people who lived through it. Diary entries and photographs and personal belongings help embellish the narrative, of course, but only the people who lived the experience can tell the story.IMG_5372.jpeg

They also did a fair job, in my opinion, from keeping the museum historical, rather than making it into it about why Zionism and a national Jewish state need to exist (though they did touch on that in the last room or two). Having just come from Palestine the previous day, I appreciated the dominantly historical approach.

That’s about it for today. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one with more updates on my trip to Israel-Palestine this summer. Don’t forget to check me out on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, BloglovinTwitter, and Tumblr! For business inquiries, shoot me an email at!

Coat: Forever21

Dress: Vintage (thrift, Brick Lane Market)

Blouse: ASOS


August 12, 2019 – The Writing on the Wall (OOTD #545)

Here we are: the actual reason for my trip to Israel-Palestine!

I didn’t really discuss this in my blogs from last spring, but I spent a sizable chunk of time before spring break writing a grant proposal to go to Jerusalem to do some research. It was a long shot — I never thought I’d actually get the money to go, and I mostly considered it an experiment with the grant-writing process (which I had only done once before, to go to Vichy for a week-long language intensive in French) that would be useful practice for later.

The plan to go to Israel-Palestine stemmed from the time I’ve spent over the last two years working with the Madrasa Discourses project, for the conciliation of traditional Islamic thought with modernity in India and Pakistan. The idea first came from a friend that I made while in Doha with an MD conference. She was the one who originally proposed turning our experiences with Madrasa Discourses and interreligious dialogue into an independent project, and so I owe it to her for inspiring me to actually go through with the whole undertaking.IMG_5062.jpeg

Though she ultimately couldn’t go, which was a huge factor in determining my level of comfort going to a politically tense area like Jerusalem, I still decided to do it. You don’t get a grant from your university to do research every day — especially when the research takes you to a country and a culture you’ve experienced been before.

There have been many famous walls throughout history – the Great Wall of China, the Berlin Wall, the of Northern Ireland Peace Lines – and now a new barrier wall has joined their ranks.

This barrier wall is the West Bank barrier, which separates the Muslim-dominant Palestine from the Jewish-dominant Israel. Described by Israelis as a “security fence” (geder-ha-hafrada) and by Palestinians as an “apartheid wall” (jidar al-fasl al-‘unsuri), the barrier has been a subject of controversy ever since its construction began in 2002. Out of controversy and political unrest, however, can spring one of the most passionate and creative forms of self-expression: art.


Much like what was seen in Berlin and Belfast, artists in Jerusalem have transformed the concrete that separates Israel and Palestine into a canvas for political discussion. On either side of these walls, activists, professional artists, and civilians have used graffiti as a way to express opinions about the situation in Israel-Palestine and the barrier’s existence.

During the course of my one-week journey to Israel-Palestine, I studied this political graffiti on the West Bank border wall, focusing specifically on the area around Bethlehem. My goal was to discover some of the artistic themes on the wall and how those reflected local sentiment about the ongoing Israel- Palestine conflict. More specifically, I wanted to study how the opposing narratives of the border wall as a “security fence,” as it is referred to by many Israelis, or as an “apartheid wall,” as it is referred to by many Palestinians, were evident in the wall’s artwork.

If you’re not familiar with the situation in Israel-Palestine surrounding the border wall, here’s a little context: the border was initially constructed by Israel to protect against extremist Palestinian bombings, and to many Israelis, it has done its job well. In 2004, approval of the wall for Jewish-Israelis was at 78%, with many arguing that it had caused the shift from nearly-weekly bombings in 2003 to only three attacks in 2004. IMG_5087.jpeg

However, though the barrier primarily follows the Green Line (a 1948 armistice border acknowledged by the UN), it swerves east several kilometers to incorporate certain Israeli settlements. To many Palestinians, this is nothing short of occupation and land grab. The wall cuts off many Palestinian citrus and olive farmers from their land, making it difficult or impossible for them to harvest their crops because of the new security checkpoints. Crossing the checkpoints from Palestine-controlled Bethlehem to get into Israel-controlled Jerusalem also poses many problems for Palestinians; people begin queuing hours in advance on weekday mornings so that they can get to their jobs in Jerusalem. Many simply bypass the checkpoints and cross the border illegally every morning instead — something Israeli employers easily take advantage of by refusing to pay “illegal” Palestinians for labor they have already completed.

With this background in mind, I began my preliminary research by taking a graffiti tour with a Palestinian guide. This initial tour was crucial, as he was able to point out key pieces of art (such as those by famous English graffiti artist Banksy) and direct me to other wall-related graffiti that was in the area but not necessarily on the wall itself. I came back at a later date to actually scrutinize individual pieces and photograph the wall itself; this first day was just to get my bearings with the help of a local. With this as my main goal for the day, I was able to relax a little and just enjoy learning.


Due to the constantly changing nature of graffiti, some of the pieces that I had seen online when I had been doing research for my grant proposal had been completely removed or covered by new pieces of graffiti. For example, one, which had previously depicted President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu in a kiss, had been altered to remove their embrace. It may be interesting to go again in a year or so to see how the visible graffiti has changed — which pieces have been scrubbed away, or covered up by other graffiti, or had their message altered.

My guide also took me into Bethlehem to see a Palestinian refugee camp, where I got to talk to some locals (including an elderly man who rememberd when the Palestinians were orignally evicted from their homes in 1948 during what is known to Israelis as their War of Independence and known to Palestinians as The Nakba, meaning “the Catastrophe” in Arabic). Seeing the lives of Palestinians as they went about their days was honestly just as impactful as the graffiti. At one point, we had to cross into a piece of territory that was technically under the control of Israel. We, as foreigners, were allowed in but our Palestinian guide was stopped by IDF soldiers before he even got to the checkpoint.


But it wasn’t all politics and gloom — we visited a part of Hebron, where we saw a glassblowing workshop. We also saw the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, the (honestly, kind of tacky) Crusade-era church built to commemorate the supposed birthplace of Jesus. And we got lunch at a really lovely Palestinian cafe, which was still open despite the fact that it was a Muslim holiday and most places were closed.


When I originally wrote this grant proposal, I had hoped to learn about both sides of the Israel-Palestine conflict through the artwork on the wall. As it turned out, there wasn’t much artwork on the Israeli side at all, nor was there much artwork on the Palestinian side that might be described as “pro-Israel.” I thought that this might be the case going in — graffiti often being used more as a vessel for protest rather than praise — so my trip helped to confirm my belief.

Because I actually visited Palestine/the West Bank, rather than just viewing images of the wall online, I actually got a sense of what life is like for the Palestinians who live behind the wall. Perhaps most apparent was the great wealth disparity that was immediately visible as soon as I crossed from Jerusalem to Bethlehem. They feel like worlds apart — one is relatively safe, modern, and comfortable, and the other looks more like what you’d imagine a war zone in the Middle East to be. The massive concrete wall, guard towers, and IDF soldiers watching you from above doesn’t help.  


Do I recommend that you go to the wall itself? Personally, I feel a little conflicted about the concept of political tourism, because actual people’s lives aren’t something to be gawked at and photographed like animals at a zoo — however, it’s critical to educate yourself about the history and political context of the places you go, and one of the best ways to do that is simply to pay a visit to a contested area. Each city has one– it’s Freedom Square in Budapest, it’s the Opéra in Vichy.

As the quote goes, travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness. Respect the people you encounter, don’t treat it like it’s another tourist destination for Instagram, and share what you see if it so moves you to consider a different perspective or narrative than you thought you knew.

If you ever get the chance to visit Israel-Palestine, I highly recommend popping over to the West Bank to get the Palestinian story. Whatever you decide, do as the writing on the wall says, and “don’t be a brick in this wall.”IMG_5145


That’s about it for today. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one with more updates on my trip to Israel-Palestine this summer. Don’t forget to check me out on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, BloglovinTwitter, and Tumblr! For business inquiries, shoot me an email at!

Top: Zara

Coat: Forever21

Trousers: Altar’d State

July 6, 2019 – Bizarre Bazaar (OOTD #527)

I can’t believe I didn’t use that as one of my Instagram captions.

View this post on Instagram

young trash that likes looking at old trash

A post shared by Meilin || L'ensemble du jour (@lensembledujour) on

As promised from yesterday’s blog about Budapest Central Market, I’m here now to discuss the superior of the two major markets in Budapest: the Ecseri Bazaar.

Being fair, they are two very different markets; it almost doesn’t make sense to compare them. Central Market focuses on food and *some* gifts and trinkets for tourists, while Ecseri is essentially a flea market. Central Market sells things that are brand new, while Ecseri sells things that are secondhand and vintage. Given my track record of buying vintage clothing, guess which one I was drawn to more?

View this post on Instagram

hey macklemore, can we go thrift shopping?

A post shared by Meilin || L'ensemble du jour (@lensembledujour) on

I went with my friend, Bilal, and I think he was bored out of his mind. Too bad for him, because I thoroughly enjoyed it. I absolutely adore looking at people’s old junk — especially people’s old junk in different countries and cultures. You can learn a lot about the history of a place by visiting a flea market, and Budapest was no exception.

I was tempted by a few pins that featured the classic Soviet hammer and sickle insignia, but there was no way to tell if they were authentic vintage pieces or just made in China reproductions for tourists like me. In the end, I wound up with two blouses and a coat — all for under 20 USD.

View this post on Instagram

yes homo

A post shared by Meilin || L'ensemble du jour (@lensembledujour) on

In the afternoon,  I attended the Budapest Pride Parade alongside my friend and his Central European University friends. Of the various protests/parades/marches I’ve participated in in the last three years, this one may have been the most significant. Here’s the thing: marches are often boring. You walk super slowly, you maybe say a few chants, and you look at the funny signs. Maybe you get a cute picture for Instagram,. You don’t go because you want to have fun; you go because you care about the issue, or at the very least, civil society’s right to protest about their issue.

View this post on Instagram

dude, that’s gay

A post shared by Meilin Scanish (@meilin_scanish) on

This is an overgeneralization, but for the other marches I’ve attended, the marchers wanted an expansion on something that already existed. For example, at the climate change strike in Rome, the students wanted the Italian government to do more than what they were doing to stop the climate crisis. For this march, the marchers wanted something that doesn’t really exist at all in Hungary — LGBTQ rights.

That’s a significant difference, at least for me as a participant. In the latter case — advocating to have something that doesn’t exist — you feel more like a catalyst, like a trailblazer. It’s riskier to say you want something new than to say you want more of something you already have some of. Both are perfectly valid forms of demonstration, but one, to me as an individual, is more personally engaging.

That’s about it for today. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one with more updates on my life in Europe this summer. Don’t forget to check me out on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, BloglovinTwitter, and Tumblr! For business inquiries, shoot me an email at!

Outfit 1:

Top: Forever21

Trousers: Thrifted (Salvation Army)

Outfit 2:

Top: Vintage (thrifted, Ecseri Bazaar)

Shorts: PacSun

July 2, 2019 – Fashion, Fascism, and the Blue Danube Waltz (OOTD #524)

I’m a big fan of walking bridges.

View this post on Instagram

could you tell me the abridged version?

A post shared by Meilin || L'ensemble du jour (@lensembledujour) on

And I think the Margaret Bridge in Budapest may be favorite yet. It connects Buda and Pest, the two halves of Budapest (clever naming, right?) across the Danube from each other. Walking, I’d say it takes maybe 15 or 20 minutes to cross.

View this post on Instagram

i see why johann strauss ii wrote a waltz

A post shared by Meilin || L'ensemble du jour (@lensembledujour) on

The view either way is gorgeous, though I would personally say that looking out at the Pest side from Buda is a particular treat, as you can see both the Parliament Building and St. Stephen’s Basilica across the water.

In addition to a lovely walking bridge that stretches the Danube River, Budapest also has the oldest Metro line in mainland Europe (the award for oldest Metro in all of Europe goes to the London Underground), with Line M1 dating all the way back in 1896.

I actually had the pleasure of riding Line M1 for a brief commute with my friend Bilal, as he needed to go from his university in the downtown area to a neighborhood a ways away. Maybe is a quirk specific to me, but I love testing public transportation systems in new cities. I grew up in a city without one (well, I suppose they had city buses, but there were no stops near where I lived so it was irrelevant to me), and so visiting places that have a metro or a train system is super exciting to me.

Budapest’s M1 had such a vibe. It looked more like it came out of the 1960’s rather than the 1890’s, but I can’t pretend that I know exactly what 1890’s public transit design looks like. I feel like most rail systems feel like walking into a time capsule, but this one had an especially strong aesthetic.

The final stop of the day was a monument to the former communist (note the lowercase “c”) Hungarian Prime Minister and leader of the failed Hungarian Revolution, Imre Nagy.

Let me tell you a little about this monument, which I think may have been up there in the list of my favorite things I saw in all of Europe this summer: it’s some spectacularly subtle design. Or at least it was, until it was moved to its current location.

Originally, this statue was located in Liberty Square, a plaza with some highly-political, highly-contested statues and monuments. Among other, less debated pieces, one can find controversial (depending, of course, on your opinion of the subject matter) monuments to the Red Army, to Ronald Reagan, and to the victims of German occupation (which features a makeshift protest installation right next to it) there.

Up until January of this year, Imre Nagy was right alongside the others. He was near the monument to the Soviet Red Army, which is a controversial monument in and of itself. It is the only Soviet monument in Budapest that has been allowed to remain in its original location; all of the others were moved to a park well outside of the city after the fall of the USSR.

Nagy’s original placement near the monument to the Red Army was very intentional. His gaze was fixed on Parliament, with his back to the Red Army. As a leader of the failed Hungarian Revolution of 1956, which attempted to drive out Soviet control following its establishment during the liberation of Hungary from Nazi occupation, this is of course rather symbolic. He looked away from fascism and totalitarianism and towards democratic governance. With his relaxed and non-confrontational but defiant stance, he made a clear political statement through a few purposeful, subtle design choices.

However, Nagy’s statue has been moved to a new location near Margaret Bridge next to the Danube. He still looks towards Parliament, but he no longer has his back directly to the Red Army, and he is no longer so centrally located.

Was his relocation a political statement as well? Did Viktor Orbán himself order the monument’s movement, as one of his many attempts at historical revisionism? I don’t know. I can only say that I don’t like that the statue was moved, as it takes away from its original meaning and artistic intent. It’s an offense to Imre Nagy, to Hungarian history, and to good design.

Anyway, that was more than I meant to say today about historical revisionism and Hungarian politics. In summary: more fashion, less fascism. 

That’s about it for today. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one with more updates on my life in Europe this summer. Don’t forget to check me out on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, BloglovinTwitter, and Tumblr! For business inquiries, shoot me an email at!

Top: The LOFT

Skirt: Forever21