Dispatches from Behind the Linguistic Front Lines
Hey, Internet. It’s been a while. Did you miss me? I missed you.
So, it’s officially been more than a week since the language pledge. I wish I could say I’ve been way too busy having fabulous adventures in Arabic to update since then, but in reality it’s just that life is kind of slow. Which is good! But I don’t really know what to write.
Here’s what’s been going on in my life of note:
Language pledge. Not as bad as I thought it would be. Occasionally pretty awkward and makes having serious conversations rather more difficult, but hey. My dreams have started incorporated broken Arabic, which is kind of exciting. My listening skills still suck, though. I really enjoy watching Arabs be confused when they speak to me in English and I’m like:
آسفة، ما بتكلمش انجليزي.
Or occasionally in a thick accent, “Eenglish? I do not have. Mumkin 3arabiyyi?” If pressed, I tell them I am from Sweden. (Because obviously Swedish world travelers don’t speak any English…)
Classes. Also not as bad as I thought they would be. I have MSA 3 days a week (1 of those days being a speaking/listening focused day), ECA twice a week, and Arab-Israeli Conflict twice a week. The MSA here is by far the best MSA class I’ve ever been in, and it’s exactly the right level for me; I feel very challenged without it being overwhelming. ECA is not quite as good. I mean, I feel that my dialect has improved a lot more than my Fus7a, but that’s basically a function of being here. The dialect class is just way slower than I would like it to be, i.e. it is not anticipating every linguistic need I may have in my life and teaching it to me just before I need it, GOSH HOW DARE THEY I WANT MY MONEY BACK jk.
Arab-Israeli Conflict is a good class. There are five people in it. The professor seems like a nice guy. The reading thus far is painfully boring, because it is about the different ancient Semitic peoples, and I can only understand about 3/4 of it. Maybe the other 1/4 is really interesting. I’ll let you know. This is only the first reading and I’ve only had one lecture, so I’m not going to pass any judgment on the class yet, except for that the professor said a few things in the first lecture of whose truth value I am skeptical. Not, like, ridiculously partisan things–he’s pretty good about “this class is about critical thinking, it’s taught primarily from an Arab perspective, but here’s what the Israelis have to say too”–but things like, “religious persecution was only in Europe, there was no persecution of Jews in Egypt or in America.” I’m oversimplifying, and he was probably oversimplifying so that we would understand, but um. No.
Modern Arab Literature starts next week. I am excited for that. I met with the professor and he seems like a cool dude.
Things other than classes, i.e. fabulous adventures. Took my first ride in a مشروع, which was interesting. They’re micobuses that run all up and down the Corniche.
Went to a really nice fish restaurant. It was pretty expensive by Egyptian standards, but not too bad by American standards. And the shrimp was wonderful. They had a display of fish to choose from, though, and one of them was still clinging onto the mortal coil, flipping its fins just a tiny, tiny bit, and it made me very sad.
Ate some kunafa. It was subpar, but still all right. After the first bite I winced and decided that I am going to spend spring break in Israel/Palestine (mostly the latter, because language pledge). Not just for the kunafa. But it obviously played a role in my decision-making process.
Went to the zoo. It was pretty cool but mostly heartbreaking. There were stray cats EVERYWHERE and some of the animals looked pretty miserable (i.e. some of them were in chains)and it was just sad. I know that Egypt has way bigger problems than animal abuse (i.e. a lot of people living in crushing poverty), but the zoo just made me really, really sad.
Things other than classes and fabulous adventures.
I’m generally a fan of intercultural understanding, but there are some things that are objectively not okay, and fresh animal blood splattered all over the sidewalk is one of them.
Tangerine soda is really tasty.
The Internet in the Medina is completely down and one of the girls broke my adaptor by plugging their hair dryer into it. MLISH.
Next weekend we have a long weekend. Well, all of our weekends are long weekends, but this one is especially so. There’s a national holiday on Tuesday, which is usually the last day of our week, so… some kind of adventure is going to go down. Maybe Sinai? STAY TUNED FOR MORE INFO.