I know it has been a while since I wrote to update. I’m sorry. I really am quite busy with classes and…being in Cairo and whatnot. I clicked around on all these arabic buttons and figured out how to upload pictures. The one on the left is me in front of the Egyptian Museum, the one on the top right Alexandria/Mediterranean, and the one on the bottom right is from my first night on a feluca on Nile at sunset. I’ll try from now on to add pictures with each blog.
Anyway, some of this update I may also be repeating. I can’t seem to remember what I’ve told to whom and when. but here we go:
Classes started 2 weeks ago (time is going so quickly!). My schedule is as follows:
Sunday: 8am Arabic, 11:45 Voice lesson
Monday: 8am Arabic, 10:25 Survey of Dramatic Literature, 1:15 Play Analysis, 2:40 Acting for Singers
Tuesday: 8am Arabic, 1pm Chamber Singers
Wednesday: 8am Arabic (sensing a theme?), 10:25 Survey of Dramatic Lit, 1:15 Play Analysis, 2:40 Acting for singers
Thursday: 1pm Chamber Singers
This is the Ramadan schedule. The times will change once Ramadan is over. They push everything up so that there are no classes during Iftar, which is where they break their fast. It’s really interesting. Once you hear the call to prayer at Iftar, everything stops and people eat. The police men who are on the street corners at their posts are chowing down. There’s no traffic. Stores close, and if they’re open, everyone is eating inside. People are sitting on curbs eating. I mean, I can’t say I blame them. They haven’t eaten since 330 that morning. But it’s kind of funny.
Last week there was a recruitment meeting for Student Action for Refugees (STAR) and I attended and have volunteered to teach English to refugees 3 hours/week starting October 4th. I’m very excited. They were also in dire need of a treasurer, and promised that it would not be too much of a time commitment, so I agreed to do that as well. It’s an organization that I feel I could devote a lot of time to. They seem to do wonderful work. Mostly teaching English, but they also do other things as well. They hold bazaars on campus for women to sell their crafts, as it is their livelihood, and hold cooking classes for students to learn from the women how to cook their native foods. There are refugees from all over: Sudan, Iran, Iraq, Armenia…the list goes on. I’ve also met a girl in my acting class who has lived in Cairo her whole life, but is actually Armenian and she volunteers at an orphanage once a week, and said she would take me this Wednesday with her. I’m really excited about that too.
Arabic is really interesting. Our professor developed this whole new methodology of teaching that doesn’t use El Kataab, which is the traditional book that most people use to teach and learn Arabic. We never learned the alphabet, but rather are exposed to the language as a whole from the very beginning. I was a bit weary of it, just since it’s not what all the other classes are doing, but it’s really amazing. I can read now, for the most part. Most of the time I don’t know what the words mean, but I can pronounce most of it, and I’m starting to be able to identify words that I know, and know what they mean and whatnot. She’s also not teaching us grammar rules, but rather we’re learning them through exposure. It’s very much the way children learn their native languages, and it really seems to be working. Plus, there’s no memorization involved, which is wonderful. Just exercises for homework, rather than making flashcards and studying them. I’m really enjoying it and I feel like I’m learning a lot. The only trouble is that I’m learning Modern Standard Arabic (MSA), which is the more formal language, and not the colloquial, so it’s only useful to an extent on the streets. The way it was explained to me, is that MSA is like Shakespeare’s language, as compared to what we speak everyday. But colloquial is more just speaking, and really will only be helpful in Egypt. At least this way I’m learning to read and write, and will be able to understand Al Jazeera, which uses MSA.
What else? I went to Khan Khalili today. It’s a giant market and one of the oldest of its kind. It was actually started in the year 13-something, so that’s pretty cool. It was a bit overwhelming. Everyone is heckling you to buy things and/or marry them…haha. One guy told me I look like Jennifer Garner. I was like…really? I think it must have been the only American name he could think of, because I clearly don’t look anything like her. Anyway, I bought 4 scarves and spent L.E. 80, which converts to about $15. It was quite an adventure. At one point we were going down this alley part, and it was quite narrow and extremely crowded, and there were people on all sides of me, going in all directions, and I literally couldn’t move and I was quite overwhelmed. I started to feel panicked and unsafe, but Kayla (the girl I went with) managed to navigate us out (which took quite a while) and we were more out in the open once again. But they were selling everything at this market. I’ll definitely go back at some point, but it was nice to get a feel for things first.
And there’s the call to prayer now. I’m sure everything has stopped and everyone is eating.
I think that may be it. I’m not sure there’s much else to tell. I think I’ve finally learned my way around Zamalek, which is the neighborhood where I live, so that’s good. I rarely go places alone, and never at night, but it’s good to know where I am and where I’m going. It’s interesting to walk places, too, around here. The sidewalks are usually quite broken or covered in trash or other things undesirable to walk upon, so most people walk in the street, and if there’s a car coming, they’ll just honk to let you know he’s there, and you move to the side, and you’re squished between the parked cars, and the moving cars walking along. They’ll pass you quite close, which doesn’t seem to bother anyone who’s native, but makes me quite nervous. I’m starting to get used to it though. The same goes for riding in busses and cabs. It takes a little getting used to, but I might be getting there. No one bats an eye at a bus going in reverse on the highway, or the fact that a 4 lane road has six cars across. It’s perfectly normal to go the wrong way down a one-way street. People might be annoyed, but they just deal with it…it’s a way of life. If cars are coming, you can still cross the street as a pedestrian. They’ll slow down just enough to not hit you, but you’ll feel their breeze as they pass. The noise of honking can be deafening at times, but it’s all (or mostly) out of courtesy for other drivers/pedestrians, not out of frustration. I find myself saying it several times a day but, “we life in a funny place.” I’m getting used to it all, and I’m sure it will soon begin to feel like home, but it’s a lot to handle at first. The men on the street are also something to get used to. There’s a lot of cat-calling, both in English and Arabic, and sometimes hissing. I find if I wear my sunglasses it’s easier. That way I can avoid eye contact, which is difficult for me. I just naturally make eye contact with people and smile, but that can be interpreted the wrong way, so I avoid it altogether.
I think that may really be it this time. I’m sorry it’s been so long since I’ve written. I’ll try to be better about it. It’s difficult, though, because I have little time. I catch the bus at 6:30 am (because it takes about an hour to get to campus from my dorm) and I usually catch the 4:30 bus home (which takes even longer, because it’s Ifar rush hour) So by the time I get home and do homework and eat dinner, it’s time to go to bed. But I’ll definitely try.
I hope everything is fantastic in your world. Lots of love to everyone!