Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Qahwe or 'Ahwe?

We started class. I was placed initially in a level I was nervous about, so I dumped myself in the lower level, which was one of the more frustrating experiences I’ve had in a good long time. I’m back in the “Advanced B” level now, and only semi-lost. As I write I am in the most western place on this side of Alexandria -- a coffee shop called the “Coffee Roastary”. Not to worry, I’ve spent plenty of time in the beachfront “’Awehs” (in Modern Standard Arabic the Qaf is pronounced instead of being replaced by the gutteral stop, or hamza, so that the word sounds like "Qahwe" which is much less confusing and easier to say. Sorry for the grammar lesson -- but its what I live and breathe), but I really wanted a latte, and this place has Internet, though it refuses to work for me. Speaking of western places, yesterday I went to “Carrefour” which is sort of like a WalMart inside of a mall. I felt like I’d taken a cab from one civilization to another, or maybe to the moon -- there were things like an Adidas store, a Claire’s, and even a Starbucks! It was a really odd place to be. I didn’t feel like I was in America but I also didn’t feel like I was in Egypt.

But the latte was weak, small, and expensive. So much for that try. Nevertheless, I will include a song in honor of my latte...and, I suppose, all of the smoking (a-tadkheen) that goes on in this country...and because I'm exhausted because we had class until 8 last night and again at 8:45 this morning and the full time between them (minus 4 1/2ish hours spent sleeping) was spent engrossed in my Arabic notebook. The song includes the lyrics: " So put me on a plane, and fly me to anywhere" which, on some level, kind of represents my life for the next year or so. It's "Coffee and Cigarettes" by Augustana.

OH and before I forget:

Some more of the weird things I’ve seen:
- 24 hours after our group of 25 Americans moved in to the lovely Egypt Hotel (which will be their home for the coming two months), we got a personal guard to sit outside of the reception area and, well, guard us.
- Men with prayer marks on their foreheads. I sort of figured out what these were, but my suspicion was confirmed by others: These are calluses that are built up by those who pray five times a day and scrape their heads on the ground/carpet for years and years. It is considered a mark of distinction and even social status. Pshhhh.
- Religious people not caring about “shomer negiah” (guarding the touch), and extremely religious-looking couples holding hands, etc.
- Oh, lots of men hold hands. They can be wearing tight pink shirts and tight black jeans and linking arms with another man wearing approximately the same outfit, but they’re straight as a board.
-I’d write about the sexual harassment situation, but I’ll avoid the frustrating that will cause all of us, especially certain family members of mine, and simply say that it’s not as bad as I thought it would be.
- Today on the way back from class we saw a very dirty man sleeping on the street under a sheet who (I could have sworn) was dead until I saw his arm supporting his head and figured that meant he his muscles were working. I hope.

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