Fiih mish moshkilla, Godzilla

25 November, 2009

(translation: There is no problem, Godzilla)

Hello world,

sorry for my lack of saying anything on the site for a few weeks. I’ve been busy with Arabic classes, my teaching internship, staying sane and looking for jobs. I actually don’t have too much time to write anything substantial right now as I have a looming deadline for an application for the UNDP LEAD program (total pipe dream, but who knows) and some packing to do before I head out to Hurghada tomorrow for Thanksgiving adventure 2k9. But here are a few updates from my life and my surroundings, in list form.

1. Egypt vs Algeria: I know our followers are all incredibly dedicated sports fans just like our international relations via sports blogger Kenny “Ustez Khoura (Arabic for ‘Mister ball’)” Nisbet, so I’m sure you’ve all heard about the post Algeria vs Egypt Brouhaha, right? no? oh. Well, since the disappointing game (because Egypt lost the night before my birthday, booo) there have been several news reports of people dying from celebrating too hard, Egyptian football fans getting attacked in Algeria, over 100 people having heart attacks and Egypt pulling out their Ambassador in Algeria because tensions had gotten too extreme. Maybe instead of fighting wars, countries should just duke it out on the soccer field…. actually take that back, I think people should just take out all of their aggression on the dance floor. Shimmy shimmy hay!

2. Calligraphy: We had two calligraphy classes as part of our “cultural immersion.” We had an elderly man wearing a safari journalist vest come in to the room an explain to us the history of Arabic calligraphy, several different fonts commonly seen in books and signs and teach us how to write our names in said fonts. Apparently, the pen with the slanted tip was something that came about for Arabic calligraphy, and they used to slice up dried bamboo twigs as their equivalent of a fountain pen. Each font was named after its location of origin and ranged from Farsi (as it originated in modern day Iran), Neskh (a city in Saudi Arabia) and Kufi (a city in Iraq). I’ll try and post some images of my name in each of these fonts in a subsequent blog. In the end of our second class, we did a bit of freestyle drawing with our names, which seemed more like a lesson in graffiti art more than anything. It was also nice to spend an hour long class essentially drawing our names and perfecting each stroke, curve and angle after the 2 hours of Arabic class in which we spent 45 minutes figuring out the different ways to conjugate one verb. This brings me to my next topic.

3. Arabic: Currently on my resume, it says that I can speak Japanese (fluent), Spanish (intermediate), French (Beginning) and Arabic (Beginning). I feel confident enough to say that I am at a beginner level in Arabic, but definitely not enough to converse for longer than a couple of minutes. I can say a few things, read the numbers and am starting to get a better grasp of the alphabet but writing takes forever and reading is just plain hard. Our teacher Hisham concentrated more on teaching us useful vocabulary using roman letters, which was great because I could throw down more words in my random word vomit conversations with my Egyptian friends for their amusement. I even kind of put together a semi coherent description of Kenny’s laptop getting stolen from his room to our friends. Although to them it probably sounded as retarded as someone saying in English: “In Kenny’s bedroom there was a laptop across his bed, now finished. There is a problem. Burglar, gone, kill.” Starting a few days ago we switched to a new teacher, Khaled, and he started teaching most of the class using the Arabic letters, essentially leaving me in the dust, scrambling to scrawl out the words in my notebook while he was explaining how there are only two ways to conjugate verbs in English, but eight ways in Arabic. Fee moshkila (Arabic for ‘there is a problem’). Another moshkila which arose from the teacher transition is one that anyone that has studied Arabic or any other language that uses a different script has probably experienced: transliteration. When you write arabic words out in English, they’re spelled phonetically so there is no right or wrong way to spell it out. My last name for instance (Oya), has been spelled out as Oya, or Ohya but neither are wrong, but they are also the same thing when written out in the simplified alphabet form (hiragana) in Japanese. Anyways, so Hisham and Khaled have different teaching styles and different transliteration styles, and I suppose each have their own strengths and weaknesses. Khaled (from what i’ve seen) has been teaching only pure grammar, and not really much on vocabulary expansion. Hisham would give us complex dialogues and break them down bit by bit giving us a lesson on grammar, vocabulary expansion, colloquial phrases and other fun things.

4. 25 – speaking of fun things, I had my birthday on the 19th. yaaay i’ve been traveling around the world for a Rupa (quarter) century! My friends and I celebrated by going out to an awesome seafood dinner (fish, calamari, shrimp, crab) and a swanky little nightclub in Alex called ‘Deja Vu’ where we got ourselves a bottle of Black Label whiskey. Classy world, here I come!

5. Teaching: I absolutely love my class. My students are all brilliant, thoughtful and clever. Ms. Britte and I decided to join our classes together for their oral presentations and put together a mock environmental conference in which each group presented a certain form of energy production and had to defend it as the best form until the end. Not only were the presentations professional quality and well planned out, the Q&A and debates that followed were so thought provoking that I felt like I was in a graduate level philosophy of science class at times. Next class (tomorrow) will be my second to last class with them and I’ll be talking about the UN Millennium Development Goals. Kenny guest taught my last class with a seminar on global conflicts and the Af-Pak dilemma (and did an awesome job, duh), and I was able to witness one of my students give the best summary of Pakistan (country and history) that anyone’s ever given in under 90 seconds. Amazing.

I suppose I’ll leave it at this for now. I just wanted to drop in and say hello. hello! Things have been a bit stressful at times but I’m absolutely loving being here. Things are looking good for the job prospects that we have so far (knock on wood) so hopefully we’ll be able to live in Egypt longer AND be out of the ranks of the un(der)employed. There are definitely some things that I miss about America (Halloween, Thanksgiving, Brooklyn, Americanized-Mexican food, Americanized-Thai food, Uber americanized greasy Chinese food, riding bikes) but we both have some amazing friends here and wouldn’t trade any of what we are experiencing now for anything else in the world.

huray for ending the blog on a happy note!



ps – we will be spending Thanksgiving in Hurghada, a city by the Red Sea with some of our friends. We don’t really know our exact itinerary yet, but we will be staying in a villa, maybe going on a safari and Kenny and I will be skirting off to a job interview at some point. Apparently there are A LOT of Eastern Europeans there…. oh and the bus ride there is 9 hours long…. ahh must end on a happy note… we might go snorkeling? yeah.. happy thoughts. huray!


One Response to “Fiih mish moshkilla, Godzilla”

  1. laura nisbet said

    Happy belated Birthday, Set!! How many people can say that they spent their 25th birthday in Egypt!! Sounds like it was epic!! Good luck with the interviews. Those prospective employers would be LUCKY to have you work for them!!

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