Anyone who has experienced the confusion, dislocation and affirmation that is learning a new language as an adult will tell you that practice makes proficient. Practice practice practice. They will also tell you that practice is a million times more practice-y when you do it with someone fluent in the language. This is true if you’re learning Arabic, English, French, or Klingon.
So it should come at no surprise that people in Egypt who want to improve their English will often go out of their way to speak English with English-speaking foreigners, like me. It should also come at no surprise that I want to improve my Arabic, so I go out of my way to speak Arabic with Arabic-speaking Egyptians.
These two conflicting goals clashed yesterday at the fruit stand.
Fruit stand man: Hello how are you?
Me: Kwayes, hamdulliah.
FSM: What would you like? Mangos? Kiwis? Apples?
Me: *frowns* Ana iz moz.
FSM: *smiles* Bananas? How many?
FSM: Okay six. Anything else?
Me: Yimkin, tofaya ahmar?
FSM: Yes, how about these apples? They are fresh.
Me: Taza meshi. Min fudluck arba.
And so we went, back and forth, each too stubborn to give in, for the entire exchange. When I left with my fruit, I gave him the proper Egyptian salutations: “Ma salam.” He turned and said, “Bye bye, have a nice day.”
After being away from our apartment for my 4 week stay in Luxor at the South Asasif and our 7 week trip to the US to visit friends and family, we are so very glad to be home again! We’ve returned to Egypt during a chaotic time (almost everyone we talked to right before our return was incredulous that we still planned on coming back)… the “second revolution” began on June 30th and culminated with the removal of democratically-elected Egyptian President Morsi just days later. Brice and I were in line for a ride at Disneyland with my family when we saw the news… and all we really wished for was that we could be here to experience it with our adoptive home country.
When we finally arrived back to Egypt a week ago, most of the country was experiencing a curfew that began at 7 pm and lasted until 6 am. Living under curfew is a very different and interesting experience! Traffic in Cairo, already notoriously bad, is worsened by the city-wide change in work hours, visiting hours, etc. The curfew was moved to 9 pm a few days ago, and yesterday moved again to 11 pm, hopefully making mobility in Cairo (grocery shopping, seeing friends, etc.) a little easier for us. My last semester of classes at the American University in Cairo begin tomorrow, on Sept. 2nd, and with this latest curfew push-back, all the evening classes on campus should be all to go ahead as scheduled.
All that being said, we are glad to be back and have had some quality catch-up time with our cats, apartment and friends. We’re excited to see what Egypt has in store for us next!
One day, I took a taxi home.
(Many a strange story has begun with that line, I imagine.)
The driver was silent throughout most of the drive, which was bizarre in itself. Then, about halfway to my house, without speaking a word, he pulled over on the side of the road next to a small tea stand. Once we’d stopped, he reached behind my seat and retrieved a small plant with a six-inch tall stalk and leaves. He held it out to me and said, “Smell.” So I smelled it. Then he said, “Hold.” So I held it. He left the car.
I sat alone for some time, staring at the unexpected foliage in my hands. When the driver returned, he had a cup of tea. He took the plant from me and stuck it into his tea cup stalk first, like a flower in a vase. “Very good,” he declared. Then we drove the rest of the way home.
Tomorrow I am saying goodbye to my husband and getting on a plane to spend 4 weeks in Luxor. I am excited and nervous. It will be 115 degrees F when I land, and stay above 85 every night! I am preparing myself for an adventure and a lot of story-telling this summer.
Last week the AUC Egyptology department took a weekend jaunt in Luxor as our end-of-the-year field-trip. It was wonderful (and wonderfully hot!) and I’m looking forward to spending the next 4 weeks with those monuments. The high-light of the trip was the hot air balloon ride over the West Bank. We left the hotel at 4:15 am and watched the sun rise as we slowly lifted off the ground. The view was breathtaking. One cannot truly understand the landscape of this sacred place until you have seen it from the air.
So, I think it’s time for a little expat advertising.
All expats have their favorite websites, restaurants, traditions or possessions that help them feel more “at home” in their new home, and closer to their loved ones than they are. One of my favorites is an app called Postagram. I can sit on my couch or at school and send slick, shiny postcards with a photo of my latest adventure to my friends and family thousands of miles away! The photo on the postcard even pops out into a 3×3 in photo that you can put into a little frame! They’re fun to send and fun to receive!
I got one today from two of my favorite nerds. Definitely going on the fridge! :)
A few days ago we thought our year long quest to purchase a table for our home had finally ended. Unfortunately, though a table and six chairs arrived at our home, we did not receive seats for those six chairs, making the chairs impossible to sit in, and the table essentially unusable.
We spent the weekend sitting on our couch and gazing longingly at the almost-embodiment of our hopes and dreams.
I called the man from the shop where we had ordered it. He apologized for the delay and explained that certain obstacles had come up. However, a man would come to our house with the seats that night at 6pm. If you’ve been paying attention, this is the third time I was told that someone would come at 6pm. At this point, I trusted him about as far as I could throw him, and I’m a scholar not an athlete.
So I told the guy that the table was useless to me without the seats, and if I didn’t get seats that night, I would be Zahlen, “very sad/upset.”
That night, four hours after 6pm, an out-of-breath man showed up at my door with a big bag of seats over his shoulder, like Santa Clause himself. I gleefully assisted him in the 10 minute process of screwing the seats to the chairs.
And so the great table fiasco finally ended. We sat upon the cushiness of our victory and sighed with joy and exaltation. Then we noticed that they hadn’t used the fabric we had ordered. In the end, we got our table, and Egypt got the last laugh.