Asfa, la attkelum al-inglezia

If the above tittle looks like gibberish to you, it kind of is, as it is a transliteration of “I am sorry, I do not speak English” in Arabic. And that is basically my current mentality, as today, we signed the infamous language pact. The language pact is a main parts of the CLS program in which we basically pledge to give up English (and our sanity) for the remaining time. In other words, unless I am talking to friends/family from home or I have an emergency, I have to at all times speak Arabic in school (even during our breaks), on all CLS trips and excursions, with my host family, and when I am out and about in Jordan. To raise the stakes, if a CLS or school employee hears one speaking in English enough times, one can be sent home and made to repay the scholarship! So I kissed my last remaining comfort of English away today and switched into full Arabic mode.

Though by the end of the day I thought my head was going to explode, the language pact is amazing. I have already learned so much Arabic in my short time here and I can only imagine how much more I will learn simply by constantly practicing with my peers. Inshallah the days will only get easier because this first day of only Arabic was extremely exhausting– but of course will prove to be immensely rewarding.

After school, a few of my friends and I (Nancy, Susi, Sam, and Eric) went to a cafe and hung out there for a little bit. We tried to bargain for a lower price for some ice cream (in Arabic of course!) before realizing that it probably is not typical to bargain for items already listed with a price on the menu… whoops. Either way, we got a special deal, though I suspect the only reason they put up with us was due their amusement at our struggle to convey our bargaining options to them in broken Arabic.

When I got home I got to take a much-needed shower (it is HOT here. By hot, I mean HOT, especially since our school and home do not have air-conditioning). Then some guests came over because we were celebrating three of my host siblings’ birthdays (I was a bit confused because they were not all born the whole day, but this seems similar to Oman, in which many peoples’ birthdays are celebrated the same day, especially since birthdays are not a really huge deal after one’s first birthday). We had a delicious coconut cake filled with fruit and then all just hung out a bit.

IMG_2726

Then my roommate (Aletta), the other host student who lives above us, and I sat on our balcony outside and started our homework (we already have so much work, CLS is keeping us SO busy!!!) until it got a bit too cold outside so we had to move inside (I am so confused; how can it be so hot during the day yet get quite cold at night?!).

I’m finishing up some homework now but taking a break to get some English out of me by writing this blog. Excited to learn some more Arabic bookara (tomorrow)!

Getting ready for Jordan

These past few days have been such a blur! I still cannot believe that I am in Jordan!

I left for Washington DC on June 3rd for a CLS orientation. From the 3rd to the 5th, we were packed with back-to-back meetings about safety and health in Amman, strategies for learning languages, and further avenues to pursue with our newfound skills. We had some wonderful speakers come to talk to us, including various officials in the Foreign Service and in the Department of State.

I also got a chance to meet my the other CLS studying going to Amman with me. There are 27 of us total; a mix of girls and guys from both undergraduate and graduate schools from all over the country. Each person has such amazing stories from their travels, and mostly everyone has studied abroad before in the Middle East. It’s so great to be with a bunch of Arabic-learning-nerds… I am so excited about the next two months!!

Finally, on the night of the 5th we flew to Frankfurt, where we had an 8-hour layover. We got to see a little bit of the area before taking our final flight to Jordan, where the adventure all begins.

And… Arabic Classes are Over!

Yesterday was my last day of Arabic class! I took my final and then it was all over! It’s so weird to be done with my textbook (this year we went through an Arabic textbook called Al Kitab Book 1). I still have my program’s final project to do, but my Arabic classes are over! Next week (my last week here) we will have reflections and different final cultural outings.

As happy as I am that my final is over, I am also sad that Arabic class is over. I have loved my Arabic class so much; my teachers have been some of the best teachers I have ever had and this class was probably my favorite class that I have ever taken. Though definitely a bitter-sweet ending, I cannot wait to continue my Arabic studies at Emory this fall!

Published Authors?

To introduce this activity, I should probably explain a project that we have been working on for the past few months. In our language partners (we have this “class” twice a week in which an Omani comes and practices Arabic with us, helps us with any language problems we may have, and does language activities with us. We have two groups– my group consists of Liz, Miriam, and Anna). Each group has been working on writing and illustrating a children’s book in Arabic!

My group’s book is about a little boy named Ali who lives in Oman. His mother gives him a cat, but he doesn’t really want a cat (he would prefer a video game instead), so he is unhappy. He goes to the souk to do some shopping and the cat wanders away. Knowing his mother will be upset that he lost his new cat, he embarks on an adventure throughout Oman and talks to different animals to ask if they have seen his cat. None of them have and they each recommend his next location. He returns to his house empty-handed, but finds his cat there waiting for him. At the end, he realizes that he loves his cat and animals in general! Shout out to Anna for the amazing drawings!

This past Thursday, we volunteered at a hospital and went to the section for little children who have cancer. We read our stories to them (and then later donated our stories to their library) and then played with them for a bit. They were so adorable and I had a lot of fun playing with them! Some of them were really shy at first, but we finally got most of them out of their shells by the end and played lots of games with them. It was such an amazing experience.

Arabic

Last Thursday, we attended a lecture at Sultan Qaboos University (located in Muscat, it is the best university in Oman). The lecture, “The Importance of the Semitic Language of Oman to the History of Arabic” was by Professor David Wilmsen from the American University of Beirut.

The lecture itself was so interesting and only made Arabic even more daunting. There are so many dialects of Arabic! Even in each country, there exist multiple dialects. Oman, for example, has Omani Arabic, Modern Southern Arabian, and Shihhi Arabic, among others. My host mom has told me that in some parts of Oman, she is not able to understand their Arabic because the dialect is so different.

What makes Arabic in Oman unique, however is its using the “sh” sound, which is not as common in dialects in other countries.

Apart from learning from his lecture, I also learned some things about lectures in Oman. Men and women sat on different sides of the room (there were a few mixes between the genders but this way uncommon)– not because of any rules; it was self separated. Additionally, people did not seem to have too many qualms about being late for the lecture (the lecture started late since they expected people to walk in late), and even one the lecture started, people kept coming in, some saying hello in Arabic loudly to everyone to announce their arrival once they walked in. I also learned that linguists (of course not all of them, but from what I saw at the lecture) are VERY passionate about linguistics. After the lecture, a lot of heated and passionate debates took place and Professor Wilmsen expressed so much glee when he heard words in Omani Arabic that he had not previously heard. I can only hope I find something about which I am as passionate!

Opera!

This past week (on Wednesday, Feb 26) we went with our program to the Opera!

We went to see an Enana dance show and it was spectacular! Enana dance is named after Enana (surprise surprise), who is the ancient Syrian goddess of love, fertility, culture, art, literature and the moon. The story that we saw was of the Umayyad prince Abdul Rahman bin Mu’awiyah bin Hisham (he was the grandson of the last powerful Umayyad caliph). The dances showed his life as he was pursued across the Syrian, Naqab and Sahara deserts by his enemies. In the end, however, he lives and founds the Caliphate of Cordoba. The music was great and the costumes were wonderful!

It was really funny because during the first half of the show, we sat in the very back row in the top balcony, but then during the second half, due to some connections, we got to sit on the first floor near the front! Got to love those Omani connections.

Another Wedding

Happened February 4, 2014

In the US, I have only been to two weddings total… in my whole life. In Oman, I’ve been to maybe five now? I’m on a roll.

After school, we drove to my cousin’s house to get ready and put on makeup. Then we headed to an Omani wedding! 

This wedding was similar to the other Omani weddings I had attended in Muscat; in fact, it was held in the same hall as one of the other weddings I have been to! 

I think it was the fanciest wedding I have been to yet. The hall was really nicely decorated and there were tons of people who wore a range of clothes from Omani to Indian to prom-style dresses. At the front as usual, was a stage with a couch for the bride, but then in front was a lower circular stage for people to dance on. There was lots of dancing and the DJ was really good as there was a cool mix of Arabic, Indian, English, and Spanish songs. 

The food was also fancy too. Waiters came around with trays of small pastries, Omani sweets, tea, and coffee. 

At about 9:30, the bride slowly walked in to very dramatic music, posing for pictures every few steps. A slideshow played pictures of her engagement party. We got up to get food from the buffet and then had to leave since it was already almost 11 (the groom hadn’t even walked in yet!).

Definitively though, my fanciest wedding yet.