Posts Tagged ‘Arabic’

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Jon: Le Arabia

September 24, 2011

Arabic. I seriously believe it might be the death of me one day. This weekend concludes my first full week of classes, and I am very much looking forward to the break. Every day I have Arabic for 2 hours and then another hour of Ameea (what the Jordanian dialect is called), however in order to be prepared for class I have to spend about 4 hours a day prepping. That is a lot of Arabic, alas it is what I came here for. My other class, the Environment and Politics of Water, is turning out to be very interesting. We are right now in the pure science of it all so I’m having to double down on the reading and really try to pick it apart but it is intriguing. 

This Sunday I start my internship and I am extremely excited for this! I ended up interning with Friends of the Earth Middle East (http://www.foeme.org/www/?module=home), where I will be designing sustainability standards for one of their EcoParks. Also, the organizer for the internship programs at CIEE seems very intelligent, and has an amazing resume. She has worked on multiple UN projects among other development tasks, and her husband is in charge of the World Health Organization here.

The only other thing I want to comment on today though is about women here in Jordan as I have been consistently surprised here in this regards. In the US we view the hijab and burqa as oppressive, sometimes even as middle eastern women deny this. We also tend to assume the women who wear these garments are more conservative, yet through Amman I have been shown this is not true. Public displays of affection are outlawed in Jordan and while hand holding doesn’t completely fall in that category it is still considered a very ‘liberal’ thing to do in public. Yet I have seen multiple times Muslim women who are wearing the full body burqa holding hands and walking with their boyfriends in public! Honestly I have seen every combination of girls in how ‘liberal’ their clothing is and their own beliefs. Almost every girl wears the headscarf yet they do not seem any more oppressed by it than miniskirts are in America. My favorite example is my Arabic teacher Ghadeen. She wears a headscarf and dresses modestly (covering most skin up) and yet she is the epitome of, excuse my language, a badass. She is not allowed into Saudi Arabia because of articles she’s written, she races cars for fun (though can’t race again till December because of a racing accident), and goes to the shooting range at least once a week. I won’t say for sure if women’s clothing is oppressive, I’m not even sure that it is my place to. But I will say I am very much enjoying the opportunity to learn and live in the Middle East.

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Jon: Arabic education… oh yeah, and 9/11

September 15, 2011

I never thought I would say this but I really want school to start. I have been here now for almost two weeks and we are just starting Arabic class tomorrow and I’ve had two other classes so far. Two days ago was my Arabic placement test though and we got the results today. My test score was not as high as I wanted so in order to be placed in the class I would like I have to retake the test. I will say this Arabic program and many others use a book called Al-keteb where as my school used a different book (throughout the US there are only about 3 books generally used, Al-keteb used the most). Because of this I learned vocab and grammar in a very different order making it difficult to place me in their system. Some people who have used my book are in Advanced II while I am trying simply to be in Intermediate I. Since Arabic programs are still very new in the US there is no standard program plan. After talking with people though and better understanding the format of the test I do not expect much issue in retaking the test and getting a score needed for Intermediate I, but it is frustrating. For someone who is better at critical thinking processes than memorization learning foreign languages is extremely hard. However once class starts up there are quite a few ways for me to improve including clubs, peer tutors and just studying with others.

I have started my the Environment and Politics of Water class which seems very interesting. The first half is based on science and the second half will be political. I am very happy with this model as I frequently get upset at my Political Science major for its lack of providing background information on policy issues such as biology, economics etc. Also it helps that the total cost for books for the class is about $4.00.

Lastly, I did interview with one organization yesterday for my internship and I received an email later that day saying the organization was “very impressed” and wanted me to intern there. I have another interview tomorrow with Friends of the Earth Middle East, a group that uses environmental issues as a point of commonality between Israelis, Jordanians, and Palestinians with offices in each area. They have received awards from the New York Times among other international awards for their work. Both groups seem very great and I would enjoy working with both. Heck if my program let me I would probably work for both but I’m assuming I will have to choose.  

Other than that no not much has happened. I did realize though that on 9/11 I didn’t mention much on here about what it was like being in the Middle East on that day. To be honest though that is telling in and of itself. I did not hear much mentioning of it in daily life here, such as at the University, taxi drivers, or on the street, yet that is very typical for political conversations. However seeing arabic news was interesting. I will assume most of you reading this are in America (has my nice blog audience tracker revealed, it also revealed over 53% of you are using safari as your internet browser). So I will first dispel the myth I have come across the most. No Arabic news station that I saw or understood endorsed the actions nor did any celebrate or even feel apathetic. Every station showed and reported extreme sadness at the lost of life. The loss of brothers, sisters, friends, and co-workers. The day of 9/11 the world stood with us. That said the events of 9/12, 9/13 and on show how America diverged and lost the worlds support. As John Stewart of the daily show put as the title for their special segment last night “9/13… the day where we forgot the lessons from the day we just swore we would never forget”.  I am not turning this into a large discussion on the wars in the Middle East but I will just confirm that the Middle East severely disagreed with America’s actions after the war.

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Jon: Jordan’s third language

September 13, 2011

I love coffee. Anyone who knows my daily routines know me and caffeine are a great combination that do not do well when parted. So naturally I was a bit worried when I came to the middle east, and I will admit I am having some issues. The coffee they drink here almost always comes in a tiny cup and is the equivalent of espresso. Now while I love caffeine I am NOT able to ingest it like that. For those of you that have lived with me or seen me in the morning you will also know I do not do mornings… at all. George W. Bush and Iranian President Mr. Ahmadinejad get along better than me and mornings. So ironically enough in the morning I am to tired to put up with the taste of espresso. Heck even coffee sometimes I’m to tired for. So in order to start my day I am starting to get into tea here. I’ve found a few cups of tea in the morning help me get going till I can find somewhere with American styled coffee. 

Anyways, once I did manage to wake up and start my day today I went to the University of Jordan (UJ) to start Arabic. I attended Beginners II class today and to my surprise I think I might skip it. I will take a test tomorrow but it looks like I will be in Intermediate I, although I will have to do some heavy catch up on vocabulary. Afterward I studied for a bit then had lunch for the equivalent of… $1.20. And lunch was a huge helping of rice, chicken, potatoes, bread and a Pepsi. I love Jordan.

Lastly today I have fully realized that honking is truly the third language of Jordanians. We got in a taxi to go home from school, normally a 15 minute ride with little traffic, and were able to get near our home in about 7 in the middle of rush hour. Apparently side walks and parking lots are simply extended lanes for Jordanians. The reason why we didn’t make it all the way home in the taxi is because right after our taxi driver had skipped about 35 cars in traffic driving around them all and an intersection and had said something about leaving his life in god’s hands while driving he got into a car accident. Just a small fender bender so do not worry but can only be called the best karma timing in the world.

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Kadie: Photo montage/short updates

May 3, 2011

I will never cease to be amazed at some aspects of Moroccan culture. The Spring Break was AMAZING, and I was able to see some of the finest beaches Morocco’s Atlantic coast has to offer. (And I have the sun burns to prove it!) Upon our return home, we were welcomed back to Fes with all the comments from men in the street that we’d been missing all week. The harassment here seems never-ending for foreigners, even after we’ve been living here for two months, but at least we learned that it’s not the same everywhere in Morocco, and that the men in Fes seem to have a special talent for cat-calling. But, coming back to our new apartment and the familiarity that is Fes was refreshing to say the least. It felt good to come “home.”

Unfortunately, my roommate, Kellen, and I got pretty sick the day we returned, and so missed our first Monday of the new term to go to the doctor’s clinic. THAT was an experience. The one-room clinic had one exam table, and our “examination” consisted of the doc taking our temps, blood pressure, and then pressing on our stomachs REALLY hard. Then she diagnosed us with stomach/intestine infections. The whole process took about ten minutes. And now, we’ve been on medication for about a week. A little frightening? BUT we’re feeling much better, and I’ve learned that sometimes, trusting in the local culture and customs is really the best way to go. Besides, the man at the pharmacy, who gave us Moroccan Rotary Club pins, said she was the best doctor in town.

And then we were back in classes and back to the “grind.” Arabic is still kicking my butt, and our first test of this new term was on Friday. It’s been a cold and rainy week here, and one filled with somewhat sudden realizations that our time here is going to be ending all too soon. FIVE WEEKS before I am going to have to leave this home of mine and return to the states. The nerves are definitely starting to kick in. Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of things I miss about Wisconsin, but, I also know that returning won’t be easy. Good thing there are other Badgers here with me that I’ll be able to meet up with whenever I have a serious need for some Morocco-reminiscing!

One such experience that I’m sure we’ll be reliving many times – this last weekend’s trip to the “night club.” We were invited by a friend’s host brother to go to a party. So, after arriving at 5 in the evening, we were ushered in to one of the most legit night clubs I’ve ever seen…well, for being during the day. It was fun, and we danced and laughed and had a general good time—until they turned all the lights on and ushered everyone back out again at 8pm. Apparently, that’s just too late for Moroccans? We were a little stumped, but, afterwards we went out to a nice dinner and had a “girl’s night.” All in all it was a great first weekend back, until we decided to start our homework Sunday.

But I’m excited for the next few weeks! And I’m excited to make the most of everything Morocco has to offer while I still can.  It’s incredible to me that April is over, but looking back on it, I’ve got nothing but memories full of laughter and smiles and sunshine. Bring on May!

And here’s a whole chunk of photos I’ve been keeping from everyone for far too long! Enjoy!

My girls and I looking out at the Atlantic on an unscheduled stop during Spring Break!

Kellen and I dancing on the rocks!

The boys being dare-devils during Spring Break

Some of my fellow badgers and I at our Moroccan-themed end-of-first-term party.

Me with my birthday flowers from the “Brits!”

A shot of the beautifully-restored riad some of my fellow students live in-we hang out here a LOT.

Our apartment! Living room #1.

Living room #2!

Our kitchen!

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Kadie: Life in Morocco!

March 6, 2011

I’m now all settled in with my new family, and let me tell YOU– it was so nice to FINALLY unpack! My room here is HUGE, and it has two beds in it…apparently this is because they have hosted two students at once before. Actually, it seems they’ve hosted quite a bit in the past, as there are all sorts of books and calendars and coffee mugs from various places decorating the modest apartment. Anyway, there is my host mother, this sweet, little Arab woman who dotes on me way more than is necessary. And I have an 18-year old host brother, who is still a bit shy, and he’s only ever asked me three direct questions…but I think he’s warming up to me? Neither one of them speaks any English…so that’s been fun…haha. Luckily, my Arabic skills are getting me pretty far, or at least they have been since I moved in. There’s still quite a bit of hand gesturing and mumbling about, but we make do. My would-be host-father passed away six years ago now, and as we were comparing stories on the night I moved in, I realized how very similar this family in Fes is to my own back in Wisconsin. Ironic much? I feel like I’m living in what would be the equivalent of the exact counter part of my family, only halfway across the world. And, while the similarities are striking, they all add up to even further proof that I am exactly where I should be right now. I feel so at home here already and while I have no idea how the rest of the semester will turn out, I know that being here, with this family, is the right thing for me right now. I couldn’t be more positive.

As far as our home goes…there’s no internet, which, sadly, has been really difficult to get used to for me.  There’s also no real toilet…it’s just a porcelain hole in the ground…that’s also been fun to get used to. But otherwise, everything about my new living situation is just swell. I live in an area of the old Medina of Fes called Ziate, and a few of the other students are really close by, so we can walk through the winding alleyways together. (This city really is a giant labyrinth…it took me three days to really remember how to get to and from my home!) The view from my rooftop terrace is absolutely breathtaking, and I love being able to hear the Ithan (Call to Prayer) every day. Walking through these streets is quite the experience, as donkeys and carts laden with fruits and/or bread, as well as motorcycles and bright-red taxis try to squeeze themselves in to the smallest of streets. It’s funny because this ancient Islamic city actually reminds me a lot of the old city of Jerusalem…they’re so very similar in so many ways…

My schedule is now officially put together, and it’s going to be a DOOZY. I will have 20 hours of Classical Arabic instruction per week, along with another 4 hours of Arabic literature (which is being taught entirely in Arabic…ahhh!!!!) and then another hour and a half of Moroccan History and Culture. THAT means I have over 25 hours of class each week, and only one of those hours will be in English. AND that’s not including homework. AND my host family doesn’t speak English. Haha…it’s sure to be quite the challenge I guess?

For now, I’m super excited about it all, and I have literally no real complaints. (Key word being “real”—I don’t count whining about not having internet as a real complaint). This weekend my host mother will be taking me to a local Hammam, and I’m going to go with the family on their weekly souq-run (shopping in the traditional open-air markets). And MAYBE catch up on some much needed-rest, and anticipated load of homework.

There’s SO MUCH to look forward to and to learn about and to be thankful for here. Life is “mezzian” for now. (Arabic for “wonderful” or “magnificent”…strikingly close to the Hebrew word interestingly enough….)

OH and here’s a few pictures of my time here so far, but I’ll have lots more soon!:


Leather Tanneries in the old Fes Medina


View of the Fes Medina from the Southern Palace…umm yes, this is my new home!!


And THIS is the view from my roof!!


My street view from the roof!

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Eric: Moroccan Music & GLBT Issues

July 15, 2010

Today we talked about music in our Moroccan Society & Culture class. Not traditional music, but rap music. Personally not a fan of rap, I found it interesting that rap is actually quite popular in Morocco. We were introduced to Don Bigg  (we watched a video about him), pioneer of Moroccan rap. A very politically active man, even though not associated with any political parties, Don Bigg raps about problems in Morocco in Moroccan Arabic—the first to do so. Like him, many Moroccan rappers use rap as a medium to send out a message: Moroccans should united as one and work together for the better future of the kingdom. Often their lyrics criticize the political situation or certain attitudes of Muslims. Religious groups have criticized them as bad influence on the minds of Moroccan youth, which only makes them even more popular.

We then went on to discuss Moroccans’ attitudes toward the gay and lesbian. The answer is quite straightforward: not tolerated. As the Qu’ran explicitly contains verses forbidding homosexuality, the kingdom doesn’t approve of the affection between same gender individuals. Obviously it still exists in Morocco, but it’s considered to be a taboo subject, and people just don’t talk about it. Our teacher told us that publicly displaying affection for individuals of the same sex could result in being arrested and sent to jail. How they actually execute this I have no idea. One important thing though: holding hands together on the street is not a sign of homosexuality. It merely means that the two people are very good friends, and holding hands is just a sign of friendship. A Moroccan gay organization known as “Kif Kif (“the same” in Moroccan Arabic) does exist, thought its founder is said to be abroad in Spain in fear for being arrested.

Combining the two topics together, our teacher mentioned that just a month ago, Sir Elton John was invited to perform in Rabat. An internationally-acclaimed musician, Moroccans anticipated his arrival. Yet as more and more newspapers reported on his sexuality, the religious groups tried to stop him from coming (using the same argument mentioned above). He came anyway and was a big hit. The young people of Morocco really didn’t if he’s a homosexual or heterosexual—they just want to listen to his music. I guess this really is reflecting what Morocco is like: the younger generation, which is better educated and more tolerant to new ideas, is becoming the main voice of the public and the authorities and religious groups are trying to find a way to protect the traditional and conservative values, even though more and more radical ideas are challenging them. Who knows what will happen in 50 years?

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Eric: July 4 in Rabat

July 5, 2010

You know what is a test of endurance and patience? A 3-hour train ride with practically no air conditioning when it’s 95 degrees F outside and the sun happens to shine on your side of the train. I haven’t sweat this much for a while. Opening the window didn’t really do anything since the wind blew elsewhere.

The US Consulate in Casablanca and Embassy in Rabat invited all American citizens living in Morocco to celebrate 4th of July at the Rabat American School. Wanting to see more around Morocco, I RSVP’ed and got on a train.

I was with one other student from ALIF when we arrived in Rabat. My first impression was that it wasn’t really a busy city, but it has a lot of big buildings. As the capital of Morocco since 1912, the city doesn’t really live on tourism, and there wasn’t that much to see. But still, we walked through the medina. The roads in it are a lot wider than those in Fez, and soon we reached the coast and the Atlantic Ocean. I don’t know what it is, but something about oceans or any large bodies of water—I never tire of looking at them. By the coast were beaches, a Muslim cemetery that has thousands of tombs, and the original site of Rabat known as the Kasbah des Oudaias. The last area of the town has the most beautiful door of the medieval Moorish world, according to my travel guide. I quite agree, even though it wasn’t as colorful as Bab Boujeloud in Fez and the gate at Meknes.

We then went on in search for the Hassan Mosque, which has an incomplete minaret that would (in its time) have been the second largest in the Islamic world (the largest would be in Smarra, Iraq). We walked through a different streets in the medina and were exposed to the midday sun when we came out of it. The mosque also has a really nice garden with lots of shade. We didn’t go inside the mosque, as we were hot, sweaty, and hungry and just really wanted to get to the 4th of July party.

The Rabat American School is located in the south suburb of Rabat called Agdal, which has a separate train station. Thinking that we would take the train back to Fez from the Agdal station, we took a taxi to there first. Well, both I and the other student are beginning Arabic students and both don’t speak French. The taxi driver must somehow only picked up the Agdal part of our attempt to try to say Rabat-Agdal train station in French, as he drove us to that part of the town and just stopped. It was a good thing that the taxi driver called someone who speaks some English from the side of the road, and we managed to get to the train station and bought our return ticket.

Finding the Rabat American School turned out to be a little harder than we thought. We knew the general direction, but had no idea where we were going. The area consists of a lot of government buildings and was deserted when we were walking through it. After asking for directions at the Ministry of Economics and the Agdal Culture Centre, we found the place. We passed through a bag check, a passport check, paid for entrance, and found a lot of Americans doing American things. We followed their examples and got hot dogs, hamburgers, and pops (excuse me for being Minnesotan here). Even though they didn’t taste as good as in the US, it was still a pretty nice change from the bread we get every single day. There was also a pool in the school. I didn’t bring my swim trunks to Morocco, so I sat in the shade while a group of students in the Minnesota program Morocco summer session arrived and changed. At this point, this old man came around and shook hands with everybody. He turned out to be Samuel Kaplan, the American ambassador to Morocco, and is actually from Minnesota. He talked with us for a little bit before going on to shake other people’s hands. Those of us from Minnesota got a picture with him and his family later. He is a really nice person.

After the swimming, we moved to the lawn area, where the Utah 23rd National Guard band performed a live concert for us. It is a full concert band and I, personally, playing in band for the past 3 years, have to say they did a really good job. Some members of the band were performing earlier as a rock band, while in the concert the Jazz band within the band also performed a selection of music. We had a wonderful time, and it would have been a wonderful day if it just ended with the concert. We decided to walk to the Agdal station with two other guys studying at ALIF, the distance turned out to be longer than we thought. We got there just before the train got to the station, went on the train and found out that the car with working air conditioning was full. So we went to the next one, which has air passing through the air conditioning holes, but no cooling effect. In addition, since the train was going from west to east, the sun shined on the same side of the train throughout pretty much 2/3 of the trip. I was a very cranky person when we got off the train at Fez.

Anyway: Happy 234th Birthday United States of America!

(Fun fact: the Kingdom of Morocco was the first nation to recognize the US as a sovereign nation back on December 20, 1777.)

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