Thursday, January 13, 2011

Arabic lessons begin

Zahwa believes that Ahmed is able to fix the computer anytime. She says he can do magic. In truth I have seen him successfully set it back up only one time. The internet in the flat doesn't work anymore, and Ahmed just pulls the cable and puts it back in. The next evening it is back. Wether this is due to his magic or whether this is just how it is in Egypt, I do not know.
The older of the two little girls who sang for me on the first evening comes back. Her name is Bussi. I'm sure it's spelled differently, but it just cracks me up. Bussi! How funny is that. She turns out to be magical Ahmed's godchild, and she loves him to bits. It's funny to watch. He seems to be a horrible big bossy brother to Zahwa, but he's sweet with Bussi. Bussi plays games with us, tells me stories and I don't know what and doesn't mind that I don't have a clue what she's on about. I seem to make perfect sense in her world. At the end of my first week Ahmed leaves the flat and goes back to Uni. I wonder if Bussi will still visit us.

Zahwa, Bussi and tiny girl

I have spoken to Affaf about the bathroom in the flat and she has promised to speak to her sister. I'm curious if something is going to be done about the bathroom, but I don't really think so. After the first week I still find the bathroom disgusting, but it doesn't upset me anymore. I think that I must have some really strong survivor-gens in me, who would have thought? I'm very pleased with this discovery.
As I finish the paragraph about the bathroom Bussi pops in, dances around the sitting room, sings me another song, plays her favourit game and disappears again. She's a tiny avalanche.
My arabic lessons start. My teacher, Sallam, is very pleased with me. I find it all a bit much: the letters, the sounds, the words. I knew a few of the letters before, so we got through the alphabet within one hour. He says that usually takes one week and now he thinks that I'm super intelligent, that I can remember immediately every word I have seen written once, can spell and write it from memory and also remember everything he tells me once about grammar. I want to learn as much as I can within these three weeks, so I am very ambitious and I study a lot and make every effort. To my surprise I understand and really remember the grammar bits and I do my best to memorize the words. Sallam likes to wind me up, when I can't remember a word or spell it wrong he pretends to be angry and disappointed. Then he tells me that I needed a third of the regular time to get to the point where I am now and that he thinks I'm an excellent student. I'm quite proud of myself but it also makes me laugh, because this has only just begun. I usually am good with things in the beginning, and then I get bored and I tend to leave at that point. This is the reason I have tried out many things but rarely really mastered something. I hope that three weeks are too short a time to get bored.
Sallam's english is interesting. Most of the time there's no problem. Sometimes however he teaches me words which don't exist, like apricok and I smile to myself when I finally find out that he talks about apricots, or he pronounces them so bizzarely that for two days I think one word means butter when it means bottle. It doesn't happen very often though. He is a bit of a macho. When he found out that I'm thirty and not twenty-four as he thought, and that that makes him only three years older than I, he got a little upset. It was the fact that his hair is turning grey and mine isn't, I think. I think he's a bit vain. What annoys me is that very often he doesn't understand my questions. The same happened in Uni many, oh MANY times, because I think too much, expect tings to be more difficult then they are, and teachers don't understand what my problem is. But this is annoying when met with his self-righteous/egyptian/maskuline macho bearing. Somebody else would not be bothered by this, but I am sensitive to these things. So I try to stay calm and not hold it against him, he's not the first teacher who knows no other way of reacting when he feels he's not in control anymore, because he doesn't understand his student. The thing is, this is an italian agency and his Italian is very good, according to the italian girls. So far I have managed to find out all I wanted to know and find the answers to my questions myself, which again makes me quite proud. And most of the time I get on well with Sallam. Anyway, in class I am doing alright with my arabic, but I don't see any progress in my spoken arabic at all. The family doesn't really speak much arabic with me, they get Zahwa to speak english with me. I decide that I will continue speaking in my broken arabic even if I'm tempted to just speak english and speed things up.

The Italian girls, Sallam, Hamada and English Jo on English Jo's last evening when we went for pizza.

1 comment:

  1. So interesting to read your adventures in Luxor! Good to hear you are finding your feet a bit.
    I recognize the problem of people insisting on speaking English... they are usually happy to show off their English. When you ask them to speak Arabic they say "yes, of course", and go on in English ;)
    As you know, I am an Arabic teacher, so if you have any problem you can't work out for yourself or with Sallam, just send me a message.