Saturday, July 28, 2012

Adventures in learning Arabic


By now as an Arabic class we have learned the appropriate response to whenever my Arabic teacher decides to shout this at us. It's our favorite food and his favorite line from Disney's Aladdin. And he quotes it, frequently. Usually when we look too tired or aren't being enthusiastic enough. So, very frequently.

here we are "fareq al hummus," all dressed up for sports day
We even named ourselves "team hummus" for sports day. 

It's all part of the Startalk program-- language classes funded by a federal grant that gives high school students college credit to take a "critical language" (Chinese, Arabic, Persian or Hindi) through a local university or community college. 

Oh look, here we are on the local news, and look they kind of interviewed me:

It's my second year doing the program, last year I took 101, and because they got an extra grant this year they expanded the program to include the 102 I'm taking this summer.

And of course with extra grant funding comes extra ambitious field trips. 

Earlier this month, we went to DC to look at some Arab/Persian Art and point to the Arab/Persian art and say "Arab and Persian Art" in Arabic. And then we clapped for ourselves. In Arabic.
A door! Maybe! But definitely art! 
Closeup of an old plate depicting people killing each other on horses! Art! 
I call this one the "the best picture I have ever taken or has ever been taken with an ipod camera"
My group for the day, plus Alaa, our TA
In addition to learning important vocabulary like the words for dragon and statue (tineen and timthal) we did other museum-appropriate things like scavenger hunts or practicing verb commands by yelling directions in Arabic as a blindfolded student tried to find their way through the gallery.

More recently we went on another field trip to New York City. Although the city doesn't really have a "Little Arabia" or anything comparable to say Chinatown, the street we were on had a bunch of shops with signs in Arabic and people who would stop and talk to our teachers in Arabic when they saw a bunch of teenagers making a big deal over reading "half-priced falafel" off a sign.
Being the social Lebanese man that he is, our teacher would pretty much strike up a conversation with anyone he saw on the street. He'd then have us all talk to his new best friend with our limited Arabic, quizzing them on their names, their father's names, their father's uncle's names, etc. Like I said, limited vocabulary. The funniest part was that everyone we talked to acted like it was the most natural thing in the world to strike up a conversation with a random stranger, I guess it's a cultural thing. 

In addition to accosting random strangers we got to order food in Arabic and attempt to make small talk with some of the shop owners. Then we piled back in the bus for the 4 hour ride back home.
I found this sign funny because "Mashalla" roughly means "Godwilling." I've been told you say it all the time in  Arabic, but I didn't realize that extended to shop sign too!

One more week left of class then camp then vacation then frantic packing and buying of unnecessary things that I will end up not taking with me then OMAN!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Little slice of Americana

Family, fireworks, and food--all tied up in a big red white and blue bow--the 4th of July is one of the more simple holidays. And despite the crazy heat that's been plaguing the East Coast, I managed to have a lovely day. The current weather has made me acutely aware that a code-red-heat-advisory-100-degree-call-in-FEMA-stay-inside-and-check-on-your-old-people kind of day in the US is just another sunny July day in Oman, but I'm trying not to dwell on unavoidable little facts like that. 

The morning of Independence Day found me a standing on the side of a road, watching our annual neighborhood parade, where people celebrating our nation's birth by staking out their patriotic chairs,
decking out their cars, 
waving to their children,
 and listening to some good 'ol fashioned brass music played from a truck bed.
After the parade (and more kebabs than could be good for anyone's health) I headed out to the fireworks with some friends. There, my camera continued to be a disgrace to photography everywhere. 
And as I watched thousands of dollars explode into pretty colored lights in the sky, I couldn't help but get a little bit caught up in the sometimes loud, sometimes excessive, always heartfelt 'merican spirit. What can I say? It's infectious. 
How was your 4th?