Student Blogs & Vlogs | College Study Abroad Programs, IFSA-Butler

Arabic to the Rescue?

So, what Arabic I’ve learned so far has helped in more ways than one. Yes, there are the random conversations you have on the Corniche or other really busy (zahmat is the adjective in ECA) streets, or when talking to shopkeepers, but I had a couple of adventures on Saturday that enforced the good of learning Arabic, especially ECA. If you read past the adventure stories, I have a couple of updates.

So, I went for a tram ride on Saturday. I am slightly frustrated that I, an officer of Luther College’s very own Classical Society (and potentially of the Classics department’s Honor Society, I can’t remember), am living in one of the premier Classical Hellenistic cities and have not seen the catacombs, any authentic Greco-Roman architecture, or Fort Qaitbey. (The fort itself is actually a product of the Islamic period, but it stands directly over the spot where the Pharos Lighthouse used to sit.) What is wrong with this picture?! Anyway, many of these landmarks are to the western end of the city. Also, it costs $0.04 to ride the tram anywhere, so I grabbed a seat. To my dismay, the tramline ends before I even get to the peninsula jutting to Pharos Island – I would have to go farther west to find the landmarks.

 A composite image of the western shore of the Eastern Harbor (3 images). I was sitting on a wall nearly four feet thick and a good three feet high.

Instead, I found myself less than a block from the Corniche. OK, I’ll go walk around there, maybe find lunch, and come back to the tram with enough time to Skype Mom and Dad at 4 pm. It was then 11 am or so. After chatting amiably with a couple groups of young men, I decided it was probably a good idea to avoid heckling or any potential harassment by heading back to the tram. On the way, a very dark-skinned man in his 30s or so with enormous dreadlocks kind of attached himself to me, especially when he found out that I was heading to the tram. I think he heard “train.” French was his first language, his second was somewhat broken English – and here I’d begun the conversation in Arabic! Turned out that he was kind of lost, and needed to get to Ramleh Train Station (which is the west end of the tram line, as it turns out) to go to Cairo. As a native of the Central African Republic of Cameroon, he didn’t speak Arabic, and saw me as able to help him. After asking around for Ramleh Station (I mainly got blank stares, and I still don’t know the ECA word for ‘station’), I called Moutaz and got the man straightened out and sent on his way.

  Views of buildings near the end of the tram line. The air around the mosque was alive with the midday call to prayer streaming from the speakers attached to the minaret. There is some possibility that this mosque and surrounding area was the site of some intense protesting during the Revolution.

I went to TAFL next (a 10 min ride) to explain to Moutaz what exactly had happened, and in the process of explaining around Moutaz’s hectic work locations, ended up becoming an “Egyptian tour guide.” Moutaz ran around TAFL more than normal when a new student arrived, and a young man, with mother in tow, had just arrived from the Republic of Georgia. He spoke Russian and Georgian, and she spoke those two with a bare amount of English. And his landlord for the next year was set to meet them at the British Embassy garden, a total of 5 minutes walk from my apartment. So, I helped where I could – which amounted to answering less than half the questions posed to me by his mother, since they very easily called a taxi and established the payment amount. I did, however, have to tell them which building was the Embassy; otherwise, they were pretty self-sufficient. Sweet!


Medical update: according to doctor’s commands, I’m weaning myself off the anti-inflammatory drugs to test if the polyarthritis flare-up has gone away. So far so good with all joints except my neck. I’m beginning to believe that the meds were simply a stop-gap measure, as anti-inflammatory drugs hitting the symptoms but not the underlying issue. I will, of course, continue to monitor the situation. But, my blood test results say my blood contents are completely normal!

However, the next medical stumble is that I seem to be allergic to something – I am experiencing swollen lower legs and itchy skin similar to a couple episodes of hives seven years ago. The times I got hives, I had imbibed more fake sugar, sucralose, than my body could tolerate – and that amount was nothing substantial. I have no idea what set off the allergic reaction this time, but I’m attempting to keep the reaction under control with allergy meds I brought.


One last update: a friend requested I keep track of the names that are flung in my direction, since I returned from Turkey and Jordan with a pretty substantial list. Well, Sam, here’s the beginning: sweetie, lady, beautiful, honey (both the Arabic “3asl” and English), and Ben’s wife. The last is a new one, given to me by a middle-school aged kid on the tram yesterday; I guess it seemed logical given that Ben and I were the only foreigners on the tram car.

On that amusing note, I bid all readers a wonderful day!



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