A Week of Endings and Beginnings
[youtube width=”640″ height=”340″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cclVPrWcwq8[/youtube]
Last weekend Ben, Brannon, and I were reacting extremely negatively to the safety measures implemented for our safety. This weekend I am bidding these two goodbye, along with everyone else I’ve met in Egypt, and bidding my family hello! In the intermediate time, we went slacklining like crazy (Brannon worked on backflips and I landed my first spectacular face plant), I got frustrated at a young man (what’s new there?), Brannon and I went bouldering (FINALLY!!!), we went to an incredibly expensive Lebanese restaurant, we attended a party, I laughed a lot, and I gave and received a ton of hugs.
Safety considerations included the first round of voting on a draft of the Constitution that will pass, against many people’s better judgment. Half the country voted last Saturday, with the other half voting this coming Saturday. We got the low-down from Radwa, who spent most of Sunday filing violations. According to her activist group, this split election could most definitely be considered fraudulent. According to the Muslim Brotherhood website, the election is most definitely legitimate – how dare you citizens question that! Not only do I trust Radwa over the Muslim Brotherhood, I agree with our politics professors that the Brotherhood patronizes, even insults, the intelligence of the average Egyptian.
I found out that insulting my intelligence is a sure-fire way to rile me up on Tuesday after class. Brannon and I went slacklining again, having nothing else to do, and set up two lines in our original location. A man about university age, named Muhammad Azizi, approached us looking for recommendations for English universities. Um, I’m not British – I’m American, even though we are in the British Gardens. After repeated assurances I knew nothing of British univeristies, he wanted to take us to dinner. Next he wanted to go for coffee. He tried slacklining a couple times; but he stuck around long after decency dictates departure in the face of refusals. I spoke Arabic to him the entire time, but I couldn’t get him to believe that I understood what he was asking and still would refuse him. Brannon employed a very successful ignoring policy, which landed me with dealing with Muhammad. He was frustrating.
I finally turned in my second, and final, final paper. This one was for Radwa, and later I was disappointed that we hadn’t time to properly discuss our papers with her. All three of us continue to wait for comments. Sunday my ECA prof, Emad, interviewed (in Arabic) me for 10 minutes and expressed his joy at having me in class. I really enjoyed Emad’s class. (The clips in the video of Marco, Carolina, and I playing with my bouncy ball in our ECA classroom come from us wasting time between interviews and MSA.) Also Sunday, we took our 2 hour MSA final. That seriously sucked – I had to leave a couple questions in the listening section blank as I didn’t have the appropriate vocabulary. I appreciated the skills Zehad forced us to use, but I didn’t appreciate the test. Zehad was extremely gracious and gave me a nice grade – thanks!! Later on Sunday we recorded a skit in ECA for Emad, which Brannon stayed up til 4 am to edit – thanks so much!!! Monday we miscommunicated with Dr. Naglaa and ended up having 1.5 classes with Radwa. Tuesday was a day filled with evaluations. Wednesday Radwa invited an American Muslim from another program, Flagship, to answer questions. That was fun, and that was the end of our classes.
For the end of the semester (and the end of IFSA’s program), we have to vacate IFSA housing by tomorrow at 10 am. I’m the last to leave – Ben left today to catch the 3 pm train to Cairo and Brannon caught the 8:15 am train to Cairo to pick up Sarah. Both have been very excited – Brannon’s showed it more obviously! Instead of our weekly meeting with Dr. Mohamed and as a surprise dinner, he took us out to eat (beginning at 10 pm) at a new Lebanese restaurant down the street. In my blog on construction, I mentioned I’ve watched the renovation of a villa en route to school – about two blocks from the apartments. Turns out that villa’s actually a restaurant: Leila from Lebanon. It’s very upscale, and the number of cars has significantly increased since it opened a couple weeks ago. That supper was very fun and full of very good, Lebanese food, topped by incredible desserts that I’ve not had since Jordan, but even better than what I had in Jordan. Yum!
Also, TAFL Center (in charge of our classes) threw a party at an old, sumptuously decorated house-building. I love the fact that so many places in Alexandria have deceptively bare/old/crumbling facades that open to luxury. Honestly, IFSA students weren’t dressed to the same standards as the others, but the other students exhibited a range of formality, so we fit in perfectly. We got certificates, ate great food (I wish I’d been hungrier), laughed at Rina’s nose and the clown mask Brannon wore, greeted other students from our classes and our professors, enthusiastically laughed and clapped and booed at a play (in MSA!) put on by Zehad and students, talked briefly with TAFL’s director (she’s a power in of herself!) and took a ton of pictures before hugging all our professors and language partners farewell. So far, I regret to report no pictures have made it to Facebook tagging me…
At the party, Dina (my language partner) impressed upon me the importance of continuing to use Arabic. (She also wanted my blog posts shorter – a refrain I hear from many places, including from my father. I like to develop thoughts – sorry.) Emad has offered to Skype with us to help us use Arabic. The opportunities going forward are numerous, including summer programs. I love Arabic (and Islam), more than expected, and was astonished at my internal impulse to continue with it – the knowledge that the language unlocks a huge corpus of literature is a huge lure – but Luther College doesn’t support Arabic. It’ll be one of my jobs next semester to find myself a niche of supporting my Arabic studies (and another niche for continued research into the rationale of Islamic scholars) – and I have a hunch or two where to start!
Oh – I have three updates. A) Tomorrow, I pick up my family from the train station in Alex. They’ve been traveling in Egypt without me for some days; they’re finishing a two-day stint in Luxor right now! B) My arthritis is gone… C) For all my videos in Egypt, my YouTube channel is “Jess Landgraf.” Check it out!