No particular order. Some shots of our housing, and the campus and the students and Mary Ann’s library. Enjoy and please comment.
I have not written on this bloggie thingie for way too long. Mainly because we have not traveled for like a whole month!
Life on campus is better than I imagined it could be.
Mary Ann is enjoying her job and the people she works with. She gets tired by Thursday (virtual Friday, the Moslem week is Sunday through Thursday) but that is to be expected. She is taking a Yoga class and getting all nimble.
We are both taking a class together called beginning Arabic. Emphasis on beginning. After the hour class is over my brain cells are fried, deep fried. I keep telling myself this is no way to learn a language. I believe that only necessity and immersion are motivators for learning a new language. Jumping into the deep end and dog paddling to stay alive is the only way. Here in the UAE I do not need to speak Arabic. Only 20% of the population are Emiratis. Everyone I deal with speaks English. I have no one to practice with besides Mary Ann, and yes, she tries, flash cards and everything, but she is just learning as well. The New Jersey accent does not help. You must pronounce things accurately in Arabic, and some sounds have absolutely no equivalent in a romantic language. Let me give you an example.
I, as you might imagine, am the class cut-up. Basically, in a class with professors from around the world I am Jeff Spicoli. So I revel in it. The other night, the scene went like this:
Teacher: “this how you say where is the hospital. Ayna moustafa”
Everyone repeats Ayna Moustafa.
I raise my hand. The teacher, who happens to be woman, but treats me like Mr. Hand treats Spicoli, grudgingly says “Yes Forrest”
“Excuse me, but I truly do not believe I will ever have to ask anyone were the hospital is. Can you teach me how to say something useful like where is the bathroom?’
She says “OK repeat after me AYNA ALHAMMAN”
I repeat AYNA ALHAMAN”
Notice that I spelled them different. My Mr. Hand starts laughing at me.
Startled by her finding me humerous I say “WHAAAT, what did I say”
She then tells me “In Arabic, we have a sound for a M and a different sound for MM. What you just asked me was “where is the pigeon.”
Now everyone is laughing, at my expense. Cool let them learn how to ask where the hospital is, I can now find out where the bathroom is, or a pigeon. My three to their one. All I have to do is figure out how to say MM instead of M. The only example I can think of in English is ham sandwich opposed to Hamms beer. (Either one of which I would almost kill to get my hands on) Here in the UAE, they say” toilet” so the whole embarrassing episode was academic.
I am also taking an upper level History class Called “The History of US Relations With the Middle East” or something like that. I am not a real student, so I do not have to turn in papers or any of that rot. I just sit in class and watch this united nations of students discuss the readings. I do my Spicoli act from time to time. Sometimes I even make an intelligent comment. The prof tolerates me because I think he needs comic relief in his life. He is from Massachusetts and has been here six years. We have a Palestinian guy, a French girl, a girl from no telling where, maybe Pakistan, and guy from Saudi Arabia. There is one American. He is the only blonde on campus. He is an exchange student from the American University in Washington DC. He works summers for USAID. I am quite sure he is on his way to full employment with a certain three letter acronym soon. Then there is, I swear, a princess. She is a member of the Bahrain royal family. She is very well prepared for class, and she secretly laughs at my jokes. In my dreams she invites Mary Ann and I for a weekend in the Palace in Doha. But, why should she. Unless I write her term paper for her. Hm. Or is that Hmm.
I have entered three writing contests, short stories. The first is about my History prof going time travelling, the second is about Yetis actually being extraterrestrials and the third is about Social Networking. You FB people would not like that one. Grand prize is a trip to NYC, in January, for four days. Second prize is a whole week.
OK, unless something absolutely amazing happens, like a day under 90 degrees, or it friggen rains, I will not be posting for maybe three weeks. Mary Ann and I are off to Thailand on Nov 12. That is the start of another EID, so Mary Ann gets 10 days off, without having to take any vacation.
Thanks for reading, please comment, I need the attention.
I know I have not posted for a while now. I have taken some crap for that, thanks sister.
OK, so we are back in Sharjah. Mary Ann is working and loving it. Now that we live on campus in our spacious apartment (condo?) she has a 71/2 minute walk to her office. Some people who live in the same block as us actually drive the three blocks to the main part of the campus. I forgive them. It is always about 100 degrees f. I don’t think the aircon in the car could possibly cool it down in the 2 minute drive, but heh, it is the thought that counts. We have still not decided to buy, lease or rent a vehicle. The university gives us a free bus ride to the Sharjah Co-Op to shop for groceries twice a week, and every other weekend we have a driver who takes us to Dubai. We go to any one of the huge malls and window shop(all we can afford), see a movie (about US$8 for the ticket and the popcorn is always stale) and have dinner. We also do a lot of people watching. There is a fascinating collection of expats and Emirates to watch go by. Sometimes we laugh, sometimes we just shake our heads.
Both of us just started an on-campus class in spoken Arabic. They have a class to learn how to read and write it, but there is absolutely no way I could ever decipher that writing, and much less of a chance of ever doing the calligraphy needed to write it. I cannot read my own handwriting in English, so just forget it. Last night I tried to repeat in Arabic that I live in Sharjah, the teacher laughed and told me I just said I live in a shoe box. I have a long way to go before I can do anything important like order a pizza.
I am enrolled in an upper level history class titled something like America and the Middle East. Classrooms are like playing tennis. You never want to play tennis with someone worse than you, that is no fun. I am in a class where everyone is smarter than I am, so I am having fun. There are only six people in the class, but these people actually study and come prepared to discuss the readings. I throw in a few impertinent comments for comic relief, but intellectually I am outclassed. OK, it has been 30 years since I had to be prepared for a classroom situation. Luckily I am only auditing the class so I won’t have to go on academic probation and embarrass Mary Ann. I think my prof is relieved that I will not be turning in any papers, so he won’t have to grade my dribble. In this class, there is one Palestinian, one Saudi, one girl from France one girl who says she can’t be defined by any geopolitical borders a guy from Chicago (yup, the Chicago by the lake) and one girl from either Bahrain or Qatar.
This last girl and the guy from the KSA got into a friendly argument about a sword that was returned to the Saudi’s last week by her country She said “that sword was given to mt grandfather and passed along to his father. It was a present from the King of Saudi Arabia, we should have kept it.” The guy said something about the sword being mythical and magical, or maybe just worth a lot of bucks. Everyone was leaving the room and I missed it. So I have a meeting set up with this girl for Monday to get the whole story. She is going to bring pictures and tell me all about it. I will post on Monday or Tuesday and entertain you with a little ME lore, so stay tuned.
By the time you read this I will be another year older. Mary Ann is taking me to Muscat for my birthday and the weekend. Where? Google it.
I will put up a post on Sunday (this time with pictures, I know you like pictures) all about our weekend in yet another country.
One last thing. I have a good buddy who is in Afghanistan at this moment embedded as a historian, journalist. If you find him on FaceBook (John R Bruning) you will be treated to some amazing photography and stories. I have known him for 20 years. We are oil and water politically, but I admire his gumption to go where he is, zooming around in helicopters and writing about it. So check it out. If like me you think FaceBook is just too insipid to be involved with, then he has a blog at http://theunawriterslair.typepad.com
Stay tuned and tell a friend, and for goodness sake, make a comment.
OhMan off to OMAN