The Day to Day

Life has, more or less, settled into a bit of a routine here. I get up around 8 am and make myself a secret batch of coffee (given that it’s Ramadan) accompanied by fresh pita bread, labneh (thickened yogurt), olive oil, and za’atar (a Middle Eastern spice blend of thyme, sumac, and sesame seeds). In many ways, it’s not that different from my daily bagel-and-cream-cheese routine that I became famous for by the end of my first year in grad school.

Then I walk down the hill and, usually without waiting more than 30 seconds, hop into a shared taxi heading up towards Al-Najah’s New Campus. Taxis are fast and furious in the morning as everyone and their brother seem to also have class at 9. I always feel odd giving the taxi drivers money while they’re zooming down the main street but they seem to be well-practiced at making change, changing lanes, and pulling over for more passengers all at the same time.

All in all, I think I’ve lucked out with my classes. While not quite as rigorous or well-rounded as my Middlebury days, I have happened to have the good luck of attending during the summer, meaning that I’m the only student in my class! It basically means that, for only $300 a month, I get 15 hours a week of private Arabic lessons! (a fact which did not keep my roommate from insisting that the school was over-charging foreigners). It does, however, make for a somewhat lonely existence, and I often wish that I had other foreigners to be learning with, even if, at the end of the day, it’s probably good that I don’t speak too much English outside of class.

In truth, I probably spend more time at home than I should. There’s not much to do during the day besides go shopping for produce and even that doesn’t take that long. I do try to go out at night with my roommate, but sometimes that just leaves me hanging on the fringes trying to pick up on what people are saying. Perhaps I should start carrying around a list of ice breaker questions to stimulate conversation or the like.

On the plus side, I have started volunteering some at a local food pantry. I basically discovered it while walking around the old city and, after staring perplexed at it, was invited in by one of the volunteers there. They basically cook up huge batches of chicken and rice and distribute the food to poor people in the neighborhood. A couple of times, I’ve accompanied groups of youths (who range between middle school to recent college grads) on trips through the neighborhood with an old shopping cart full of different-sized grocery bags full of re-used ice cream tupperware bins full of chicken, rice, yogurt, and ice cream (in the original, not re-used bin, of course). I can imagine it’s a bit of an odd site in the old city seeing this thirty-year old white guy follow a bunch of teenagers and a shopping cart through the town, lugging large bags of yogurt and speaking in broken Arabic along the way. Still, it’s been a good way to meet people, practice my Arabic, explore the city, and do something that’s more altruistic than Arabic homework and Facebook scanning.

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Nick
    Jun 22, 2017 @ 01:59:23

    I imagine anything that gets you out of the house early on during your stay is a good use of time,


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