Tag Archives: Arabic

I Be in Cairo, Maties!

my worthy vessel!

Arrrrr, me hearties! It be another cool mornin’ in Cairo, Egypt, where I be setting me anchor fer the next couple o’moons.

All me grog be gone and me maties be floatin’ off on them wink-eyed adventures. It just be me, me parchment, and me quill left ter tack the sails down till the golden lady shine her pretty face.

On the morrow, I be crossing swords with an Arabic quiz me captain put to me, and if I wants ter stay off the plank I best show it both sides o’ hell. But in the witchin’ hours, me mind be keen on gettin’ lost at sea, if ye catch me drift.

The winds be a changin’ these days. Times were in the deadly moons of August when one couldn’t hardly set sail for the blasted hell fire settin the sea a’boil. Aye, it was a hard times fer the lot of us, our breeches all a’moistened with our brow dew, and our foot fingers all a’wrinkle from the boot ponds. Ye scallywag land lubbers hasn’t got the first dawn’s twinklin’ o’the sufferin we sailed through.

But now the mooney lass shows ‘er pearly face o’er Mohandiseen when I be drinkin’ my hot elixers and I be as comfortable as a seagull in a crow’s nest. And then I gets ter thinkin’ of the days ‘fore the swashbucklin’ in this here sweet trade o’ Arabic fellowships. And I gets ter yearnin’ for them colored trees in fall months and for the sweater wearin’ and pumpkin latte drinkin’ me maties be postin on their facebook poop decks. And I thinks about me old lady and the old man, and me wretched brat siblings I loves as much as any buccaneer loves his dubloons.

And I ain’t bein’ lily-livered or sentimental like, but sometimes me thinks, “Arrrr, them colored trees sure put that there sparkle in my eye like a young corsair eyein’ his first cut o’booty. And I bet my right eye and no regrets that my blasted sister be readyin’ to battle a swaggy quiz at sailin’ school right in this here drop o’time.” But I swear on hell’s brimstone that  in the depths o’me heart ocean, I knows I only be missin’ one out o’the scores of fall voyages I be set to take this side o’the pearly gates.

So set yer sails and polish yer decks, ye sorry sons of biscuit eaters! I may be pillagin’ this here side of the pond, but I be returnin’ come hell or high water. I be comin’ to make bay at me parents’ abode and hunt fer th’ jobs. I be comin’ to plunder the wealth o’me sister’s weddin’ guests and strike fear into th’ hearts o’the caterers. I be comin’. And I be seein’ them colored leaves on me screen saver ‘til that dawn rises.

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We are a Bunch of Nerds

the resident nerds of tahrir

Next semester, we students of CASA have the opportunity to take courses that are not solely focused on language and have academic content as well. Moreover, we get the chance to suggest courses ourselves. Since we are all a bunch of nerds, there has been a flowering of emails suggesting all kinds of courses that we could take…subjects you couldn’t even imagine, like a course focused on the fantastic animals described in pre -17th century Arabic travel literature.  This is the stuff of nerd paradise.

I have decided to hop onto the feverish academic bandwagon and offer a few course titles myself, so without further ado, may I present to you

CASA Spring 2010: Course Suggestions

1. Inequality Manifest: Spoiled American Students and Their Experience in Egypt

2. Pant Usage in Post-Colonial Egypt and the Tailoring of a Transformation

3. Applied Poetics: Arabic Poetry’s Place(s) in Your Daily Life

4. Advanced Reality Grasping: Calling a Spade a Spade

5. The Effect of Unicornic rule on Imaginary Arabic Literature

6. Fountains on the AUC Tahrir Campus: Why?

7. American Arabic Students and the Contemporary Blog Post

8. Cairo: Fragrant and Musical, or Stinky and Noisy?

9. Hadith and Blogging: What the Prophet Said

10. Intermediate Time Machine Installation and Usage

11. Arabic Grammar Nerds: Their Function as a Social Phenomenon

12. CASA Students: the Relationship between an Unhappy Home Life and the Rate of Expatriation

13. Improvisation: Telling People Why You Study Arabic

14. Arabic: What Do the Squiggly Lines Mean?

15. 15th Century Egyptian Embalming Techniques: a Practicum

16. Advanced Media: Building Effective Emotional Barriers to Bad News

17. Your Parents and Medieval Islamic History: How to Make Them Care

18. The Healing Qualities and Mystical Powers of Advanced Arabic Rhetoric

19. Vowels: Accessory, Amenity, or Need?

20. Horseback Riding, Power Lifting, and Calligraphy

21. Pharoanic Hygienic Standards: a Practicum

22. The Futility of Love: Arabic Literature Expressing Hopelessness and Loss

23. Arabic Media: How to Fold Newspapers into Planes and Hats

I, along with the rest of CASA,  look forward to an academically enriching semester and one that will no doubt be extremely useful in all our personal, professional, and facebook  lives.

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A Word Problem: Sleep, Hopelessness, or Success

206.26 words…and it’s all in Arabic.

A word problem:

It is 11:50 pm, and an Arabic student has 206.25 words that she must learn for a test that begins the next day at 8:30 am. In order to pass the test, the Arabic student must go through the entire list of words at least three times, weeding out one third of the words each time. In the first round of reviewing, she has gone through 33.33333% of the words in 3 hours.

Currently, she is at 60% wakefulness. This percentage drops by 8% for every 30 minutes of studying.  If at any point her wakefulness drops below 30%, she will need to take a 20 minute coffee break, followed by a nap of desperation and then a slapping fit upon awaking. This will take one hour, and will raise her wakefulness to 70%, but after recommencing her work, she will move at a pace that is 23% less efficient than her original speed. Furthermore, her wakefulness will deteriorate at a new rate of 16% per every 30 minutes of studying.

One minute in every 6 is lost to facebook and email checking. Every 4 hours there is something new on one of these sites, resulting in the loss of an additional 4 minutes. The student must also write one email, which will cost 24 minutes as and result in a 30% decrease in concentration. The equation for calculating efficiency is e=chilz, with c=concentration, h=hunger levels, i=interest level, l=location, and z=zoo location. The email will be written when wakefulness hits 43%, but will also raise wakefulness levels to 55%.

Her current level of hopelessness is at 20%, but this rises exponentially as she continues studying, at a rate of x to the (1.3h). If her hopelessness ever reaches 80%, she will instantly go to sleep. If she sees her bat friend, it will result in a temporary boost of wakefulness and a decrease of hopelessness levels at a flat rate of 5 and 8 percent, respectively.

Will the student finish studying? If so, how many hours of sleep will she get if she wakes up at 7 o’clock in order to enjoy the new brand of granola her roommate bought?

If not, will she be overcome by hopelessness or sleepiness? If she had to complete at least 80% of the original amount of work in order to make an A on the test, with each ten percentage points below that corresponding to a lower letter grade, what will she make on the test?

What are ways she could avoid having this happen to her again, if the words were given to her over the past two weeks at a rate of 20 words per day, and if she is has 7 hours of free time every day?

Choose the answer that is most correct:

a. What was the question again?

b. Get back to work.

c. Really, you should stop blogging and study for your test.

d. Why are you still blogging?

e. All of the above

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I Want to Open a Bakery in Egypt

This is almost incomprehensible. And it’s just the beginning.

We met three minutes ago and you just learned that I study Arabic. You don’t take the news well—your mind is reeling….why would she study Arabic? What is it about this language with its scribbly letters and random dots that has confused her so much that she wants to actually learn it?

You may not know this, but on the other side of the conversation I can see the thoughts swirling in your head and I know what you’re about to ask me. I can feel the question being formed in your mind as your lips, tongue, and chin prepare to pronounce the dreaded words. The sentence pours from your oral cavity in slow motion as my usual panic sets in.

“Why do you study Arabic?”

You might as well ask me why hippos seem friendlier than crocodiles despite their notorious aggression or why lotion doesn’t taste like yogurt even though it looks the same. You, my dear, blundering acquaintance have forced me to peer into the black abyss of my future post-Arabic fellowship and let me tell you this: I can see a darkness that no amount of graduate school could penetrate.

If you really must know, I’ve been studying Arabic since my senior year of high school because–and pay attention to this part—I liked it. Indeed, friend, I enjoyed the twisty letters and sounds that required new muscle growth. I didn’t even know that people wearing black suits and sunglasses would pay handsomely for my skillz.

But I smashed those sunglasses on the ground and threw white chalk on their coats. I was much too naïve for the men in black, and instead dreamed of working at an NGO in development work or something romantic like that where I could “help people.” On less romantic days, I entertained the thought of working in a think tank, of swimming in big wells of ideas and spending all my waking hours in front of a screen.

To my great relief, however, I found after only 2.5 months out of college that I have absolutely no interest in any of those careers. I won’t waste time describing the depths of my dread when I think about typing on a computer all day in a cage with people who start conversations with statements like, “So, President Obama has kind of an aggressive foreign policy.” Suffice it to say that I’m glad to be free of those business casual and business formal illusions.

But, you insist, what are you going to do with Arabic? I’ll be honest: anything I say will be a lie to myself and to you so let’s just leave the future as the black abyss it is and I’ll tell you about how I’ve always wanted to work at a bakery. If you can connect that to Arabic, be my guest and stop by for cookies, or should I say كوكيز?

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Hydration Makes All the Difference


This past weekend, I traveled to Ain Sukhna, a popular beach on the Red Sea, with the Arabic Language Institute on one of their egregiously swanky trips. Though I was initially excited to experience  an Egypt other than Cairo, I realized shortly after arriving at the resort that Ain Sukhna is neither a part of Egypt, nor a part of civilization in general. As a resort, it belongs to a class of places that is removed from time and space as well as sterilized of both culture and reality. Indeed, the whole point of a resort is cultivating a state of complete relaxation that closely resembles death. If it seems like I’m complaining about a free weekend at a five star resort on the cobalt waters of the Red Sea, my response is, “Yes. I am doing exactly that.” And I think you’ll see my complaints are legitimate.

1. Our stay at the resort did not include the elixir of life itself: water. The breakfast and dinner buffets were almost completely dry, and did not offer alcohol, juice, water, sugar water, etc. Since I was not willing to spend extra money, I subsisted off of the 4 cups of coffee at breakfast and dew I licked off the grass in the early morning. As a result of the crippling dehydration, I was plagued by bizarre thoughts about wanting to be a sea creature, leading to many  ill-advised attempts at settling permanently under water.

2. Resorts are creepy places. This particular one was about 40 kilometers from the nearest city, and it was an entirely enclosed compound, a world unto itself.  The longer I stayed, the more I felt my humanity leaking from me as I slowly forgot my former life, the one where I drank water. Furthermore, Ain Sukhna falls where the Eastern Desert meets the Red Sea. This isn’t one of those wacky deserts full of vegetation and animals. It is barren.  Despite this, at the resort one can find blossoming gardens, twittering birds, and broiling humans. None of this should be here. It is a desert. We should just call this whole thing quits and go back to fertile land.

3. The weather was too hot. I simply can’t understand how people find self-roasting (immolation) pleasant. Don’t they know they’re dying? I wanted to understand the others, and so I spent an entire day outside in the scalding heat, cowering from the sun under an umbrella.  However, probably due to the dehydration as well as the heat, I felt weaker than I ever have in my entire life and remained plastered to the lounge chair like a deflated beached animal, drifting in and out of consciousness and trying to remember what it was like to have thoughts. Next time, I will have no shame in embracing indoors and air conditioning.

One might say I should have expected all of this from the words “resort vacation on the beach,” but I had yearned for more. May my next trip outside of Cairo be a fount of creativity and not a sinkhole of lethargy.

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