Salam wa aleikum! Greetings from Southern California where yours truly is once again hitting the books in her last, yes, last, year of undergraduate studies!
And what better to make this year ridiculously hard and interesting than to learn Arabic? In order to work internationally in agricultural development or cultural diplomacy I decided it would be the best choice; also, I think Mandarin sounds like people being poked in the eye.
So Arabic and I have begun our tumultuous relationship. She, so beautiful, flowing and graceful luring me to learn her secrets and me, the unlikely, clumsy scribe trying to learn to write right to left and that the tiniest squiggle can completely morph the meaning of each and every word. Yargh!
My teacher is a very scary Egyptian priest who believes fervently in the Arab idea of singling people out to humiliate them, “We live in a shame-honor culture!” he screams, “Either bring honor on yourself or be ashamed!”
He is also exposing the class – half of which is already fluent in Arabic and going for an easy A (not fair!) – to the patriarchal structure of Arab society. This was demonstrated by a couple of occasions: first, when he told us, cackling the whole time, “Since we are studying Arabic we will be like Arab culture! I favor the men! But I am not homosexual! (cackle cackle cackle) The second was during a “this is how it is” vocabulary competition where he chose the weakest member of the class (me, since I started late due to my internship) to represent the women and two Saudis to represent the men. “For one million points, men, how do you say ‘rabbit’ in Arabic?!” You can probably guess who won that one.
Yet, among all the high-energy Middle Eastern wackiness I am learning a lot, very quickly, about Arab culture and language. While terrifying, my teacher is very effective (probably because he IS terrifying) and I feel confident that soon I can tackle Arabic grammar! But let me just tell you, this class is leaps and bounds better than my other new learning experience special to this year: studio art for non majors.
My whole life I’ve had a strong appreciation for art and artistic endeavors. I love nothing more than traveling the world to visit renowned and awesome art museums to spend the day perusing and soaking up the beauty of each piece, and even dabble in collage-making, photography and various other media myself.
Despite all of this I was not prepared for the perils of art class!
Charcoal drawing, contour line sketching and trying to make a decent representation of a shoe are far too much for me. I’ve resorted to acting really weird in class and asking my teacher all kinds of strange obtuse art junky questions to keep from feeling like a second grader. Maybe not the best technique, but when you can’t even draw a bottle without it looking like a fat man standing on his head you find bizarre ways to make yourself feel like a contender. Paul Toews – where are you when I need you?!
As it stands now I’m of the mindset that all I need to do is get through this year and then it’s back to Oregon for grad school in 2010. One more year of ridiculous classes and funky Angelinos; then I’m home free. Until then it’s tough-love Arabs and sadly difficult art projects; here I go!