Sevcik's Blog

A year in Cairo Egypt

Friday, September 02, 2005

traffic and arabic lessons

Today we went to the supermarket to buy groceries and since our first choice market was suddenly closed (when people want to go on vacation they just do—no warning—and suddenly a market is closed!) we went to a western supermarket in another area of Cairo. I've never spent so much time comparing prices or trying to decipher "is this tuna or is this chicken?" One lesson I’ve quickly learned—NEVER put an arm or anything out of a vehicle window. The street into Cairo is basically a six-lane highway in what America would consider a two-lane highway. And when I say “lane,” well, you can scratch that. The cars swerve all around each other haphazardly and they are extremely aggressive. The rule is, if there is room for your car, take it. If not, you can bluff someone else and go for it. The street is also being shared with motorcycles, bicycles, donkeys, and donkey carts, not to mention the 22 million pedestrians who zig-zag across the roads! I discovered more about the honking. As a rule of thumb, one honk means “I am here and coming” or to signal a ‘thanks’ after passing another vehicle, two honks mean “I am passing you,” and three honks mean “I am coming on fast—watch out!”

This evening was our first four-hour Arabic lesson. I was completely overwhelmed and exhausted by the end, but we still have 84! more hours of training ahead of us and we’ve been warned to not get behind. Needless to say I’m a bit concerned. During class, as I heard a word go in one ear and out the other, I would occasionally remind myself that already I know more Arabic than 90% of Americans and gosh darn that’s a start! By tomorrow we are supposed to know the entire alphabet, the pronunciation, and the use of short vs. long vowels. We also ‘learned’ how to say good morning/afternoon/evening, my name is _______, I am from America, and you?, yes, no, hello, goodbye, welcome, see you tomorrow, etc. That would be a whopper of a day learning a language with the same alphabet, and now we are looking at strange (yet gorgeous) symbols we don’t know how to reproduce yet! There are three classrooms and three teachers; the teachers rotate every hour so we work with each of them. One yelled at me for taking notes, another put me on the spot for nearly 7 minutes because I couldn’t roll my “r,” and a third kept correcting my pronunciation. It was a humbling experience to say the least. Please pray for our patience and perseverance in this next month so we may learn to really communicate.


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