Monday, June 21, 2010

Tahrir Square & Bedouin Love

Weekend Al-Owel means 'the first weekend' in Arabic. Technically my second weekend, this weekend was the first time I was able to relax and sleep without a schedule. Some of the kids went to the pyramids but I caught up on some beauty sleep and then walked over to Tahrir Square, the main square near Downtown Cairo. Bustling day and night with people, cars puffing out yellow smog and tourists pulling maps out of their fanny packs, this square is the crossroads for the Cairo Metro, the tour buses and Cairenes going about their daily work. I love walking through the square filled with people selling sunglasses, books in Arabic, magazines in French, Ace Bandages and fresh Sugar Cane Juice. I usually buy a few peanuts (called Sudan-ee in Arabic) and head to a coffee shop to work on some homework. There is no soy milk in any cafes here (not surprising) so I order an Americano and sit in a little corner muttering my new vocabulary words to myself while flipping the flashcards back and forth.

Waking up to greet the dawn Sunday morning, I went for a little workout before class and spent the whole day cramming my head with Arabic verbs and case endings! Learning a language limits your communication. Think about how you would feel if your vocabulary was stripped away to that of a 10 year old and you were forced to speak that way 9 hours out of every day. Welcome to learning a language. The great thing about this State Department program- they force you to speak an uncomfortable amount that thankfully forces us to become comfortable. We attended a lecture later that day on Bedouin Life in the Sinai Peninsula. Random, right? But it was actually quite informative. Our presenter spoke Arabic and German but gave the presentation in her third language, English for an hour. We were all extremely impressed. I learned new information about Bedouin life and how it is now defined more as an ethnicity instead of a lifestyle, due to changing times and climates. The one thing I wanted to share: when a Bedouin guy falls for a Bedouin girl, how does the courting work? Well...The suitor draws a circle around his foot and shows the woman he is pursuing. If she agrees to his proposal she will later return to the place and draw another circle beside his with her footprint inside. Finally, if the father agrees to the match he will draw a larger circle encompassing both smaller circles. The large circle signifies the dad's blessing on the marriage. Aww.

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