Monday, September 23, 2013

Spreckin da Arabic

We're back in Jordan for our second year of language acquisition. I was slightly concerned that our summer away in the States would be detrimental to all that we had gained. In talking to other foreigners and given our own experience taking a break may have actually helped. Summer was all about resting and recharging after a year of busy time in an unfamiliar place. That rest has translated into our brains being given time to organize all the useful words and sentence structures we gained.

I've been delighted to come back to see that I now can understand most of the conversations going on around us without having to concentrate, translate and conjugate each word. This has the added bonus of knowing that we aren't the topic of most conversations that go on around us on the street. Classroom discussion time on issues such as economics, theology and government are much more engaging as all of us are better able to express our opinions in Arabic. Tasks such as giving drivers directions, asking for prices and goods at the store and calling for water aren't the stresser they were last year. Gone are the days of rehearsing a phrase 5 times before I enter the scenario in which I need to use it.

Simply put, everyday tasks have become everyday tasks.

Sermons at church are still a challenge. This is mainly due to the preacher's mixing written Arabic in with spoken Arabic in every message they give. We are gaining an understanding of the written Arabic, but it's coming much more slowly. Written Arabic is also the Arabic used in radio and TV news reports. I do understand the gist of any report I hear now, but the details so far elude me. 

I may sound like a 3rd grader, but it is exciting to be able to read! I'm not just sound out the letters slowly when I sing hymns and look at signs and advertisements.
While the first year of language was a very, very hard task, this is starting to be an exciting adventure once again.

Monday, September 02, 2013

Night Life

There's no way to sugarcoat it. It is hot here in the the city. Whilst we're not a desert exactly we are right next to one that loves to blow its sand our way. So, between the cloudless skies, the hot pavement and the relentless heat, people here have adapted.

P.S. What prompted me to write this was twofold:

1. Everyone here seemed to be so loud late into the night and I was a little flummoxed

2. In Egypt they instituted a 7pm curfew during the latest disturbances. I'm only able to fully appreciate the import and inconvenience of that curfew because of how people live here.

First let me say that fans and A/C do exist here, but A/C can be pricey and fans only push around heated air. Also, the houses are built to minimize the heat inside with high ceilings and lots of windows (obviously a problem in the winter). There also seems to be a fairly consistent breeze blowing through the city on any given day. The inside, while not always extremely cool, is better than walking around outside or sitting in a hot taxi.
Their solution is that, unless absolutely necessary, stay home and sleep in during the cool of the morning.
Get up around 10 or 11 am and have breakfast.
Then there's a nap time.
Get up and eat lunch between 3:30 and 6
Get the family out of the house for errands. Maybe take the kids to the park.
Eat dinner between 8 and 10
Let the kids play outside while you socialize until midnight or so.
Wash, rinse, repeat and stay outta the heat.

Our kids have started school and there's is no way that I would let them stay up past 9 even if it's hot and there are people out socializing. We all just have to learn how to ignore the noise and go to sleep at a reasonable (for us) time. I don't think I appreciated the logic behind their environmental adaptation last year. This year I understand their reason for the differing hours. It's not one our family can do though with our 8-12 and 8-3 school hours.

So, Egyptian people, I understand now why a 7pm curfew would be so hard. Neighbors, I now understand why our hours of eating and sleeping confuse you.