Wednesday, March 04, 2009

It's a Small World, Part CCLXXVI

I occasionally go to a local Arab cafe to do my Arabic homework, when I actually have time for the hour walk round trip, and when the weather and my budget allow. (It's more expensive than Starbucks!) The first time I was in there, the waiter stared at me with an odd look on his face and asked if I had ever been to Jordan. I thought that perhaps he was trying to make conversation, and I was about to tell him that I thought it was a lovely country.

Waiter: Have you ever been to Jordan?
Me: Yes, it was nice...
Waiter: Did you study at the University of Jordan?
Me: Yes, that's a good guess.
Waiter: Were you in the program for American students, about three or four years ago?
Me: What?!! did you know? Who ARE you? I know you weren't one of my teachers.
Waiter: You were in Level Four, right?
Me: Yes...this is too weird...
Waiter: Oh, I taught in Level Two, and I remembered your face from the photograph on your application attached to the proficiency test at the start of the program.

Next thing you know I'll start running into people I've previously met all over the place. The whole world certainly seems to converge in Washington, DC.

Library Grafitti

I am strongly against writing in library books, not least because I find it incredible distracting to read something that someone else has already underlined and highlighted. In this particular copy of Hanna Batatu's The Old Social Classes and Revolutionary Movements of Iraq, I can see evidence of at least twelve separate library patrons guilty of defacing the pages with their ink. Sometimes the multitudes of graffiti artists have written comments in the margins, and others have come along and responded, to humorous results.

Mundhir al-Wandhawi and another Ba'thi pilot,seizing two airplanes, bombed ar-Rashid air base, destroying five MIGs on the ground and, by way of warning, fired a rocket at the presidential palace.
Pg. 1023-1024, referring to events during the start of the 1963 coup that brought the Ba'ath Party to power.

Written in the upper margin of page 1024 in red ink with an arrow pointing to the above book text is the comment, "Why not Tel Aviv? You fools!"

Just to the left of the red pen marks is a penciled reply, "Because they wanted to stay alive, moron."

If only paper books were so interactive. Now, if I were going to be so gauche as to write in a library book, I would have left a third comment, "And how about the fact that the air strikes had absolutely nothing to do with Tel Aviv?"

Monday, September 15, 2008

I can now conclude that each of my three reading-based courses has over 100 pages of reading per week, for a total of over 300 pages of reading per week. This is in addition to the hour (at least) of homework for Arabic that I have every day. That's alot of homework. And I don't care if alot isn't a real word and is only something to be used when speaking of a parking lot.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

My Brain Hurts

I've just returned from having class from 4:15-8:05, and I'm starving! Though admittedly not nearly as hungry as those who had to duck out in the middle of class to break their fast. Ramadan kareem to those applicable. I thought that the comparative politics class was going to be boring given the professor in charge, but then at the very last minute, the original professor made it back into the US. He is one of the most engaging professors I have ever come across, on par with the instructor for the Gulf Financial Markets course. I have come to the final decision to stick with the Comparative Politics class and the Politics of the Gulf class, taking the finance class next fall. My concentration is still tba, though I will say that a) Comparative Politics is key to political economy (a research subject near and dear to my heart) and b) Comparative Politics is a requirement for the politics concentration, so I have been advised to take it now in case I need it for graduation. I did, thankfully, get into the Politics of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf class (a fantastic small seminar for graduate students only) , which has the bonus of a Super Secret Mystery Guest Professor for half the semester. I'm probably not supposed to say who it is so let's just say that I now have more wasta than all of you combined.

Monday, September 01, 2008

School Daze

Wandering around my leafy campus with its Gothic style buildings, I can almost pretend that I attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. That is, if Hogwarts had a graduate program. My nine-year-old sister already made the imaginative leap into fact after viewing the older buildings for herself. "Look! There's Hogwarts!" she exclaimed every time she saw the distinctive Gothic spires from various points around town. However, no matter how many chapters of the Harry Potter series that I read in Arabic, I will not magically transform into a witch, nor will my courses begin to resemble, "International Magical Cooperation: Theory and Practice," or "Trade in Magical Goods."

I will instead take two hours of Arabic every weekday from 9:15 am, a three hour mandatory seminar for new students every Friday afternoon that explores the study of the Arab world through five varied disciplines, and ____________? My other two courses are still up in the air. Perhaps Comparative Politics of the Middle East, followed by the Politics of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf. Or Beyond Oil: Gulf Financial Markets paired with Economic Development in the Arab World. Or some combination of the two. My course schedule depends partly on space available in the classes and my choice of disciplinary focus for the program, be it politics or economics. I wish there were enough time in the program to do both. I thought that I had finally decided on politics, and then I attended the first lecture of the Beyond Oil: Gulf Financial Markets course. I have never had so much fun in a class. Ever. It seems illegal to have that much in a class. You would think that my proclamation at the very top of this blog that Arab economic development indicators are among my favorite things would be a clue...

We shall see if I am able to secure the aid and permissions of all of the relevant advisers before the end of the add/drop deadline on Wednesday.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Bookbag Talk

Every year in high school, our headmistress began the opening assembly of the new school year with The Bookbag Talk by showing and telling us the contents of her bag. Her point was that every student brought something special to the school in intangible ways through her own thoughts, perceptions, and experiences, not just in the designs and contents of her backpack. She encouraged students to bring with them the desire to learn, the ability to think critically, and to leave behind negativity and their prejudices and preconceptions. Over time, the bookbag talk became a beloved ritual of every new school year. I enjoyed the novelty of seeing what the headmistress and other faculty would display from their bags during the talk, as well as relishing the calm and focus acquired from precisely packing my own school things on that all-important first day. After all, "[a] beginning is the time for taking the most delicate care that the balances are correct."

What is in my bookbag?

Arabic Practical Dictionary English-Arabic/Arabic-English pocket dictionary by Awde & Smith
The Connectors in Modern Standard Arabic by al Warraki & Hassanein
1" school logo binder in school colors with a divider for every class
Orientalism by Edward Said
Contending Visions of the Middle East: The History and Politics of Orientalism by Zachary Lockman
Pencil case with assorted pens and pencils and 1 highlighter
USB flash drive
adhesive removable flags for marking library books
my key chain and wallet including student ID
cell phone on silent
iPod touch for music, calendar, and watching al-Jazeera
lipstick, lipgloss, chapstick, powder compact, and mini hairbrush
enthusiasm for learning
gratitude to be able to attend my program
an eye out for how to transform my education into an exciting career
an open mind
a lack of my preconceptions on the region and biases towards or against certain frameworks for approaching the discipline of Arab Studies

Friday, July 18, 2008

Witness the Democratic Process

The title of this post is a link to an AP article. Only in San Francisco.

I love you San Francisco, oh how I shall miss you.

And yes, I am a PROUD signatory of the petition.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Saddened by Jordan's latest Christian controversy

Above link to a collection of links and commentary on the current situation in Jordan on the persecution of evangelical Christians by the Jordanian government and the discrimination that they face from other Christian denominations.

I have a feeling that acquiantances of mine are among those expelled or exiled.