18 February, 2006

Bameeya by any other name

Well, I know this is what you're really interested in hearing...What do people eat in Syria?
Sure we have the obvious - shwarma, falafell, tabouli, foul.... All delicious.
But the thing I was bowled over by was.....
the OKRA!
Yes, all my relatives Down South, they have OKRA here! It's called bameeya and it's a whole lot smaller than the okra we're used to or that you find in Africa. Some of this is no bigger than your fingernail. But it is indeed the real deal. My host cooks it in a thin tomato sauce with bits of meat and serves it over this delicious rice with vermacelli. No idea if anybody here fries or pickles it. Rest assured, I will investigate.

I begin round two of Arabic tomorrow. It seems that most of my original class has left or will be getting instruction privately or at the government school. A few remain friends and that's what counts.

Been laid up sick as a dog the last few days with a bug. Actually was hoping for death when I got my first call from oomee (my mom) back home. Of course, what did she want to know?
"Did you beat Ottoman?"
She's promising to send me some goodies soon. After nearly three days stuck at home, getting out this afternoon felt especially sweet.

FIRDOS is offering me an internship and we are meeting this week to work out the details. Very excited about that, to say the least. Of course, I will get word out as soon as I can as to the details.

Teaching continues. Tomorrow is the first class post-"Shock and Awe". I think the kids who needed it got the message. I think I scared the beeJeezus out of a few of the one's that didn't need the message. And, at least they all learned a new word, "contract", since that's what we discussed and signed. But they all seemed fine when they left. I think....

Sad to see the riots continuing regarding the cartoons. I just finished a book on Rumi, the great Muslim thinker and poet. The book includes several passages from the Koran, since his poetry was often written as a guide to the teachings of that book. The key phrases that keep popping up are love, patience, moderation, kindness, justice, equanimity.... Though I found the cartoons offensive, I believe in a completely free press. The thing is, I come from a country with several hundred years of experience in such freedoms. Things are far too complex for me to go into tonight. But, a friend here noted, the day after the Damascus troubles, we have to keep those lack of freedoms in perspective when we look at these reactions. I am not condoning anything, so don't even start. I just hope to give some of you a bit pf perspective. Think of this, a few of us were uncomfortable talking about the situation in the halls of the University because the wall may very well "have ears". All is well here now, but this is just something that is on my mind these days.


15 February, 2006

Ana taleeba jaeeda

Well, I decided to hold off on getting my own place. I have it pretty good up on the eigth floor in Mezza and it's nice not having all those responsibilities. I did find one beautiful, funky place in Muhajreen that I loved. It was all French doors, lots of glass and sunlight, funky plumbing arrangements and tons of character. Maybe later. For now I'll just pocket my earnings and save up for travelling and such.

Turns out I did o.k. with my first class. 94% o.k. to be exact! Yes, I seem to have a nack. We begin the next class Sunday. I am still suprised at how much I am able to speak with people, even now. Supposedly my pronounciation is good for an ajnabia.

Teaching is going well, but this evening the hammer is coming down on my disruptive boys in class two. Shock and awe, shall we say. They aren't bad kids, really. They just need to understand that just like at their other school there are consequences.

Nothing firm has come down from FIRDOS. My interview was postponed due to "an emergency meeting" at the office. My CV has been passed to the head of communication and marketing. I think I may be able to get an internship, which would be good. As always, we shall see...
I am getting started on my own modest projects slowly, but surely.

It's STILL cold here most days. We actually had snow a little over a week ago. Enough to coat the mountain behind Mezza where the palace sits. Cars in the street had a dusting as well. Sadly, it didn't stick and only made a mess of things.

We're halfway through the break this week. Work has kept me in town. I'm going to a concert with friends Friday night at the French Cultural Center. Other than that I have just been rambling about town. The National Museum, next door to my un-official "office" at Takkia Suleymania, is lovely and quite a steal at 10SL with my student card. There are some lovely paintings in the modern art gallery on the third floor. I am interested in researching the artists and seeing who is still active in Dimashq.

Must run for now. Need a few minutes to prep for class. Hope everybody reading is well.
All the best. Salaam.