5:20am Wake up to go running. Put on pants, long sleeves, a loose shirt over, and a wide headband. Run a few miles in the median of the main road–the only place that has lighting, is flat, and not completely covered in sand. Try to avoid stray dogs and ignore the stares of the few people that are out so early.
6:15am Back at the house, before the sun comes up, rinse off, eat some fruit, change, etc.
6:50am Leave the house and walk down the street to catch a bus. My class isn’t until 8:30 and it only takes 25 minutes or so to get there by public transport, but if I leave later it will be near impossible to get a bus during the morning rush, lasting until 9am or so.
7:15am Arrive at language school. Chat with one of the teachers for a bit then sit and look over my flashcards and listen to my Arabic recordings. (I have found this one of the most helpful tools to learn.)
8:30am…ok, 8:40am Class starts. I am currently taking 2 classes–the regular beginner course and reading and writing. Today was a reading and writing day. We are just at the beginning and learning the Arabic letters. How to pronounce them and write them. Oooo–it’s hard. Arabic has some gutteral and throaty sounds that are really hard to make. Esspecially for girls and Americans. You know how in every class there is one person who kind of struggles and the teacher has to spend a little more time on? That was me today. There were simply some sounds I could not make. Everyone in the class (there’s 9 of us or so, which is a pretty large class for the school) was having a hard time though and it was actually pretty funny. We laughed a lot today. My Arabic letters look a little like a child’s scribbling. Me oh my! One of the toughest days at language school…er…probably the dumbest I have felt yet.
10:30am Class over. Enjoy a fuul sandwich (stewed fava beans on local bread with some extremely salty feta-like cheese, tomatoes, and sometimes some cilantro or arugula.) with some classmates then head off to the boys centre with J.
11:30am Still en route to the centre. Had a hard time getting a bus, then got on one that was nearly empty, so they stopped at every stop for a looonnnggg time waiting for people to come to fill it up.
11:50am At the centre. No program or activities planned for today, mainly went to just hang out with them. Greet all the staff and boys. Check on the stray puppy the boys have adopted, and ask one of the boys to get it some water. People don’t really have pets here, at least not like we do, so they need a little help in taking care of it. I am pretty sure it didn’t have any food or water the first 2 days they had it. Most of the boys were watching some awful Vin Diesel movie in English with Arabic subtitles. I don’t know what it was but I watched it for maybe 15 minutes and it was just terrible. So I got up to go back outside. One of the boys asked me why I was leaving and I said I didn’t like the movie. They laughed. I then played on a team with the domino game they play all the time. I still don’t fully understand the rules but they are very forgiving.
1:00ish pm Some of the boys want to go fishing so J and I say we would be happy to tag along. They fashion poles and shower (not sure the reasoning behind that) and we head down to the Nile. It was a longer walk than I was expecting, later to find out that we took a long way, and we finally get there 45 minutes later. For whatever reason all the brick making is done by the river and also near the river is where a lot of poor people live and many prostitutes. Many of the brick making men can also be pretty dangerous so the boys aren’t really allowed down there by themselves. We get to the river and they play around for a little while then we head back. Didn’t catch any fish, but there are plans to go again when they can spend more time down there.
3:30pm Get back to the centre, say our goodbyes and leave. Walk down to shop and buy some water and guzzle it all almost immediately. Get on a bus and head back. Getting home from this centre takes me 2 short bus rides. Luckily it was a good time of day and the buses were neither full nor empty. (If they are too empty you don’t get anywhere quickly because they stop and wait for more people.)
4:00pm Get home, wash my face (it has been a suuuuuuper dusty day), guzzle some more water, eat lunch. Get things together for my Arabic lesson and review a bit of what we went over last time.
4:55pm Leave the house and walk down the street to my local friend, S’s house. S is the oldest of 6 kids, she is just a month older than I am, lives with her whole family and at least a few other people/relatives. I still haven’t quite figured out who everyone is. They are Muslim. Connected with her through another family on our team who is her next door neighbor. She is just lovely. Knows a decent amount of English, which is very helpful, is super sweet and patient. Couldn’t ask for a better language helper.
5:05pm Get to S’s. Knock a few times until a little boy I have never seen before answers the door. Greet everyone. S brings me water and juice and we get to work reviewing and going over new things. The new trendy thing in language learning is something called the Thompson method. The idea is to learn language the way a child does. By pointing and things and not speaking for the first while, just listening and understanding at first then moving one from there. So in our sessions I bring small toys, objects, and printouts of different pictures of things. I point, she says the words, then will test me on them. There is usually some sort of acting out commands involved as well. Like, the woman put the knife in the pot, or run to the door, or put the pencil under the chair. And I will point to pictures or act out accordingly. I record the words throughout and also the commands and between sessions, while I cook or clean or whatever, I listen over and over and over so that it is stuck in my brain. It is working really well and I find these sessions to be the most helpful out of everything. We meet twice a week for 2 hours or so every session.
6:35pm We finish up a little bit early. S is keen to practice her English so we sit and chat for a little while afterwards every time. Sometimes her Mom joins us, who also knows a good bit of English. Her youngest sister likes to pop in and out of whatever room we are in when I am there and giggles at us and sometimes will point to things and say what they are in Arabic. She’s cute.
7:00pm Come home, eat some dinner, do the odds and ends I made a list of earlier today, check my email.
8:00pm Blog while eating a frozen banana.
A bit of a long day, not my longest, but a very good one. I am finding that in this climate my energy is not what it usually is. It doesn’t take as much to wear me out. By this point of the day after traveling in the heat and the mental exhaustion of the language I am usually pretty well zonked. Excited for whatever tomorrow has in store!