Monday, June 22, 2009

I am a horrible blogger...

I am a horrible blogger, I hope to update you about my adventures in Tunisia soon. In the meantime check out Arabic Without Walls.

Monday, June 8, 2009

برشاء برشاء برشاء

It's been a few days and much has happened. We spent the remainder of last week in Tunis, the capital. We had a few days of orientation at CEMAT including Tunisian Arabic lessons. The Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) that is taught in class isn't used in everyday conversation. Orientation was pretty much all day from 0830 to 1800. We visited the US Embassy, had a reception at the ambassador's house, met some of the researchers at CEMAT, took a tour around the capital, and had a few lectures about Tunisian history and family structure.

The program seems be pretty well organized. Our classes will be held in Sidi Bou Said at the SIT building A typical schedule for us will include class in the morning from 0830 to 1300, a break from 1300 to 1700 and an evening activity. This week we have 1 hour of Tunisian Arabic lessons. Other days will include excursions around town with Fulbright Foreign Language Teacher Assistants (FLTAs). Basically, they'll walk us through a real life scenario (shopping, ordering food, etc.) using the local dialect.

We also have cultural clubs: cooking, dancing, darbuka (drumming), and calligraphy. I'll be in the cooking club (of course) and I can't wait to add new recipes to my cookbook.

So yesterday (Sunday) was the BIG day! We met our host families. I was a little anxious about meeting my family but soon realized that I have nothing to worry about. My immediate host family consists of a mom, dad, and 4 month old baby girl. My host mom and I are actually the same age! We live in a house upstairs and downstairs is part of my extended family where my classmate, Anthony, is living. Yesterday after meeting everyone and having a mini-tour of the houses, I showed pictures of my family and Alabama on a map. The family's last exchange student was from Alabama too! It's nice to know that Alabama is being represented in Tunisia.

We ate lunch. It was delicious. I played with the baby and played "language charades" with my parents. Since I don't speak French or Arabic, we have to do a lot of pointing and gesturing to communicate. Although it is frustrating, I am happy that I can't use French as a crutch to get by...

After lunch, we went to the beach. Anthony, Mouna (my host cousin, I think), and I walked to our host grandmother's house where 2 other classmates are staying (David and Angela). The beach is beautiful!!! We hung out there for a couple of hours. I met some other exchange students who are studying Arabic through SIT, met some more extended host family...

When I got back my host parent's helped my study the alphabet. That was really helpful. In Tunisia, dinner is eaten really late. We didn't eat until after 2100. I got to make my first Tunisian dish! I made brik which is a tuna and egg turnover (in simple terms). The turnover is cooked so that the yolk is still raw. The goal is to eat it without getting egg all over your face :-)

I was supposed to go out for coffee afterwards but I was very tired. So I ate a small dessert and looked at some more pictures of my family and went to bed.

You may notice that I mentioned eating alot...If you think Southern hospitality is great, then you haven't experienced Tunisian hospitality. In the US, we say "no thank you" to be polite if offered something, because wasting it is considered rude. In Tunisia, it's considered rude to say "no thank you". It's actually better to take what's offered (even if it’s small) and eat some of it, than to refuse it all together. So I aet alot of things yesterday including beef stew, watermelon, apricots, peaches, bread, brik, salad, cookies, tea, tuna, etc. Will I eat these things when I get back to the US??? Only time will tell :-) (but not the beef stew)

Today, we had a first real Arabic class...Overwhelming only partly describes the material. It's alot to learn, and I'm ok with that. I spent much of the afternoon studying, but have decided to take a break this evening to update the blog. I hope to post some more profound and meaningful entries later on.

Thanks for reading! Bisslaama!

PS: برشاء (pronounced bar-shah) means "a lot"

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

In Tunisia

Hi everyone! We arrived in Tunis today around 1000. No one had missing luggage :-). We met the executive director and associate director of CEMAT and went to our hotel, Hotel Carlton. We'll be staying here for the rest of the week.

Our flight was relatively uneventful. We did have to sit on the tarmac for about an hour before take off, but we arrived in Paris on time. No vegetarian meals were reserved for us on the plane, so I ate the rice that came with a chicken dish. Airport security in Paris was pretty much like the US. The flight from Paris to Tunis was about 2 hours long.

We got checked into our hotel and then I went wandering down to the Medina with a group of student from the CLS program. We had a small lunch at a cafe nearby. Cafe's are lined all up and down the street. It's been a little frustrating for me because I don't know Arabic or French and I keep wanting to answer and ask questions in Spanish...but I'll be speaking Arabic soon, Insha'Allah. Because we ventured out into the city on our own, we thought of alot of questions to ask our instructors.

Tonight we're meeting all the program staff and then having a welcome dinner at Le Pacha with traditional Tunisian food!

I'm posting some pictures from our walk today.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Back in DC

I got to Washington, DC yesterday afternoon. We're staying at the Renaissance M Street Hotel (which is actually on New Hampshire Ave.). It's a really nice hotel, but everything is pretty much a la carte (from the internet to a $5 bottle of water). Fortunately, there's a Starbucks right around the corner and thanks to Daddy I've got wi-fi access. We were finally able to get the connection to work and after about 30 minutes of troubleshooting I finally connected to the internet for the first time in almost 24 hours!

So yesterday, we had to register from 1600-1800. A bunch of us decided to go walk around the city before our meet and greet at 18:30. We walked all the way to the WWII memorial and back. I was nice getting to talk one on one with different people and hear about their language and traveling experience. We had our meet and greet, bascially just introducing ourselves and why we want to learn Arabic. There are actually three people from Alabama in our group! We were all on the same BHM flight. Most of the group is interested in international policy, law, economics, etc. There is one other public health person.

By 1900 I was very hungry and not very interested in talking more with people. So one of my new traveling partners and I left found a restaurant called Luna Grill. They had a nice vegetarian options :-). I've decided that I'm not going to eat any exotic meals before flying.

This morning around 0030, my roommate arrived! I was sleep and thought someone was trying to break into the room. She's a PhD student at LSU studying political theory.

Well, I'm heading back to the hotel for breakfast and a day of "informational sessions" sponsored by our friendly Department of State. Pictures will be posted soon I hope.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Hi Everyone!

This will be my blog about studying Arabic in Tunisia, moving to Texas, and any other adventures that come my way! Enjoy.