Lots of Sit-ups

December 24, 2008

It’s pretty humbling when an Army Ranger says “shukran” to you after telling him what you do.

You Know You’re in New England When…

December 21, 2008

You walk off of the plane and there is a snow storm. Pretty though, isn’t it?img_1223

“Egypt Teacher Tried Over Beating”

December 21, 2008

Something which has made it into the mainstrean news lately is this story about an Egyptian teacher who beat his student to death for not doing his homework.

I don’t think this issue needs really in depth analysis (when have I given any, anyway?), but education as a whole remains a huge problem in Egypt. From lack of funding, students’ apathy, poor materials, widespread cheating, focus on final exams as opposed to the actual learning of material,  and this,  unqualified teachers and inappropriate methods of teaching. As the article points out, it is hard to find teachers  as the work is hard and the pay is next to nothing. So you get people who really should not be dealing with kids on a daily basis, and things like this happen.

I also want to point out that hitting children is something that I have seen more than once since I have been in Egypt. While a friend was helping a 10 year old who lives on our street with his homework, he stood slapping the kid in the face when he wasn’t getting the problem right. The kid did not seem happen but certaintly accepted it, so maybe an interesting question would be was the teacher really in the wrong for hitting the student in the first place? Or did he just go way, way overboard in doing it.

Foreign Policy Blog Egypt Year in Review 2008

December 17, 2008

We’ve just put up our 2008 Year in Review for the Egypt Foreign Policy Blog.

You can check it out here: http://egypt.foreignpolicyblogs.com/2008-year-in-review/

Eid Mubarak!

December 10, 2008

Before I forget, an Eid Mubarak and كل سنة وانت طيبيين to everyone celebrating Eid Al-Adha!

A Couple of Smiles and a Little Bit of Rashwa

December 6, 2008

I went to a party last night in downtown Cairo with a couple of friends and there happened to be an empty spot right outside of the building so we parked and got out. A policeman walked over to us and was about to say something when I said to him “salaam aleikum, is there a problem or are we ok?” He said, “well you are not really supposed to park here.” My friend Islam, who drove us, also said hello and asked him if we should move.” The policeman hesitated for a moment and then replied “I walked over and saw two smiling faces, so what could be the problem?”

I asked Islam if we should give him some rashwa, a bribe. Islam said that we didn’t have to, but that it would be nice. Islam gave him 10 Egyptian pounds, about $1.8. He then explained that he thought that policeman was exceptionally friendly, and that they are usually not like that, and because this guy makes no money it would be a nice gesture to give him some rashwa. I asked Islam how much the guy makes. He said he probably makes about 120 pounds a month, abouit $21.7.

Egyptian Boy

December 6, 2008

Here’s funny video made by a friend parodying the popular “American Boy” song (which I am embarrassed  to admit I’ve never actually heard).

Teaching English is Not What you May Have Thought

November 29, 2008

It’s quite hard, actually. I am always complaining that Arabic is impossible because it is filled to the brim with idiomatic expressions. Well, English has quite a few as well, and on top of that, nothing is spelled the way it sounds.

My roommate is out of town and he asked me to fill in this week with his student, the Somali learning English who I have previously mentioned. I had a really great time and I found the work challenging and rewarding. It was nice to feel like I was teaching and helping someone, especially in regards to something like English which is such an essential skill these days.

I understand now why teachers have to actually get trained for this stuff. Trying to explain a word like “situation” is difficult.  And no, one cannot actually “read someone’s mind” like one reads a book. And yes, read, read, and red all look and sound the same but mean something different. And “-tion” sounds like “shon” and “loud” is spelled “loud,” not “lawd,” but yes that is what it sounds like.

Arabic Media Shack

November 29, 2008

A special thanks to “Rob” at Arabic Media Shack for linking to my blog. If you want to know what is going on in the Middle East and you don’t read Arabic Media Shack, you should check it out.

Right Smack in the Face

November 22, 2008

One of my roommates teaches English once a week to a Somali living here in Egypt. The student’s name is Mohammed and he is 18 years old. I have met him a couple of times and he is very nice, and he told my roommate today he has never gone to see a movie and would like to come with us next time we go.

I was curious about Mohammed’s socio-economic status, as I do not know much about Somalia and was interested to know what type of family Mohammed comes from. My roommate said from what he understood, Mohammed is from a “middle class” Somali family, whatever that means. Not dirt poor but not wealthy on any level, either. So I asked what Mohammed’s parents do for work. Guess what? His whole family is dead. His mother, his father, and his brothers and sisters. Killed in the current conflict in Somalia. Mohammed is here alone studying English, Arabic, and Islam, and shares an apartment with a few other guys living in Cairo.