(with, of course, all due respect to mr. e e cummings)

Friday, February 4, 2011

Living in Exciting Times, They Say

Public Service Announcement to concerned friends and relatives:  things are fine here at the university.  My biggest adventure of the day has been going to Carrefour, a sort of French Wal-Mart located near Aleppo.  (I figured staying out of downtown wasn't a bad idea, just in case.)  Here's a short glom of thoughts on life and living it in Halab (Aleppo):

My Contemporary Middle East professor is very cute in an old man kind of way and studied at American University, my school, for several years.  He therefore knows one of my professors, who's been there a while, and I officially have an "in" with him...anything for said professor at AU, he says.  He was talking to us about cultural differences between here and the US, and the best line of the speech was this: "Am I sexist?  Yes, I think I am.  I am sexist."  This was less of a reproachable statement than you might think, though, as it was in conjunction with talking about how he worries more about his daughter than his sons.  I know plenty of American dads who do the same.

Speaking of the sexes...I've been thinking a lot about Syrian men.  And not in an admiring way.  They drive me pretty crazy, since they seem to think American women are all...well...not all that modest, and open to all kinds of things.  As the girls walk to class, we often hear out the window, "Hello!  How are you?  I love you!" in English.  The thing is, American guys can be obnoxious too.  I keep reminding myself of that.  The difference is, I know how to handle American guys.  I know when they're acting interested, I know when they're pushing the boundaries of politesse, I know how to warn them off.  So, upon reflection, the Syrian guys are probably not as horrible as I tend to think...I just don't know how to play "battle of the sexes" here.  And so life is hard and involves lots of trial and error...hopefully not so much error.

But now about girls!  I had a Syrian make-over the other day!  Some of the girls on the hall decided they were in the mood for fingernail-painting.  After they ran out of their own fingers, they offered to do mine.  It's a pretty color-- sort of dark red-- and apparently special because it's from Turkey.  (I'll admit I think it's also the first time since prom that I've had nail polish on.)  Then we went to one the girls' room and sat around eating lunch and talking...admittedly, they talked more than I did, and I asked them to repeat everything at least once, but it was fun.  It was the first time I'd had extended interaction with Syrian girls, as they tend to be less outgoing with strangers than the guys.

(But, as in the US, there are marked differences...some of the girls on the floor are very extroverted indeed, and one in particular loves to dance in the lounge.  And she is GOOD at it.  While we're on the topic: clothing varies among women, too.  Many women wear the hijab, but not everyone.  Christians don't, and some Muslims.  On the street, some women are completely covered, eyes, hands, and all.  At the other end of the hijab spectrum, there are women like some of the girls on our hall, who wear pretty, flashy scarves over their hair only, and manage to rock a long shirt, leggings, and high heels.  These latter girls are happy to sing, dance, or hang out around men, while some of the more conservative girls will dance only around other women.)

The other night in the floor lounge, some of said singing-and-dancing was going on, and I asked my nail-polish buddy if sometime she would teach me an Arabic song.  She was more than happy, as was everyone else in the room-- immediately!!  They wrote out the lyrics to the first half of a Fairouz song (Fairouz being an intensely beloved Lebanese singer) and played it for me four or five times.  Now, almost every time I see one of the people who was there, they quiz me.

Important things: the Internet here is not always strong.  The dorm I live in was formatted for us especially, I think, and has lots of new things, among them hot water, wireless Internet, and co-ed floors (girls on one wing, boys on the other).  That means some of these things act up a lot.  So if I agreed to Skype with you or something and I don't show up, or if you don't hear from me for a couple days, that's probably why.


  1. هههه تتذكرين اسم الاغنية؟ انا قررت ان اشرب قهوة واستمع الى فيروز عندما اقرأ مدوّنتك.

  2. نسم علينا الهواة, يا ايفان...ما زلت اعرفها