Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Mafi Mushkila

So I bring an arabic language book with me every day to my studentship at a local hospital. There, I have a variety of instructors who speak varying amounts of english to me, and during downtimes in the afternoon are more than willing to help me learn a few words here and there. Usually this degenerates into unintelligible babbling and laughter, but I must say having people laugh at you when you mispronounce things makes for good motivation to learn.

Do you want to learn some arabic?
Of course.

Here is how you say "Of course" -- "Tab-awn"
And here is how you say "tired" -- "Tab-awn"

My 'teachers' (i.e. the people sitting next to me that I was distracting from their work) were emphatically insisting that there is a variation in how you pronounce the words, but I just couldn't hear it! This must be similar to the whole "th - d" phenomenon in French. One of my colleagues also tried to demonstrate the difference between a hard "H" and a soft "h" and patiently repeated "ha - Ha - ha -Ha" to me...and well...it was a valiant effort. At the end of the 10 minutes, I felt like I did the last time someone tried to explain the difference between 4x4 and all-wheel-drive to me.

In my language book it gives you sample conversations and one of them was about food. I was reading the arabic parts and had someone else read the english parts until we got to couscous, at which point he was laughing too hard to continue and ran off to call his friend on the phone to talk about couscous. Later when I asked another person what it meant, she giggled, pulled me into an alcove and then suddenly poked me in the crotch; it wasn't a direct hit, but still, I was not expecting that. She of course became hysterical too when she saw the violated expression on my face. Who knew??? Couscous...I'll never see it the same way again.

Friday, October 10, 2008

A day in the life of a Saudi kid

I know we've already discussed my interest in mall indoor amusement parks for kids, but I couldn't resist posting a couple of more pictures of the kinds of things they have! Now I can't remember which mall this was because they all blend together after a while, but check out these giant mechanical animals that kids get to ride on. That blur behind the lion's butt beside the three men is an excited little girl swaying side to side, ready to pounce on that animal. Once they start up the animal, it walks on its own around in a big circlewhile the "trainers" hold the "leashes" and make sure the kids don't fall off it. And guess what - all the animals have built in radios so they project music during the ride! I know these animals are not real, but even if they are machines, I still feel a bit sorry for them.

Also, here is a kids-themed haircutting shop inside the mall. The floor is covered with a racetrack pattern with cars on it, and you can see Disney characters everywhere on the inside of the shop. I mean, if I was a kid and I knew haircuts would involve all those toys, I'd beg to get my haircut till I was shaved bald


Sorry I haven't written in a while - I have a backlog of things I want to post about, but one of the most interesting things that we have done here in KSA is hashing. This consists of a group of people going out into the desert and basically doing running or hiking and it usually involves some amount of juvenile singing at some point. Here is the website of an international group that has a chapter here in Riyadh: http://www.gthhh.com/

We did the long walk which was described as "difficult." Alternate words that came to mind during the walk were "dangerous" or "borderline insane." It was a LOT of fun. The terrain is actually nothing like I pictured, with an absence of sand and abundance of rocks. We were climbing up and down big hills that were full of loose, sharp rocks. It was a really great workout, but I couldn't stop to take any pictures on the hills because I was busy trying to keep up with everybody and focussed on not dying. It was a great workout, and even though I was huffing and puffing up the hills, the beauty of the scenery was not lost on me.

Here are some pics: