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School then Work and then Life

MOROCCO | Thursday, 12 June 2014 | Views [280]

During breakfast Monday morning, someone made the comment that she was excited for classes to start. By the end of the day, I certainly agreed. My host family and Rabat were both so unfamiliar, I wanted something that I could understand again. And I can certainly understand the structure of school more than I understand the structure of meals.

My first class was literature. Our introductions to the instructor involved answering two questions- our name and the name of the state we lived in., and our major. Our instructor had been to Missouri and Pennsylvania, but though that Michigan was what Illinois had. (He probably meant Lake Michigan. Even so, and as much as I like my lake, Chicago is probably more important.) If we had a non-literature major (which was everyone) he would ask if we liked literature.

With that done, he defined Mahgreb, and talked through a quick history of Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia with relation to the French. Then he talked about the central themes that appeared in Mahgrebian literature. Then he talked a bit about Senegal. Then he talked more about Mahgreb. Then he realized he'd run five minutes late. Then he talked about how terrible iced tea had been the first time he'd tried it. Then he talked more about literature. Finally, he lets us go.

He was mostly interesting, but my ability to concentrate on French, especially classroom French, is gone after about an hour. Maybe 70 minutes. After that point focusing to keep the level of attention I need to understand what's going on becomes very difficult. By the time we'd been in that classroom for 1 hour forty minutes, fifteen minutes longer than we should have had to be, I just wanted the class over with. Instead, I needed to sit through another five minutes.

At least we had lunch after that, and coffee had been put out, so I could have some before starting the politics class.

In politics, our self introductions needed to include:

1. Our name

2. Where we're from

3. Our majors

4. Why we'd chosen this program

5. What, if any, our previous study of Arabic had been.

My real reason for choosing this course is “it sounds less boring than the sociology and migration course that is my only other option,” but I made up an explanation about how I thought it would complement the literature course very well.

I avoided the mistake that Nathan realized later he made. He was trying to say he was born in Virginia (je suis né), but mis-conjugated it to say instead “Je suis nu” (I am naked in Virginia). I don't think anyone caught it at the time, but he realized it later that night. Strictly speaking, it's probably true, because I don't know anyone who's been born without being naked, but it's not quite what he meant.

The instructor then handed out another, more comprehensive packet than the one he'd given us the day before and started going into more detail about what was expected of us. He briefly mentioned a paper we'd need to be writing, and I raised my hand to ask the question that I always ask whenever papers are mentioned: “what format do you want the works cited in?” This is what happens when you spend your high school years needing to use MLA for English papers, Chicago style for history papers, APA for science papers, and “I'm pretty sure you made that up last night, quite possibly after a glass or two of wine” style for French.

The 10-page paper coming up wasn't the worst part of what he warned us about. The 5-10 minute summaries someone needed to give each day was. He went around pointing to each person and assigning us a day (there were five of us in the class.) I chose the right seat to sit in, because I was assigned Fridays. We have 2, maybe 3 Fridays that are class days. (We get the afternoon of the fourth of July off. I'm not sure what they're expecting us to do then.) Other people had to present up to 6 times, though probably the person who had the worst luck was Nathan, who got Wednesdays. The next day, he needed to summarize and present a 50 page reading. Even Megan was starting to worry a bit about her presentation on Thursday. But since we don't have class on Friday, I have plenty of time. I don't need to think about it anytime soon.

Shortly after that, he said something about 3:00 and left the building.

Is he coming back?”

I think so. He left all his stuff.”

I think he said something about a 10 minute break? And he'd see us at 3?”


We discussed the presentations we'd need to do and glanced though the syllabus to determine which readings everyone was assigned.

Five minutes later (at 3:00) he returned, said we actually only got a five-minute break, and resumed class. The fact that we had a break, and not just an extra twenty minutes tacked on at the end, was nice. In fact, we didn't even have the extra twenty minutes tacked on to the end. He let us out right on time, maybe a minute or two before because no one had any questions. It was wonderful.

Then we had another break, and it was time for Darija.

Darija is the complete opposite of Japanese.

To make a word Japanese, you add a bunch of extra vowels. To make a word Darija, you remove most of them.

Japanese has two syllaberies and one alphabet. Darija just has the one phonetic alphabet..

Japanese and Arabic can both be read right-to-left, but Japanese is only read that way if it's also written if it's written from top to bottom. (The first letter being on row one, column one, the second on row two, column tone, etc.) Otherwise, you read it like you read English. So those are in fact different.

Arabic nouns change depending on who owns it. (My name- smiti. Your name- smitk. Her name- Smit-ha. Etc.) Japanese pronouns don't change the noun, and usually are avoided unless they are necessary to understanding the sentence.

Arabic has separate genders. Japanese doesn't.

The Japanese word for “no” is “iie.” In certain parts of Morocco, “iieh” means “yes.”

The last part made me want to cry, and made a break incredibly necessary so that I could recover my mind and think about Darija again instead of going “but... but... I want Japanese back.”

If I tried, I could enjoy the parts of Darija that Hebrew prepared me for. “Salam.” OK. “Salam Alekem.” Got that. “Light” is “nor.” Still good. And, most importantly, I don't stumble too much over the “ch” sound or the “ayn.”

Though I will point out that neither of those sounds exist in Japanese.

Finally the class was over. Later that night, I realized that I needed to do my homework. 50 pages for the political science class (50 pages of a rather dry history textbook in French. The teacher, pre-empting our complaints: “I could give you simple readings, but then you'd stay tat a simple level of French. You need to challenge yourself, to grow your minds.” And he hit his head a few times) and about 20 pages of Passe Simple. I've gotten so used to teachers assigning a review of the Passe Simple (past tense form in French that's basically only used in literary works) that I was pleasantly surprised to find that this “Passe Simple” was a novel, or at least part of one.

It would be nice to claim that after the history document this one was pure joy and ease to read, but after the history document, it was close to 1 in the morning, so it was still rather difficult and hard to concentrate on, so the biggest thing I could say in its favor was that it was shorter.

I had classes today, and have more classes due tomorrow, so I need to come home from classes and do homework in the same day, and I don't get a break from it until the weekend. I really miss my second semester schedule. No classes on Thursdays was about the only thing that made Wednesdays tolerable.

Tags: arabic, literature, school

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