Year Abroad in Syria – Day #209

25/03/09

Day 209

I thought it was about time I wrote and updated you on things over here in the Middle East.

Things are going very well. This week’s our mid-term vacation so I’m enjoying the change of pace and sleeping-in a bit more. From next Monday we only have four weeks left of Arabic instruction at the University of Damascus. Then it’s up to us to continue learning Arabic at home and on the streets. Personally, I much prefer an hour spent chatting in Arabic on the streets to one hour sat in a classroom picking at grammar. I’ll then be staying in Damascus until June 3rd, when I fly first to England and then shortly after to America for the big reunion, to which I am thoroughly looking forward.

Although it’s our vacation I’m still very busy as I’m now teaching English here. I just finished my fifth week of teaching at a small private institute situated in Jaramana, the suburb of Damascus where I first lived for a month. I’m really enjoying it and it’s also very good money, especially when you factor in the poor state of the economy these days. I teach four groups, from beginners to advanced. In the most advanced group, two of my students are actually English teachers themselves, who, as native Syrians, wish to improve their English pronunciation and iron out the occasional difficulties they have in grammar. My students at the institute range in age from about twenty to around forty years old.

I teach regular hours at the institute, but I also supplement them with the occasional private lesson, either at my apartment or at the home of the student. My private students range from primary school to university, so I tutor quite a variety of levels, each with their own challenges.

Also since last I wrote, I’ve moved into a new apartment (surprise, surprise!), bringing the grand total number of apartments I have lived in so far in Damascus to a whopping four apartments! This time I’m living on my own since the two Arabs I used to live with could not afford to keep living with me. I don’t mind too much, however, as it’s nice to have my own place for a change. My new apartment’s a very good size for one person, is fully furnished and includes one bedroom with a king-size bed, a kitchen, a bathroom, a large living room and a balcony. I’ve had to work a lot, however, on cleaning the house, especially the kitchen, which looked like it had never been cleaned even once by the former tenants!

I’m now living in an area called “86”, which is next to the area called, Mezeh Gabel, where my last apartment was situated. The area I live in is also nicknamed the “illegal houses” because in the past most of the apartment buildings were built without permission from the government. Any further building construction is now carefully controlled and there are police check points (with the usual AK47’s) to monitor the movement of any building materials into the area.

I’m happy to report that my Arabic is still improving with each week and I’ve found that with every week that passes here, things become that much easier as I get more and more used to life in the Middle East. I’ve also found that I can now distinguish the Kurdish language from Arabic and can even understand the occasional word from the Persian I have learned, since Kurdish is almost a dialect of Persian. To me, Kurdish sounds like a mix of Arabic, Persian and Russian, resulting in what is to me a rather ugly sounding language. Perhaps if I learned more of the language my opinion would change. After all, when I first started learning Arabic I thought it wasn’t the prettiest sounding language! However, the more I hear and learn, the more endearing some of the sounds become and sometimes I think it’s almost a shame that English does not make use of some of the sounds found in Arabic!

That’s about everything for now. I hope everyone is doing well in their respective parts of the world and I hope to speak to you all again soon.

Peace be upon you!

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