Monday, November 3, 2008

English lessons and a Danish evictee

I've just gotten back from a few hours of teaching English to south Sudanese students in Ain Shams–my first official class session. Ok, the just part is was only true before I was dragged across the hall to be told some shocking news and after I had three squares of dark chocolate.
Despite the reports I've heard that certain NGOs won't work with the students I'm teaching because they belong to "gangs" and are incorrigible, all of them were exceedingly polite. I'm called "teacher" rather than by my first name. This sign of respect is afforded me even though the students are essentially my peers, ranging in age from 18-30 with most in their late teens and early 20s. We covered negation in the singular and plural–including some versus any, and how to read a map and discuss where certain things are located. Someone brought up Obama, so I also briefly explained the legislative branch of American government and what senators were. Though I was nervous I'd not be able to properly convey the concepts in my lesson plans and be effective in my teaching, things went very well. One student, Tito, asked me after class if in the future I would mind giving him French lessons on the side. After all the upheaval in his life, I'm amazed at his drive and determination.
On the way there, my best efforts to look calm, collected, and disinterested with my iPod playing and my distant stare not inviting "welcome to Egypt"esque remarks were all thwarted when I got my fore-arm stuck in the closing metro doors which, for some reason, had not opened all the way in the first place. It wasn't particularly painful, and my fellow passengers were quick to help me extricate my limb from the door. I shook it off wedged myself into the sardine-can tightness of the train. The way back was much less congested; I even had a seat to sit in.
Upon returning, I found that I had been copied in an email from my landlord (who now seems certifiably nuts) informing everyone in both the flats on our floor that the Danish girl who lives with Catherine is being evicted tomorrow because of a contary email she sent. Up in arms, Catherine contacted an attorney at the American embassy and also looked up relevant laws in the Egyptian Civil Code, replying to Ahmed's various threats with a barrage of counter-threats and demands. The evening turned from astonishment over the events to normal conversation, affording me the opportunity to chat in French again with the Dane, her French boyfriend, and a Togolese-French girl who's just moved in. So apparently both Camilla and Catherine are moving out tomorrow. I myself wish I could find a reasonably-priced place that was a bit nicer than this with a landlord who didn't fall into the categories of flake or crook–Ahmed definitely being the former, though thankfully not much of the latter. It will be interesting to see how all this drama unfolds. It was nice to get to know my new neighbor a bit and to be told again that I had presque pas d'accent (nearly no accent) in French. Just when I get worried I'm losing my language skills from having been out of French for a year and a couple of months, something like that comes my way, and it's great.

Former Sudanese president dies in Egypt
"Paradox of Power" in Egypt
Egypt to build nuclear power plant, likely with aid of US firm
Freedom of speech still not so free in Egypt says BBC
Another migrant murdered by guards at Israeli-Egyptian border

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