It’s amazing how the little things can set you off. I can’t talk with most people here, no problem, I can’t tell people where I live since I don’t know the names of the streets (not that there are any signs anyway), no problem. I can’t upload pictures and internet explorer keeps crashing on me in the internet cafe…. $$%@*$!@ this stupid computer!!!! Whew, glad I got that out of my system, I was really pissed, I couldn’t get anything done. The good news is that the hour only cost me 50 cents, but still…
I managed to get a roasted chicken and some rice last night. He asked me if I wanted some sort of spice sprinkled on it and I motioned that I wanted just a little since I didn’t know what it was. I still don’t know what it was, but man was it good! I’ll have to have them put it on liberally next time.. I still can’t get over how cheap all of this is, I’m pretty sure I paid the “American” price, but $3.50 for a whole chicken and a whole lot of rice is a pretty damn good deal. Took it home around 8ish last night and tore into it Arab style, no utensils needed. Ate with my hands. BTW, I was under the impression that they never used their left hand when eating. That may be true of bedouins, but here everyone washes their hands before eating and then they use both hands. At least that’s how it was at the places I’ve been to. Class is good, but I’m afraid a lot of it is going in one ear and out the other at this point, way too much new information. It’s ok, since it’s just me and the teacher he’ll just have to repeat things until I get it. I’m now in the throws of recognizing hand written Arabic as opposed to the nice, neat lettering that I have in the textbooks. It’s a little tough to differentiate some things anyway, but when the vagaries of different people’s hand writing come into play it can be even more confusing.
Met a Brit and another American (from capital heights MD of all places) today. Everyone has nothing but good things to say about Sana’a and the school, so I feel even more validated in coming here. Dean (the Brit) says that this place is much better than Cairo, UAE, and Jordan for learning Arabic. I think we’re meeting up after class tomorrow to eat but now that I think of it, things were far from being definite. I guess I’ll see tomorrow.
Had to go out and buy some paper yesterday. Not a big deal really, but every foray into the souks is a bit of an adventure. Mohammed (the little old guy I met yesterday) told me where to look for a “book store”. Well, I couldn’t find what he was talking about, but I did find a place that sold pens, paper, and whatnot. I was lucky to find a notebook that has really nice paper for writing with a fountain pen. The ink doesn’t bleed or “feather”, it does take a little longer than I’d like to dry, but I can live with that. I had originally packed a whole bunch of my own, nice notebooks and writing paper, but the weight restrictions from the airport made me nix that idea. I brought my ink and my pens so now I’m set. Why bother at all? Writing script with a fountain pen is so much easier and nicer than with a ballpoint/rollerball/gel pen. It’s also easier to write neatly, I have no idea why, but it’s true. I’m using some cheap Chinese pens off of Ebay, cost something like 5 bucks a piece or something like that. Worth every penny…
I don’t know if this is a reaction of me getting over jet lag or just because I am awoken so early every morning, but I have been getting up at 5 or 5:30 every morning and feeling good! I know that’s a shocker, but I go to bed around 8 or 9. I can get a lot of studying done in the morning because it is so quiet. I figured that since the call to prayer starts around 5 (sometimes 4) in the morning the markets and businesses would be up and running by 6 or so. Not so. Nothing much seems to open before 8. The places I would like to go to like the internet cafes and small goodie shops open whenever they feel like it apparently. Usually they are not open before 3. That may be because of all the Qat they chew.
Around 1 or 2, all of the souks go into a qat buying frenzy. They start chewing early and keep it up all night. It is supposed to give you a buzz, but it also keeps you up at night (as well as make you constipated as I understand). Seemingly every man chews, and I’ve seen more than a few black clad amorphous beings (they say they are women, but I’m beginning to think there aren’t really any women here at all…) carrying around bags of the green leaves. A little kid gave me a little sprig of the stuff. Even to my untrained eye I could tell that it was a cast off branch, but it was very cute. I’ve seen kids that look no older than 6 chewing the stuff, it’s really unbelievable.
The kids are a really good example of how different our cultures are. In the US, especially in the suburbs and the city, you are not usually allowed to cross the street until a certain age. Even then, they are admonished to not stray too far or to talk to strangers for fear that a bad man might get a hold of them. Here, kids of all ages are allowed to wander the streets at any hour. Keep in mind, these are the narrow, congested streets that cars, motorcycles, and trucks zoom up and down. I’ve seen kids around 4 or 5 wandering the souks that are jam packed with people and vehicles. They will also talk to anyone. I haven’t asked, but the prospect of kidnappings and sexual predators seem to be a totally foreign concept to the people of Yemen. It’s really nice , kids say hello to you as you walk by, and they aren’t shy. They are also incredibly cute. I never dreamed of taking pictures of little kids in the streets in the US, here they beg and demand that you take their picture. I’d be drawn and quartered for even pointing a camera at a kid in the US, what a difference! The boys are typically dressed as little men compete with jacket and sometimes dagger. The littlest girls are dressed in frilly, cutsy outfits. As they get older, they go to more regular dresses, but still are adorable. I’ll see if I can’t get some pictures up one of these days.
You might have noticed that this was a little longer post than my usual. I had the brilliant idea that I should write this out on my laptop at home and then just bring the file to the cafe. Ideally, there would just be a wifi hotspot there, but that just doesn’t exist here in Yemen… Anyway, I only have a few more things to do before I can settle into a regular routine. I still need to get to the US embassy, or at least call them. I know, I know, but it’s really out of the way and I can’t help but feel comfortable here. But I’ll do it. I also need to get a phone and buy my ticket to Malta. I’ll talk more later… Isaac