Sufian is my hero. He’s the one I had been IMing with before I came over. He’s a local Yemeni and we finally caught up with each other last night. We had agreed that we would help each other with language lessons. He wants to get better at his American English, and I need all the help I can get with my Arabic. One slight problem is that he is recovering from a stroke/embellism and his speech is slightly slurred. Doesn’t look like he’ll be much help when it comes to proper pronunciation, but he can still correct my grammar. Plus, I’m learning that if I know how to read a word in Arabic, I can say it. So if all else fails, he can write it down for me and I can figure out what things are from there. Anyway, he took me around this morning and helped me with two of my big projects. I now have a cell phone (although I think I need to “charge” the card) and I have ordered my plane tickets to Malta. In sha Allah (God willing, one of the most common phrases around here), I will have those confirmed tomorrow. I didn’t get the short plane ride I had hoped for, but I will save a ton of money. The best quote I could get online was around $1300, and that was going through Cairo. This will put me through Dubai (which has wifi horay!) and run me about $750. That rocks. I don’t have a number to give out yet, but I will send out the number to family when I get it. If anyone else wants it, just drop me a line and I will send it to you too.
Sufian has also said that he will help me get a land line into my room so that I can have my own internet connection. He estimates that it will be around $80 for the installation and the per minute charge is that same as the internet cafes charge, a half cent per minute. It will be dial up, but it will be in my room and not a 25-30 minute walk each way. Honestly, the internet cafes speed aren’t all that great, there’s a nonzero chance that just by using a non adware/virus riddled computer will speed things up considerably.
Class is going well. I’m still having a little trouble identifying what letters are making up the words. I really do think that part of it is the handwriting of the teacher and the books we are using. That’s something I’ll just have to deal with, people’s handwriting varies in quality. My schoolboy Arabic is actually pretty neat, but that’s because I have to concentrate so hard and I’m writing very slowly.
Today was the first day that I used a word from class in the street. A little boy walked up to me and asked “CaLam?” I had just learned that is the word for pen. I had heard before that the kids always ask for pens but this is the first time that I knew that one was asking for one. At first, he pointed to my fountain pen in my shirt pocket (yes, I carry my fountain pen in my shirt pocket, no I do not have a pocket protector, want to make something out of it?). I wasn’t about to give him that, but I remembered that I had another regular pen in my pocket, so I made his day. I brought a whole ton of pens with me, I’m guessing that most of them will go to kids. I don’t have a problem handing out pens, it’s hard to be too upset with a kid that wants to write. I did have a little one harass me the other night. I had stopped by one of the little (and I mean little) shops that around my building for a candy bar or something. The shopkeeper shooed the kid away because he didn’t have enough to buy whatever it was that he wanted. Keep in mind the kid had a 50 riyal note. That’s enough for two bus rides cross town, the equivalent of a sandwich, or 2 and a half fresh juices. He started pestering me for more money. Him I blew off, a pen yes, extra money to buy a whole box of cookies, no.
Something had been bothering me, but I couldn’t tell what it was. Sana’a is a dirty place. There’s no other word for it. There’s trash everywhere, and mop water is apparently in short supply. despite this, I have not seen a single mouse or rat and very very few bugs. A fly bothered me today and it was odd enough that I remembered it. I wonder if people are so cavalier about trash and filth because there doesn’t seem to be a vermin problem. The consequences aren’t much. It’s ugly, but there really isn’t any sort of pest problem… odd. Christoph informed me today that othr parts of the country are not so lucky. He recently went to T’aizz in the souch and had to sleep with cockroaches…
One last thing for today. last night my feet were a little sore. I haven’t walked this much in ages. I’m developing some blisters, but nothing too bad. I looked down at my feet and said aloud, “Holy shit, what’s wrong with my feet!” They were all mottled, dark, and splotchy looking. My nails were darkish I thought. The thought occurred to me that something was wrong…. maybe leprosy! Well, it turns out that all I needed was a good scrubbing, my feet were filthy! Sandals are the most common type of shoe around here, and it’s mild enough (for me) to wear them, but your feet sure get dirty sometimes! I had to laugh about that…