November 27, 2009

5 a day

unijambiste (one-legged person)
fin (filler word, like 'so...')
franchement (frankly, basically)
a vrai dire (to be honest)
vachement (really)

rebajas (sales)
joder (fuck)
me cago en la leche (I shit myself in the milk = shoot)
guay (cool)
chulo (pimp/cool)

musaida (help)
atakalam (I speak)
aqul (I say)
la aarif (I don't know)
ma (water)

acele etmek (to hurry)
şikayet etmek (to complain)
yardım etmek (to help)
fikir (idea)
tatlı rüyalar (sweet dreams)

November 25, 2009

Small victories

The two hippies from Normandie were so gentle in their French. We were walking in the same direction from the medina, along the cobblestones, in the afternoon sun. The guy began to translate his girlfriend's question, but I had already understood. Deux mois, I answered. Ça va? she asked. Ça va trés bien. Je suis trés contente ici. I led them to a bank where they could change money. Shukran bzef, he said. La shukran. They wished me good travels in France.

And yesterday my Arabic teacher elicited my most meaningful thought in Arabic so far. Well, it came out of a conversation as I was packing up my things.

Me: Al-an mada? (Now what? as in, What are you doing now?)

Fatima: Alan-an, dars. (Now, a lesson)

Me: Ma man? (With whom?)

Fatima: … something... (Two Spanish people)

Me: Limada yadrus alarabiya? (Why are they studying Arabic?)

Fatima: Liana …something... yaskununa fi Ceuta wa…something...  Maghrebi. (Because they live in Ceuta and interact with Moroccan people)

Me: Oh.

Fatima: Maryam, limada anti tadrusina alarabiya? (Mary, why are you studying Arabic?)

Me: Liana...ana... uridu an aamal ma ashkhaz… [here Fatima filled in ‘Arab world’] fi medinati fi Canada. (Because I want to work with people from the Arab world in my city in Canada).


5 a day

deranger (to bother)
bruillante (noisy)
centre-ville (downtown)
a mon avis (in my opinion)
je vous suis (I follow you)

un sello (a stamp)
una carta (a letter)
el correo (the post office)
un paquete (a package)
estuve contenta (I was happy)

awal (first)
thani (second)
thalith (third)
rabiaa (fourth)
khamiss (fifth)

basit (simple)
zor (difficult)
bu kadar (this much)
futbol seven (soccer fan)
hepimiz (all of us)

November 22, 2009

From the The Sheltering Sky

He did not think of himself as a tourist; he was a traveller... Whereas the tourist generally hurries back home at the end of a few weeks or months, the traveller, belonging no more to one place than to the next, moves slowly, over periods of years, from one part of the earth to another. Indeed, he would have found it difficult to tell, among the many places he had lived, precisely where it was he had felt most at home... another important difference between tourist and traveller is that the former accepts his own civilization without question; not so the traveller, who compares it with the others, and rejects those elements he find not to his liking.
The Sheltering Sky is this weird novel by Paul Bowles, an American who lived in Tangier as an expatriate with his lesbian wife for many years. He recently died. In the novel, Port and Kit are unhappily married and travel through Morocco pondering their unhappy marriage. Port eventually dies and Kit runs off into the desert as the sex slave of some bedouin. The writing is not great--sometimes I think Bowles is trying (and failing) to be Hemingway--but then there are these quirky moments of depth or humour that must belong to Bowles alone. They made the book worth reading.
'If I watch the end of a day--any day--I always feel it's the end of the whole epoch. And the autumn! It might as well be the end of everything,' he said. 'That's why I hate cold countries, and love the warm ones, where there's no winter, and when night comes you feel an opening up of the life there, instead of a closing down. Don't you feel that?'

'Yes,' said Kit, 'but I'm not sure I prefer the warm countries. I don't know. I'm not sure I don't feel that it's wrong to try to escape the night and winter, and that if you do you'll have to pay for it somehow.'

'You are here with your wife?' asked the Lieutenant. Port assented absently. 'That's it,' said the Lieutenant to himself. 'He's having trouble with his wife. Poor devil!' It occurred to him that they might go together to the quartier [brothel area]. He enjoyed showing it off to strangers. But as he was about to say: 'Fortunately my wife is in France-' he remembered that Port was not French; it would not be advisable.

[Just after Port dies] She did not recall how they had agreed that one can be anything but anything but dead, that the two words together created an antinomy. Nor did it occur to her how she once had thought that if Port should die before she did, she would not really believe he was dead, but rather that he had in some way gone back inside himself to stay there, and that he would never be conscious of her again; so that in reality it would be she who would have ceased to exist, at least to a great degree.

November 21, 2009

5 a day

puente (bridge)
orilla (banks)
escultura (sculpture)
maestría (masters degree)
pensamiento (thought)

manquer (to miss)
pont (bridge)
pensée (thought)
sculpture (sculpture)
maîtrise (masters degree)

ev arkadas (roommate)
haberler almak (to get news)
mulakat (interview)
kabul etmek (to accept)
kusura bakma (sorry/no offense)

ashkhaz (people)
eshya (things)
mustaida (ready)
qisa (story)
fulus (money)

November 20, 2009

Un dia en el español

It was Independence Day in Morocco, so we celebrated our independence and drove to Ceuta, a Spanish protectorate just 45 minutes away. Alaina suggested we spend the whole day speaking only Spanish. Por que no? It was a challenge for me, but Alaina was super patient with the constant como se dice and otra vez, and we pulled it off.

We shopped:
calsetines (socks)
escoger (to choose)

We had dinner:
caña (glass of beer)
entrafacil (shot with vodka and lime)

We chatted with guys from Malaga at the bar:
happy (tipsy)
los sevillanos (people from Seville)

We made a whimsical decision:
Quanto es la habitation?

November 19, 2009

Tu me manques

= I miss you. French is weird like that.

Je pense que...tu me manques.

November 18, 2009

All in the wind

I never have headaches, but I have them here. One of the teachers blamed the westerly wind. He said that when it comes from the Mediterranean, like it did for days, it brings air with less oxygen. We inhale but our hearts only pump so much blood, so we want to lie in bed all day. The wind from the west, though, is dry and oxygenated. It makes us happy. All the other teachers nodded.

You can believe whatever you want, so I will believe in this wind explanation of things.

November 13, 2009


This little urchin followed me for three whole blocks, until I relented and asked the price of his pathetic bundles of Kleenex. Jooj. Jooj? Jooj. Fine, two dirhams, 30 cents, let's do it. The photo was free. After all, men in the plaza sell the same packages for one dirham.

Fun fact: 1-10, the numbers are the same in Darija (Moroccan Arabic)  and Fus-ha (Standard Arabic), with the exception of 2. Jooj here, ithnane elsewhere.

November 12, 2009


"English has only one regular plural pattern, the addition of s to the singular, as in students. Arabic has more than ten regular patterns that you will learn over the course of the year..."

November 10, 2009

I want blood.

If you learn a language in the real world--on a bus, in a café, with a native speaker--you naturally get the important words: now, later, what, time, come, go, where, good, want, can, have to. The nature of the language classroom, on the other hand, is that you learn a bunch of useless stuff along the way. In Arabic, for example, in which I still don't 'food' or 'water,' I have already memorized the following garbage.

United Nations alumam almutahida
translator mutarjim
admissions alqubul
employee muathaf
lonely waheed
spacious wasa
breakfast futur
blood dam
river nahr
mouth fam

With which I can say:

My mouth is a translator at the United Nations. Fami mutarjim fi alumam almutahida.

The employee at the admissions office is lonely. Why? Because the office is really spacious. Almuathaf fi almaktab alqubul waheed. Limatha? Liana almaktab faghalan  wasa.

I want a river of blood at breakfast. Uridu anahr bidam fi futur.

November 9, 2009

Flowers for the good life

The man remembered me from last week when I bought white flowers and he added an extra dos as a regalo. On the street, everyone smiled at them. Winter is coming--you can feel it in the near-constant wind--but the sun is still shining, and it lit up the roses. They'll last all week and make us happy. They smell so good.

November 8, 2009

The costs of things, Part 3

After the flight, every cost depends on where you are and what you do. In Tetouan, Morocco...

Flat loaves of fresh bread: $0.27
Café au lait: $1
A kilo of the best olives: $2
Local wine: $5
Soup, salad, couscous, cookies, fruit, and tea in a nice restaurant: $10
Bus to Tangier: $2
Balcony seat at the movie theatre: $3
French classes for the next 3 months: $90
Printmaking course: $28
Massage at the hamam: $4.50
View of the mountains: free

November 7, 2009

The costs of things, Part 2

The biggest single cost of travel might be the flight. Fortunately, any flight is cheap divided over enough time. If you spend $1000 to get where you want to go and stay one week, then every day costs you $143 before you do anything. This is insane. Stay a month, though, and a day costs $33. Stay 10 months and a day costs just $3.30 in flight money.

November 6, 2009

The costs of things, Part 1

"How can you afford to travel all the time? Isn't it expensive?" 

No, it is not expensive.

Think of everything you stop spending money on. No rent. No heat. No water and electricity. No landline. No cell phone. No internet. No car payments. No car insurance. No parking. No bus pass. (You might want these where you go, but factor them out first). No $4 coffee. No $8 drinks. No $10 cover. People are blind to how much they spend, because they are plugged into a Matrix-like system that sucks their money as fast as they make it. People call this system a "normal" lifestyle. Just remembering those costs makes me wonder,

"How can you afford to live in North America? Isn't it expensive?"

November 4, 2009

I heart my Intermediate 1 class

So, what were we talking about last week?


Bravo. Can you give me an example of a good experience?

Visiting the moon!

Absolutely, Ayman. That is going on the board.