As expected, I‘m now writing from the other side of the Atlantic and, I must admit, it feels good. A few days before my departure I found myself feeling numb– not overly saddened, nor overly elated; just someplace in between. When I find myself in a place of transition, my emotions tend to swirl until they settle in their rightful place. So, for all of you who spoke with me or thought of me or prayed for me in the days leading up to my departure—thank you so much! Your love and concern for me is so very palpable and, oftentimes, feels so undeserved. As I’ve told many of you, you are very much with us in this journey and we hope to take, give and learn what is of benefit to us all.my travel was very (almost surprisingly) smooth. The kind attendant at JFK who overlooked my overweight baggage, the courteous flight attendants of Lufthansa who served me my (vegan) meals and beverages, the Passport and Customs agents who gave me no hassle or asked a single question, and the young, handsome man who warmly greeted me at the airport, carried my bags, and took me home safely (that would be urbndervish!). 😉 Two of the American English Instructors also remarked at how smooth my trip was and shared that the angels must have been present with me in my journey. That, I would not argue.
Alhamdulillah, after buying groceries, I laid down to rest while urbndervish taught his evening class and then I prepared a home cooked meal for the two of us. On the following day, we walked around town to buy a few items and get me acclimated to my new home. We stopped by the school that hired us as English Instructors and I had an opportunity to meet some of the other teachers. I also got invited to my first Algerian social event: watching Algeria play Egypt in the African Soccer Cup. The team lost pitifully to Egypt (4–0) but Algeria’s only consolation is that they already won their seat in the World Cup, so the damage done was minimal. Most are accusing the referee of being biased and faulting him for their loss. Gotta blame someone, right?
The Algerian Soccer Team is fairly new and the country is so very proud of them. Men and women follow the team’s progress fanatically. The Algerian national team is comprised of Algerian athletes that regularly play for European nations but have joined forces to represent their homeland worldwide. Algeria is a proud African nation and has no qualms about declaring herself as such (and if you hear the way Algerians drum and play music, you would agree!). Working towards continental unity appears to be a priority to the Algerians we’ve encountered.
On Friday, I caught up on some much needed rest and prepared for a teacher training workshop to be held the following day. I don’t feel jet–lagged per se but I’m definitely finding it hard to sleep at nights. For the coming week, my schedule is packed with class observations. The director of the school recommended that I observe different teaching styles and class levels before starting my first class assignment on Saturday. The school has been very considerate in my scheduling, trying to coordinate urbndervish’s teaching assignments and mine as much as possible. The school is growing so rapidly that there are waiting lists for enrollment! You know what that means: vacation time and sightseeing is over! 😉
Some of my observations thus far:
- Algeria is green. Interestingly there is a wide variety of trees here. Pine–like conifers and palm trees, all within meters of each other. I had plans of bringing seeds to start an herb garden but I’ve found that many herbs grow here locally. Sometimes, while walking, I’ll notice flowers and plants growing amongst the grasses and they look too beneficial to be weeds. Maybe I’ll post some pictures and you all can help me identify what’s growing around me.
- Algerians are sassy! I’ve seen men in sporty track suits, business suits, studded jeans and gelled hair. I’ve seen women wearing all sorts of colorful hijabs (head scarves) with dresses, jeans, and skirts in all styles. Many of the young women like to wear knee high, spiked–heel boots. No lie!
- People thing we’re Algerian. I didn’t think anyone would mistake us for Algerian because Algerians tend to be very fair–skinned, even the indigenous Berber Algerians. However, we’re told we can pass for South Algerians, who tend to be darker in complexion. I doubted urbndervish when he first told me that we can “blend in” here but after meeting a chocolate–skinned sister from a southern region of Algeria, who thought that I was also from South Algeria, I got the point. The sister even invited us to visit her hometown in the South, which is very appealing, since I hear that they speak real Arabic there. That leads me to the next point…
- Algerians and Arabic. Algerians admittedly use their own brand of Arabic, which I’m finding very difficult to understand. It’s not so surprising because I’ve heard of native Arabic speakers from Sudan or the Middle East not being able to understand North Africans. Hey, it’s your country, speak whatever you want to! It just gets frustrating when you’re speaking Standard Arabic (i.e. the country’s national language, followed by French) and you’re still not being understood. Sometimes Standard Arabic words are used but denote a completely different meaning to Algerians. For example, interchanging alif and mi’ah, the first meaning “thousand” and the latter meaning “hundred.” Very confusing when shopping. Furthermore, if you don’t comprehend what’s being said, the speaker will default to French. Good for most, because Algerians generally speak much better French than Arabic, but still rough for me because I don’t speak a lick of French. I’m more interested in strengthening my Arabic before I get around to learning French.
Everyone I’ve met has been very polite, courteous and warm. I think our stay here will be pleasant and beneficial for ourselves and those we serve. Will keep you updated of our experiences and findings, insha’Allah (God willing). Until then….