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Amman’s Adventures November 2, 2010

Posted by Sharief El-Gabri in Fulbright, Jordan, Undergraduate.
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Sharief El-Gabri

Sharief El-Gabri

So let’s start the blog off with some introductions. My name’s Sharief El-Gabri and I just graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in political science and AAPTIS (a fancy acronym for Arabic). I’m spending the next year in Amman, Jordan on a Fulbright U.S. Student grant. Hopefully, I’ll be blogging on a regular basis.

I’m teaching English at the Model School, a primary and secondary school associated with the University of Jordan. I’m helping out with ninth and tenth graders, which makes me realize two things: one, that kids are crazy at that age and two, that I definitely wasn’t as funny as I thought I was in those days! At the same time I’m studying Arabic, Modern Standard (written Arabic) and Colloquial Levantine Arabic. So to say the least, I’ve been pretty busy.

Ninth Grade Classroom

Ninth graders in Amman, Jordan actively listen to a pre-recorded skit. The drill dealt with direct and indirect questions and the difference between "late" and "lately."

I chose the English Teaching Assistantship (ETA) for my Fulbright grant because I wanted to give back to my host society while at the same time continue my study of Arabic, as well as Arab culture and history. My fascination with languages comes from my belief that the process of learning and, of course, communication helps make the unfamiliar seem less so. Differences are recognized but are less easily demonized. Similarities are more easily embraced (at least, I hope so). A strong background in English also serves as a huge catalyst for economic mobility particularly in developing countries. (It’s the language of business and of the sciences). For this reason, and of course others, I’m looking forward to continuing my volunteer work at the Gaza Refugee Camp, which is about an hour outside of Amman. I’ll be teaching English and helping young boys and girls in a sports camp every Saturday. I’m sure I’ll be writing about this in the future!

So why the Middle-East?! Well, I’m half Egyptian. My father and his family immigrated to the States in his teens. However, prior to college I only knew a few sayings (thank you, good, bad, etc.). Throughout my study of Modern Standard Arabic and Egyptian Arabic during my undergraduate years, I have learned to further embrace Arab society and its rich culture. Although this process has been turbulent to say the least, I’ve learned a lot about different societies and. of course, a lot about myself (who I am and who I want to be).

Alley in the Gaza Refugee Camp

A typical alley in the Gaza Refugee camp in Jaresh, Jordan. Families reside in homes that were built in 1948 by the United Nations. Sewage and waste water collect in open drainage systems that line the village's streets.

My experience thus far in Jordan (a month plus) has been very hectic, (finding housing, getting the appropriate paperwork for the residency permit, etc.) but it’s been great. People are incredibly friendly and willing to offer all sorts of advice. The largest hurdle I’ve been trying to overcome is of course the language.

My study of conversational Arabic prior to my move to Amman was solely Egyptian Arabic, which is quite different from Levantine Arabic (Arabic spoken in Palestine, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon). For instance, all question words are different from Egyptian Arabic. All “g’s” are pronounced as a “j.” My surname here is Jabri, not Gabri. Sentence structure and intonation are also distinct. I’m getting the hang of it, but from time-to-time I find myself slipping back into Egyptian Arabic. In the long run, I think this experience, specifically with language, will be great because I’ll be able to converse with a much larger Arab population.

Hope this was a brief and informative introduction to myself and my work here in Amman! I look forward to posting in the future on subjects such as the upcoming elections here, various travels, and of course my love/hate relationship with Arabic.

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