Monday, June 8, 2009

Hedda Ohrkti

Hedda Ohrkti: this is my sister. Heya esm ha Lina: her name is Lina. This is about the extent of my Arabic at this point, although being only 5, Lina has yet to realize that I don't understand her constant babbling, so I've been enjoying pleasant (if rather one-sided) conversation. I've discovered that if I speak French to her, she understands me about half of the time but responds only in Tunisan (although French is widely heard here, most Tunisians speak Tunisian in the house and begin to learn French formally when they start school). She calls me ta-ta (auntie) and drags me around everywhere by my forearm (eeejuh! eejuh! shoof!) (come, come, look!). This picture was taken when she discovered my laptop and was insistant on playing with it...rather than have her mess up my documents I opened up photobooth and....voila! Instant distraction.

Also in my family: my father, Mustafa, my mother Lubna, and a three-month-old brother, Amenallah. So far, Mustafa speaks to me of politics in bursts of beginner's English, Lubna speaks of religion, education, and womenhood in French (when her husband is not around), and Amenallah...well...he gurgles in universal baby. I share my family with another girl in the program, Kate, although seeing as how she speaks no French and our parents speak very limited English, communication is largely up to me. The house is small, but clean and sufficient. I'm sleeping in what was clearly Lina's room (and which we still sort of still contains all her toys and we each have a half of the closet) and Kate sleeps in what used to be the study and still holds the family computer (and many sci-fi posters...Mustafa is a self-proclaimed sci-fi fanatic and is seemingly obsessed with Jodie Foster).

The family is traditional Muslim, which is the exception rather than the rule in present-day Tunisia and makes me a little more worried about what is expected of me, but it should be an interesting cultural experience nonetheless. Lubna dons a full veil and robe everytime she leaves the house, as well as each of the five times per day that she lays out her mat for her prayers. I've already had a few enlightening conversations with her...but more to come on that later. It's a little awkward right now as we work out the family schedule and negotiate cultural differences (particularly surrounding meals, and when they should be eaten, and how much we're expected to eat), but I'm sure things will feel more comfortable as we settle in.

Today was also our first day of classes. We have Modern Standard Arabic from 8:30 to 1:00, then lunch, then a few hours of "free" time to take advantage of the school's internet as we do our homework. 5pm is Tunisian dialect lessons every day this week, although they'll drop off in frequency in the coming weeks to be replaced with different "cultural excursions" (I have my fingers crossed for a hammam) and culture clubs (I'm in pottery club).

Off to class again! More to come soon, as well as photos and commentary from the national futbol game I got to see on Saturday night....


  1. you get to live with the lion king? Awesome :)

    Sounds like you're having a fantastic time :) keep up with using the Arabic on here, I've no doubt I'd be terrible at pronouncing it, but reading it is interesting.

    I read a while ago that their whole system of language is so different, with consonants making the word and changing vowel patterns for the tense/case etc... Would love to know more of it