Thursday, 25 November 2010

I've started tutoring a few of the Arab students in my dormitory in English, and discovered that almost none of them knew I could even speak English. I'm one of only two dorm dwellers this semester who isn't Saudi; the other is a Turk who speaks fairly fluent standard Arabic and studies with the Arabs in the regular college programs.

The Saudi girls seem to have just grouped me with all the other pale people with funny accents - Zarqa has a lot of Chechnyans, and quite a few Russians, Bosnians, and other Eastern Europeans. Hardly any of them knew where I was from, and even fewer of them know where Canada is. If they think Canada is one of the little Eastern European countries, it's no wonder they didn't realize I spoke English.

It's true they've never heard me speak English before, there is no one here for me to speak it with, but still, how do you live with someone for a year and not even know which country they are from and what their native language is?

Immigrants in Canada must feel even more invisible and insignificant - one more foreigner with an accent, not really an individual with a past and stories of their own.  But nobody here looks down on me.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Pretending to Be a Teacher

My college offered me a scholarship (yay!) and I asked if there was anything I could do for them in return, since I stay in the dorm for free. We're crammed in six to a room and not treated very well, but still. They said no, but I got back from the souq this afternoon, totally exhausted, and was just about to shower and eat and then lay down for a bit, and my instructor and an Arab student knocked on the door. The student is taking English composition but knows zero English - I don't even know why the school let her take the course, but that's Jordan for you.

So now I'm pretending that I know how to teach English, and the word is spreading, and all sorts of people want me to teach them. Most of them want an hour a day EACH, which seems unrealistic to me, especially since I'm not charging anything. Or maybe that's why they want an hour every day.

I haven't told anybody that I don't actually know English grammar myself. At all. I studied science briefly in Canada, and promptly forgot all the grammar I supposedly learned many many years ago in high school. Trying to explain English grammar in Arabic is not all that easy, especially since English grammar is nothing like Arabic grammar.

I'm going to look for a copy of the college's English textbook tomorrow, study it myself, try to figure out how to explain all this in Arabic, or very simple English, and hope nobody realizes that I have no idea what I'm doing. It's the best plan I can think of. Fake it till you make it, right?

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

My sister in Canada mailed me this package back in March of this year. It's apparently been in and out of Jordan several times, opened and re-taped Allah only knows how many times, and to my surprise everything is still there. Unfortunately, it cost her ninety bucks in shipping, which I feel really bad about, but I'm glad she finally got it back.

I tried to pick it up, in fact I inquired at the post office quite a few times during the nearly eight months the package spent in Jordan, but they claimed no knowledge of it, or of anything else ever being sent to my post office box. I have gotten plenty of other peoples' mail; postal employees are supposed to be able to read English numbers, and read them in the right direction, because the boxes are labelled in English, but a lot of people are hired who can't reliably.

When I first arrived in Jordan, I wondered why nobody I knew ever got mail, or even had a mailing address. This would be why - it doesn't arrive. I still wonder how people go through life without using the postal system.