Wednesday, October 29, 2003

why do i go off on half-assed tirades about things i dont really feel like talking about? i dont know, maybe i'm jealous of all those bloggers that can write intelligent things. but i really dont feel like keeping a blog like that. i just dont have anything that interesting to say, unlike, say Bernard Lewis and James Woolsey. Lewis is one of the most prominent scholars on middle eastern history and current affairs, and Woolsey is a personal hero of mine. Why you ask? I'll tell you why.

School started on monday. I'm taking "selected topics in Islamic history" which is taught by a british professor who is absolutely hysterical, and very very sharp. This basically covers everything from (roughly) 622 - the beginning of Islam - to 1517 - the start of the ottoman empire.

then there's "History of the Ottoman Empire" which covers, well, the Ottoman Empire, from 1517-until the end of WWI. (I wont put down that date, if you dont know it, you should. go look it up, now).

and then "Selected topics in middle eastern history" which is everything from WWI until today, more or less.

There's also my Arabic class, which is a lot of fun. i'm shitty with languages, but i'm trying hard. The professor is really funny. He sounds just like doctor evil. Seriously. It's the funniest fucking thing in the world. He's also got that funny sinister streak, where he'll occassionally pretend to yell at someone. The language is really beautiful, and if you've never seen what it looks like printed, you should. If anyone sees Brett in the near future, ask him to write something to you in Arabic. I hear he's gotten an A in the class. Not too shabby, hope i can say the same thing in a few months. So far i've learned about a dozen letters. It's very hard, because it looks nothing like any language i'm familiar with. there are lots of similarities between hebrew and arabic (they're both semitic, so that's how it should be), but so far i havent seen it in the writing style (although i learned that the word for hell in arabic is "gehenna" and in hebrew it's "gehennom"...and since we're talking about religion, i'll throw out that the name "Allah" was a very common name for God in the M.E. around Mohammets time, used by christians and jews as well.)

I've started reading the Koran. It's very scary. It speaks directly to the reader, so after a few chapters you begin to feel very very humble, what with god knowing everything you think and do, and how all the unbelievers will burn in a fiery pit of hell. It's beautiful, but very scary.

there are too many people in my program. This is both good and bad. It's nice that so many people want to be a part of it, but for a graduate program, 30 people is just too large. A seminar is only supposed to have, maximum, 20 people in it. you can't have a significant discussion with 30 people. The british professor is an instant favorite because he's both willing and able to seperate the class into two parts, and teach twice. Considering he just added 4 more hours of teaching a week, i'd say he's really really generous. The other professors, apparently, have bigger problems with this. Whether it is unwillingness or inablity due to university regulations, i'm not sure. i'd like to believe it's the latter.

I was quite disappointed that the university hadnt compensated for this, as was everyone else. after all, they'd had months to prepare. Turns out though, they had a similar situation last year. But a few weeks before classes start there had been a bombing at a uni. in Jerusalem. So a bunch of people decided not to go, and this problem didnt exist. Why are there so many people studying here now? I really can't tell you. A lot of Americans and Canadians....maybe 70 percent? The rest are German, French, Dutch, Romanian, Russian....i think that's it. No arabs, unfortunatly, but someday that'll change. There have been arabs in the program in the past, however, so i'm optomistic it'll happen again. Perhaps some Iraqi's? i hope i hope...

back to the topic of class size....i still think they should have come up with a contingency plan. the major obstacle being that the university is very much in debt. somewhere around 100 million dollars. so money is, to say the least, tight. For example, they fired all of the hebrew teachers and are supposed to have teachers coming in from outside the university system. this, i assume is cheaper. i hope the quality is good. unfortunatly, i wont know until next week (assuming things go as "promised").

Im quite happy today because Katy says she's seriously considering staying and finishing her masters here. she's actually coming from a german university, and was supposed to be here for just one year. she wants to drop the arabic class though, because she hates studying languages, and wants to work really hard on her hebrew. i'm trying to get her to stick with the arabic though. especially since you need it to get the MA, and if she drops it for a year, she'll have to spend ayear just working on arabic (although i suppose she'll find other things to occupy her time as well).

There are a lot of germans in Tel Aviv. Dont ask me why or how. Most of them arent jewish. A bunch of them came here and just really like it. They say it's just a lot less oppressive then germany. i guess they mean socially. strange. i mean, no one comes here to make money. it's not like the US where people can come for a year or two or whatever and then go home with a shitload of cash. it's also just not very easy to live here period. still, it's nice to see people coming to live here.

i think there's going to be a halloween party tomorrow or over the weekend sometime. Probably on the beach. the argentinians are planning it, which should be funny, because they seem totally disorganized, and generally very stoned. But it's a garunteed good time. Plus, i get to pretend i know spanish.

it's my sisters birthday today, so i have to go call her. i've so far managed to forget my cousins birthday, my brother in laws birthday, and my nieces birthday (all in october) so i figure 1 out of 4 wont be too bad.


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