The time of settling in and introductory happenings is over; classes have started and the academic year is – at least for us- in full swing. The day before the classes started we did a placement test, which I found pretty difficult despite the fact the test was multiple choice. I got placed in the upper intermediate level which was my aim but if it came down to the test it was more luck than knowledge that got me in the class I am in. Our Fus-ha teacher, which is Arabic for Modern Standard Arabic as well as Classical Arabic, only speaks Arabic in class and no English what so ever. It is a challenge and a good one. She is clear, patient and seems to know her stuff. At the moment there are around eight people in our class. Including me there are four students from the University of Marylebone in my group. Two of them are native speakers so their oral abilities in Arabic are a lot better than mine. The other is a rather lazy Eastern European guy who would have been my evil-little-genius-friend Lou’s uncool cousin in another life. He studied Arabic for four years and in my opinion should be in the advanced class ‘cause his Arabic is pretty good. Apparently there is quite a gap between the intermediate and the upper intermediate level. In the intermediate level they are repeating first year grammar stuff and the teacher is speaking English as well as Arabic. In our class our teacher expects us to have quite a big vocabulary, which I don’t have and to be writing essays in class without dictionaries. I feel a mix of excitement because of the prospect of learning new stuff and being challenged, and stress because I am being challenged and wonder when I finally will understand el-Jazeera word for word. Next month? Next term? Next year? Never? Time will tell I guess…
Now, Egypt is a Third World county, or a developing country if I choose to be more politically correct. That often means that the middle classes are small or non-existent. The neighbourhood we live in is quite average. It is not a slum and in general people are not dirt poor, but is not Smouha either, where the Avenues are wide, many houses new, big and well maintained and where the shops sell expensive goods like Etisalat’s (biggest telecom service provider in the Middle East) flagship store where Anna and I bought our wireless internet. We’re paying twice the price we would be paying in London or any other Western European city, town or village for that matter, which comes down to an average monthly salary in this country. Despite being a student in London, where I earn less than half of the city’s average income, I live the life of a queen here in Alex. With my umpteen thousand square foot luxury pad with almost- sea view, a laptop each with wi-fi connection, telly with channels from all over the Arab world and beyond, skype phone, I-pod, radio. This is the life, Isn’t it. Now, as every comics lover knows, with great powers comes great responsibility. And great stress. Now, this great world of ours is fully interconnected and we can transfer money, chat, send message, pictures and your-fairy-godmother- knows- what to the other side of the world in the blink of an eye. How incredible that all is. The bad thing is that we expect to be able to do all these things in the blink of an eye. And if technology fails to deliver this particular fairy will have a fit. Several fits that is.
Reason for fairy fit number 1
Transferring money from ones UK bank account to a bank account abroad while one is abroad. Not that easy as it sounds or should be. El-hamduleelah for good friends, not for the international banking system, but that we have known since the collapse of Lehman Brothers.
Reason for fairy fit number 2
Making a transaction via e-commerce business Pay Sister while abroad. Pay Sister people consider that a fraudulent activity. They are so kind to refund you the money you tried to transfer and they put a limitation on your account, which prevents you from makning any further transactions, and that is less kind. I have been making attempts to have this limitation lifted for the last two weeks. I have not prevailed just yet.
Reason for fairy fit number 3
Getting in contact with giant Macrohard in order to let them assist me in a activating a product that has refused to work. With all that money they are making you would think they could afford excellent customer service worldwide. It all looks very good on…eh..paper. But that’s just on eh…paper. I should not be suffering stress of this kind. Do they know who I am?! I am the queen of Egypt!