Thursday, February 28, 2008

Now I know my ABC's...

Before I got here, I was told by several people that I should join a student club as a way to meet more Egyptians. Well, I haven't joined a club per se, but I have started volunteering for an organization affiliated with AUC. The organization is called STAR, or Student Action for Refugees. Once a week I take an hour bus ride out to the 6th of October neighborhood on the outskirts of Cairo. 6th of October is a relatively new refugee community, and it's filled with Sudanese and Iraqis.

This Tuesday was my first time teaching. I was put in Level 0, because that was the only spot they needed people for. Luckily we teach in pairs, and my partner is Egyptian, so he can translate anything I'm trying to say into Arabic. I think he and I will work really well together. He's pretty down to earth, and I can get super pumped and energetic. We started the class with everyone introducing themselves with their names, where they were from, why they wanted to learn English, and their favorite food. Since none of them speak a word of English yet, this was all done in Arabic. Then we played a name game. Placement testing was still going on during the beginning of class, and by the time we finished the name game, my partner and I had about 40 adults and teenagers sitting in front of us.

It was really interesting to see how the class divided itself. Men sat on one side, women on the other, even though there were married couples in our class. Some of the students volunteered where they were from within their countries. A lot said Darfur, Fallujah and Baghdad. They all looked healthy and well fed, though, because although most of them are very poor now, they had to have some considerable cash to get out of their countries.

After we did introductions, I started teaching the ABC's. The students had a lot of trouble distinguishing between 'g' and 'j', and I felt like a kindergarten teacher exaggerating everything, being really enthusiastic, and getting super, super excited when someone got through the whole first half of the alphabet without making a mistake (we only got to 'm', and I thought that was more than enough). The class was an hour and a half, but the time just flew by, and I can't wait to go back next week. I really want to learn about these people's lives, so teaching them is a super great incentive for me to work harder on my Arabic. Hopefully at the end of the semester we'll all come out having learned something.


Natalie said...

oh my gosh that sounds amazing. it will be difficult for sure but you will learn a lot. also, i got a really great picture in my head of you jumping up and down among a bunch of egyptians enthusiastically repeating "a,b,c,d...".... miss youu

spelperson said...

Ok now that I've registered I can re-enter my message which is that now that you've had that initial experience you may want to revisit the movie Good Morning Vietnam with Robin Williams teaching ESL to the locals!

Mr Spelperson