Today Ullin, whose been in Syria for not quite two years but can already perform great feats of Arabic speaking, like reading books (even if it takes 3 or 4 months to get through one) and has not only mastered newspaper reading but got bored of doing it, told me that keeping an Arabic language diary is a major key to Arabic success. So I’ve started one and its practically impossible to explain how goddam excited I am about it. clearly it’ll help me master the intricacies of the past tense and, by definition, will grow my vocabulary in a way thats relevant to my life. Oh yeah! Should be good for my grammar too, and will theoretically help me think in Arabic, once I’ve got past the ‘I did X. then I did Y. Then I did Z. It was good’ stage.
Diary entry number 1 had some interesting stuff to go in it as Ullin and I went to Maoula, which was looking more like Switzerland than ever, to enjoy the remnants of the snow. I’d had quiet drinks with some people the night before and Martin showed us the photos of snowy Maoula that he’d taken that day. Martin’s Dutch, not a Muslim and has Arabic so good hes stopped studying the language and is studying Sharia law in it instead. He spent the summer in Maoula, which is cooler than Damascus, learning Aramaic. At the risk of pointing out the obvious, hes an interesting guy.
Ullin and I climbed about on the pink hued rocks and scrunched through the blue tinged snow, making our way up the side of one of Maoulas mountains. It was crisply cold and windswept up top as we looked down the precipice towards the village, me happily chattering about caving. the are two different denominations of Christians living in Maoula, and apparently the is an annual festival during which the rival churches fling burning tires down towards the village from opposite sides of the valley. The group that throw down the most tires wins. According to Ullin tires are less likely to hit the houses than you might think. Although the was less snow than in Martins photos we both enjoyed being out the city and getting some proper exercise. coming back down again was pretty physical as we got a bit lost.
Back in Damascus I met up with Rami so he could mark all my Arabic. Rami walked into my room, shivered and pulled his jacket tight, then touched my heater, bringing it down in a cacophony of falling metal. He asked to speak to my landlord and they shouted at each other in Arabic over the phone, Rami looking at me with a mixture of compassion, bewilderment and early onset hypothermia. The landlord agreed to make it better, and Rami agreed Ninar, a wanky cafe-resturant-bar thing round the corner from mine, might be a better place to work. He liked my diary, mainly because I’d managed to say ‘I’m a fridge.’ My aim for this week is to engage with my fusha ‘vocabulary.’ I’ve collated all the verbs and adjectives I’ve been ‘taught,’ Rami and Paul between them have translated/confirmed the English and now I’m going to learn them.