Today I had my first private lesson in Egyptian colloquial Arabic and it went quite well. Thanks to my basic fusha (Standard Arabic) skills and the few classes of Egyptian dialect I had at the university, I went through the equivalent of three lessons in one go. But my knowledge of fusha proved both a bless and a curse, as most of the standard expressions, phrases and words aren't used at all in 3ammiya. Don't say "man", but "miiin"; not "li-madha", but "leeh"; not "urid", but "3ayez"; and so on. My biggest problem, as always, is situated on the paradigmatic axis, i.e. vocabulary. While I easily remember and apply grammatical rules, learning Arabic words and expressions by heart is a slow and painful process. Nevertheless, it's a fundamental and unavoidable step in the general process of learning and understanding a new language.
According to my teacher, within 8 or 10 lessons I will already have passed the first level. My next class will be on Monday, and by the end of my stay I hope to have finished the beginners' level. Inshallah ;)
Yesterday I briefly went to a conference on youth and parties, organised by the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, a German NGO. The goal of the youth congress, which lasted for a few days, was to teach them about "politics", by offering them lectures by representatives of the so-called Egyptian civil society. Of course, in a dictatorship, such initiatives are highly suspicious, and only serve to grant the regime an aura of openness, freedom, and democracy. This posed a dilemma for the members of Tagammu who participated in this event; by joining this conference, they collaborate in sustaining the false image of democratisation in Egypt, while by boycotting it, they would lose a political platform to spread and discuss their ideas. Moreover, they would miss an important chance to recruit some youth to socialist ideas and the party organisation. Tagammu opted for the second perspective, for which it will undoubtely get some flak from other left-wing organisations.
After the conference I got a call from Sarah Carr, the British journalist who writes for the independent Daily News Egypt newspaper. As she covers the stories of Egyptian labour movements and social protests, she has many useful contacts. I was glad she had time in her busy schedule to have a little chat, and I returned with a lot of potentially interesting contacts.
Tomorrow I leave for Mansura, I'm really curious as to how that will turn out...