Have you ever been to the biggest restaurant in the world? I have. Yep that’s right, last night as a branch activity we had dinner at the Guinness Book of World Record’s biggest restaurant in the world. DamasGate can sit up to 6,015 people at one time. Dang! The coolest part about our branch activity is that it was on our Sabbath day, Friday. I still haven’t quite figured that part out. Oh the hardships of having the sacred day on Friday and not on Sunday. I really enjoy it.
The reason we went to this restaurant is because the church humanitarian aid program has a representative here for this week. There is a conference taking place on training neonatal resuscitation. It’s actually an amazing program and has already saved thousands of lives. There was a session here in Damascus and tomorrow they are heading up to Aleppo for more training. While the representative is here, our branch president wanted to give him a good time in Syria. This afternoon as an Elder’s quorum we are taking our guest to the hamam, or Turkish bath. You gotta love it baby.
Let me tell you about my Arabic. As you guys know, I like people. I like interacting with others. It’s where I get my energy. Communicating love and concern for other in deed and word is one of the most beautiful things experienced. That’s the reason I initially wanted to learn Arabic when I was first introduced to it 2 years ago, it’s the reason I want to learn it now. It’s the reason I flew halfway around the world. However to a foreigner wanting to learn the colloquial Arabic, the resources are limited. 99% of the people you meet learning Arabic are learning fusHa or Modern Standard Arabic, the formal Arabic This means that they are learning the international formal Arabic language. The Arab world, as most of you know, is far from being homogeneous in culture, politics, and yes even in language. The Arabic that the common people in Morocco speak for example is very different than the language spoken in Egypt, Syria, or Saudi Arabia. It’s probably similar to something like Portuguese and Spanish. There are many very different dialects in the Arab world. With advancements in communication and media however, some dialects are becoming more familiar than others. Egyptian and Syrian dialects are perhaps the most widely know dialects as a result of entertainment. However to solve this problem of so many different dialects, Modern Standard Arabic became the official common language. It’s the very formal language spoken on the news or in academia, and derives from Quranic Arabic. Here in Syria everyone is educated in fusHa, but usually only speak it to foreigners that are trying to learn Arabic. When they do it is unnatural. This is the Arabic that American students learn. It’s very difficult for an American to communicate with someone on the street with fusHa and when doing so, essentially both speakers are speaking a second language. Upon understanding this concept of formal and colloquial Arabic better, I decided to learn the colloquial language. It wasn’t a difficult decision. I came all the way to Syria to communicate with the people, so why not learn the language that they speak?
As I mentioned before, other than the Syrian people, there are not many developed resources to learn the colloquial Arabic. I had to search through the city to find some books. One book I found is an illegal photocopy of a book, the other is a book that a store owner made and printed on a homemade press.
My new house is beautiful, my roommate is a stud, and the food here is scheduled to fatten me up. I am living my dream life. I am a blessed man.
The only downside is being away from the ones I love. I miss you guys and pray for you every day. I hope all is well.