Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Personal news: first day

Note: If I'm writing on a topic I think is only of interest to those who know me, I will title it "personal news." I don't want to waste the time of my millions of other readers who are more interested in my keen analysis of the Middle East than in my day to day life.

Today was (and continues to be) orientation. We began at 9 am with an introduction (already, only in Arabic) from the US and Egyptian directors of CASA. The provost of the American University in Cairo (AUC) also welcomed us. He did so by informing us that the current weather is only 'warm' and that in the next couple of months, we will experience what Egyptians believe to be 'hot.' He also mentioned that, once it gets 'hot,' we may begin to see visitors and tourists from the Gulf States (Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait) who will come to Cairo in order to "get cool." I guess everything is relative.

News and notes from the introduction: The CASA program is now entering its 39th year, and there are around 1,400 CASA graduates out there in the world. The program began (do the math) in 1967, and the director, Mahmoud Al-Batal informed us that currently the program receives less funding than it did in the 1970s. Al-Batal said that, when he was asked to become director in 2000, he was unsure he wanted the job because he feared he would be known as the director who oversaw the end of the CASA program. That all changed, obviously, on 9/11. Funding from the Department of Education has increased, and this year's class is the largest ever (35 students). During the 80's, Al-Batal reports, the program got about 40 applicants a year for 20+ spots. This year, there were over 140 applicants. This is not to say I am in the Arabic elite. Some applicants (I was informed by a friend who knows people on the CASA selection committee) were turned away because there Arabic was too good. That 9/11 has increased interest in Arabic and increased funding for Arabic studies is clearly an uncomfortable reality for the directors of the program. There is no question that CASA is in better shape today because of those terrorist attacks.

In 10 minutes, I have my placement exam for Egyptian dialect. Seeing as I don't know any Egyptian dialect, the process should move quickly.


At 7:32 AM, Blogger Ciaran said...

Reuben, I'd appreciate more information concerning your social life while in another country. Sure, acquiring the language and politics are important, but I need to know that you are maintaining that high social status that you worked so hare to attain while at Swarthmore. Good luck.


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