Much of this work week has revolved around prepping my English 204 students for their research exchange with U of M Dearborn students. My colleague Margaret's students at UMD are partnering with my students at AUB to interview one another on Skype about what academic literacy and non-academic literacies look like in their lives. How much and what types of writing are required in your classes? What kinds of expectations do your professors have of your writing? What kinds of reading and writing do you do in your life outside of the University? Etc. Our classes are going to create databases of literacy narratives of students at the two respective Univesities. Margaret and I are using the narratives as data for our own research too, so essentially the students and the two of us are all collaborating on the project. Fun stuff, but much logistical work is involved.
My mom and dad got tickets to come visit Lebanon during late January and early February. Another reason to pray for continued relative stability in the region. As Nicole and I continue to explore, we'll be on the lookout for stuff my folks are likely to enjoy (any religious sites) or not enjoy (the beach). Speaking of exploration, this weekend's travel plans: Damscus, Syria. Damascus was high on my list of places I wanted to visit, so I'm excited about exploring what many believe is the oldest continually inhabited city in the whole world. Syria and Lebanon are such different countries in so many ways, but in terms of distance, going from Beirut to Damascus is like going from Detroit to Toledo. Like last weekend's destinations (Tyre and Qana), Damascus figures heavily in both ancient history and the Bible (St. Paul's conversion on the road to Damascus). Really anticipating seeing the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus' "Old City." Not only an enormous (numerous prayer rooms, relics, shrines, and even schools and cafes are part of the Mosque) and reportedly breathtaking place, it's also one of the most sacred Mosques in the world. And the head of John the Baptist is there too.
Have I mentioned how much people seem to love ice cream here? Most places serve both gelato and bouza (Arabic ice cream). I pass by an ice cream shop on my walk home each day and I'm always interested in the odd demographics. You know how in the U.S. you see mostly families, parents with children, and maybe groups of teens at ice cream shops? In Beirut, you'll see groups of businessmen enjoying a midday gelato. Kind of odd. Also odd: the old guy who seems to live in the building next to ours who wears a 50 Cent (as in the rapper, not the unit of currency) t-shirt pretty much everyday. Is he a fan?
Lastly, before returning to class preparation, let me say something about water. I feel like I have a curious relationship to water. I usually choose to work in my office at the University even on non-teaching days, mainly because I get more work done here but at least in part because the English Department has water service--a great perk! Though we drank no tapwater, water (which you inevitably end up consuming via the food you eat) is most likely what made Nicole and I sick when we first arrived. Makes you realize how precious safe drinking water is, especially when it's very hot. Bottled water (relatively cheap, luckily) is our most regular, and probably most important, week-to-week purchase. I rinse my mouth with bottled water after brushing my teeth. I rinse fresh fruit we buy--after soaking it in water with an effervescent precept tablets--with bottled water. Our kitchen sink water doesn't run hot, so we boil water on the stove to wash dishes. The shower has a mini, electric water heater. So when you are getting ready to take a shower, you plug in the hot water heater and flip it on. Not complaining per se, just listing some of the ways that life revolves around water and the processes one goes through to utilize water safely and effectively.