A Travellerspoint blog

Life in Yemen

Human beings are wonderfully adaptive when faced with changing circumstances. Or at least so it would seem after one full week here al'Yemen. It seems hard to believe that getting up at 6 AM is now what passes for sleeping in, and going to bed at 10 PM is a really late night. Nor does it seem unusual for random people speaking another language invite me into their home to chew qat. The fact that chewing qat seems normal now also reflects how quickly a person can adapt. Of course, the change in sleeping schedules has become an absolute necessary, since the call to prayer here, for some unknown reason, goes off a little before 4 AM, unlike dawn like most civilized Islamic countries. Thus, it becomes impossible to sleep past 4 AM due to the speaker from the mosque next door is pointed pretty much right at my window. Our hotel is listed in the ´top end´section of my Lonely Planet guide, which really makes me wonder what passes as ´budget.´ My roommate and I finally got a fan, so we can close the unscreened windows and stop getting chewed alive by the bugs. That we are living in a hotel shows how much of a presence American students are beginning to have in Yemen. I would normally be staying at the Yemen Language Center, but with the State Department program, the YLC is hosting over 120 American students and scholars. Consequently, the dorms at the YLC, the YLC guest house, and the Bab al'Sabah house which the YLC owns are all full, which is why the YLC has now more or less taken over the Hilltown Hotel(yes, the Yemenis are very creative at naming stuff, there is also a Starbunny´s, which rips off Starbucks and Bugs Bunny symbols). The YLC is more or less taking over the neighborhood, and looking to expand, since it will soon become the College of Yemeni Middle Eastern studies, which will offer full year programs, and content courses. To a certain degree, this is very disappointing. As anyone who has studied in a place off the beaten path knows, it´s always a little bit disappointing running into other people with white skin while studying in an exotic locale. It´s almost as if they´re ruining your unique experience. On top of that, a rivalry has emerged between the regular YLC kids and us Critical Language Scholarship types. The CLS people are here on scholarship, having everything paid for us, taking the best teachers, and pretty much having the YLC bent to our will, even though we represent only 28 of the 120 odd people at the YLC. Furthermore, most of us have had prior MidEast experience and obviously prior Arabic experience, while most of the YLC´ers are just getting their feet wet. Consequently, we can go wherever we want, when we want, and interact with a much larger segment of Yemeni society. In response, the YLC kids have decided to give us the cold shoulder. To those of us with the CLS program, we couldn´t care less, since the YLC kids mostly speak English, which does us no good, and don´t get out into the street much. And mostly we don´t have time to deal with it, since the program is running us ragged.

Posted by mc327503 03:46

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