I feel like I am bout due for another update. My situation is changing and I am also seeing the end loom near. The end being something that only leads to new beginnings and places and learning, something I have mixed feelings about. But firstly, as to where I am. Well, physically I am in Damascus. Still in my little apartment in a little working class residential neighborhood just outside the Old City walls. Although this upcoming month, due to various reasons, I believe I will be moving into the old city. I’ll probably rent a room in what is called an “Arab House,” basically an old Damascene style house with many rooms and an indoor plaza and fountain area. I have also recently switched my educational route. I know that I have been raving about the University of Damascus to everyone that would listen, well I will continue to, but I have taken a leave of absence from it. I still believe they have one of the best programs for teaching Modern Standard Arabic, but I’ve decided that with my precious little time left I want to focus more on the Colloquial. So that’s what I am doing. Currently my days consistent of sitting around drinking tea, watching others smoke cigarettes and shooting the breeze. Something I normally become bored with really quickly, just sitting and talking about nothing, but I’ve realized it’s the best way to learn. Walking through the old city one day I saw a sign on a storefront. “Looking for someone to teach me Spanish.” I thought I might as well inquire. And now I spend anywhere from two to four hours sitting in this little shop, filled with glass mosaic mushroom lamps and just talk. He’s a little older than me and decided that Spanish is essential to know, but knows very little. I teach him a little Spanish and basically the rest of the time we just hang out (speaking in Arabic.) I am happy to finally be at a level in Arabic where that is possible, and now I’m going to take advantage of it. So I just sit and chat and discuss and watch other workers sit and chat and discuss. We talk about money, the customers, pointing out stereotypes of nationalities, Germans are… well german, Iranians never buy anything, Americans always look like they are braving some harsh desert climate. While we sit and sip tea. It has done wonders for my Arabic and I have met some really interesting people in the process, one whom is now a really good friend. I am also taking lessons with a private tutor. I really enjoy it because it’s the only time someone will pester me with corrections and pull out all my bad habits in the language. For others, as long as they understand you they let it slide, but not for my tutor, and I love it, it’s the only way to get better. Damascus is a wonderful city, full of winding crowded alleys with tucked away doorways and shops that peek at you from around a corner. The markets spill over with spices and art and children running in every direction. The men seem to drink more tea than make sales but that doesn’t seem to be much of a worry, as long as there is tea. And now I am able to be in the middle of it. Standing at the door of the shop getting asked questions by interested foreigners and getting awkward looks when I respond with my Californian accent. I run up and down the street getting tea or sandwiches, translate Julio Iglesias songs for the artist across the way whose only foreign language is Russian. I learned “that’s too expensive” in Farsi and had to stop myself from laughing when I heard the Kuwaiti accent in Arabic. I only have a few more months and I’m going all out. Meeting with friends at the university, other friends somewhere else, tutoring, sitting and drinking tea. I’m squishing it altogether to squeeze out the most Arabic I can, and so far its working. I’ll let you know how it goes.