I’m back in Sfax for the weekend after spending my first week in Tunis studying at the Bourghuiba Institute. For the next two and a half months I’ll be studying Arabic there intensively, 5 hours a day/5 times a week, then jetting back to Sfax to teach a bit and see my husband.
So, first impressions. Tunis is a beautiful city with the tree-lined streets and old colonial buildings. It’s also very diverting and culturally diverse. A block away from my school is a Russian Cultural Center and just across the street from that is the National Art of Marionette Center. And finally, Tunis has some of the usual colorful characters to be found in a big city. There is, for example, an old man who has lost both legs that sits near a large mosque next to my metro stop. He has dozens of pigeons wearing bright ribbons and flowers that fly to him when he calls. It’s enchanting to watch.
The Bourghuiba Institute has really surpassed my expectations. It’s professional and well-known, bubbling with international students, and the teachers are qualified and experienced in teaching non-native speakers. Five hours a day of Arabic is a lot, and at times exhausting, but it is well-worth it as my learning curve has sky-rocketed. The day is divided in two, with the first 2.5 hours dedicated to communication and listening, then we switch teachers and study grammar and writing. My classmates hail from Korea, Italy, Japan, and Brazil. We are a diverse group with very different backgrounds in Arabic, but we’ve all made it to the 3rd level “1st year advanced”. Hearing the class next to me, presumably first level, repeat the alphabet every morning makes me very grateful for taking care of the basics in Sfax.
So, first week is a success! I’ve fallen in love with both the capital and the language. I am looking forward to discovering Tunis and taking you there with me.