Monday, February 22, 2010

"I Don't Be in the Projects Hallway Talkin 'Bout How I be in the Projects All Day"*


If you are a young, black professional (the kind that likes to brunch hard and pontificate on the purpose of the Talented Tenth over mojito's at happy hours at The Park, pausing only to read  Politico updates on your work Blackberry  or bestow your business card upon someone you've deemed worthy of your acquaintance), you are aware of how necessary it is to have at least one hard core rap song on your iPod to get you through some days. I'm not talking about that mainstream Souljah Boy minstrel-ness,  the materialistic swagger of Jay-Z, or the thoughtful lyrical genius of the Talib Kweli's or Immortal Techniques of hip-hop. I'm referring to that hardcore bass and gritty lyrics of the  Young Jeezy's,the playful ad-libs of Lil Wayne, and the deliberate delivery of the T.I.'s over crunk Southern beats. You know, the song that you play when you're alone after your co-worker/classmate thinks it's a good idea to send you that Obama fried chicken ad as an attachment, does this, or attempts to touch your hair...

That one song is multi-purposed, reminding you of how hard you worked to get where you are when others doubt your genius, giving you motivation to face a hard task at hand, and calming you down when your patience is tested by reminding you of how you could- but won't- react. For myself, Young Jeezy's Standing Ovation (or Pastor Troy's We Ready, for  seriously stressful situations) serves as that song. Normally, I'm not a Jeezy fan but I have developed an appreciation for his hustle because it can be used as an analogy for so many other experiences in life as we learn to assimilate and defy institutionalized boundaries(You saw that?!That's me pontificating right there).

Today, I found myself taking a Jeezy break to keep from expressing my impatience with the immaturity of some of my classmates. As a matter of fact, several aspects of the American University in Cairo** have caused me to take a Jeezy break and dub the school 'Arabic Gitmo.' These things are:
  • The unprofessional, unorganized, and woefully incompetent staff and administrators. Why are you showing up to work at noon when you asked me to meet you at 9am?!
  • Constantly being nickled and dimed (for ex. An additional $330 US to ride the campus bus that's separate from the transportation fee. Of course, you have to ride the bus because the high-walled fortress is 1 hr into the desert)
  • The maze like campus w/ more checkpoints and security than Guantanamo or the West Bank. Not only is it designed so that  even Aladdin couldn't find his way through it but, very few  no signs are clearly posted to tell you which building is which. If you ask 2 different campus workers where the  same building is, you'll get 3 different responses. I don't ask for much, all I ask for is clearly visible signs on the buildings and a staff that's familiar w/ the campus. Why is it that no one can tell me where the administrative building is?!
  • The Student newspaper that feels its appropriate to publish front page articles about a campus worker caught masturbating in the library and the location of his"cum stain" ...I kid you not! (ok, this time I'm just being petty)
  • Compound that with the poor caliber of student's in my Arabic class and you can understand why Jeezy has become a staple. 

I specifically chose to study Arabic at AUC's (i.e. Arabic Gitmo) Arabic Language Institute b/c of the intensive nature of the program. On paper it seemed ideal: We have class times a week 9-3 pm and 4 hours of homework everyday, including the weekends, and tests every 2 weeks. At minimum, I expected Arabic Gitmo to require that the other students be other young professionals and/or serious about learning Arabic to foster a productive learning environment, even at the beginner's level. Instead, in a class of 8, 5 are giddy undergrads on their first semester abroad experience. One young lady waited tables for almost a year after college to save up to pay for these courses and is always serious about her work. Another came from Norway with a determined work ethic. At times I feel like the 3 of us are the only ones paying attention!  The undergrads are eager to party, travel on the weekends, and speak as little Arabic as possible. The program is so fast paced that they have fallen behind. Normally, all of this would be fine with me. I don't really  mind it if the other students are goofing off except for the fact that they insist on holding the class back with insipid questions! Every day, it's the same routine in every class: "Omg,I can't believe we get soo much homework" "I don't feel good...""Can you repeat that?" "How do you pronounce that...can you write it on the board?" "What's the difference between  ?ﺏ and ن

They arrive late to class, always unprepared, talk throughout class, then insist that our instructor explain everything 10 times because they somehow couldn't hear her over their own chatter. The past few days, we've been learning about Idafaa's (phrases indicating belonging), for example  ذيل القط ( Cat's Tail) . I assumed they were simple concepts. How wrong I was! The undergrads have made this the most unbearable and annoyingly repetitive lesson I've endured thus far! At one point today, I  just walked out of class after one girl asked which word was a noun for the 16,000 time! I really do not want to be mean and snap at someone but I am beyond annoyed that they are preventing other people from benefiting to the full extent of our courses. Don't mess with my time and money! Right now, I'm sitting outside, listening to Young Jeezy and reminding myself of how hard I had to work to get here. I'm looking forward to this day coming to an end! Next time, I sign up for a serious program, I will make sure they have an age requirement....

*disclaimer: I just really like that Jay-Z line so I used it as a title. It doesn't have anything to do with this but doesn't it just sound hard?!Didn't it make you think that I was going to tell you about putting someone in their place or something?! lol
** The ALI program is actually a wonderful program with great instructors if you are open to learning Arabic abroad in an American bubble in th emiddle of the desert. Also, AUC has a CASA program for linguists that and people with higher levels of proficiency that I've only heard praises about.


Matt said...

Surprisingly I don't have a rap song for those moments of extreme annoyance where the options range from punch something/someone, scream, or blare some tunes. However, I do have my extreme heavy metal that I use to the same effect. It is the only acceptable reason for someone to have "Slipknot" on their iPod. I don't put it on often, but every once in a while... it is the only thing that does the trick.

I have been in the class with the annoying students that don't put as much effort into it. I have probably even been that guy on an ocassion or two. I am really reminded of my undergrad experience going and starting college at 21 after having lived in a developing country, surviving a coup d'etat and a massive strike, and getting water for three hours a week for the previous two years. The transition from that to private liberal arts school with kids that just came from their parents house or their private boarding schools was quite severe. Just remember to keep the Jeezy close and let me know if you want to give "Slipknot" a try.

Frenchie said...

LOL this post was all over the place but thanks for the Slipknot reference, I think everyone has on of those songs!

Dr. L said...

You know I know where you are coming from on this post--on so many levels.

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