As Saif Nabeel’s “Galb Thani” plays on repeat, I make my third round on the small greenbelt behind my house. Alright, listening to slow Iraqi music and taking long solitary walks in the neighborhood is probably not your idea of a workout, but it’s definitely better than what I usually do: sit at my desk, stare at the computer screen with tired eyes, while worsening my already bad shoulder pains. Yep, this is definitely a step up, and I’m pretty proud of the time I’ve been able to take out for self care, both physical and mental. Not only have my long walks given me the opportunity to leave the house and get some fresh air, I’ve also been able to spend time doing something fun and non-academic. Here are the top three realizations I’ve gained from these long neighborhood walks:
1) Wow, I know quite a bit of Arabic! Whether I’m listening to sad Khaleeji (Gulf) songs or patriotic Palestinian music, I’ve definitely noticed an increase in my comprehension of words and my understanding of dialectical differences. For me, the system of dialects is one of the things I love the most about Arabic, and discovering new variations and connections literally gives me an adrenaline rush. I mean, who wouldn’t freak out after realizing that Assi al-Hillani pronounces the letter “qaaf” differently in various songs?? (ALSO, the other day, I realized that some of the sentences in a Moroccan song actually made sense to me, so that was a huge victory!)
2) Alas, I really don’t know much Arabic. I may be able to grasp a pretty good amount from my favorite Syrian heartbreak tunes, but there’s so much to be learnt. I recently discovered an Arabic-language podcast called “المرأة الخفية” (“The Hidden Woman”), which sheds light on women-related issues in the Arab world, with an emphasis on Egypt. The topics range from honor killing to the Me Too movement, so the content is certainly fascinating. However, it’s also made me realize how little I know. The podcast is in fus7a (Modern Standard Arabic) and masri (Egyptian), and to be honest, I can only grasp about 15% of it. Nonetheless, it’s so nice to listen to diverse women talk about interesting subjects in Arabic, and I look forward to the day when I’ll be able to really understand the episodes!
3) Podcasts are great friends. I was never really “into” podcasts, but I recently downloaded Google Podcasts (it’s free!) on my phone, and I’m addicted! I’m really liking Throughline, a super new NPR podcast that explores controversial issues by understanding all the historical context around them. There have only been two episodes so far, but I especially enjoyed their exploration of the 1953 coup in Iran. The way they narrate history is really like a story instead of a lecture, and I’ve learnt so much by just plugging in my earphones and shuffling along the path.
Aside from the language and knowledge gains, it’s just so nice to be able to take out some alone time to walk around and daydream. And also, twice now, I’ve called one of my closest NSLI-Y friends, Julia ❤ ❤ (a goddess at Northwestern), and we were able to go for a walk together– just 1,180 miles apart! I’m hoping this new habit will not be short-lived; ideally, my new fitness fad will turn into a part of my routine, because I have a lot of podcast episodes to listen to and a lot of grammar to obsess about!