Thursday, August 21, 2008


Well another school year abroad has come and gone. I am quite glad to have been able to work and live in Algeria. As you can tell from this blog, Algeria offers much for those interested in visiting or spending an extended time there. I hope someday to return and see how it develops in the near future. For now, I'm going to just smile when I think back on all the wonderful people and places that I encountered in this amazing country.

Monday, June 30, 2008

no comment

Downtown Algiers....Didouche Mourad near Place Audin...perfect for hair treatment.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

what's going on today?

This is a recent photo of me taken on the hill atop the Roman ruins of Tiddis between Mila and Constantine...
....and this is what's for lunch today....fried sardines at the Chalet Rouge restaurant just down the block....and I'm washing them down with an ice cold bottle of Tango. :) Life's good.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

thievery corporation....

Unfortunately, that band didn't show up in Algiers...but larceny is alive and well, so bewares!!!

Before I get into specifics, I blame myself for letting my defenses down.

So I was walking down the sidewalk in broad daylight when a real bonafide lunatic began screaming vehemently at me from across the street. Naturally, I felt uncomfortable, but then again I dont know why, because that scene is actually one that occasionally plays out on the streets of Algiers. Anyways, I asked a young lad standing near me if that guy was crazy, and he jumped right into "Shkoon inta?" (trans. "Who are you?") and shook my hand rather firmly. I said "Miguel" and before I knew it another young guy was on my right greeting me with a hand my shoulder, saying Salaam alaykum. Turns his "Salaam Alaykum" did not mean "Peace be upon you",but rather, "I'm taking your camera fool!" because upon retrospect I realized that it was at that precise moment that my digicam was purloined from my camera pouch attached to my belt. I didnt realize that until after I'd walked further down the street about 20 seconds later. Then, I returned and they were all gone.

Maybe it was a blessing I didnt realize it at the time, because if I had, they were working in a group and may have resorted to violence.

I dont think I've mentioned it before, but there's alot of young guys all over the streets of Algiers with nothing to do. Some are like "parking attendants" for certain stretches of curb, but most seem to have no job. Its also almost a custom for the men to just hang out in the street with their pals, but I'd say the young guys seem to be there more often and also into the wee hours of the night.

People have warned me to be wary on the streets and I've heard of different incidents. So, again, I blame myself.

So gone is my digicam and for now, any new photos. I did lose my pix from my previous weekend getaway which included...Setif, Cheb Khaled concert in Setif, the Roman ruins of Djemila and Timgad, and a couple of shots of Batna. Other than that no big loss.

This was actually only the second time in my life that I've ever been pickpocketed. The first was when my wallet was stolen at La Bombonera Soccer Stadium in Toluca, Mexico. Luckily, it was my "false" wallet. When I travel in Mexico, I set up a 2 wallet system for such occasions. My true wallet, which may have more $ and credit cards, I keep well esconced on my person, while the "false" wallet will have maybe $20 and that's it.

The next day at Bouzareah, I told my friends there in the staff room about it and they commiserated with me over past incidents they've experienced. Then, the day after that ironically, the English department office was burgled!!! They took two computers and a monitor. :(

May sound corny, but at least they didn't take my pride, my dignity, my heart and soul. :) and what the heck, I get to try a new digicam soon! In fact, I think I'll try all of my friends' cameras to see which one I like the most! :)

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Exams ....part deux...

(My translation students from the Central Campus. They're happy...they passed the course!)

On June 9th at Bouzareah, we started off the second round of exams, les syntheses or comprehensive exams. These exams are offered to those students whose grade point average is below 10 on a scale of 1-20. This is a second chance for students who performed badly to pass the course. They actually dont need to pass (10) the course. Their average must be 10 or above so their higher marks in certain classes can help them outweigh their weaker ones. There is an important exception though. If, in a course a student makes below 5, then they are not allowed at all to advance to next year's courses. They must have 5 or above -out of 20 possible points- in every course AND a GPA 10 or higher.

Should their GPA still be below 10 in a week or two when the results are all posted, then they have one last chance in September to pass an exam called "la ratrappage".

The system here is pretty tough and it is customary for all professors to grade severely. One of the challenges here is the sheer number of students and in the first years of college, well they are like college students anywhere in that they may not be sure of what they are going to ultimately do and they are also at a crossroads as perhaps different opportunities for work and study come along. The other thing is that university studies are completely free here.

A purist might enjoy the concept of free knowledge, but in practicality it presents alot of challenges. I can say that I now have a newfound appreciation for the US higher educational system. I speak here primarily of choice. Choice of schools, classes, teachers etc. I remember one year of studies at San Antonio College while I was still debating where and what to study to complete my bachelor's degree. My courses that year included:

  • Computer Programming: Lotus 1-2-3 (to make myself marketable for jobs- incidentally, I never used it.),
  • Ballet (dont know why...just something different i guess. The girls were pretty and the stretching exercises were good.),
  • French (it's come in handy over the years),
  • Drawing (Still lifes, nudes, charcoals etc.),
  • Design (basically art in it's many forms.)
  • Music and Arts of the Modern World
  • Typography (I wanted to be an adman)
  • Copywriting (more adman shtuff)
  • Photography (black and white darkroom magic)
  • Acting (I've always had a comic side to me)
  • FCC Regulations (I was doing a music t.v. show with a friend at the time and looking at getting into radio-tv-film).

Over the years, I've come to appreciate my local and homegrown place of learning at a very reasonable fair price, San Antonio College or SAC. While it's not free to study at SAC, it is kind of nice to have the freedom to choose courses..the hours, the teachers etc. Here in Algeria as in Yemen, there are very few or basically no options at modifying one's courseload to individual needs or desires. One is placed in a group according to their year and major and then the program of study is all laid out for the next 4 years. Often, I think they even actually study with the same 60-100 students for the duration of their undergraduate work. Remembering all the good times and things learned at SAC over the year, I just may go back there someday and take up culinary arts at their sister school down the road, St. Philip's College. ;)

Wednesday, June 4, 2008


today most of the exams ended....many of my students will leave now, the end of the school year is near...and as i reflected on another incredible year teaching abroad listening to my mp3 player on the streets of algiers...i was inspired to do the following....i want to dedicate the 12 minute version of 'bad' by u2 as immortally performed at live aid in 1985 to the women of algeria...especially my colleagues and students who are supercool! I wish them all the best! It's been an honor and a pleasure to work with them. The guys are cool too. lol

Saturday, April 5, 2008


Yes it's officially Spring and strawberries are all over the markets...going going going gone at 120 Algerian Dinars a kilo. That's more or less $1/lb. :) I'm also noticing more wildflower patches here and there in the green spots sprinkled all over the urban landscape. I'll bet it's blissful in the country and thus, I am planning to foray into the Kabylie area soon.
The change of season has brought more sunshine, yet the temperatures can still be a bit cool. I'm still wearing my jacket. There's also a new batch of migratory birds that can be seen and heard at all hours day and night. Swallows from what I can tell, but then I again, I aint no ornithologist, so dont quote me on that.

I spent Spring Break in Spain, which was simply maravilloso. I wont go into details since Spain gets alot of airplay already and there's a wealth of info/pics/movies etc. available. Heck, you probably know some Spaniards.
The last two weeks have been nice here and I've started to make some informal polls while doing the attendance sheets. Normally, I pass the sign-in sheet around and students write their name and there's a space for them to acknowledge their productivity (homework). I decided to change it up some, when a while back one student wrote in that homework spot: "I stayed home and watched the Africa Cup."
Azzouni (left) teaches Spanish at the University of Algiers and in his spare time supports a local cycling team.
Inspired to do something different, yet still in English, I tried out changing the question from being about homework to "What did you eat for lunch?" The Earl of Sandwich was on to something, because that garnered the larger percentage of responses. Pizza wasn't far behind and then came a smorgasbord of Algerian items like...bouzalouf (the bbq'd or stewed head of cow/lamb), dawara (tripe stew), couscous, garantita (a baguette sandwich of oven-warmed hummous), and loubia (beans).


Then on another day I tried out "Favorite TV show". Again a variety of responses: Dr. Phil, Oprah, Al-Jazeera Sport +1, MBC 2, Real Madrid TV, Manchester TV, Supernanny, Pimp My Ride, Prison Break (very popular here and alot of girls like some guy on there....dont ask me, I've never seen that show), Grey's Anatomy, Friends, Charmed, documentary shows, the Tyra Show, On A Pas Tout Dit, 24, Tom and Jerry (!!!!lol), Melody (Arabic MTV), Emirates News, Hope and Faith, Syria, Abu Dhabi, Lost.

Today's topic "Favorite Song in English": The Real Love (?), Blowing in the Wind (yeah!), Going to Dubai (???), "You Dont Care About Us" (Michael Jackson), "My dream is to become a teacher in English" (sic) lol, "Listen to Your Heart", "Love Comes Again", "So, Sorry", "I'm Sorry", "Nevermind" (Kurt Cobain lives!), "Everything I do, I do it for you" (Bryan Adams), "Listen to Your Heart" (DHT ???).

Yesterday, Fulbrighter Dr. Elizabeth Bishop and I were invited by Coach Mokrane of the Chebab Riyada Hussein Dey Young Women's basketball team to attend their game against Staoueli. Hussein Dey is a district of the capitol and Staoueli is a town just outside of Algiers. It was a pretty cool to see some athletic competition and the ladies really gave it their all.

That's about it from here, Peace Out!