Friday, June 02, 2006

Abu Shreek: The Final Semester

The embedded one paragraph post

Abu Shreek saved three out of his four required university electives (courses outside of his major) for the final semester. He got accustomed to his space and comfort zone “upstairs”. He got occupied with Greek-alphabet-infested empirical equations and daily three-hour labs, and he became too lazy to be running across campus, up and down the infamous engineering stairs to reach the “humanities”.

The mission was: one summer semester, three “whatever” courses, two A’s and a B+. Anything less, will mean that all these wasted nights at coffee shops and around card tables, would end up costing him the designation: “Very Good” student.
The three “whatever” classes turned out to be the most entertaining and informative out of the 165 credits he “cruised” through.

The material was practically useless. A bunch of biographies of ancient philosopher, (from Al-Kindi to Descartes), a little metaphysics, and some information theory (whatever that is). Abu Shreek did not feel any more “philosophical”, neither felt the urge to philosophize! The urban legend goes that one year a philosophy instructor walked in his class, wrote (WHY?) on the board, and that was the first midterm. (The legend continues: The only student to ace the test was the one with the answer (Because!)). Not TRUE! Abu Shreek had to memorize a whole bunch of nothing and it was obvious that this is going to be the B+.
However, the decision to sign up for the class was based on the instructor, and as it turned out, it was well justified. Rafeeq (comrade) Dr. Ahmad Madi, the head of the Arab Philosophers Society and a veteran “party” member was quite a character. A passionate lecturer, with a fully animated delivery, and a great sense of humor. He always referred to his household as the ultimate religiously tolerant environment. “My Russian wife is a Cross-wearing Christian, my son fasts during Ramadan, I have no religion and our dog is still searching for the truth”.Still, he was "tough" on religion, very evident by the way he dealt with our (Monaqqabeh: All covered in black except for the eyes) colleague. Abu Shreek is not a very big fan of the “Ninja” look, but Dr. Madi was a little bit overboard. He kept questioning her decision in signing up for his class. He kept asking her to raise her voice, and she eventually dropped the course. Needless to say, he was not the very popular among students, but he was not afraid to do "his thing" in an environment that had little room for a secular professor.

The main reason Abu Shreek signed up for this “newly-invented” class was to observe how the instructor was going to tackle the “Elephant in the Room”.
The so-called “democratic experience” in Jordan is approaching its seventeenth years, thanks to Zaid Al Rifa3i (*) and the ever-lasting economic collapse. Thousands of opinions are exchanged regarding local politics on daily basis; experts, analysts, columnists, average citizens, former and current parliament members, taxi drivers, housewives, former and current cabinet members, educated elite, former and current prime ministers, illiterate community leaders and other veteran politicians engage in vigorous discussions and debates, choosing to ignore that it is all IRRELEVANT.
Dr. Ali Mahaftha was really impressive in both introducing the course in a very valuable and informative and in approaching the issue, when necessary. I expected him to ignore it or to awkwardly avoid it, but he was very professional in addressing the situation. Mildly justifying it and mildly criticizing it, while maintaining his job security. Abu Shreek and his colleagues accepted that, some with a little laugh and others with a little smirk.

Art History:
It was well-known that this is the easiest “A” elective out there. It was the most enjoyable class I ever attended and studied for. Despite the fact that after the first test the format changed from multiple-choice to fill in the blanks, even the exams were fun. (Abu Shreek will never utter the last statement ever again, even if it were referring to an eye exam).
Dr. Nabil Khairi, who reminded us on daily basis that later that summer he was going to teach an “Ancient Pottery” class at the Pergamon in Berlin, was a real expert. His lectures had a great sequence and were presented with authority. Abu Shreek particularly enjoyed his slide shows and cracked up every time he started reciting epitaphs in Latin and Nabataean.
Learning that the first human produced piece of art was that representing a woman’s body (Mother Goddess), or learning how to prove that the main façade in Petra is that of a tomb not really a treasury was not really studying compared to the “hieroglyphics” Abu Shreek has been struggling with for the past ten years.

(*) Note: Abu Shreek and his fictitious editors could not find an adjective, an idiom or an appropriate sentence to describe a Parliament headed by the same guy whose well-documented “adventures” resulted in the political reforms that caused that same parliament to exist!! On the bright side the head of the other section of the parliament (the people-elected side) likes Audi's.


Lina said...

Man I absolutely love your posts about university life. Unlike you, I distributed my electives across my different semesters, and most of the time I would be running back and forth between engineering and the humanities - actually I was always running from one place to the other across campus, always with a backpack like an eternal sanfoura ;)

I took Philosophy with professor Ahmad Madi as well, and I aced it ;p but I totally relate to everything you said about him and the class. Another elective I totally loved was Science and Society in English with Dr Khaled Budour; he was very provocative and different from all other professors, and all the exams were essay-based which I loved.. lol :)

Abu Shreek said...

Obviously we have 2 out of 4 electives in common (with different twists; you got an A in philosophy (niyyalikk), and my science and society was in arabic, very boring and had multiple choice exams (thank god)).

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