John has been back in town for almost a month now. He got in amazing shape (belly be gone!) while in the desert and now he's got me dragging my sorry tush to the gym every day. Peer pressure is good in that department. He got the opportunity to be chief of military justice while deployed and also to advocate in three courts martial (trials) so I think the whole deployment really amped up his experience level. The 5 month separation, while lonely, was worth it.
I just finished a class on Islamic Fundamentalism which was equal parts annoying and informative. Annoying because it was taught by a history PhD with a specialty in African-Islamic studies, so while I was expecting to apply all I've learned about realism and rational choice, none of this really applied. It was basically a history class for which I had absolutely zero background.
Although the class was not taught in Arabic it might has well have been, what with all the "urf'", "hadith", "Qutb", "takfir" and other really high-value scrabble words he just assumed we knew because this was a Master's level class.
"This class really should require a prerequisite in Islamic studies" he says. Fantastic, since I've spent the last two years studying the Cuban Missile Crisis. "That's why I've assigned you the Qur'an as one of your text books, to get acquainted with Islam." UGH.
"Any suggestions of things you think should be on the final exam?" He asks the class.
"Yes," I plead. "Can you in some way relate all of this BACK TO POLITICS? - You know the stuff we actually study and understand??"
I will say that the class readings were really interesting, and totally separated out for me the various strains of Islamic Fundamentalists, from Hamas to Al Qaeda, which have little in common. Perhaps it's because of our history with the monolithic Soviet enemy that makes Americans think we're up against one giant Islamic Fundamentalist monster. After taking this class I'd say that's not really the case. The student presentations (each of us had to write on a separate group) were really informative too. In the end, I'm glad I took the class.
Having lunch with a friend from school today and excited to catch up since I haven't seen her since October! Then off to the travel agent to start planning out trip to Vietnam and Cambodia. After having the freedom to jaunt acound India for 2 months, I just don't know how we can squeeze two countries into 10 days, but I'm going to try my best. Quite the spoiled traveler am I.