So, who is this Maykal then?
I decided this page was due an update, but now that I've pressed EDIT and deleted all the old rubbish, I don't have a clue what to write...hmmm...suppose I should start with a little about me.
I'm Michael, originally from a place near Birmingham, slap bang in the middle of England, but left at 18 to go to university in the north east.
What did I study? Arabic and Turkish.
Why? hmm....a difficult question. If I'm honest, there's no reason at all. I usually say something like "I like languages" or "I'd always been fascinated with the Middle East"....but the truth is maybe closer to "I did it to annoy my parents and my teachers". Anyway, it was the best decision I ever made.
I'd always wanted to travel though. One of my favourite toys as a little boy was one of those jigsaw puzzles where you had to match the flag with the country. By age 4, I knew every flag, every capital...could pinpoint every country on a map.
My older brothers didn't help with this "illness", as they were always off inter-railing around Europe, sending me postcards from exotic-sounding cities. I wanted to go along too, but at age 7, most backpacks were bigger than me, so I had to settle for family holidays abroad by the beach.
Before leaving home, my travels were mainly restricted to Western Europe, apart from a school trip to Arctic Canada and a beach holiday in Tunisia. But taking Arabic at university gave me the chance to explore a whole new continent...September 1999 was when I was first infected by the travel bug, and saw me board a plane headed for Damascus, Syria, with a smattering of Arabic, a few clothes and books, and no idea what to expect in the year ahead. Since then, I've lived in Syria, Yemen, Sudan and Turkey, and travelled in many more...eaten raw intestines and rotten fish...chewed narcotic leaves in remote villages...smoked nargile in backstreet cafes...found severd sheep heads on Georgian mountaintops...swum in the Nile, the Euphrates, the Red Sea...got lost in the souqs and bazaars of Istanbul, Sana'a, Kassala, Damascus, Tbilisi...drunk coffee with nomads, tea with monks, wine at a deathday party...encountered scorpions, snakes and vicious goats...been arrested more times than I care to remember...and not once have I ever missed England.
Yet somehow, I ended up back in the UK, first teaching Arabic in the same classrooms I studied in, and then heading north of the border, to St Andrews in Scotland where I currently teach. Not quite the exciting international career I'd planned, but it's strange how things turn out.