Wednesday, November 24, 2010

So, Donna, How's Your Arabic These Days?

I'm so glad you asked!

I am happy to report that, after weeks of studying, I am finally at the point where I know enough words to start making an ass of myself!

Here are some examples for you.

The word for oil in Arabic is zeit. I knew the car was leaking oil, so when Reda the boab gestured at the car and told me something with the word "zeit" in it, I correctly deduced that he was telling me about the leak.

We got the leak fixed. And the next time I saw Reda, I thought I should tell him. I pointed at the car and said, in stilted Arabic, that there was no oil under the car. At least, I thought that's what I said. But he looked confused. I tried again, slowly, in a mixture of Arabic and English. "Under the saayara," I pointed, "maa zeitoon." And he cracked up.

Zeit is oil. Zeitoon is olive. So I guess I was carefully explaining that there aren't any olives under my car. Which, though technically true, is not quite what I intended to say.

I saw Reda again this past Sunday after my Arabic class. He said "blah blah blah alHafla blah blah?"

"AlHafla..." I repeated, thinking that I knew that word. I said it a few times out loud, slowly, trying to remember what it meant. And I remembered: alHafla is party! He was asking if we were having a party! I was so pleased with myself to have remembered what the word meant that I grinned like an idiot and said "alHafla!!!!! AlHafla!!!!Yes!!! We ARE having an alHafla!!! An alHafla!!!!" I really said it with that many exclamation points.

After some further chitchat, I determined that he wanted to know when the party was so he could make sure the yard was clean. Well, I know the days of the week. They aren't hard really, as they're derived from the numbers one, two, three, etc. So I counted on my fingers as I thought - "Monday, Tuesday Wednesday, Thursday, one, two, three, four" - until I came up with the answer: alarb'aa. Our alHafla is on alarb'aa. Easy peasy, no?

So this morning, Wednesday, there was Reda, scrubbing off the sidewalks and patios. (aside: everyone should have a Reda to help out. He also carried my approximately 3000 pounds of groceries in from the car. I love that man.) Hmmm, I thought. I wonder why he's doing that today when the party is tomorrow? And then he asked when my guests were coming.

Me(in Arabic): Tomorrow.

Reda (also in Arabic. Obviously): But you said alarb'aa. That's today. Wednesday.

Me (thinking): But I counted one-two-three-four. MondayTuesdayWednesdayThursohCRAP! I forgot that they start from Sunday, not Monday. I told him my party was on Wednesday.

Me (out loud, in Arabic): Sorry. It's tomorrow. Thursday. Alhameez, not alarb'aa. I need to study more.

Him (laughing): It's okay, I'll clean again tomorrow.

Him (thinking): This woman is an idiot! An idiot with too many bags of groceries.

Those are just a couple of recent examples of my stellar Arabic language skills. I have many more examples, but as you may have deduced, I have an alHafla to prepare for on alhameez, so I'd better get going on my Thanksgiving prep. We have about 30 people to feed, including all of the Marines - which means that if I undercook my turkeys (yes, turkeys - what was I thinking?), I'll seriously undermine the Embassy's security posture. Don't want to give those guys salmonella.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! Or, as they say in Jordan, eid al shokra. Just don't quote me on that.


Connie said... [Reply]

I'm sure that your hafla will be mumtaz!

FSO Hopeful said... [Reply]

When in doubt insha allah and as Connie said you will be mumtaz.

Just US said... [Reply]

Happy Thanksgiving!

Your post has been included in the WSDBR at:

Thanks for your wonderful contribution!

Brooke said... [Reply]

The "making an ass of yourself stage" is the best, isn't it?

Please. Write your own stuff.