Tuesday, September 22, 2009

5-Year-Old Arab Child

عامل ايه? What's up, my friends? Salaam min Masr.

I miss English. Not so much English, just being able to express myself! It is incredibly difficult for me, since I love expressing myself with words (as you most likely know), and here, I am generally unable to do so past the level of a 5-year-old. Sample conversation with a fellow confused American student:

Me: Do you want to swim with me?
Them: Have I become you? Huh?
Me: No, do you want to swim in the ocean with me? *Frantic hand-waving motions*
Them: Ooohhh! No, I do not like to swim.

In all seriousness though, the Language Pledge is hands down the most frustrating part of being here. In English and Spanish, I am talkative, intelligent and respectful (and modest). I say things when I feel them, the way I mean them. I am articulate both academically and interpersonally. I know how to respect my elders by saying the right thing. Last week, I sat through 2 hours of a class about Arabic Literature, and I understood maybe 10% of it. I then proceeded to meet with 2 incredible professors to whom I was incapable of conveying my true admiration and sentiments because of my language barrier. GGGGRRRRRRRR!!

Additionally, it limits my attempts to make friends with the other American students, as we can only talk about whether we like to swim or not. We just got back from a mini-vacation together, and we spoke English a lot of the time (sssshhhh, don't tell!), and now I feel like I know them better. I was talking to a friend here about the notion that the language you learn to express yourself in as a child becomes part of your personality, since it is the channel for emotions, interactions and learning in all forms. I am learning that now.

Although I sound pessimistic here, I also have patient faith that my Arabic will get better! It already is - communication with my Egyptian roommates and haggling vendors has been successful of late! I will do my best to adhere to the Language Pledge, and I will do what I came here to do: come back to the States an awesome Arabic speaker. There is truly a special corner in my heart for this language: it is eloquent without trying, rough on the edges but romantic inside, lyrical and rhythmic, all at the same time. Just keep in mind when you talk to me, that English and Español is música to my ears.

As Kislaya reminded me: Growth is always momentarily uncomfortable.

More to come shortly about my adventures in Sinai, including snorkeling in the Red Sea, clubbing to Arabic techno, hiking canyons with Bedouins, and watching the sun rise on Mt. Sinai with Moses.

Un montón de besos y abrazos a todos,

Yamila جميلة

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