I have a hard time “blending in” here. My blue eyes give me away. And my 6’4″ frame. I look like an ajnab without even trying. But, it’s an experiment, an ongoing game I play, to try to throw people off. I pretty much try to speak only Arabic outside the house. Sometimes, when I can’t remember or think of the word I need in Arabic, I’ll use the English word for it, but Arabize the pronunciation. That I seem like I’m having difficulty with the English keeps the person I’m talking with using Arabic. Because I still make mistakes with my grammar, it’s pretty clear to any native speaker listening to me that I’m a foreigner. But, sometimes I can fake them out for a little while.
This afternoon, I walked downstairs to the fruit and vegetable stand that is on the ground floor of our building. While I was standing in the shop waiting for the guy to pick out a kilo of apples for me, another older gentleman walked into the shop. He picked out a couple tomatoes and promptly handed them to me and told me to bag them up for him. I understood what he said, but that he said it to me made no sense. And the first word out of my mouth was “Shooo?” (What?!…definitely not the most respectful answer). And he responded in kind, “You heard me! Bag these up.” By this point, the shopkeeper was looking at me, horrified (I think that I would be offended). I smiled at him and grabbed a bag for the customer’s tomatoes. Then I weighed them for him, half a kilo. He asked me how much that would be, and I said, “I don’t have a clue!” “How much are these?” I asked the shopkeeper. At this point, he was was laughing out loud…he told the slightly confused guy the price. And as slightly-confused-guy started to pull out his wallet, it finally dawned on him…the reason I had no clue was because I was a customer too. And then he started to laugh, too. I promptly smiled and thanked him for giving me a chance to practice my Arabic. And he laughed. And so did the shopkeeper. And so did I.
posted by: caleb