Like a Real Arab

Amman, Jordan

Today we went to visit the Council of Deputies (the parliament) and met an MP of one of the tribal southern districts, himself a Huweidat Bedouin. As soon as I opened my mouth, he declared that I sounded like a real Jordanian. My first question concerned the changes that had been proposed for the school-leaving exam when I was here before, so I mentioned that I had been an English teacher in a government school in the village of former MP Harahshah, and immediately MP Huweidat said, “Al-Mshairfeh!” which is indeed the name of the village where I did Peace Corps.

It’s not the only time I’ve been told I sound like a real Jordanian. We ordered in from Pizza Hut the other day while I was helping Galaal with some grammar questions, and he had gone down the hill to get us sodas when his phone rang. Thinking it must be the pizza guy, and unable to see the number that was calling, I answered his phone. I started talking to the woman on the other end as if she were the pizza delivery person … in Arabic, of course!
“Are you with Galaal?” she asked me (also in Arabic, as Galaal’s parents are both native Egyptians).
“Yeah, yeah,” I said, “he’s just gone down the hill to the store. Have you found the American Center?”
Eventually I figured out that she was not the pizza person, about the time she said she would call him back. So I asked if I could tell him who had called. When she said she was his mother, I switched over to English and apologized profusely and told her I’d let him know she’d called.

So, yesterday I was hanging out doing homework after another grammar tutoring session I took with Galaal, when he said he’d talked to his brother, who had asked who the girl had been on the phone. When Galaal said that I was part of the Arabic program, he says they were surprised, because they’d been sure that I was a real Arab!

And yet, I still turn on al-Jazeera and understand only one word in six or seven, although in “Noor,” the soap opera all of us girls have been watching and calling “studying,” I understand about two thirds of the dialogue, because it’s in Syrian dialect.

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