Are You From Bleela?

Amman, Jordan

Today was our third day of placement testing at Bell Amman. The placement tests themselves have been pretty popular, though the numbers of people who actually enrolled in classes is still disappointingly low. But there are three young women I’m going to come after personally if they don’t register for classes!

The first question on the placement test is, “What’s your name?” Sometimes the names are vaguely familiar to me, or I can place them as Palestinian or Syrian. The first girl in my 6:00 speaking tests came and sat down with me and told me that her family name was Magableh, and immediately I said, “Magableh? Are you from Bleela?” She gave me a puzzled look. “Yes. How do you know it?” I smiled. “I lived in Mshairfeh for two years. My two favorite teachers were from Bleela and named Magableh.” Sure enough, she knew exactly who I meant, and it turns out that this student is a cousin of my Peace Corps counterpart and her sister. So we chatted a bit about this relative of hers and that one. Her English is quite good, almost too good for the classes we’re offering on our soft opening. My very next student was also a Magableh from Bleela, a first cousin of the first girl, and it turned out that they went on the same vacation to Aqaba last summer.

(Only much later did I remember that I knew another Magableh from Bleela, Emad, the Mshairfeh English teacher I thought was just my friend, but who didn’t have a category for ‘female friend’ in his worldview. He proposed to me repeatedly for months, and then took a teaching job in Kuwait because “it’s too hard to live in the same country as you, Maryah! I’ll come back when you leave.” He’s still in Kuwait, according to my headmistress in Mshairfeh. Now I suppose he’ll probably find out that I’m back, and won’t be able to come back to Jordan once again.)

Then, right after the Magableh girls, I had a third young woman come in for testing with the surname Mohasneh, which I recognized as being the name of one or more of my colleagues in Mshairfeh, but I wasn’t sure from which village. When I asked her the third question, where she was from, I expected to get some clue, but she said Amman. But then, like a good intermediate student, she kept going, saying that she lives in Amman now, but that she came from a small village in Jerash, I’d probably never heard of it. So of course, I had to ask which one! And when she said Kufr Khall, I said, “I worked in Mshairfeh with some teachers from Kufr Khall!” She was less impressed than the Magableh girls, however. (It wasn’t until much later that I remembered it was one of my favorite teachers, the teacher of the class for the deaf, who came from Kufr Khall, and I think perhaps one of the Arabic teachers was the Mohasneh I knew.)

It’s a small world, isn’t it? And if those three young women don’t register for classes, I’m going to hunt them down and demand to know why not! (I already cornered two of the students I tested to find out if they were registering or not!)

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