Sam and Ester’s Engagement Party

Amman, Jordan

From Sam and Ester's Engagement Party

A few days ago, Sam calls me up and says, “Ester really, really wants you to come to our engagement party Thursday.” I’ve trained myself never to refuse a reasonable invitation, so I said I’d come. Plus, I really like Sam and Ester.

Sam is the initially creepy guy that Megan and friends met at the gym. It’s this act he likes to put on, playing on the worst stereotypes of Arab youth that he learned in his years in Canada, for anyone he encounters who speaks English. In the end, though, he’s one of the most fun people we’ve met in Amman.

Ester was renting a room at Sam’s parents house when I first met her at a salsa party at the British Embassy. That was a memorable night, ending in Ester pushing Sam into the pool, and the three of us and my roommate being summarily ejected from the embassy with Sam wearing my roommate’s shirt (which still hasn’t been returned!). Only one of many adventures we’ve shared. And now, five months later, Sam and Ester are engaged.

The engagement party was great, a casual family affair with an amazing lamb dinner and much laughter, including the usual shocked guffaws over my village Arabic. I had a great time. But as soon as I arrived, I realized at least part of the reason why Ester “really, really” wanted me to come: Her parents had flown in from Switzerland. Ester is Czeckoslovakian (literally! Czech father, Slovak mother), but her widowed mother now lives in Switzerland with a very nice Swiss widow. He speaks a little English, and like all Swiss, is much better at English than he lets on, but Ester’s mother speaks no English. I, however, speak English, German, and Arabic.

It made me think of my cousin Gwen. One day, in my dorm room at Goucher College, I get this phone call from Germany. It’s my cousin, who’s living with her fiance in Berlin. “I want to ask you to be a witness in my wedding. It has to be someone who speaks English and German, and the only person I could think of was you!” I understood what she meant, of course. After all, I’d just had a fabulous summer staying with her and her then-boyfriend, now-husband in their apartment in Berlin, and already got along extremely well with her soon-to-be in-laws. I will also never forget the first time I met Gwen’s mother-in-law, who had been in the US for 4 weeks with only her husband and sons to talk to. As soon as we were introduced, she got this huge smile on her face: “You‘re the girl that speaks German!”

This is becoming a trend for me, actually, translating weddings. If I’m not careful, I’ll start to develop a complex: Always a translator, never a bride!

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