Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Hello, my friend, hello...

If you can speak three languages you're trilingual. If you can speak two languages you're bilingual. If you can speak only one language you're an American. -Author Unknown

With this sort of thing firmly in mind, I am determined to learn as much as I can about the people we're starting to recognize in our everyday existence and greet and thank them in their native languages. Seems like the least I can do. There is such a diverse group of cultures here I think it is a wonderful opportunity not only for myself, but especially for the kids. Here are some of the ones we're used so far: [bracketed entries have not been attempted, but are in reserve.]

English: hello, thank you

Swahili: Jambo, Asante sana
(thanks to Wanjiru Gitome back home at VMFW)

Arabic: Marhaba, Shukran

German: Guten tag, [Danke schoen]
(tried guten morgen on a German coffee drinker but he studiously ignored us. So much for 6th grade Deutsch class.)

Tagalog: [Hello---Kamusta], A salamat
(thanks to May Yoyongco at VMFW and Michael and May Ann at Costa Coffee UAE)

Hindi: Namaste, [Shukriyaa]
Malayalam: Namaskaram, Nandi
Kashmiri: Salam, [ ]

FYI on the last 3: I am asking individuals from India how to say these things to them since there's also Punjab and Tamil and this American doesn't know what else spoken in India...

Our room stewards told me that the way to say "hello" to them is Hap kha nam kjah hey. I had them dictate it to me as I wrote it down. We'll get to "thank you" tomorrow. They wanted to know why I wanted to know and were politely enthusiastic. I liked that they made sure I wrote it down correctly.

Bethy very much wants to say Aloha and Mahalo but we haven't run into any Hawaiians yet. Pity.

I am getting questions from the USA (Which I love! Keep it up, people!!) about our everyday lives here. You can see our 5th floor balcony here (the one with the laundry drying, (probably already dry, it's been more than 5 minutes) just below the palm frond).

The grocery stores here are very similar to the ones back home. There are many UK, Australian, South American and Indian goods. I cannot say how pleased I am to get my hands on UK-made Cadbury products. I did have my first gaffe (that I noticed, anyway) by not weighing my fruits and vegetables before getting into the grouchy cashier's line. He was not pleased with me, and even less pleased when I spent 83 dirhams and gave him a 1,000 dhs note. (I wanted change, what can I say?) He looked directly at me, the only time he has before or since, shook his head and said, quite unmistakably, "forget it."

Despite two more attempts to win him over by having my produce well-weighed and labeled and being ruthlessly friendly and polite, he managed to resist all my efforts and I have decided to use other checkers, which has worked out better for everyone, I am sure.
Here is what we had for lunch today: (this is a gratuitous photo, I admit, especially since I added in the lavender chicken in a fit of whimsy) coddled eggs, scones, grapes, chocolate milk for the kids, and local sweet melon (called "dinosaur egg melon" back in the USA, at least at Trader Joe's). Mike says he read that the UAE grows all of it's own produce now thanks to irrigation.
I also didn't have to clean my own coddlers. There they were, all lined up in shining cleanliness, after the room guys tidied the kitchen.

Back to the grocery store; there is a separate non-Muslim section for pork products, though I haven't made my way back there. The Australian beef has my full attention at this time. I haven't quite figured out why some things are very inexpensive and other things are pricey. For example, that fabulous Aussie beef: 0.42 kg cost 7.75 dhs (less than $2) but 4 slices of Jarlsberg (0.18 kg) cost 19.20 dhs.

We may have to stop eating cheese! Inconceivable!

I was asked about the flowers and birds here, are there any the same as in the USA? One thing that has shocked me is that they have real grass lawns. Not crabgrass, as you'd see in Florida or Texas, the real deal. I have no idea how much they must water those suckers to keep them alive, but it must be a lot. Certainly every time we are out walking the sprinklers are either running or just finished. No wonder the slugs are happy here.

There are Bougainvillea flowers, which I recognize from the Caribbean, Frangipani, which smell wonderful (Hawaii), Honeysuckle and Jasmine. Interestingly, box hedges.

The only birds that are the same thus far are doves, though there are some sparrow-y birds, and some birds that look rather like large chickadees. Their singing is wonderful. I assume these frequently-watered gardens are an oasis for them; beyond the settled areas the desert stretches to the horizon.

Mike got a car for us yesterday, and I am nearly dreading driving it. If the only thing that happens is that we get lost, I shall be happy for the rest of my life. Speaking of inconceivable... (one must work that in whenever one can to add levity to life). Last night we took a drive to the Ibin Batuta Mall and between the traffic circles (of which I am phobic and Mike is a huge fan) and the occasional lane lines which, if followed, abruptly end in certain disaster against a concrete wall (parents, forget you read that last line), I was not exactly reassured, though we laughed pretty hard at the lane of death (ditto on that one, oh ascendants of ours).

I neglected to take my camera, which is too bad, because the malls here are so over the top. This one has 6 themed areas; China, Persia, Andelusia, India, Tunisia and Egypt. Huge domes, gorgeous reproductions that put most museums to shame. Here I finally got to hear the call to prayer, which is quite beautiful, as we ate. (Indian tandoori with naan and Brit fish & chips, if you're interested. Any bets as to who ate what?) While walking around to take in the sights I was happy to find a L'occitane, should I be in need of a lavender fix (duh) and Bethy and I discovered a scrumptious pistachio lotion. There are no words to describe the variety of people there, happily coexisting as they shopped. Three Arab women, in various levels of traditional dress, became increasingly amused by Thomas and his antics. Eventually they approached us to play with him, gifting us with some delicious flattened figs. (Just like Fig Newtons, but far, far more flavorful and with more texture). Their English put me to shame, I must add.

Lastly, I know better than to have a post without photos of Bethy and Thomas. At the pool this morning.


sherrip said...

Please, next time, remember the camera! I really wanted to see what that mall looked like. The ones in the Philippines were enormous, but no themes...

Natalie said...

Uh oh, I'm in trouble. Have another beer, sweetie. I promise to remember next time. I was seriously concentrating on getting just the "right" appropriate (and attractive, for Mike's sake!)outfit. Turns out I needn't have bothered---other outfits pretty much ran the gamut, both those on people and those in the shop windows.
But hey, I looked good, and I felt good for having made the effort; long skirt, long sleeved tunic. Damned hot when I had to climb into the trunk of the car (no, really, I was all the way in the trunk of the car) in the parking garage to try and install the back hooks of Thomas' carseat. Ack. I do not recommend wresting with such things in that heat.

sherrip said...

Ok, if you insist! I am trying to picture you wrestling around in the trunk of the car in your long skirt... Really, I can't imagine much I'd want to wrestle with in that heat...