Monday, February 4, 2013

The Voiced and the Voiceless

I saw a little girl and an older girl throwing pebbles at each other from adjacent balconies. It didn't look like it was happening in jest or merriment- they really wanted to hit each other. The little girl was winning and the older one was getting frustrated. She couldn't have been more than twenty, but was definitely old enough to know not to throw stones at helpless children.But I didn't judge her for it because that little girl looked like a real terror, and on her side it appeared to be a hate crime against the foreigner. Plus, that other girl was wearing the best boots.

Okay, it was me. That little monster needed to learn that just because the other person is bigger doesn't mean they will be the bigger person.

After she threw her final fistful I yelled "I'm going to tell your mother!" but later I saw her mother, and she was terrifying.

I've been saving up my Arabic for the elderly couples at Cafe Paris that like to talk politics because I tell them I'm Jordanian. But I know better than to talk to strangers and so more often, I keep my thoughts to myself and see if I can translate it into Arabic in my head. Knowing that I can do it is enough of a comfort for me, like a warm blanket of guttural and emphatic cross-woven threads. Mint green ones. The voiced and the voiceless, holding hands.

If I can't come up with the whole translation I take the advice of my Arabic teachers for "whenever you are not sure about (obscure grammatical rule or vocabulary word) - ask someone who speaks Arabic." So every couple of minutes I ask whoever is sitting next to me, how would I say (monster, tornado, etc.) in derija? and reserve all cases of casual conversation for when I get to use the fun words that deserve practicing out loud, namely "I'm confused / I was confused," where the K, guttural Kh and hard Q all combine side by side into one magical mess of sounds. And if I put it in the future tense I get to add a "gh." It's a party in my mouth, like bastilla and plum tagine- my celebratory dinner for my second last night in Tangier.