City Soup

July 14, 2017

Today in class, one of our Qasid teachers was running us through vocabulary words. The order in which my textbook expects me to add Arabic to my personal lexicon strays from practical. I was quizzed over الأُمم المتحدة (the United Nations) in Chapter 1, but learned the word bathroom by trial and error. So when asked to create example sentences with the new vocabulary, we students opt for "technically correct" rather than implementable.


One of the guys in the class broke through his sentence, with the utter lack of inflection and Americanization of vowels that is our calling card accent: هل أنت عندك شوربة في بيتك؟ (Do you have soup in your house?). Not really the conversation starter of the year, but not deserving of our teacher's snort. What would have been, at most, a passive aggressive hint at hunger in English was, in Arabic, a reference to a state of being. Is your house disorganized? That is what soup is, after all: the kitchen sink, bits and pieces, so many heterogeneous ingredients the product is homogeneous clutter.


Life in America has made me far too dependent on organization, on structure.  The world is soup. Each bit of language knowledge I pick up only opens a window into why, into familial structure or old crusades, religious requirement or gender expectation. Slowly, I am picking apart Amman. It is still a hodge-podge of history and innuendo. I still cannot pronounce the letter ح (Supposedly, it is the sound made fogging up a mirror with ones breath. Now try making this sound, surrounded by vowels, at conversational volume, and note how ridiculous you look.).


Now, for ego's sake, let's take a look at two-weeks-ago me. The girl without a sandal tan, who couldn't count past ten in Arabic. Her heart would race every time she saw a crowd or forgot a word or wasn't quite sure what was going on (My heart took a beating that first week.). The world is still soup, my mind even more so, but I am comfortable now, in the confusion and the chaos, just another ingredient in an always flavorful city.




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