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January 15, 2011

Miss: Here, kids call their teachers “Miss,” which means most of my young students as well as the teen girls call me “Miss Stephanie”–just like church kids (and too many friends, as a joke) back home. The continuity makes me love the title, even though some people I work with discourage it because it’s so formal. It’s used without a name attached too: “Wait a minute, I’m talking to Miss,” the mother of a girl I tutor said yesterday. And when I was visiting one family over Christmas, their youngest son gifted me with a piece of gum while totally ignoring my friend. “It’s because she’s his Miss!” his aunt comforted, laughing. I was also laughing…because I was a little surprised he considers me his Miss at all. On more than one occasion in class, in the middle of a raging temper tantrum, he has yelled “Ya bint!” at me, which translates to something like, “You, girl.” Rude. [Related: one wonderful 6th grade girl always greets me, “Kifik, Mrs. Stephanie?” Why Mrs.? I have no idea. But I kinda love it.]

My name: I spoke too soon when I said most people can say it with an adorable accent. This is largely true, but I also hear some hilarious mispronunciations of my name. Like “Winnie” (as in, the Pooh). Or “Stephanos,” which I realized last week is what one couple thinks my name is. But by far the most popular mangling of my name is “Steveny,” often shortened to just “Steven.” As in, the boy’s name. Awesome.

On the plus side, in the rare instance where someone recognizes it, they immediately tell me I have a “European” or “French” name. So random! I spent years bemoaning what I considered a ditzy cheerleader name (sorry parents), but I guess, after all, I’m just one accent mark away from royalty. Almost makes all the “Stevens” worth it.

New Phone. I moved over New Year’s weekend to a new apartment. I lost my phone around the same time. The face-saving thing to say would be that I lost it in the bustle of transporting all my things from one apartment to another. But really…I’m pretty sure I left it in a taxi when I was laughing too hard at the driver’s iPod playlist, which he turned on especially for me and my friend once he heard us speaking English. Those distinctive three chords, and then that plaintive, “Ohhhhh,” and I couldn’t help it: I snorted, and then–even after my friend elbowed me for my inappropriate reaction–burst into giggles. Now I’m not one to point the finger, but let’s be real…Justin Bieber, I have you to thank for my new (secondhand) phone.

Exercise. I’m trying to be more conscious about my health starting now, which is failing insofar as I’ve discovered how to make s’mores using digestives, a Cadbury bar, and the soba [gas heater] in my room. It’s succeeding, however, insofar as a couple friends and I have started going to the fitness classes offered at our gym, which are hilariously grueling combinations of floor/barre/mat work that has us bonding with the Arab ladies through our mutual groaning after each set. Best part of the class, though, is when we’re packing up to go and someone changes the techno workout CD to some familiar Arab tunes…and suddenly everyone is throwing down their water bottles, shaking their hips, and twirling their wrists in a spontaneous dance party. It’s gorgeous.

Cars. Months ago, I was in a taxi when it got lightly side-swiped by a red sports car with a heavily made-up and coiffed woman behind the wheel. Basically, someone needed to yield, and no one was willing–collision was inevitable. Angry gestures were exchanged, car doors examined, and then everyone moved on. Earlier this week, I was riding a big van when it got bumped by the car behind it during a slow-moving stretch of traffic. Again, angry gestures, indignant words, no big deal. Neither incident seemed worth sharing until I realized after this most recent one…that it didn’t seem worth sharing. When did hard contact with other vehicles on the road become unremarkable to me?!

Speaking Americano. I was visiting a family Thursday, and the couple claimed that I spoke more fluently than other foreigners they knew who’d been here longer. I told them no way, those people have way bigger vocabularies than me, and I still mess up my verbs sometimes. But it’s your accent, they told me. You almost sound like you were born here. “Hahahaha, not true!” I replied. No really, A insisted. If you just change your “Yeah” into “Uh,” then people will think you’ve lived here your whole life. I laughed. “Yeah, that’s my problem!” I realized too late my mistake and clapped my hand over my mouth. “Oops. I mean, yeah. I mean. Uh. Haha. Yeah.”

Definitely, Maybe. Today I stopped by to see if the water shop had a hand pump for my drinking water. They’d told me on Wednesday to come back on “Thursday, or Saturday.” Thursday, no sign of it. So I went again today. “We don’t have it, but come tomorrow, and we will have it, akeed, insha’allah!” the guy told me. I stifled a laugh as I walked out. Because those two words, which mean  “I’m sure” and “if God wills,” really have no place in the same sentence, especially since “insha’allah” often means…50/50. But it’s still a totally common thing to hear.

Finally–Thursday afternoon, I helped celebrate a three-year-old’s birthday. Except he thinks he turned five, because that’s how old his brother is, and he wants to be just like him. Here’s M&M, with their hair festively spiked for the party thanks to barber dad:

Love them.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. jonathan permalink
    January 16, 2011 3:17 am

    those little ones look like a future jordanian Pauly Ds

    • jonathan permalink
      January 16, 2011 3:17 am

      look like* future jordanian Pauly Ds

  2. Daniel P permalink
    January 16, 2011 10:39 pm

    da little ones. they looka like-a da future jordanian pauly d’s! mama mia!

    you know because he’s italian?

  3. January 16, 2011 10:48 pm

    *iraqi, but otherwise spot on, guys. hahaha. i actually laugh to myself about this all the time…how arab guys resemble “guidos,” minus the obsessive gym-ing.

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