Update Letter to Rotary

“Mimnoah al ingleeze.” You’ll find that phrase posted around my apartment, not so loosely translated as “English is prohibited.” As a solution to the fact that three native English speakers are living together, coupled with the fact that we are all Ambassadorial Scholars (meaning we are creative and resourceful ☺ ) We have stymied our temptation to speak English by putting a money can on the sitting room table. Anytime one of us is dying to say something in English or if it accidently slips, we have to put 10 Qirsh in the can, the equivalent of around 20 to 25 cents.
Apart from fining my roommates, because that is what good Rotarians do right? I am doing a lot of the same. Although I’m not sure how updated you all are on what “the same” is. I have my Arabic classes in the morning every weekday, and my two extra classes at the university two days a week. The other classes have given me a chance to see other perspectives on Political Science and religion. Fortunately (or unfortunately depending on how you see it) some of the students in my Political Science class do not speak English (the class is taught in English/Arabic) and I have made quite a few friends that are interested in my point of view and confused at why I am learning Arabic (as is everyone). Being with a group of Jordanians firing off in Arabic brings me back to my first couple weeks on Rotary Youth Exchange in Argentina, very lost and very confused. It gave me hope though as I thought about the level I eventually reached with Spanish (If I could get anywhere near that with Arabic I would be happy). Yet I truly believe that that is how one learns, being lost and confused only means that there is knowledge out there to gain. Those situations inspire me to study harder and to practice and that is the only way I will improve.
I am also taking Colloquial/Spoken Arabic classes twice a week in the evening. These classes teach me the grammar and vocab that is actually used by the people, where as the University teaches me the grammar and vocab that is used in literature. It was interesting to learn that some of the grammar and vocab in the Colloquial are remnants of Aramaic
This past week I interviewed with a few non-governmental organizations here in Amman, and I will actually begin working this week with one that I had contact with before coming. It is called “Injaz” (meaning achievement in Arabic) and their main focus is to teach financial literacy to youth. They run leadership workshops, internship programs, and create lesson plans that are distributed throughout their organization, which works in 13 different countries in the Middle East and North Africa. The Amman office that I will be working for coordinates all of these other offices and makes sure that everyone is on track with what they are doing and have what they need. I begin this week so I will be sure to let you know how it goes.
As a side story I did surprise myself with my clarity of words and lack of patience when I got in a small argument with an employee at the Ministry of Interior. I had been running around like a chicken with my head caught off trying to get my Visa renewed. Long story short, you don’t need a Visa and the first guy could have told me that, which is why on the third place after a week of trying to get this I lost a little patience. Yet to be fair to myself I was only being culturally attune, because truth be told, here if someone says no or sends you somewhere else that usually means they can do what you need done but they just don’t feel like it or want to. Unfortunately this guy was serious ( he never said no, he just wanted to send me somewhere else, basically the place I was before). It was nothing more than a desperate plea on my part to not be illegal, but what impressed me was the fact that I was able to express that in Arabic.
To end this I want to give an example of a mistranslation of mine. While working in my book for my Arabic class, I was translating a story about the spectacular desert Wadi Rum here in Jordan. I came to the phrase, “ala tha hoor al jamaal” which I translated as “tha hoor = afternoons” and “Jamaal = beauty” so beautiful afternoons, right? In context it made sense, the tourists would see the beautiful afternoons of Wadi Rum. Unfortunately “tha hoor” also means “backs” and “Jamaal” also means “Camels.” So instead of “beautiful afternoons” it was the “tourists see Wadi Rum while on the backs of camels. Only in Jordan.

Hasta la proxima,

Hunter Tanous
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