Shoes and Ships and Ceiling Wax

A woman and four men, speaking passionately about our apartment contract. Three of them are shaking their heads at the man behind the desk. Later on, we are told that they were debating about whether we would get our deposit back.

We walk up to a restaurant. We walk away from the restaurant. “I sure wish we could read the menu; it smelled nice in there…”

Outside by the car, waiting for the gas tank to fill. One man says something. Everyone explodes into laughter. Except us. We smile and pretend we know what’s going on.

“How are you?” I ask.
“Very Good.”
“Have you been quitting?” I ask.
“No, I haven’t been drinking! I have been praying!”

The news playing in the reception area. Four or five men are crowded below a tiny television set.
“Something something Mubarak something.” Says the man on the screen. The crowd gasps.

I speak to a man in the hallway. After much difficulty communicating, he says in halting English, “You need to learn Arabic.”

Yes, yes we do.


2 thoughts on “Shoes and Ships and Ceiling Wax

  1. This reminds me of my time in China, going into random restaurants near my apartment and pointing at random things on the Chinese menu that were within my budget. Sometimes the discoveries were amazing. Other times, they were dreadful. On the dreadful occasions, I would go to the Muslim barbeque operator on the corner and buy some lamb kabobs for dirt cheap and enjoy my dinner walking home.

    Also, the day the gas meter reader came to my apartment and asked me to pay the gas bill. I had no idea what she was talking about, but did know that she wanted me to hand over a large sum of money. I called the man who took care of us poor little Americans while we were there and he spoke to the lady and she left. He was angry at me later for having answered the door at all. A Japanese girl had recently been murdered for letting someone that she didn’t know into her apartment.

    Eventually I picked up enough Chinese to get along quite nicely… when I wanted to get someplace I’d been before, or wanted to purchase something! I wish I had paid more attention to conversational Chinese, but as an English tutor, I kind of got into the mindset of teaching English instead of learning any, but the best survival phrases.

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