The last dayof the AWO Arab-Western Youth Dialogue was far more productive. I’m not sure if it was the added (and forbidden) social aspect that fired up the Americans, or maybe we were just pushed to the limit. The ladies especially were all in, and it was great. Nana made a rousing speech that garnered quite the round of applause.
I met a guy who overheard me say something in French. Many of the Arab youth speak it, and for saudeeqee (my friend) Billel, it’s his first language. Once he realized I’m decent at it, we hung out and jabbered away in French as fast as I could handle. The next day, he came over to ask me a question about women’s wages in America. He asked if I would answer in front of the group during his presentation, and I obliged. All of this was in French of course, as was the question and answer in front of the entire group. I answered in English first, but he wanted to know what I said so I explained it in French as well. Apparently everyone, Arab and American alike, had underestimated my ability with French. For the rest of the conference the Arabs knew me as the girl who can speak French, and many approached me at random to chat and test me a wee bit. As for my own group, I guess they thought I was BSing, or that my version of “speaking french” means “I took it in high school and fell asleep a lot in class.” My roommate Janine said she felt like it was a different person, hearing such foreign (but pretty) things coming out of my mouth.
It was great to practice my French a lot because it pushed me and also validated me. It’s not quite as disheartening to stumble through Arabic when I have confidence in other languages.
Throughout the weekend we were so incredibly sheltered. A quick google search of the Arab participants would tell you why–they were all chosen based on experience with America and connection to the government. We’re already a target as 30 Americans, but when you add 30 affluent Arabs to the mix it means we are swarmed by security and kept in the most gorgeous playpen you could ever imagine. Unfortunately, this resulted in the cancellation of most of our site visits :(.
PS if you didnt figure it out, the title is arabeezy (3raby and ingleezy)for I am woman, hear me roar