Watch Out!

A couple days ago was the first time that, in a high-stress emergency moment, the words "Watch Out!" came out naturally, rather than " 'Anduk! " (the Moroccan equivalent). Which was a good thing, as a car was about to hit Trina, my sister-in-law.

I've been reading over the Re-Entry Guidebook on Reverse Culture Stress and have found a lot there that I can relate to. I'm feeling lonely, and wanting to talk about what I've gone through, but at the same time tired of it all and not wanting to talk about it. I feel out of place in relationships. I feel out of place in my life. Feeling clueless about the culture- but then, I always felt clueless about this culture. I can't remember the correct way of greeting- my hand always goes to the chest after shaking hands. I'm shocked at the bare mid-riffs- not because of being in a Muslim country for 3 years, but because that wasn't normal when I left. I remember when songs were mostly sung. I feel like I'm unneccessary, not doing a job that I know how to do- not doing any job at the moment. I don't like leaching off people while I'm here. But I also want to take the time to relax that is the traditional teacher experience over a Summer- even if I'm no longer a teacher. I love moving- but I don't like all my stuff in boxes and not being able to find anything or be settled at all.

I have had some good leads of late. A potential $40 per session of tutoring, and beginning in late September, probable subbing for Kelley Educational Staffing that might be as much as 3-4 days a week. Of course, I have to decide, as I can't do both- one requires a regular commitment, and the other a regular availability at the drop of a hat. But I found out KES has "very positive reviews" of me from when I subbed for them 3 years ago- which was nice to hear, as I hadn't known that, and I always tend to feel I don't measure up to snuff teaching-wise- especially compared to all the excellent teachers at GWA. But it turns out I can only sub for KES- they do private schools, and all public schools now require certification for subbing, thanks to George Bush's No Child Left Unrecruited Act. (The more I hear about it the more I appreciate the empowerment I had at GWA, for it appears NCLB removes a lot of the creativity a teacher can have in imagining lesson plans and yearly schedules. But I digress.)

Feeling like things have changed so much too. I'm totally not on the Reality TV bandwagon. I miss a workable cell phone system that doesn't charge you for incoming calls, cheap taxis, and a train system that runs close to on time at reasonable rates. I'm frustrated because I can't do the things that a man is supposed to do in this culture- like put up a tent, or get around town in a car, or know how a dishwasher works. Too many changes, and I was never around the more advanced stuff even when I was here- like cable and dishwashers. And now you can TiVo things, and I'm still trying to figure out how the cable remote works (which evidently is different from the On Demand remote).

So a couple days ago Kent (my brother) and Trina had a House Warming Party at 1700. If you had quizzed me, I could have correctly told you that an American party would begin at 1700. But in getting ready for it, I just fell into the subconscious expectation that it would actually begin around 1900, and I was totally unprepared for the German couple showing up at 1645.

I'm still having trouble with language. I naturally lapse into Arabic if I hear someone speaking another language, but even with English I'm having troubles. I want to say the English word and Arabic comes out. I'll catch it a half-second too late- it happened the other day with Aimee and Angela at Yearly Meeting, where they thought I was trying to say Arabic on purpose, but it took a moment too long for me to remember the English words. I do better sometimes- I just translate the words into English, saying all the time "God willing", knowing full well that's not a natural thing to say in American culture, but knowing it only after the words are out of my mouth. And then, I'm not sure if I want to lose that, if I'm going back over there shortly. But maybe it's a good thing to say anyway?

Trina has some Sudani/Eritrean friends from her church, who came by to visit today. As I came in I said the traditional "Allah, Allah", if there are women present in the house, that they might know to cover up. Turns out these women spoke Arabic, closer to Fousha, and even with my sad Moroccan style Arabic we were able to communicate a good deal. And when I went to the back room, and greeted their kids in a seemless flow of Moroccan Arabic, there were just shocked faces with their mouths open. As I left I told them, "What? Don't you know all Americans speak Arabic?"


drh said…
Counter-culture shock...sounds like a bumpy road.

I always appreciate reading your thoughts on things. They're genuine. You're doing a great job of processing the things you're experiencing.
quaintance said…
I recall some of this on returning from Germany, where I was for only 2 months. Hang in there!

As for the tents, one was like complicated origami, and as it was loaned to me willingly but with concern for its safety, I really didn't want anything to happen to it, and I couldn't figure it out either. The other was my new baby. I apologize for the micromanagement that happened in that campsite.
@bdul muHib said…
Oh, not at all! I seriously don't know enough about camping, and was very grateful for your expert knowledge in the area, but wished I could have contributed better. You did a great job in planning.
Bequita17 said…
Abs - I know exactly how you're feeling. I went thru the same stuff after returning from 4 yrs in Europe. It was crazy - people thought I was saying stuff in French to show off, but I just couldn't find the right English word. Or I would hear my mouth saying phrases that we use in French but which have no meaning in English.

Glad you're keeping us updated. You're in my prayesr.
tp said…
Hey Muhib! I think I might print this entry to have for when I move back. It's so real.

And another note, I was terribly embarassed by my Moroccan Arabic in Turkey. Some people speak a Syrian Arabic. Apparently "How are you?" is different in Arabic around the world and it took me a while to catch on. People were always so shocked that I didn't understand that phrase and wouldn't keep speaking because of it. Anyway, about the only sentence I understood the whole time was when one guy said, "You don't understand Arabic." I guess the verb for understand must be the same! Missin' ya in Maroc (I got back last night).
@bdul muHib said…
Yeah. Kayfic? in Morocco; Zayek? in Egypt; Kafhallik? in Lebanon; and Kayfhalluka/i in Fousha. Can be kind of confusing. But good on you for knowing the term "understand"!
Mom said…
Back in the '60's, when backpacking American youth were converging on Europe (see Michner's pre-hippy novel,"Drifters"), I experienced that same stunned state of not-quite-hereness on my return. Maybe one should take a ship home, just to absorb the reality of distance.
What worked for me was spending the fall term barefoot whenever possible--some kind of strike between actual and emotional footing...and writing a lot...

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