Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Baby Talk

My wife seems to have decided that English for the native speaker of another language is best conveyed through baby talk at a high volume. Given, in addition, that her own native tongue, which is Indonesian, renders her perpetually unable to produce the th sound so common in English, our exchange students, at the mercy of their tutor, are beginning to sound like Tweety Bird, from the old Warner Brothers cartoon.

I tot I taw a puddy tat.

Say goodbye to fluency, boys--Hello to comedy.

In the meantime, our Saudi student is finally beginning to warm up a bit to the dogs. He no longer runs, for instance, or tries to fend them off with a chair. He has learned, as we ourselves have had to learn, to sometimes just let the toothless Chihuahua bite his ankles and continue on his own way, with said Chihuahua trailing behind, gums clamped tenaciously to the pant cuff.

Now Roy, whose name we still cannot pronounce, has always gotten along famously with both dogs. The Chihuahua continues to bark at him, out of fairness I suppose, but he also sleeps with him many a night, forgetting his hatred of human beings for up to 8 hours at a time.

This is where the open trade of culture comes in, folks. We have only recently learned that Abdul is not afraid of the dogs in the least--as we had naturally, given our own customs and culture, judged him to be. No, what he is afraid of is that one or the other of the dogs might touch him, which in turn must initiate a thorough washing of his person, which in itself is something a person doesn't always have the time or inclination for.

Dogs, you see, are considered dirty. More than dirty really. The word is too tame. Filthy would probably be more suitable. Especially if wet.

Come of think of it, I myself avoid touching the wet dog as religiously as possible--so I am after all at least some part Saudi.

Muslims, when they pray, must face Mecca. This was quite the kerfuffle when Abdul first arrived, for there existed a question as to just which way was North. I guess you have to know where North is before you can figure out anything else. I kept pointing up, but this did not seem helpful.

Abdul retrieved his laptop at this point and brought up a satellite photo of out neighborhood. We zeroed in on our house. North, he said, North, which way is North?

I cannot help but think that no matter which way one positioned himself, he would eventually end up facing Mecca, or at least only miss it by an arm length or so. Last I heard, the world was still round, right?

In any case, the question seems to have been resolved--such that I can now say with very little doubt that if you stand in the middle of Abdul's room upstairs and face the window which looks down on the trash in our neighbors back yard, you are in fact looking directly toward Mecca.

I still think UP was a better idea.

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