Saturday, July 4, 2009
A proud day
This week I proved for the first time that studying Arabic will one day feed my family. Michelle and I have a brand new oven in our Cairo apartment but we hadn’t used it because we didn’t have any cookware. We tried to light it, unsuccessfully, right after we moved in but I burned myself with a lighter in the process so I gave up. I know when all else fails to follow instructions but the instruction manual was entirely in Arabic and I couldn’t seem to find the section that had to do with lighting the oven, at least not on first sight. When we bought disposable baking pans and were desperate to eat meat we decided to try again. After skimming the instructions for a long time I realized that my knowledge of classical Arabic didn’t prepare me for the technical terms used in an instruction manual so I would have to translate my way through it or starve. I pulled out my trusty dictionary and made my best guess as to which section of the instructions had to do with lighting the oven. I translated the title and found out I was right. After skimming that section I still had no idea what it said so I set out for a word-by-word translation. Twenty minutes later, with my translation in hand, we successfully lit the oven. It was moment of triumph. It turns out that I just had to do the same thing I tried when we first arrived (I knew that lighting an oven ought to be intuitive) only I needed to burn myself a little bit longer with the lighter in order for the oven to catch. Celebrating small victories? That’s how I’ve survived four years of studying Arabic. And now I’ve proved once and for all that my translation skills can feed my family. Literally.