|While I was a Peace Corps Trainee in Morocco, I managed to accidently say every Hashuma (shameful) word that the Berbers have.|
*I preface these stories with the warning that though I contend that all of my stories are highly accurate, they might have been tweaked over the last two years to suit my needs (i.e. I claim author's license on accuracy).
I want to say that learning another language is fabulous, and I greatly admire those who are multi-lingual. It is my greatest desire to be fluent in many languages (and cultures). I would love to have the ability to go anywhere in the world, and not have to struggle with the language barrier. Morocco was my first really big adventure, and learning Arabic (Darisa) and Berber (Tamazight) was a daunting task. While in my village of Ait Ali Oumhand, in the Azilal Provence, I developed a "party" trick for when I was at home or visiting neighbors after school in the evenings. I would sit on comfy sheepskin rugs on the floor surrounded by staring Moroccans, and everyone would wait for one of us Americans to speak. We were like performing circus animals to them, and they wanted to be entertained. I say: Becareful of what you wish for - you just might get it. :)
I got tired of everyone just staring and not speaking, so my "party" trick was that I would just read them everything that I had learned in school - from first day to present day - I would read it all. This was the best way for me to memorize, and perfect my pronunciation. Every once in a while I would say a word wrong, and they would cheerfully correct me (sometimes even when I didn't need correcting they would "help" me). So here I am reading out my vocabulary list at my neighbors house - I get to the word chalk (Tabashir), and every one gasps in horror. Oh no! What did I say? Beside me was my Teacher Malika shaking her head, and saying, "Oh very bad." "What did I say Malika?," I asked. She says, "Oh, I cannot say." "Oh yes you can," I reply. Eventually I get out of her that everyone thought I said Tabashish, which apparently means Vagina! Oh Great. Just my luck to shout out one of the words I've been told not to say (even though I say they should of told me the actual word not to say).
Another great incident happened at the Hanoot (a Moroccan convenience store ...Hee Hee). It was my turn to go on a small shopping trip with Malika, and we just so happened to need some butter. Now the only word for butter that I know is Zibda, which is Arabic, and I had been practicing how to conduct the purchase for about two days. I felt ready and prepared, and Malika said I was doing perfect. Yeah! (Do you ever notice that there is a high point right before you screw up?) So, I walked up to the Hanoot that I had decided to go to every time (I figured the Ba'Hanoot guy would screw me over less if we had a continual relationship), and picked my way through all of the men that were just hanging outside of the building (doing absolutely nothing, or wallow, I might add). Malika and I were the only women out and about at that moment, and all those male eyes were on us. When it was my turn to step up to the counter and order, I decided to ask in a very slow, but clear, tone of voice..."I would like to buy some Zib...Da." Once again I received the gasps of horror, and I turned in time to hear Malika saying, "Oh, Very bad"..."What did I say Malika?"... "Oh, I cannot say"... "Oh yes you better." Apparently my Arabic Zibda for butter - said really slowly broke the word up - and the men thought I had said in Berber, "I want Penis here" (Zib=Penis & Da=Here / Emphatically). I was completely mortified, and worried about all those men getting the wrong impression of me. Let's just say that they probably did get the wrong impression of me, and that Ba'Hanoot guy was REALLY friendly with me until I left.
My last Hashuma story takes place on my last day in my village. I had woken up that morning really pleased with myself, and of all the progress I had made. I finally felt that I understood what people where saying to me, and that I could give grown-up answers to questions. When I got to our "school house," there were Moroccan military officers and local gendarme waiting for us. Apparently there was this war in Iraq, and we had to be taken to a "safe place." What? We had thirty minutes to pack and say goodbye to our new families and friends. Me (Layla), Jamila, Moonia, and Hannan were all heart broken. :( We were sitting in front of the "school house" waiting on our transportation to arrive, when all of the sudden we hear all sorts of crying and wailing. Here comes a large group of villagers (my mom, with the baby strapped to her back, leading everyone) - wailing down the mountain. Just at that moment, the grande taxi showed up to take us away... but the villagers surrounded the car and refused to let us load up. Malika was getting very nervous because the villagers were defying the military and gendarmes, and she was afraid people would get shot. Two hours ,and many tears later, we were able to leave, but I decided to say one last thing to everyone; I wanted to say the biggest thank you ever. Malika had told me that to say Allah Irham Leweldeen (or Allah bless your family) is the biggest thank you a Moroccan can receive. So, I stood up on a big rock, got everyone's attention, and said, "Allah Irham Leweldan." ...And everyone gasped in horror. What the fuck did I say this time? Malika was shaking her head at me saying, "I Cannot Say!" ... "Oh, Very Bad." I finally get her to tell me that I had stood up on a rock in front of my entire village and said, "Allah bless your Testicles!"
...I'm sure that village thought I was some sort of American Prostitute. ;)