Saturday, March 17, 2012

...bookshop conversations

There are many "bookshops" here in Madinat Zayed, but don't get the mistaken impression that we have our choice of Barnes and Nobles-type shops in which to while away our time.  The bookshops are actually school supply stores--selling paper, notebooks, markers, folders, etc.  They are all about the same, although one might have a certain item that I'm looking for that the others don't carry.

What distinguishes one bookshop from another is the level of conversation one is able to have with the proprietors.  The owner of the shop that carries colored index cards doesn't speak English.  We communicate through acting things out, pointing, and the calculator.  He has a broad smile and produces the desired objects with a flourish. We are both delighted when he understands me.

In another shop is a well-educated young man who is working in his family's business just until he finds a job in his field of engineering.  He speaks Arabic, English and German.  His English is excellent and he loves to talk about languages. We talk long after our transaction is complete, and probably longer than would be considered proper.  How nice it would be to sit and drink coffee together and talk about cerebral things--but it can't be done. Not out here in the rural area, anyway.

I don't go to the third shop often, but when I do the conversation goes something like this:
Clerk: Hello, how are you?
Me:  I am well, and you?
Clerk:  Germany?
Me: No, I'm from America, but my grandfather was German.
Clerk:  How many years you have--30?
Me: You think I'm 30? Thank you, but my son is 28, so that isn't possible.
Clerk:  You much little.
Me:  You think I look young?  Thank you!
Clerk:  Where your wife?
Me:  My husband? He's in America. (Lying through my teeth, but it must be done!)
Clerk: Oh too bad, much problem.
Me: Yes, it is too bad. (Not really, since he doesn't exist!)
Clerk:  You go Dubai?
Me:  Sometimes.
Clerk:  You go Abu Dhabi?
Me: Yes, I go to Abu Dhabi sometimes.
Clerk: Dancing?
Me:  No, I don't go dancing. Do you?
Clerk: Oh, no, no, no.

Then we smile and nod and he shows me my total on the calculator.  I enjoy these exchanges so much that I purposely wait awhile before going back--he doesn't seem to remember that I'm not from Germany, and he hasn't figured out yet that my long-awaited husband still hasn't arrived.

Sometimes, for convenience sake, I pick up needed supplies at the department store in Abu Dhabi.  That's not nearly as much fun as going to the local shops.

1 comment:

Arlene said...

Sending positive thoughts that your wife will be joining you soon. :)