Bronwyn and I did some grocery shopping at Carrefour tonight and I decided that I needed to try some olives, since I'm in one of the hightest olive producing countries in the world. So I was at the stand, figuring out which of the dozens of varieties they had to try when a man started chatting with me and found out I don't speak Arabic and said that he was a professor of Arabic and would be happy to give me some lessons. At least that's what I think he was talking about. He kept saying "Professor. Arab. Happy for me to you." I politely declined.
But it reminded me of the Arabic lesson I did receive the last time I was at the Medina (Remember that day? I bet a certain date farmer does. Doesn't it just break your heart that he's back at his date grove now, picking dates and lamenting to his camel about what could have been? Let's hope he finds a nice girl soon.) The trick to the Medina is that you have to have a strict no talking policy. Because if you start talking to a shop keeper they'll try to reel you in for the hard sell. So you just have to be a jerk and walk on by, even as hundreds of them are waving and smiling and saying, "Madam! Please! Hello!" That part kills me, because I really like to be friendly to people. I like to smile and say hello and possibly start up a conversation. But those converstations always turn into, "I won't let you leave until you buy this bag made of real camel leather." So I just have to gird up the old loins and keep moving.
But this one older gentleman said in such a genteel way, "Madam, please, may I ask you a question?" that I stopped and went back and started chatting. He said he liked to practice his English and also liked to teach English speakers a little Arabic. I saw right through him, but he was such a nice non-pushy man that I couldn't help it and sat down in his little shop for a lesson in basic Arabic.