Sunday, August 10, 2014

My Sister’s Moroccan Boyfriend

While doing laundry last weekend, I discovered I’d been mistakenly using multipurpose bathroom cleaner in place of fabric softener all summer. But it had done the trick for six weeks, so I went ahead and threw in a final load of whites with a generous dose of lemon-scented Mr. Clean. Wearing clothes that sparkled like a freshly scrubbed Russian bathtub, I headed off to Bellingham to see the whole immediate family for the first time since last August.  This year, however, we’re joined by Melissa’s Moroccan boyfriend.

This is Jamal’s first visit to the United States, and his first trip out of Morocco.  Though Arabic is his first language, he and Melissa usually communicate in French and his English falls somewhere below my Russian abilities.  Leading up to his visit, Melissa was a little apprehensive about how things would go—it probably didn’t help that Stephie joked about sabotaging their relationship in order to get Melissa back to the States for good, or that I came up with a very politically incorrect nickname for Jamal (I blame Russia’s influence for that).

On Thursday, Melissa had a doctor’s appointment and I was tasked with entertaining her boyfriend. Since all I ever do while I’m home is cook and play outside, I decided to take him on a 10-mile bike ride—if we ran out of things to talk about, we could just pretend like we were engrossed in the beauty of the blueberry fields. I had no desire to embarrass myself in French, so I went into English teacher mode, which basically means adopting a voice not unlike an automated telephone system. I thought I was being helpful, but instead, Jamal called me an an asshole.

Me: Why are you calling me an asshole?!
Jamal: I was repeating what you said!
Me: I said useful.  It’s a pretty big difference.

I haven’t ruled out the possibility that Melissa taught him that word after I threatened to lace his food with lard (for the record, it would have been to settle a score with her, not because I’m a horrible person).  As a Muslim, Jamal can can only eat meat that has been killed according to Muslim law, which is pretty limiting here in Bellingham, WA.  I suggested Melissa find a halal grocer, but she thought it would be more fun for Jamal to slaughter something himself.  On an excursion to the Farmer’s Market yesterday, she chatted up a chicken farmer to see if that was an option.
“Would it be possible for him to come to your farm and kill a chicken?  He just needs to slit its throat himself.”

The farmer considered her proposal for a moment.  “Sure, I don’t see why not.”

How is it that I still can’t get a proper iced beverage in Russia but Jamal has already found a live animal to sacrifice? America is way more tourist-friendly than the rest of the world.

The City of Subdued Excitement