Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Mixed Message and Mix-Ups

This weekend the University of Maine Hutchinson Center will host the Festival of Art, where local artists, over 50 years old, will display one piece of art.  My entry, pictured below, is 'Mixed Message".  The beads and the style are a blend of several continents and cultures.

Mixed Message for Festival of Art
I was reminded the other day of  situations I would call "Mix-Up".  I guess with the demise of Bin Laden, and the fact that one of my book clubs is researching Islam, I am remembering some anecdotes about my experiences in Jordan.  More ironies.  In Jordan I met very well educated and accomplished women, who were Muslims.  They were not held back intellectually; and they embraced their religion, and felt it provided respect and dignity for women.  I remember that I learned  that for some in the Middle East,  "Christian" was a synonym, for "decadent".   For Muslims  who hadn't traveled,  Christians were the ones who got drunk,  gambled, committed adultery, and  crimes.  Christian women were loose women, evidenced by the way they dressed and behaved. Mix-Up.

In Jordan I learned about Arab hospitality, and had to learn to censor my American style of efficiency and abruptness.  I had to make calls to alert players about their playing time for a tennis tournament, and caught myself saying, "Hello? Abdullah? Hi.  Your match is at 9 AM on Saturday."  That was tremendously rude.  I should have said, " Hello?  Abdullah?  How are you?  How is your health?  How's the family? How are your children? (and he would answer and inquire after my health, family, children etc).  Abdullah, we are having the tournament next week and I have your time.  Your match will be at 9 AM on Saturday."  I had to learn the proper etiquette.

A friend named Issam told me a true story that illustrates this contrast  well:

Issam had to take a trip to visit the U.S.  He had friends in America and was going to see them first.  So he traveled a long time, and connections were good.  He had no time to catch his breath or even quench his thirst.  From the airport he got his bags, and took a bus.  From the bus station his friends picked him up.  He was dying of thirst by the time they reached the home.  His hosts said, "Issam, you must be  thirsty, can we get you a drink of water?"  Isaam (of course) said, "No thank you".  [In the Middle East, when someone offers you  something, you say  "no", they ask again; you say "no", they ask again; you say" thank you" the third time.  Even if you say "no" the third time, they bring it to you]  But then, for Isaam, they didn't ask again, and they didn't bring him water.  Mix-Up.

And I have a totally unrelated Mix-Up to relate:  I taught English for the British Council in Oman.  Naturally, I taught British English.  For the most part, it was fun to see the slight differences in the American and British versions, especially in the pronunciations.  But in one lesson we were learning the gradations of "good".  There I saw that in British English, there is , starting from the top, "great", "very good", "good", "quite good", "bad".  I was surprised.  According to my understanding, "quite good" was better than "good".  I have done several informal surveys and most--not all--Americans agree that "quite good" is  better than "good".  This could be serious because I can imagine the American President talking the the British Prime Minister about some third party agreement; and the President saying  it is "quite good", thereby approving wholeheartedly. But the Prime Minister would get the idea that the Americans don't think it's very good at all.  Mix-Up

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