The older man sat next to me on the bus. He had only one good eye. He never met my gaze but he was intent on talking with me. He asked if I was getting off at the next stop. I answered no, I will get off at the last stop, in Mt. Pleasant.
New Acquaintance: “Ay…Mt. Pleasant, they have a bakery, no?”
Me: “Yes, well…no. Heller’s Bakery closed down but a new bakery will be coming in.”
New Acquaintance: “Oh that is nice. Adams Morgan doesn’t have a bakery. It should. Bakeries make you feel so….at home.”
Me: “Indeed…” and I drifted off into the memories of my favorite panadería in Soacha, located at the outskirts of Bogotá where my siblings and I would go buy fresh baked bread after church. Thanks goodness church comes every Sunday. This was THE BEST way to end a church service and drive home in 1.5-2 of traffic. But I digress.
New Acquaintance: “Where are you from?”
El señor: “Muy bien! Oh your team made it to the Word Cup! Bravo!”
Me: “Sí, sí si lo hicieron!” (Yes, yes they did make it!)
El señor: “Mine did not.”
Me: “I am truly sorry. Who is your team?”
El señor: “Algeria”.
Me: “Tatakulum arabi?” (Do you speak Arabic…in well…Arabic)
Sheikh: “Na’am! Wa enti kaman?” (yes and you too?)
Me: “Ewoa! Ana sakuntu fi misr”…(Yes! (in the Egyptian dialect) I lived in Egypt…)
Pause. I will stop transliterating my Arabic into English. Transliteration means putting the Arabic sounds into Roman letters. You see, I read, write and most importantly sound out in Spanish so when I transliterate English readers will hear totally different sounds from what I am saying. Again it’s confusing. Hence why I never mastered that. So from now on I will stay in English.
Sheikh: “Were you a teacher there?”
Me, understanding only half of what he said, “Yes I was a teacher…not wait I was a taliba—a student and then I also did teach English.”
Sheikh: “Oh you should join our learning circle in Dupont. We meet and we have a French teacher and we converse in our languages.”
Me, hearing the work French, jumped on that: “Vous parlez français?”
Monsieur: “Mais oui!”
Me: “Mais c’est bon ça! Moi aussi!”
Monsieur: “Yes I can hear from your accent that you are from Quebec! I have visited Quebec.”
Me: “Yes my husband is Quebecois so I have taken his accent.”
Monsieur: “Ouaisss ouaais!” (yeessss yessss as the Quebecois say).
We continued to talk about Quebec, their sense of humor and accents.
Monsieur: “Well this is my stop. I must get off. I shall see you at the conversation hour.”
Me: “Inshaallah” (God willing). I watched him thank the driver, hobble off the bus and make his way through the busy streets.
And just like that he was gone. A good conversation with a fellow quadrilingual. A definite bright spot of the day to go from neighbors in DC, to Spanish speaking fútbol enthusiasts, to North African rivals to fellow French speakers who appreciate the Quebecois. All during one normal bus ride home.
So to all of you, I hope to see you later-hasta pronto-ashofic ba’adeen-à plus,