A part of the Color Your World Blogging Challenge, which I may try to participate in off and on. Most of my Colo(u)rful posts will be on a different blog site, but this gives a glimpse of my current winter life, so I like it being here, too.
The bright-handled fork was orange. “Mango Tango,” to be exact.
I have to admit: I looked for the colour. Nuur had an orange headband, but it was a different orange. There was orange on Hashaan’s shirt, too, but again – not the right orange. Not “Mango tango orange.”
I noticed the orange cutlery when the slices of cake were first set in front of us on the low brown coffee table, but my mind wasn’t on blogging then.
I was thinking about cake, rosewater, and tea; and language and culture and the child to my left bouncing the bright blue balloon.
Earlier today I had skimmed photos in
torturously mindless class for something related to “Mango Tango” but nothing of the right orange stood out. Uninspired, I was. I needed a change of scenery.
School has been bland, to say the least. The weather too. Routines have been difficult to create and stick to, and the social life has long been neglected.
So when there was a chance to tag along on a visit to a new-to-town family, I jumped at the opportunity.
They live 15 minutes from my house but stepping through their door is stepping further than one might expect.
Marhaba, I say. Hello!
It’s one of about 30 words I can say in Arabic. My first word was dib, which means bear. It’s a very Canadian Arabic word.
My friend Sarah and I brought cake and ice cream, just because. They will offer you Mate, (mah-tay) Sarah reminded me before we arrived. It’s okay to say no, or drink tea or coffee. She knows caffeine will keep me up, and it’s 7pm when we arrive. Mate is full of caffeine.
Syrians are nighthawks. By my standards, anyways. “At home, it’s normal to stay up till 2am!” Sarah would tell me last spring. “People would come over at 10pm all the time; it’s when we get social.”
So tonight, we drink tea. And we eat chocolate cake, because we can. Nuur, who is six, tosses the balloon in the air and catches it on the couch beside me. She watches me closely, and keeps the balloon close, guarding it from snatching siblings who come to tap it out of her hands.
Mustafa’s wife (whose name I will remember in about an hour) is beautiful, with bright eyes and a quick, full smile. “She makes the best desserts,” says Sarah. Mrs. Mustafa is young – 28 maybe – but I wonder what she’s lived through. I don’t know. I don’t ask, either.
Tonight is for happy visiting. Mustafa is telling Sarah the story of coming to Canada. It is 3 days and 11 months today that they arrived. She translates bits and pieces for me. There is lots of laughing, and I recognize another word I know – Mashjnooneh. Crazy.
The talk shifts to marriage and relationships. They compare Christian and Muslim dating in the Middle East. The balloon escapes – nearly hits the teapot – but Mrs. Mustafa quickly taps it away. I ask how Mustafa and his wife met, as the kids swarm around and cross in and out through the tiny living room.
Everyone laughs at my question. “They must tell you!” Sarah says. “It’s quite a story.”
And it was. All three versions – for Mustafa has two – and his wife, though shy and laughing, shares hers as well. Their daughters listen while I smile big (khibeer), eating cake. Sarah translates through laughing, all of us with glass teacups and orange forks in hand, with bright balloon volleys interrupting from time to time.
It was a lovely night. The night of a big blue balloon and the Mango Tango forks.
Tomorrow we are going back, for some Mat’louba.
I hear it’s served best with orange forks.