Friday, October 15, 2010

Bengali Immersion at the Mall

Bangla classes are starting to get more complicated and the Diplomat is trying to shine as much as he can by using Hindi words in his sentences, hoping that they will magically sound like Bangla. Sometimes that happens and he gets really happy. This past week he wrote a particularly complicated sentence on the blackboard, which was more or less correct, and beyond himself with pride, he actually yelled to the class, "Look at me!" Sadly, the effect of his language genius was lost on all of us since his penmanship is particularly lacking and his handwriting resembles the track pattern left by a herd of drunk alpacas rushing down the slopes of the Andes. The good side of this is that his irritating ease with Bangla thanks to him knowing Hindi is giving me an incentive to study even harder.

Today we took a field trip with the Bengali class in the Ballston Mall. As we descended upon Macy's and started wondering loudly in slow, badly-pronounced Bangla where we can find baby shoes, suddenly a female voice interrupted us and in crystal clear bengali told us that they do not carry baby shoes. Turns out, she was a sales rep there and was originally from Dhaka. Happily, we asked her all about her: where she was from, about her family, name, what was her favorite color and food (that is how far we have advanced for a month and a half of language training...). In a fit of brilliance, I managed to somehow ask her how many years she had lived here and even understood her answer. She was rather shaken by the fact that a group of (seemingly) crazy and loud Americans was speaking Bangla at the mall on a quiet Friday morning, and so we delightedly told her (in perfect Bangla) that we were kutnitibid (diplomats) who will go to live in Dhaka. She appeared rather perplexed and it took us a long time to explain what exactly that meant. I really don't think she was impressed though; I suspect she was convinced that we were all slightly insane. I am not saying she was wrong. We left her section and proceeded to the male shoes section, where we (again loudly) discussed shoe colors, at which point another, male, sales rep suddenly said something in bengali. Utterly delighted that we have met yet another live Bangladeshi, we enthusiastically asked him where he was from. He sullenly and with a thick accent said--Amerika. We asked again; he again irritably insisted, "American! Now I American!!" Visibly disappointed, we asked him where his family was--reluctantly, he admitted it was in Dhaka. Excited again, we started asking more inane questions but he finally drew the line at our bengali immersion when he refused to tell us his favorite color. We thought it prudent to leave at that point as people had started staring. I love Macy's--I ALWAYS find what I need there. Even a live Bangladeshi person.

Tonight we leave for a fun weekend in the Shenandoah Valley, where the Diplomat has signed us up for (guess what!) tennis camp. I am beyond myself from excitement although that might have something to do with the fact that I also booked an hour of massage at the spa for tomorrow.

It also has come to my attention that the Foreign Service apparently administers an English literacy test for spouses who want to take the 6-week General Consular class, which most FSOs take during their first round of training (often, spouses choose to take the class to be able to work at at post in the Consular section of the embassy or consulate in order to have a nice, little additional income). It does not matter how many university degrees the spouse has (or whether they maintain a highly eloquent blog); they still have to take the literacy test in order to be able to take the class. Apparently, the foreign service seems to think that FSO spouses are illiterate by default. Hm...


  1. Awww, Shenandoah will be gorgeous with the leaves changing color and all. Have fun! We were going to go camping there but may not after all. Too much going on.

    That literacy test for spouses - annoying!!!

  2. I called this morning and politely asked if I can submit my GRE scores (circa 2007), I was told a very sympathetic no. My contact told me that even though, most spouses are grossly overqualified to have to take the test, they still have to - a lawyer took it last week. The nice person even offered to come in earlier than the beginning of her workday to accommodate my crazy work was really sweet, but I was hoping against hope that my GREs (which put me in the top 5% tile of english speakers) were not applicable. Sigh, wish me luck this Wed!