As I walked to the U-Bahn station near Karl Marx Hof on my way to Arabic class, I noticed the park in front of the massive community housing complex so named for him had sprung forth over the last week or so with bright yellow crocus. I also noticed someone entering the glass-enclosed structure to the left in the photo, which leads to an underground parking garage. Oh, the irony of a fee-based parking structure in front of the “Father of Socialism”‘s housing complex.
Once at the UN I was struck by the absence of the UN member-state flags that trim the courtyard. No one seemed to know why the flags were not flying, though.
Without the fluttering rainbow of flags to distract me, I took in some of the sculptures commissioned for the courtyard. This one is “Woman of Humanity.” I think the sculpture describes a woman who is perhaps “not her complete self” because women do not have equal rights worldwide, something the UN considers a global issue of importance.
That is sometimes how I feel when I am at the UN, so I appreciate the irony. As a “Dependent Spouse” of a UN employee, I am not permitted on the grounds before 11:00 without Tony escorting me, even though I have my own grounds pass; I can not park on the grounds before 11:45 (because, presumably, a “dependent spouse” is only there to shop at the Commissary, which opens at 12:00); and, when I contact the organization on matters relating to the family, the response is provided to Tony.
But on to serendipity.
This is the fourth week of Arabic language class. To give you an idea of the challenge level of this course, Khadija, the instructor even told us a joke about the language, that it was the result of men wandering the desert under the hot sun for too long with nothing better to do.
The Arabic language reminds me of one of those late-night infomercials. For my pleasure, I receive 28 letters in the Arabic alphabet. But wait! 22 of those letters have three different written forms, depending on where they are positioned in a word (beginning, middle, or end). There’s more! For my diligence I also get six different vowel forms to use with the letters, some of which are completely indistinguishable to me. Act now! and the instructor will assign a mere 90 minutes of homework each class.
90 minutes. It takes me that long to figure out what I need to do for the assignment.
Khadija was right to suggest that we completely forget all other languages that we know to make it easier to learn Arabic. For example. In English the word for this animal is “rabbit.” In Arabic the word for this animal is pronounced “arhnab” and is written, أرنب
Serendipity to the rescue, though, for the course textbook is in German! I was a little bummed that I had been wait-listed for the German-taught Arabic language class at our local community-center equivalent, but this makes it all better. My German is improving, and at the same time I am learning Arabic! It really is like an infomercial.
I am confident that I will do well in this class. In fact, I was the only student today who could write, “My name is” in Arabic (and I am, for what it is worth, the only female in the class). I think this is suitable for framing. Or is at least worth pinning on the refrigerator next to my photo printout of “Woman of Humanity.”
I am a woman raised in the free world, freely choosing to become a “Dependent Spouse,” and having the freedom to learn the language of so many women who do not share the same freedoms. Irony and serendipity indeed.