Don't wait 'til you've learnt Arabic to invite someone round for tea


If you know me well, this won't surprise you.

There was a lovely mum at school from Saudi Arabia. We always used to give each other big smiles and a hello. I always meant to invite her round for tea. She often walked into school on the phone, but was rarely seen standing in the playground doing real life chat. She looked a bit isolated. I'd wanted to get to know her. 

And then there was my neglected ambition to learn Arabic. Before we went to Jordan five years ago, I made a start and was optimistic. I was able to read the alphabet - slowly! It was a thrill when I managed to make use of it twice during our holiday. I understood when my number was called to collect my take away shawerma (OK - I had a head start as the numbers are similar in Swahili). Knowing the letters meant I could read a diversion sign so we didn't miss our turn off to Aqaba. 

But over the years, learning Arabic has languished on the list of things I'd really love to do, vaguely intend to do, or actually in the end probably will never do. Like learn to take good photographs. Be a better singer. Run. Do yoga. Learn French, German, Italian, Hindi. Learn graphic design. Make a playlist. Make a chunky knit blanket. Learn to cook. I'm sure I've missed a few.

So in my mind, this is how it was going to go. I would crack on with learning Arabic. Then when I got to the stage when I could manage a decent conversation, I would amaze her by greeting her in Arabic. We would chat away, I would finally get her round for a cup of tea. She would help me learn and develop my Arabic, and a great friendship would form. But she's moved away, and I didn't get chance to say goodbye.

It was ridiculous that I couldn't invite her round for tea until I'd learnt Arabic, and I regret that. While it's great to have aspirations, it can be a bit exhausting to make your every day actions conditional on achieving some very ambitious life goals.  (Yes, I COULD learn Arabic, but I do have a job and children and run the house and so on.) So every time I pass her old house, it's a reminder to be a bit kinder to myself and a bit more realistic about my ambitions. 

FunNaomi RouseComment