About two months ago, I was telling my dear aunt how I was interning for a writing position at a local magazine. She, being a woman with a heart made of honey, genuinely congratulated me as she poured a stream of red tea into a glass mug. My aunt’s family always drinks tea in massive mugs.
“Lina, ra7 toktobe bil Englizey, ou bel 3rabi?” ( Lina, will be you be writing in English or Arabic?” She hands me my glass.
“ La2, bel Englizey, khalto”( No, in English, auntie.) I respond as I wrap my two hands around the mug. The warmth of the tea blankets my palms.
“Ah, huo el Englizey sar loghtk el-um.” ( Ah, English is now your mother tongue, it seems.)”
I feel my tongue split into two.
Graduate school applications are a pain.
Background Section: Language Proficiency.
Select the languages you are proficient in.
Part One-A : I drag the box arrow and in the list of A-starting languages, I spot Arabic. Click.
Bubble Number 1:Is this your native language?
Speaking bubble: I select Proficient. Reading bubble:Proficient. Writing bubble: Do I choose poorly or fairly?
Part One-B. (Optional) Select the languages you are proficient in.
Drag the arrow. Scroll through the E-beginning languages.
Bubble: Is this your native language?
Speaking bubble: Proficient. Reading bubble:Proficient. Writing bubble: Proficient.
I am four years old in a medium-sized kindergarten classroom.
The girl with blonde straw hair whose name I forgot, brings the paper the teacher handed out to her lips. She kisses the middle of it, and then proudly declares: ” I know how to write my name.”
My brows furrow. I look down at my blank page.
I know how to write my name. I think to myself.
Grabbing my old school yellow Hb-2 pencil, Lina Abdul-Samad was printed right in the center of that crisp page.
I look down at my name. It’s a hard name to write. Not the Lina part, but the obviously Arab-Muslim part. It’s especially hard for an Arab girl who started school without a word of English in her mouth. For a girl who spoke only Arabic at home. Who didn’t watch Enlgish T.V. Or had English speaking friends or family.
I bet it’s harder than writing Jessica Smith, or Britney Sanders, or whatever her name was.
A week or so later, I wake up from my regular after-school naps. School made me exhausted. I headed to my school bag that was slacking on the floor. I think my bag was a bali green with blue zippers. Or a pink wih pink zippers. I can’t remember now.
I fetch out a yellow paper from it. There was my name in brown Sharpie ink. Big. Printed in the center. I think my name looks nice in brown on the yellow page. Brown was my favorite color when I was four. Not pink or purple or blue. Brown. It was the color of my eyes and the color of chocolate pudding.
I make way through the beige-painted halls, and I find my mother in the living room.I hand out the yellow paper. She reads it for a second then hugs me. I ask her what it’s for. Mama explains that it’s a certificate for learning English within a month of school.
I have a complicated relationship with language, with the two languages I know. When I moved back to Palestine, I began noticing that I didn’t know which language to think in. Having two parts of you, fragmented in a thought.
My aunt tells me that she always opens to read my writings online, but she struggles with the language.
Whenever I tell her I publish something, the first question she always asks; ” Bel Arabi?”
I want to tell her yes.