replacing Arabic

Farrell’s sitting at the table working on Russian homework. I’m cursing the internet for failing yet again. The Beatles “Magical Mystery Tour” is playing on iTunes.

He looks up and says, “My Arabic is being replaced by Russian.” He doesn’t look particularly happy about it.

I can empathize. My first extended trip abroad was to Jordan to learn Arabic. I put a pretty solid effort into studying it at university in DC for three years (I guess that was the one downside of graduating early, less time overall in Arabic class). Farrell lived in Egypt for nine months. I could argue he put more on the line to learn that dang language.

We met in Arabic class. Without Arabic, there would be no Kirstin+Farrell. Before Farrell, the boyfriend, became Farrell, the fiance, we vaguely planned to spend several months at an immersion language program in Yemen before making the big move to Kyrgyzstan.

When that idea was thrown out (we looked into just getting married while in Yemen, but the whole converting religions thing seemed like too much trouble), we were still convinced that in a Muslim country like Kyrgyzstan, we could probably find a way to continue studying Arabic, sah?

Ha! Oh man. Other than the really hardcore Muslims (few and far between), I can safely say that my handful of Islamic phrases easily tops the Arabic that the average Kyrgyz Muslim knows. I’m probably a better Muslim than a good chunk of the country.

So, yeah. No Arabic classes.

It’s a real bummer to think about all of the time, effort, and other resources we spent toward trying to gain some level of fluency in Arabic, only for it to all get quickly replaced with Russian.


The other night we attended a big holiday expat dinner at a Turkish restaurant that blared dance tunes all night. Kyrgyzstan has a decent-sized music industry of its own, but imports most music from Russia, the U.S. and the Middle East. I have to admit that every time an Arabic song came on, it tugged at my heart a bit.

Plans to eventually ditch Kyrgyzstan and move back to Arabia get thrown around every once in a while. Jordan, Egypt, Yemen, Lebanon, Oman… there’s something about each one that draws me in.

(Then again, so do visions of moving to Paris and Seoul.)

And with that, I have a mountain of Russian homework calling for me. Здравствуйте, hello!

But I can’t help think about what the heck I’m supposed to do with the box of Arabic textbooks, phrasebooks, and exercise books back in storage in the states. مع السلامة, good bye.