I had the privilege of accompanying my Arabic professor, her two children, and another student in Arabic 102 to Bridgeview, an Arabic-speaking neighborhood. Before we went, I thought it would be very similar to the neighborhood on Devon. Every time I drive to school from home we go through Devon, so I am used to attempting to read the signs on stores from the road that are in Arabic, and I have ventured around there before. I also thought the people in the neighborhood would be a bit confused why we were there, but they were extremely accepting and friendly!
I am very glad I was able to go with a family, because I feel like it was a proper way to experience a neighborhood and a treasured family experience. Like I said, I have been on Devon before, but I had never seen as many signs, like in a grocery story, in Arabic before. It was fascinating! The grocery store items were very interesting to explore. Some were very similar to what I find in the grocery store I go to. Others were similar but a bit different – such as smaller vegetables than the size I normally find. It was also great to be taught what some items were because I realized they were ingredients in food I love and normally eat.
Even though I am a vegetarian I found many foods to enjoy while at the restaurant. The restaurant was almost my favorite part of the trip. The Bedouin setting of it was really cool – I do not know much about Bedouin culture but now I want to study it. The people were in traditional dress as they served our food and all of the decorations were part of Bedouin culture so I felt extremely immersed.
The mosque was my favorite part of the whole trip. I felt extremely honored to be allowed to watch a prayer, one of five daily ones, because I had never seen a Muslim pray before, especially not in a mosque. There were these adorable little girls who would not let me stop taking pictures of them while their mother joined the other women praying and I had a blast entertaining them while they posed for me! The bakeries we went to were really great as well because it was a much different dessert culture than the one I am used to. It was great to see a bakery where they make everything from scratch as well because you knew it was fresh.
I appreciate the opportunity I was given so much. I highly recommend this trip to anyone who is able to go. It influences you like you would never believe and you are urged to go study more Arabic when you get home so you can go back by yourself! I know I would never have gone to that neighborhood on my own – especially because I didn’t even know it was there! It was great to have my own personal tour guide who would point out many different things to me. The one thing I wish I did differently was my talking – I wish I attempted to speak in Arabic! Oh well, that will just have to happen next time!