This afternoon I was in charge of supervising kids activities. They usually have one activity a day that is epic and exciting, and another that is just to keep them entertained. This afternoon was just supposed to be entertaining.
Our first activity: Kurdish Basketball. We named it this because we didn't have a hoop or ball and had to get creative... So instead of fancy equipment we use an empty powdered milk tin and crumpled up pieces of paper. I brought it upstairs and was showing the kids how to gently lob the paper wads into the can to score baskets. They were just getting the hang of it when one of the fathers walked up and asked me if he wanted me to throw all the useless paper away. Apparently "basketball" doesn't translate well, but at least I kept him from throwing our homemade basketballs away!
Then we moved onto chess. The eleven year old boy staying at the house right now seems to really like it. So I set out the board and hoped I could remember all the rules. I learned a few years ago, but have never played the game very much. Thankfully, all rules were completely unnecessary. Apparently, my opponent was not well acquainted with the rules either. The entire fifteen minute game consisted of us moving the pieces around the board at random. You never lost any pieces. If the other person's piece was in the way, you just move yours to a different empty space. I was glad when after fifteen minutes he was ready to be done and move onto puzzles.
The hour ended with us playing memory. Correction, we were playing with the memory cards which had pictures of animals on them. We were just flipping through them, making the different animal noises and teaching each other how to say "cow", "elephant", "mouse", etc in English, Kurdish, and Arabic. Then they started a casual conversation about eating different animals. They would hold up a card and ask if I ate that animal. For example... Do you eat a cow? Yes! Do you eat a mouse? No. Do you eat a horse? No. Do you eat a chicken? Yes! Do you eat a pig? Yes!
Gasps all around the table. I quickly realized my mistake... The Qur'an says that it is forbidden to eat pigs. Oops. Well, it is going to get this straightened out. They must have hoped I had spoken incorrectly and asked again. Do you eat pig? Yeah, I do.
No, no! You cannot eat the pig! Allah has told us not to eat the pig.
Well, I'm sorry. But my Allah has told me it is ok to eat the pig.
No no! Allah said it is not ok! Promise you won't eat the pig!
I can't. I like the pig.
Well, needless to say, this conversation was going nowhere. Eventually they gave up trying to convince me that the pig was very bad and we moved onto other topics. I wish I would have had enough language to continue that conversation, but we were already using sign language, broken Arabic, Kurdish, and English. I'm not sorry it happened. Religious discussions are popular here. The Middle Eastern culture is not afraid to dialogue about religions, and is quick to start the discussions. Hopefully the way we live-with love, peace, and joy- shows that our character is above reproach. Then when we enter into discussions about religion and different things the Bible and Qur'an say, they are not completely turned off. They looked like they wanted to discuss this as much as I did, but we all knew it wouldn't go anywhere. Someday I'm going to learn Arabic and come back so that when these conversations come up, I can actually engage in the discussion. Inshallah.