Monday, June 28, 2010

I Just Love the World Cup™

Jersey from
Soccer is not a popular game in the Philippines. Kids would frown at it. Instead, kids love to play Basketball and wish they’d be playing somedays in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) league.

I feel sorry with these little kids’ big dreams because those dream are utterly unrealistic. I am not pessimistic but let’s face the fact that we Filipinos are genetically a midget people. The average height for men is 5’5”(167cm) while women are 5’0” (152 cm) and in Basketball (just like in Volleyball), it requires a towering height of no less than 5’10” (155cm) or more. I really don’t understand why Filipinos really are passionate with basketball when that game, in my opinion is not something suitable for their kind of breed.

No matter how skillful a Filipino man can play in barangay ‘Paliga’ there would be very little chance for him to become a Professional Basketball player in the future. Anyway, just play it for fun. It’s good for their body and good for their heart.

In Soccer, it neither requires height nor looks. It requires resilient stamina and long-lasting endurance. Just imagine you need to be constantly moving for 90 minutes (45 minutes intervals) in a Professional match.

For me, Football is the game of the World. It requires a huge stadium in order to accommodate a huge crowd of not less than 50,000 people. In the crowd noise coming from trumpets, drums, cymbals, tambourines, whistles, horns, honks spices up the game—literally you are free to do so.

In Soccer, everyone practices patience. A virtue which is shared by Soccer fans around the world. Awaiting for a single goal for minutes necessitates a lot of tolerance. Each team is expected for a goal of 1-5 (where 5 is most unlikely in a stiff competition such as the World Cup™. One goal would send a resounding, earth-shaking tremor of noise in the stadium. The euphoria is heaven-like, there are tears of joy! Human emotions couldn’t hold the massive ecstasy one goal is bringing to every individual cheering in the crowd. A magic I myself am under its spell. However, one mistake of a referee or brawl between players would be tragic. I hope this year’s 2010 South African World Cup™ Final Match would be nonviolent and affable.

More than half of the total 32 teams) playing for the World Cup™ (with 736 players) ended their chance of bringing home the spoils. The remaining teams are the World’s toughest players including Brazil (my team), Uruguay, Argentina, Mexico, Paraguay, Spain, Portugal, Chile, USA, Germany, Netherlands, Slovakia, England, Japan, South Korea and Ghana (the only surviving African team for Round of 16 match).

Tonight is another day of reckoning. Brazil (my team) and Chile will be vying for the Quarter finals.

I just can’t live without Soccer at least for this moment.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Learning Arabic is Fun

“Worm-like writings, how could you read such a difficult script?’ exclaimed my Filipino friend.

It’s easy.

First have the passion to learn.
Dedicate some time, not your spare time.
Daily set a targeted plan.
Learn it for a purpose.

I have been working in the Middle East for almost 10 years now and most of the people I encountered were expats speaking in English. There were Arabs but they too were speaking in a language we all understand—it’s English.

Outside the office, English is not the language being spoken by local people. It’s Arabic. When you buy simple stuffs, you need to speak Arabic. When you ask for a receipt, it’s all written in Arabic. When someone asks a question, how could I politely reply if I don’t understand the language they’re speaking?

Just a simple answer to a simple question what my name was, I couldn’t even answer. The usual gesture, ignore and turn your back and pretend as if you didn’t hear any. But in my opinion, that’s rude. Of course, our inability to understand their language is inexcusable but failure to learn their own language is a gross laxity on our part.

I was challenged. I had the passion. So it all started by learning the basic A-B-C (although they do not have the A-B-C alphabets just as we use the Roman letters). Arabic script is heavily depended to phonetics, not the spelling (See Arabic Alphabet)

Let’s say for example, the name of Islam’s prophet (pbuh)*, محمد. The equivalent letters we can extract from this Arabic script are ‘mhmd’ which is read to be the name of their prophet. That’s the reason why you can read lots of Muslim names spelled differently such as Muhammad, Muhammed, Mohamed, Muhamad but when it’s written in Arabic, they are all the same محمد.

Our own ignorance of the Arabic culture hinders us from learning the Arabic script. Our own prejudices prevent us from giving a try. For most of us, the Arabic script is equated to Muslims and Islam since their Holy Book called Qu’ran is written in classical Arabic. We forget that before the advent of Islam, Arab Christians and Jews lived in the present Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Jordan, Palestine, Syria, Egypt etc. and they speak Arabic The expansion of Arabic script was introduced widely altogether with the Muslim conquest of the present Arab countries. However, Arab Christians do write Arabic, pray in Arabic, read the Bible in Arabic. They call God “Allah” just as our Muslim brethren calls God “Allah”. In other words, I can learn Arabic without surrendering my Christian faith. I can speak Arabic, yet a Christian. My Arab Muslim friends respect that—and they show much amount of support if they see in you the enthusiasm learning what they love to do.

Now, I can write and read Arabic script. Although I can read, I still need more time understanding what I am reading. Of course, I am not aiming to perfect it but at least I have proven something to myself that no matter how difficult learning the Arabic script could be, it’s fun and it’s worth it. This is inculturation which means appreciating, learning, loving the Arabic language, its script and its entire culture.

Here’s a simple translation of my birthplace.

My country: Philippines = الفلبين
My Province: Batanes = بتانيس
My town: Ivana = إفانا (note: in Arabic script, they do not have the equivalent letter “v” instead they use the letter /f/ sound. The same is used instead of the sound /p/, such as “Papa (Pope), they say al-Baba البابا.)
My barangay: Radiwan = رديون

أنا أرنستو. أنا من بتانيس و الفلبين. زيارة مكاني هل هي موضع ترحيب.

Thanks to all those Arabic speaking friends who contributed to my learning.

Mohammed Elmasry (Palestinian - London, UK)
Hamza Al-Zyadat (Jordanian - Dubai, UAE)
Hashim Ali Hashim (Saudi - London, UK)
Randa & Tamara (Saudi – Jeddah, Saudi Arabia)
Hisham Rababa’h (Jordanian – Jeddah, Saudi Arabia)
Abedlrhman Al-Ghanem (Jordanian - Amman, Jordan)
Mohammad Samara (Jordanian - Dubai, UAE)
Tariq Amin (Pakistani - Jeddah, Saudi Arabia) father of Hassan
Mohammad Saggaf (Yemeni – Jeddah, Saudi Arabia)
Abdullah Al-Ghamdi (Yemeni - Jeddah, Saudi Arabia)
Abdelghany Eisa (Egyptian – Alexandria, Egypt)
Mahmoud Nassar (Egyptian – Cairo, Egypt)
Mohammad Goma (Egyptian - Alexandria, Egypt)
Mohammad Gaber (Egyptian - Alexandria, Egypt)

And the rest of my Arab friends whom I’ve conversed daily. Thanks to you.

(*PBUH is an abbreviated Peace be upon him—usually said right after Muslim mentions the name of their prophet or any other prophet in that respect. Learning its Islamic culture fosters respect in their belief. See here for more information.)