There was coffee with milk, mint tea, several types of bread, cookies, brownies, chocolate pastries, hard-boiled eggs with salt and cumin, strawberries…
We three roommates beamed at each other across the table. We had pulled off a luscious North African tea time. Our two guests were relaxed and carried on a lilting conversation that didn’t seem to notice our limited vocabulary.
“Eat! Eat!” We urged as we refilled coffee glasses and set plates of food in front of them.
The topic turned to people who ask too many questions. I shared my story with the woman at the store. Our guests burst into laughter, amused at how annoyed I still was, days later.
“What should I say when people ask me that?” I hollered over their laughter. My teacher had taught me the phrase, “Is it your market?” but I had only ever heard sassy children use that with each other. It hardly seemed appropriate to be so blunt with another adult.
Still laughing, one of the ladies said, “Do you want to know the apricot tree and who planted her?”
Captivated, we asked her to repeat the phrase over and over. As foreigners, we probably got more than our fair share of nosy questions. Having a bit of good-natured ammunition would be refreshing. Our guests assured us that no one would take offense at such a remark, but they would get the hint to get their nose out of of your business.
We practiced the awkward words and intonation until our pronunciation was acceptable by North African standards.
And I filed that helpful tidbit in my mind for easy access.