01 July 2012

My Very First Time on TV

So last Tuesday (June 26), I was fortunate enough to go on Oman TV!  The program was called “Hona Oman” (هنا عمان) or “Here is Oman.”  It is a weekly (or maybe daily, I’m not really sure) hour long live program about culture and events in Oman.  It’s not quite news, but it’s pretty close.  I’m not sure how many people watch the program in Oman, but I do know that when I told my friends in Morocco about it they were able to watch it because it is broadcast internationally on Nilesat, a group of channels that most of the Arab world gets and watches.

This all came about because the teacher who was with me on the program, Houssain, was approached by the TV station.  I don't quite understand still how they found out, and why they contacted him, but I am guessing that it was because he is a university teacher in Salalah, and because you can't miss a group of 30 Americans in a small city with a gossip network like the one that exists here, and so, I’m guessing someone put two and two together, and was able to contact Houssain and the other people in our program.  Our administrative people came into our class Tuesday morning (the most advanced class here, Intermediate Low/Mid, I think, is our ACTFL level) and asked who wanted to do it.  First, we asked what it was, and they said that our program had gotten the opportunity to be able to have ONE student and ONE teacher interviewed on Omani State TV, and that we would have to go that very same night, late, to be interviewed live.  Then then asked who from Oman class wanted to go.  Immediately, everyone pointed at me and the other strong speaker in our class.  Neither of us jumped up right away, but I felt my heart start pounding with fear and excitement.  Whenever I was near a TV camera in Morocco, I had tried to get on 2M, but in my 39-ish months in that country, I had never been successful.  

Since I didn’t want to deny anyone in the class the chance who wanted it, and since we were kind of in the middle of class, the other girl and I decided to think about it and talk with the administrative people at lunch.  Very kindly, the other girl offered me the chance, and I thought that was fair, because she had another interview with another TV channel. Faced with this decision, I was not able to concentrate on anything in class after that.  Finally, during lunch, after talking with a few people, I decided to take the chance, face my fear, whatever other cliche you can think of, and accept the opportunity.

After classes were done, I went home for the day, intending to take a nap (because in this program I am eternally tired), but instead, got caught up in picking up my laundry, getting some nicer clothes than anything I had brought with me, and picking out some make up.  I’m really glad that I did because eventually when we arrived at the studio, I was the only woman in the whole building, and there was no make up and no one to help me with my clothes or hair (as you can probably tell from the video ha!).  

Anyway, I had my wonderful roommate help me with make up etc. and at 10pm, I met Houssain in the lobby of our hotel, and we drove to the studio.  When we arrived though, it turned out that we were going to the Salalah Khareef (Monsoon) Festival, where we had been the night before.  The studio was, as I was expecting based on experience with “fancy” places in Morocco, super decorated with all kinds of slightly gaudy/slightly cool decorations.  The best part, however, was the glass walls, so you could see out and in from the festival.

We were ushered into the green room - or what I am going to call the green room - and were offered Omani coffee and “helwa”.  Although I have only been to an Omani house once, I used a combination of what I had learned there, and learned at the university when being offered Helwa, and my Moroccan guest skills, to act what I think was rather appropriately in a room full of men.  They were respectful, and quiet, and not too curious, but curious enough to keep me talking in Arabic before the interview.  I met so many, I could not still tell you any of their names, and because TV is a formal occasion, they were all wearing the Omani dishdasha and so it was hard for me to tell them apart when I met so many at once.  

Fortunately, being the only American in the room again (hamdullah) made it much easier for me to get into my Arabic “groove” as I call it, and temporarily forget English for the interview.
Before the show went on air, I was able to speak to the host, I think his name was Rashd, and he asked Houssain and I a few questions, for his information, and for his interview, and I was able to get more of an idea of what he was going to talk about.  I also was able to tell him that it would be a better interview if he could talk a little bit slower and clearer for me, and he was very nice, telling me not to worry.  After he went on air, the other younger guys in the room told me not to worry as well, because the host was very nice.

And then we went on.  We had had to wait a while, because we were the last part of the show, following a few other interviews about youth and education, and an interview with a employee of the Ministry of Health, who was in New York to accept an award for the IT quality of the Omani Ministry of Health.  
In general, I felt like handled the interview pretty well, and there were times when I had a very strange out of body experience, and was watching the situation with kind of a detached intereste, because, on one hand, the questions he asked me were just like the questions I’ve gotten about my Arabic since 2007:  When/why did you start learning Arabic?  What do you think of Oman?  What do you think of Salalah?  What words do you know?  What did you find hard about learning Omani dialect?  What about learning Standard Arabic?  (I think those are all the questions they asked...).  On the other hand, I could not relax and forget about the cameras and the lights, and concentrate on the language around me, like I can when I’m visiting people, or talking to taxi drivers and storekeepers.  Still, for as nervous as I was beforehand, I didn’t have to worry as much as I did, because I was well-prepared for the interview, and because the interviewer kept asking Houssain about his views and more in general about the program, so during those times I could take breaks and breathe, and think of what I was going to say.  

And then, it was over.  We stood up from our couches, took off our microphones, and left the studio building.  And it was normal again.  Houssain and I talked about how he became a teacher, and what he taught during the year (Omani culture, civilization, and Sharia Law and Islamic Jurisprudence!!) and he drove me back to the hotel.  

On a fun, side note, about cultural miscommunication and dating, during the green room conversation, I was talking with a man about a school he was starting in Nizwa, for teaching Arabic to non-native speakers, and I made an offhand comment about how I would like to see his school one day.  I must have not been too clear, because I gave him my card for future communication, and on Thursday he called me, but it wasn’t the call I imagined.  It sounded to me more like he was calling to follow up on a first date, and I feel bad because I did not mean to give him the impression that I was interested in him, or interested in going through an official visit of his school.  I knew I would have to turn him down when he started talking about how he told his mother and family about me, and they had watched the interview and liked me.  Whoops.  Poor guy. 
I haven't watched the interview because I don’t like hearing my voice, but my classmates who saw it and teachers said I did a good job.  My Moroccan friend was able to watch it live too, and he, of course, said I did great too, and he said that he could hear my Moroccan accent, but that it was okay, and still good "Standard" arabic.  I know that many foreigners in the Arab world who speak Arabic, especially white foreigners who speak Arabic, and especially white female foreigners who speak Arabic, feel like they are animals at the zoo being stared at when they speak Arabic.  I could imagine that someone else in my place might feel this way, and truthfully, I did a little bit.  But overall, I was thankful for the professionalism of the TV studio and the kindness with which everyone treated me.  It was a great learning experience, and I feel very thankful to have had the opportunity to go through something like this, and moreover, to having been able to cross something off of my bucket list!

1 comment:

[ جَــوهرةٌ مَـكنونة ] said...

كـووووولين ممتاااااااااااازة كنتِ.!!!

أنـا نوووووبى أحلى كلمة.!

ربـي يحفظك يا أختي.. و يشرح صدرك.!*_*