Thursday, June 30, 2016

Arabic, English language exchange creates community connections - VANCOUVER SUN

by Pete McMartin 
Originally published: June 28, 2016

In the wake of events in England and around the world, where more doors seem to be closing than opening, here, however small, is another kind of story. To those who would consider themselves hard-eyed realists, who feel the need for more doors, it’s laughably naive. The story’s name is Mary Leighton.

Leighton, 30, is a provincial organizer with the Dogwood Initiative, a non-profit group dedicated to promoting protective environmental legislation. Paradoxically, she is the daughter of an oil company engineer. When she was five, her father took a job in Saudi Arabia, and there the family lived in a compound with other Westerners. 

She came away with two things from her years in Saudi Arabia. One, it inspired a love of languages, although her exposure to Arabic was so limited she learned only a few colloquialisms. Two, her life in the compound taught her something about isolation and living behind closed doors.

“It’s that classic thing where proximity doesn’t necessarily lead to integration or mutual exchange, which is what I think we’re facing in urban places all over the world right now — where we have this proximity and it feels very diverse, but our individual experiences don’t necessarily involve a lot of mixing.”