Two in Two Thousand: Fabrizio Ardiles Decker CDE ’16 and Farah Alshami CDE ’16

Photo courtesy of Farah Alshami.

Seldom do undergraduate Ephs interact with or notice their counterparts at the Center for Development Economics (CDE). Fabrizio Ardiles Decker CDE ’16 and Farah Alshami CDE ’16, however, are somewhat different – it would be an understatement to call them an iconic duo on this campus. To celebrate Valentine’s Day, the Record sat down with these two CDE students who, we learned, defy traditional conceptions of a loving frienship.

Fabrizio Ardiles Decker (FAD): Mic check, check, check, check.

Farah Alshami (FA): Khalas, Fabrizio, you can stop.

What does that mean?

FA: “Khalas” means stop in Arabic. I speak Arabic.

FAD: I speak Spanish but I learned some [Arabic] words from her.

But when together you speak English?

FAD: Yeah. She knows a little bit of Spanish…

FA: I know basic Spanish, so I understand when he speaks and sometimes I speak to him in Spanish, but not in really long sentences. He can catch some words in Arabic that when I speak to my parents or friends I repeat a lot.

FAD: Like “sharmuta.”

That’s a bad word! [Laughs.]

FA: [Laughs.] But, you see, he only memorizes the bad words.

So where are you two from?

FAD: I’m from Bolivia.

FA: I’m from Lebanon.

And how long have you guys been together?

[Ardiles Decker and Alshami laugh.]

FAD: I mean, we are friends—

FA: Best friends.

FAD: Best friends.

FA: You can say BFFs. More than a couple. I mean, I know we look like a couple…

FAD: Yeah, but we’ve gotten really close because, I don’t know, we have a lot of things in common.

FA: We met in August when we first came to the CDE and we became friends and we are very compatible. We have the same interests. We really became best friends. We think this is more lasting than being a couple and being in love. The love that is between us is no less than the love that is between any two people. We think Valentine’s Day is also for best friends and family. That’s why we’ll be celebrating. We take care of each other, we understand each other…

FAD: We cut each other’s hair.

FA: We cut each other’s hair. And when he has a problem he tells me and [vice versa].

So you wouldn’t say you guys are a couple. You’re best friends.

Both: Yeah.

FA: You can say “best friends and more.” [Laughs.]

FAD: No! [Laughs.] Yeah! Brother and sister. I see in her the little sister that I don’t have.

FA: I mean –  not so little. [Laughs.]

FAD: [Hits table.] But I protect you from dogs little girl, you’re always scared! [Smiles playfully.]

FA: Khalas! But no, we’re not a couple.

You said you cut each other’s hair?

FAD: Oh, she cut my hair yesterday.

FA: Every time, I’m the one who cuts his hair. And I do it really well. But yesterday, look what I did. 

[Both point to sideburn area of Ardiles Decker’s head that’s a little shorter than the rest of the region.]

FAD: It’s okay; it’s just hair. It’ll grow.

FA: I’m going to fix it later.

You share some academic interests. Economically, what are you two interested in?

FA: Development. Development economics. Our master’s here is in policy economics and economic development, but what we are interested in are the developmental and the international organizations and the policymaking that is not quantitative but is based on country cases.

How is it speaking to each other in a language that’s not your mother tongue?

FAD: Well, our English is similar.

FA: We have Latin backgrounds – I’m French educated and I speak Spanish, and he’s a Spanish speaker, so our English is well-constructed for each other so we always understand each other, but we have difficulty understanding other people sometimes. Each person has his own English at the CDE!

Farah, you told me that your 23rd birthday is Valentine’s Day. Do you two have any plans?

FAD: Study.

FA: No! You promised me we’re going to do something special for my birthday.

FAD: Maybe a gift. [Laughs.]

How do you like the CDE and the other fellows in the program?

FAD: We have a lot of variety.

FA: There is a big diversity in characters, in cultures, but then you get used to these people. When you live with someone, no matter how he is, you accept him, and we do care about everyone and we do love everyone. And now we understand everyone. If someone does something to piss us off, we now tend to justify it more than to blame or to accuse. We are more loving now and we became a family, all of us.

FAD: We live in the same building [and] we have classes together, so maybe that’s why.

I think I see you two around campus more than any other CDE fellows.

FA: We’re the most outgoing at the CDE, so we took some yoga classes in the beginning.

FAD: Just one class because we don’t have time. We have a very intensive program.

FA: We go to the climbing wall. We went hiking many times. We go watch movies. We go to the gym and the library. We always have an activity to do. We don’t keep ourselves locked at the CDE for too long. We have to do something.

I had a great time at the CDE party last week that you mentioned. How did you guys learn how to dance so well?

FAD: In my case, I never took classes, but I think every Latino in this world knows how to shake it. It’s something natural.

FA: He’s an artist, so he has rhythm.

FAD: Yeah, I play drums in my country so maybe I have the rhythm.

FA: Since I was a kid, it was my only hobby; it was the only thing I felt I’m good at when it comes to hobbies, and the only thing I like. I can’t hear music and not dance. When I was a kid, I used to watch my aunt dancing and imitate dancers. Then I went to a school and learned how to dance folkloric Lebanese dance, and I became a kind of professional; I went to competitions in my country and won them. I do also belly-dancing because it’s also Oriental dance. I never took classes in Oriental dance, but I know how to do it because, like he said, every Oriental woman knows how to shake it.

Whoa. That’s so cool.

FA: We like to dance. We have this happy character and we like to express it, to spread joy and bursts of energy to the people around us.

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