Wednesday, May 25, 2011

to keep me humble

Some people have a gift when it comes to learning new languages.  Others, like most people in this country, learn multiple languages from infancy and by the time they are adults they know 5 languages fluently and learn new ones easily.

Well, I am in neither group.  Sadly, I seem to have a big hole in my brain when it comes to language acquisition.  I just can't get it.

I took three weeks of french immersion language training before I moved here (yeah, way too little).  I took lessons the first year I live here.  I still just couldn't get it.

I finally gave up on the lessons and stopped trying.   And of course, I didn't get it.

Then, I started visiting orphanages and orphan care groups.  All of a sudden I became extremely annoyed at myself that I still couldn't carry a simple conversation in french.  So, I started talking and talking.  And really messing up.  But I was very determined because I was so frustrated to not be able to communicate AT ALL.

Well, honestly, I still can't get it.  I understand a lot of what people are saying now, and I can say a lot of things in present tense, but really, I just lack in this area.  And, you know what?  It's okay.  I've sort of decided I can live with it.  It's annoying, but I'm doing the best I can.

So, I wanted to share one weekend of my life in Congo, about 2 1/2 years ago now, that illustrates my lack of "getting it".  And why, sometimes in life, it's okay to be humbled and just be clueless.

I was pregnant with little Isla.  I went to Panzi for an OB visit and an ultrasound.   During the ultrasound visit the technician asked me (well, what I thought she asked me), "what is the sex of your baby?".  I say, "I don't know yet, can you tell me?".  She then asks confusedly, "um, what is the sex of your baby?"  I say, "really, I don't know, can't you tell me?"   And we do this like four times.  WELL--the problem was this...

She (really) had asked, "so, what is the sex of your older child you have?"

I said, "I don't know yet, can you tell me?"

She said, "um, you don't know if you already have a girl or boy at home?"

I say, "I really don't know, can't you tell me?"

and so on


Then I go use the bathroom.  I walk out of the bathroom and a bunch of mamas start talking to me in french loudly.  I get flustered and smile and keep walking.  They talk even louder in french and gesturing at me.  Now I'm really just trying to get out of there.  Finally, one of the mamas comes up to me and gestures behind me.  I had a long trail of toilet paper hanging out of my skirt trailing behind me.


Then I head home.  Our neighbor's cook says hello and asks how my weekend went.  I was happy because I had found out that we were having a girl and I wanted to tell him our good news (I wanted to say, "I am having a girl").

So, with a big smile on my face and my arms wide, I say loudly in french, "I AM A WOMAN!!"  He smiles at me quizzically.  I then figured out I said something wrong, so I try again, I say loudly in french again, "I AM A LITTLE GIRL!"  When he smiled at me again, I just give up.


I'm pretty convinced that the people that work here in our house think I'm a delicate dimwit most of the time :).

And you know, that's okay.

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