05 September 2008

Linguistic Adventures I

For me, visits to other countries are all about making mistakes and learning from them. Like ordering a "latte" in Italy and getting a warm cup of milk. Sometimes learning about myself along the way. Nepal has definitely been a learning experience. I would like to share some of the following things I have learnt.

1. Language class - my teacher, Bejoy Ji, did not seem to see the irony in the fact that the past version of the verb to drink or to smoke (same word) is "pie:". Further to that, it is illegal to hurt or eat a cow, making the acquisition of a beef and bacon pie that much more difficult (read impossible [this of course is an assumption because I haven't checked out the black market for beef n bacon pies{i'm not quite that desperate yet}]). This makes the gorgeous meat pie I ate the other week at the Australian Red Dingo restaurant all the more amazing. Follow it up with the apple pie people, you will be content, and probably have to check into the hospital on account of an exploded stomach.

2. Language class - The words gae:, gare: and gaare: apparently have some kind of phonetic difference that is impossible to pick up without come kind of cybernetic ear set so loud you could hear the ants crawling all over my kitchen bench.

3. Crazy neighbour lady - There has been an accumulation of stuff mounting on my carpet. Dust, bits of rubbish, crumbs and the like. Having tried to clean it up with the only tool available, a rather pathetic broom handle, I decided to bite the bullet and ask crazy neighbour lady (who speaks a lot of Nepali very fast and then stands there wondering just why it is I can't understand her) if she by any chance had a vacuum cleaner. I knew it was a long shot, but I looked up all the words in advance and went armed for the inevitable frontal Nepali verbal assault. "Tapaaiko vacuum chha?" (so, as it turned out there wasn't a word for vacuum, so I really only went armed with "you have" and "is/true". "eh?? oh, chhaina" - meaning "is not", was the response I got. As I was prepared to mumble OK and disappear the assault came at me quite unexpectedly from the side. "something something something maThi something something something" which I took to mean that someone upstairs had a vacuum cleaner. Either that or she wanted me to make sure I checked for spiders in the rafters. The upstairs people aren't around during the day so I went back inside. Moments later...a knock on the door. Crazy neighbour lady is there with a broom and a big grin. Waving it around like Christmas, she goes to give it to me. "Actually I already have a broom", and pulled it out to demonstrate. WIth a look of surprise she indicated that I should probably try using that, to which I responded "bad on carpet" and pointed at the carpet. She made a funny little side wobble thing that clearly meant I should brush harder and faster with my broom and promptly walked away. Probably in disgust. Needless to say, I used the broom and no more need be said.

4. Work lessons - Other lessons aren't quite so simple to understand, and I have to make the mistake many times before I learn. When I make it to work early, my office buddy is often not there yet, so I have to find the key to get in. There's a really friendly guy behind the desk at reception where the keys are kept. He always says hello and asks me how I'm going. As far as things go, I think that's not bad. "Rajujiko saa:cho kahaa chha?" - "where is Mr Raju's key?" After a brief look the response is ultimately "saa:cho chhaina (no key), but I think Mr Raju is upstairs". So I get upstairs only to find that Raju is not there, and he usually doesn't show until after 8. I go back downstairs, walk in behind reception, grab the key off the hook and glare and reception guy who somehow manages to smile at me at the end of it all. The blind girl that also works in reception never has a problem finding it.

Go figure.

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