Il droghiere bulgaro

Questa è la storia di quella volta che ho visitato un mercato bulgaro a Vienna.

Era dopo una lezione di tedesco—o forse russo—non mi ricordo bene adesso. Era molto tempo fa, nel 2014. Ed era in mezzo alla neve e al freddo, perché era gennaio o febbraio.

Stavo leggendo le lettere cirilliche su una scatola di biscotti bulgari—molto lentamente.

Il droghiere, scioccato, mi chiede con stupore: “Sprechen Sie Bulgarisch?”

“Нет! Ne, ne. Ne govorim ‘Bulgarisch’.”

Cadde dalla mia bocca, disordinato e confuso. Una mescolanza di lingue, almeno tre.

Gli occhi del droghiere si spalancano, si fanno più grandi.

“Српски???!” Lui ride, disorientato.

Sono asiatica. Sicuramente non si aspettava che io parlassi in una lingua slava. Mi dice ancora un paio di cose in tedesco—ma io non capisco il tedesco.

“Извините. Oprostite, ne razumijem… deutsch. Žao mi je.”

Il droghiere si batte la fronte, ed esclama, “Ах, видим! Али говорите српски? Како jе то??”

“Ne govorim srpski, ali govorim malo hrvatski—malo, malo, MALO. Ja… hrvatska… u Dubrovnik… u Zagreb… dva… dva…”

Mi batto la mano—cercando di trovare la parole per ‘mesi’ in una delle nostre lingue comuni.

“Dana?” dice lui, “Tjedni?”

“Ne… ne…” Continuo ad agitare la mano.

“Mjeseci?!”

“Da! Da, dva myesyats!… Mesyats? Месяцы? Mjeseci?”

Sono confusa. Non sono sicura di come pronunciare questa parola.

Di nuovo, gli occhi di questo droghiere crescono, e crescono, diventano sempre più grandi.

…I ruski…?

 

Lentamente, e un po’ imbarazzato, cerco di spiegarli che stavo tornando da una lezione di russo…. e che sono confusa….

 

— CONTINUA —

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New Year’s Declaration

CONSCIOUSNESS IS
THE PRICE OF BREATH,
A BLADE OF HOPE,
MY ONLY PATH
TO VICTORY.

I TURN UP THE LIGHT OF AWARENESS,

AND EVERY TIME
I ELECT TO CAST AWAY
THAT WHICH HINDERS ME,
AND I ELECT TO DO INSTEAD
ALL THAT WHICH WILL LEAD ME

TO MASTERY, ABILITY,
TO CREATION OF WORTH,
TO MEANINGFUL FREEDOM,
—THE FREEDOM OF WILL.

 

 

01 gennaio 2018 lunedì / January 1, 2018 Monday / Stanley, Hong Kong Island

I often wonder if my approach to life is authentic or diseased.

I often wonder if my approach to life is authentic or diseased. I know it is not common; I know it is not standard—a fact that is not off-putting to me. But is it wholesomely authentically me? Or is it, in part, the result of some developmental deficiencies that I might desire to cure?

Thus I often inspect my doings: my methods of being; my social interactions; my internal interactions—between my emotions and my behaviors; my desire for both long term ambitions and short term escape; the tight tug-of-war between my reckless instinct for honesty and a cerebral acknowledgment of the value of tact; that ongoing conference between what I believe I am, and what I believe I am subconsciously—all in an attempt for some awareness, some insight, some comprehension…:

Is this part wholesomely authentically me; is that part? Or is that, in part, merely the consequence of some personal deficiencies that I would prefer to overcome—which parts?

* * *

The task is long, and the end is not in sight. But I find the endeavor, itself, fulfilling, much the way I find most learning, fulfilling.

 

langkawi sunset
stunning sunset captivates me, and I stand entranced for hours until the last of the pink and orange hues disperse into the evening ink in Langkawi, Malaysia

Photo by: Maimana Elhassn
Instagram: http://instagram.com/maimana_photography
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MaimanaPhotography/

An attempt to back walkover

Everyday I find myself wresting and writhing in effort, bent over backwards in a bridge position on a prickly grass lawn, willing myself to focus my scrunching eyes upon the upside-down horizon, WILLING myself to consent to the crush in my lower back, the furnace in my forearms, the violence being done to my wrists. I am trying to do a back walkover. A back walkover is a rather basic move in gymnastics—but for me, it is nearly Mission Impossible. In order to succeed, I must move from this agonizing back bent bridge position… into an upright, standing position by kicking my legs up and over my head, holding myself up only by my two ruefully under-equipped arms…

…all whilst not falling onto my head….

Backbend
“…wresting and writhing in effort, bent over backwards in a bridge position on a prickly grass lawn, willing myself to focus my scrunching eyes upon the upside-down horizon…”

—I breathe out; I breathe in—then in an eruption I EXHALE!—Grunting like a karate master roars before slamming a fist of fury down upon a tower of bricks, I KICK OFF! I kick my right leg up, and with my left, I plow, as hard as I can, I plow down into the earth for lift off! I believe I can. I KNOW I CAN!

“YAAAHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!” My legs are suspended as if by magic straight up, just floating above me! I strain my neck back, further back, trying to tilt the weight enough to push my legs to continue their arc over my head, back down to the ground… the little muscles all down the front of my torso, yanking, pulling, heaving ho! ALMOSSSSST….! I’m so very close!

“BAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!” All strength flees my arms; with this third and final scream, they slump! Head-first I ram into the dirt! “OW!” My legs come plunging after my crumpled body, back down, back to where they’d started. I am sprawled, limbs everywhere, and bent, in slight shock—but I laugh.

I am so, so close to making it!

My young friend Sean kneels down, shrieking in delight. He proclaims that I should succeed in no time!—but he takes a moment to examine my head.

It’s fine. Do it AGAIN! He cheers!

Uh, yes…. Yes…! I shall try again!

 

 

05 July 2017 / Dauin, Negros Island, Philippines

manufacturing hope in status updates

a hopeful visualization of the future as a facebook profile

Three years ago, in my darkest months of 2013, in order to manufacture for myself some small light of hope, some small relief from the reality of my depression and the depression of my reality, I set up a Facebook account and profile for my imagined future self, living and posting in circa 2016.

 

I added to this page my dreams and my wishes in bits and bytes, in the form of photo posts and status updates, a visualization of the future I dared to want, built with Facebook and Google images, designed with ambition and hope.

 

And here we are now.

 

Now as I write this, falling into the latter half of this final day of 2016, I am lying on cotton cushions shaded from the high Sri Lankan sun, pondering adjectives and memories; I am trying at every sunrise to learn my turns on the glassy blue-green waves of the Indian Ocean. I have one dozen sentences in Sinhala to speak with locals as I swat at the flies competing for my food; I have a book in Russian on my bed to attempt and often fail to read at night. I sleep next to a red suitcase of scented mosquito repellent, sunscreen and hair oils, two bikinis and two rashguards, some books in languages I can not yet read, a set of tightly rolled black hand wraps for muay thai, a pair of decrepit, mismatched dancing shoes, their battered heels still with some glitter, along with the roll of duck tape I use to fasten them onto my feet, and, of course, some various means of recording my intentions, my reflections: two withering spiral notebooks, a leather journal, one MacBook Air.

I have a one-way ticket to fly, at last, to Kuala Lumpur.

And I am, after all, writing a blog.

Surf Lesson One

I listen for my cues as I propel forward, paddling left, right, left, right, scooping the cool seawater back as hard as I can, pulling my chest and shoulders up away from the bright yellow board to save from swaying it side to side, locking my eyes onto the white sandy shore ahead, blinking away the salt and the sting, my feet are propped up onto my toes, perched together near the tail of the surfboard, ready, ready, ready! to push up and slide into takeoff position. I am doing everything perfectly. I zealously match and perform the instructor’s every instruction, eager, as always, to excel! My brain runs in triple speed to make sure the entire body is operating in precision, operating to command.

“PUSH!”

Instantly I fold in my arms, planting my hands by my ribs, then pushing up against the board, I lift myself swiftly, but smoothly, keeping the board, and myself, steady on the water as we rush onward.

“UP!”

I tuck my legs under me, quick, but careful to place them just like I’d practiced, along the imaginary center line, feet pointing sideways, in a wide stance, more load on my left foot in front. Sensing my upper body tensing, I command it to relax as I ease up slowly, slowly up onto soft and bendy knees, shifting my weight so that I am leaning imperceptibly more forward than back, my right foot favoring its inside edge, my right knee leaning inward, I drop my shoulders down and forward to further loosen up my arms and torso, and to further lower my center of gravity, and… slowly… deliberately… purposefully…  I rise.

The board is tipping and bucking beneath my feet, but I am standing and I am traveling forward.

 

I’m surfing…!!!

 

* * *

 

surf layout 3
Busan, South Korea

le samedi 06 août 2016 / Busan, South Korea

 

 

Getting to know Bangla

Last Sunday, a Polyglots member from Bangladesh, Tawsif, introduced me to his language and its beautiful script, Bangla (and please don’t call it ‘Bengali’, he bid us!), scribbling down for me in my notebook some basic Bangla words, a small sampling of its ornate, curvilinear vowel and consonant signs, along with some notes on the history and contemporary culture of Bangladesh and Pakistan, the exact list of the countries comprising the Indian subcontinent, and even brief mention of Hindi and Urdu, of Sanskrit and Pali!

IMG_20160815_065405
some notes from our lesson

Bangla is a descendant of Sanskrit, spoken in Bangladesh and in many parts of India. According to Wikipedia, its abugida script is “the 6th most widely used writing system in the world.”

Bangladesh Green
‘Bangladesh’ written in the Bangla abugida

I personally find this system complex and difficult to learn, yet elegant, visually appealing, and structurally similar to the Myanmar abugida I tried to learn earlier this year.

At first glance, the two scripts do not resemble each other at all. Nor do the two spoken languages share a common history.

Yet the similarities between the two writing systems didn’t surprise me too much. I had previously learned that they are both ultimately derived from the Brahmi script, the ancient abugida that gave rise to innumerable writing systems used today and yesteryear all throughout Asia, including the many scripts of India, the now obscure Kulitan script of the northern Philippines, and even the former Tibetan and Mongolian scripts often said to have informed and inspired the Hangul alphabet of modern Korea!

* * *

Once Tawsif began to teach me some basic words and phrases, however, I could intuitively tell that, very much unlike the Myanmar language, which is of the Sino-Tibetan family, the Bangla language is indeed Indo-European, sharing some commonalities with even the Romance languages that we’ve all been learning about since high school.

Here are the basic words and phrases he taught me that day, romanized:

Bangla I

For me, the most obvious tells of kinship are that the word for ‘you’, “tumi’, starts with a [t]/[d] sound, and that the word for ‘no’ and ‘not’ starts with a [n] sound,“na”—pretty much like all the European languages that I’ve dabbled in so far:

tu, no/non/não : Spanish, Italian, French, Portuguese

du, nein/nicht : German

thou, no/not : English

ты, нет/не [tyi, nyet, ne] : Russian

ti, ne : Croatian

 

This all makes me very curious to learn how the names of the Bangla numbers might or might not parallel those in these other languages!! I’ve always been fascinated—delighted!—by the patterns I found emerging from the names of numbers all across the disparate languages of the vast Indo-European family, from the Romance, Germanic, Hellenic, even Slavic branches.

Would I find these same uncannily familiar patterns in this most distant and unfamiliar language?

Might the Bangla word for ‘one’ start with a vowel or glide sound, like ‘uno’, ‘ena (ένα)’ or ‘jedna’? Do the Bangla ‘two’ and ‘three’ also start with [t]/[d]/[ts] sounds, like ‘due’, ‘dva/два’, ‘zwei’, and like ‘trois’,tri/три, ‘drei’, those same tongue-to-teeth sounds we’ve seen from the 2nd person singular pronouns, “tumi”, “tu”, and “du”? If we’re lucky, the word “ten” should also start with those denti-alveolar consonants, as in ‘dieci’, ‘desyat (десять)’, ‘deka (δέκα)’ or ‘zehn’!

I intend to investigate soon!

Until then, I wanted to share with you my delight at these modest finds. They are precursory, possibly trivial, perhaps revelatory only to myself. But I relished getting to know the unfamiliar and far-flung Bangla of Bangladesh, and to gain a sense of kinship and connection to it is an extra, unanticipated treat. How exciting it is to ponder at the little secrets and riddles that richly speckle our cultures, our languages, hinting at the astonishing and immense interconnection of our shared human histories.

What about you? What unexpected resemblances between languages have you encountered? What patterns have you discovered in your language studies?

ধন্যবাদ

Dhonnobad Tawsif, for such an illuminating lesson!