Friday, September 30, 2005

You say "potato", I say "aartappel"

Later in the car, I’m listening to the radio, and the presenter is doing an interview. The interviewer asks a question in nicely modulated English, with a sweet South African accent, and then the other person answers at length in Afrikaans. Then another English question, or statement, or explanation of the issue(s). Then another long answer in Afrikaans.

And for me, it’s simply, “Heck, mate, whot are ya sayin’?”

They switch back and forth effortlessly, but it’s so weird. Like, “I’m going to speak in my best language, and you can speak in yours, and we both ‘get it’. And you foreign listeners, ha ha, good luck!!”

A pretty tantalizing radio show, in a way. You either get to hear all the questions, or all the answers, but not both. Right, then! Fortunately it was some blithering on about exchange rates and the strength of the rand versus the dollar, so my life wasn’t depending on it. (No dream Economics test tomorrow, either, so maybe I’ll be able to sleep tonight?)

And then there are all the radio stations..... “Phalphal”, “Munghana”, “Kwekwezi”, “Jacaranda” (jazz), “Thobela”, “Lesedifm”, Motswdng”, “Highveldt” (top 40), “Ukhozifm”, “Metro” (don’t listen to this one, it’s techno that you’ve never even heard of.... ), “Lotus” (Indian, out of Durban), “RSG” (Afrikaans), “SAFM” (news), “Umhlobo”, “Classic”.

Oh my goodness, what a relief! Classic! I can recognize the music. It’s from Mme Butterfly, Puccini, the beautiful humming chorus. Tears spring to my eyes (happy tears, this time), as I remember seeing it in London at the Royal Opera House with Francey and Bill. Next up, Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. Yes, I know, a bit trite, but I’m not complaining. Now it’s Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik... whew... something so familiar, I can even sing along. But I know that I have to pace myself with the classical stuff (there’s still the Japanese kid at the apartment, coming up at 5 pm today) so I change the station.

Yet a few more choices. “Ukmotghana”, and then “R2000”, the Afrikaans Christian radio station. Oddly I figured that one out eventually, even though I understand no Afrikaans. It was the bible story reading about Esther, the exiled queen, that clued me in. Or it could have been all the “praise” music. Or both. Maybe I’ll change my name to Esther. It kind of suits: the exiled queen.

And I won’t have to get the monograms on the silver or linens redone, either.

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