11.08.2004

Bush honday naeae!
Sinhala pantiya goDDak amaruy, needa?

This morning was one of those extended arising sessions that make you feel like you barely slept. I woke up at 6.25 and spent the next hour-plus waking up every ten minutes and thinking, oh, I can go back to sleep. When 8 rolled around* I hauled myself out of bed to find a beautiful day outside and hustled through a shower in order to be presentable for my 8.30 Sinhala lesson.

Two years ago I had two Sinhala teachers, Kamini and Herath. Kamini is a 70+ year old super-strict hilarious aristocratic Anglophile woman who’s taught several decades’ worth of diplomatic folks; Herath is a jolly and avuncular** fellow whose speech in both languages is characterized by a lot of excited exclamations and unfeigned shock. He’s awesome and I’m so happy to have private lessons with him.

Our lesson today consisted of three short paragraphs in Sinhala which I would read to him and then slowly translate and discuss. The topics today were ‘Rain,’ ‘Walking,’ and ‘Fruits.’ I feel I should offer a translation so that you-all will get a sense of where my language skills are at:

Rain
These days it rains from time to time. It’s hard to say what time it will rain. Because of that, you always want to keep an umbrella in your hand. Some days it rains from morning until evening. It won’t dry up even a little.
Walking
My house is a bit far away. Therefore, I can’t walk every day. But, walking is very good exercise—although if you do it every day you will get tired of it. So some days I go by three-wheeler. From town to my house the driver will take fifty rupees. That’s not a big amount.
Fruits
In Sri Lanka there are a lot of kinds of fruit. Some types of fruit are very tasty. They grow in the dry zone (ed: not the mountains). The dry zone fruits are very tasty. I like mango, woodapple, pear, and anoda type fruits a lot. But those are a bit sour. It’s hard to eat them if they’re not ripe. You can eat some types of fruit when they’re unripe. Kids often like to eat sour mangoes (ed: me too!). You can’t eat anoda or durian type fruits when they’re unripe.

My conversations are, shall we say, limited. I have noticed since the election that my Sinhala is perfect to express my opinions on American politics: “Bush is bad for all the people—American people and Sri Lankan people both. He says he will care for the people but he does not. He is always telling lies. He takes money from poor people and gives it to rich people. He makes a big war and because of that the schools are broken and the people suffer. It would be better if we had a monkey for President.” Any more complicated views I have are really just commentary on this elegantly succinct phrase: “Bush is a bad man.” (vide title!)


*It never before occurred to me that a time ‘rolling around’ is a phrase particularly suited to describing those old-school ‘digital’ clocks where the numbers are on little strips of plastic and they flip over, or the ones on actual rollers which turn. It’s pretty stupid to describe such a thing on a fully digital clock where the time lights up…
**it doesn’t sound like it, Mr. Kholawitski.

2 comments:

Ross said...

i really, really like those little compositions. they remind me somewhere in between lydia davis, barthes, and the liner notes to 'stop making sense.' i love how translation completely obliterates one's prose style. it's refreshing and unintentionally poetic.

nori said...

Oh, time always rolls for me. Very visual; very circular. Years, days, hours, and minutes are all circular for me; only months are quasilinear (arcs within the year). I'd argue time could roll on anything, even my binary-coded decimal clock! :-)