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Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Amharic class: An immersion in ignorance

Do you ever overhear people talking in another language and wonder what they were saying?

When I was in Amsterdam a few weeks ago I was looking around at all the happy Dutch people, eavesdropping on all their conversations I couldn't understand and I was thinking exactly that. What are they talking about?

But in fact I know exactly what they were talking about. The exact same things we do: “Drat, I forgot to buy milk,” “What are you doing Thursday?” and “This new boss is driving me crazy.” Or whatever.

The point is, it’s probably much more mundane than we think it will be. And it’s not at all exotic or foreign, because nobody is once you get to know them close up. They’re not sitting across from me on the tram thinking, “As a Dutch person, I would love to go home and eat… well, maybe pancakes. Because that’s what we Dutch people enjoy.”

Dutch people, mostly, don’t think or talk about being Dutch because being Dutch is for the most part invisible to them. That doesn’t mean they’re not proud, just that on a daily basis, in ordinary conversations, it factors in very little. They think and talk about mundane things because they’re just people. Just like us.

There are two kinds of people I meet when I say I'm learning Amharic. The first kind

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Shutting Down, Starting Anew (guest post)


Sometimes, someone else says it better than I ever could.  Leonie Lachamish is a 41-year olah from the UK who lives near Jerusalem.

Every Erev Yom Kippur, while we were bringing up young children, I'd make sure the radio was on for the 2pm news so we could all hear the announcement that Israel's National Airport, Ben Gurion Airport (that functions 24/7) was closing down until after Yom Kippur (around 30 hours later) and then that all the radio stations were ceasing their broadcasts until

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