mei 2, 2011

Language I

Door Giselle Vegter

I don’t speak Bosnian yet. Ilil does, not completely, but she manages very well. We work in English or with translators. I have the new experience that my lack of not speaking the language makes it impossible to really connect with the people. I cannot express, and they can not completely see who I am. It makes me standing time by time aside, becoming independent and feeling helpless. Which are for me interesting emotions.  I discover how strongly I normally hold myself by verbal  communication. Because I am now not able, I see how I use and misuse language to be someone. Showing what I think, what I doubt, what I want, what I  hide, what I deny,  these are all ways to position myself towards others. Language is my best friend and maybe also an unvisible, big enemy. Being now the stranger, proofs how language  is the instrument for my identity. And in fact, it is quite an adventure to not have this instrument for three weeks. I get isolated, in my head I am alone captured with my own thoughts. My other senses get sharper: I get alert on somebodies’ eyes, hands, tone and volume and the body language. But because of cultural differences this way of non-verbal communication is also not to be trusted. Maybe it is not good to touch someone, to smile so much, to rely on the intonation of speaking. The non-verbal can be clear and warm, and vague and dark. I feel my communication is for three weeks in a fog and my only compass is intuïtion. I am confronted with my ego that is sometimes wildly alive in this silent head that can not really speak. I noticed I am the most concerned with what people think about me, because I know they cannot really see who I am. The ego is sometimes like a girl of 1 and a half years that just cannot speak and wants to be served or a nasty dwarf that wants to have power, or an old, slow woman that enjoys observing an unknown life passing by in front of her.

The journey into being the stranger comes to an outburst when we go home. In front of the early morning bus of 6 o’clock I am standing half asleep waiting to get my luggage in. The busdriver takes half of your yellow busticket, the other part you keep as a control ticket. Because one place for the luggage is full, the busdriver takes my bag to another side. He now also takes my second part of the ticket. That is what I think that happens. In the bus I ask Ilil if she can ask this control ticket back, just to have for my own administration. In Bosnian she asks, but the busdriver starts to talk quite irritated back. He thinks I have the ticket, but I don’t. There starts a discussion about who has the control ticket. Other men starts to join and explain in Bosnian that we have to have a ticket or this control ticket, I cannot know what they say.  I am amazed how quickly Ilil can answer, and I start to realize that the busdriver maybe thinks I have no ticket at all. We try to explain again and again that he has both the tickets, and that we only want to have the control ticket, but because he starts to get pissed of, I even try to say it’s also okay to forget about it. But like a rollercoaster we come into a quarrel, I start to shiver, I cannot handle quarrels, especially not when they are in the early morning, when there is an unimportant misunderstanding, maybe even an injustice and when people start to shout. We sit down, we leave the control ticket. But the busdriver is not starting the bus. He wants me to buy a new ticket and quickly, because he has to leave.  Inside I am exploding, but I know I have to give in. I have to buy this new ticket only because the driver wants me to have a control ticket, because he might get punished for me not having it?? Ilil is mad (in Bosnian! Bravo!) and with some dignity because of she being able to express the injustice, we buy a new ticket. The woman at the office window explains completely calm to the busdriver that we indeed bought two tickets, but it doesn’t help. With the same calmness she sells me a new one. I give up. This is being the stranger. It’s part of the game.

After almost an hour driving to Sarajevo we see that the busdriver is still explaining to others that he has giving me back the control ticket. I also repeated half an hour to Ilil that I am completely sure that he has the control ticket. Busdriver and me both need to prove we are right, just to have some peace inside.  I notice I even swallow some tears because I felt completely unable to defend myself. Language is a weapon.

A man in front of us gives us a peppermint. He speaks softly.  He has dark brown eyes. After two hours he goes off. Ilil is sleeping next to me. He takes my hand and gives me the whole package of peppermints as a gift for the journey. We wave when the bus drives on and he walks away into the fields.

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Eén reactie op ‘Language I’

  • Jolies Heij says:

    Spraakverwarring, heel herkenbaar! En Servokroatisch is een moeilijke taal; zelf kan ik het inmiddels een beetje lezen en schrijven, maar ik zou het echt nog niet kunnen spreken. Je moet voortdurend nadenken over de naamvalsuitgangen, veel meer dan in het Duits.

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