200 languages are spoken by more than 1 million people worldwide.
I’m pretty sure I have a working knowledge of English. Sorta.
So that leaves 199 for me to learn. Starting with French.
And here is why.
I tend to overshare. Hence the reason I have this blog. Hence the reason I didn’t get any work done yesterday at Frothy Monkey and instead just caught up with friends that were there. Hence the reason I sent upwards of 50 emails last night. Because HELLO MY NAME IS ANNIE AND I DO NOT RUN OUT OF THINGS TO SAY.
And Cape Town seriously challenged that. Because I don’t know Xhosa. In fact, I’ll be honest, I didn’t even know there was a language named Xhosa until I was preparing for this trip.
Once we got there, I got to hang out with some seriously cute kids. Like these dudes (from L to R: Eric, Logan, Ayanda, me, and Patrick).
Saturday afternoon of our kids camp, I watched Eric as he walked into the dining hall, sat down, and laid his head on the table. I walked over and put my hand on his back- just to say hey. He began to shake, weeping. If you are new to these here blog parts, you may not know that I used to be a teacher- in fact, 4th/5th grade boys were always my favs. So this moment seriously broke my heart.
I tried to ask him what was wrong. But his English was so limited; my Xhosa, surprisingly, also limited. So instead of helping this sweet dude, I had to get Wonga, one of the local college guys, to come take care of it. It ended up being fine, but the Wanna-be-a-Mama in me hated that I was unable to fix the situation myself.
The children’s church teachers, lovingly called “The Mamas”, helped in the kitchen a lot. Because I am a self-professed foodie, I thought it would be awesome to hang with them and learn from them as they cooked. I don’t know how much you know about apartheid [probably more than me], but it still affects the people of South Africa- especially (and probably only) the adults. And I could feel it.
I wanted so badly to show them how much I respected them, tell them that white girl was in the kitchen to learn, not to hover. [I don’t know…. I’m trying to explain all this to you without ruffling any racial feathers. How do I say this?] I guess I just wanted to serve WITH them. And there were walls between us- not so much language, but deeper stuff. We had bonded pretty well by Sunday morning, but I would have given anything to show up and be able to ask questions about their recipes, ask how I could help, and communicate love and respect to them in their own language. I felt like I was unable to minister to the women as deeply as I wanted because I didn’t know Xhosa.
And I don’t want that to ever happen again.
Five days after leaving Cape Town, this is one of a short list of things I can identify from the trip that has changed me. [I’m sure more are to come… just give me some more time.]
So I’m starting with French. It seems useful and fun and I love crepes. [So, a very scientific decision, obviously.] I wish I could learn Xhosa, and maybe one day I will. But I really have no clue when I’ll get back to Cape Town, and a very small population speaks that language. So French makes more sense.
But Xhosa is on my list. Because even if just a few people worldwide speak it, the ones that do are pretty important to me now.