Saturday, July 02, 2011

The Sky in a Puddle of Water

My dad told me that when he was stationed on a ship, he made a point every day to go out on deck and look at the ocean and sky. Apparently, on the big carriers, you can spend all your time down below if you don't make an effort to get up top. You can forget that the sky exists.

I'm taking the same approach to my life here, trying to go 'topside' at least once a day to remind myself about the sky. At work, this means a walk around the inner wall of the consulate grounds. On the weekends, I do the same around my house. A lap around the consulate lasts 10 minutes; around my house takes considerably less time.

Still, you'd be surprised what you see in just a short walk. I spent a good portion of Friday's lunch break being fussed at by a chipmunk with bizarrely splayed legs (who knew they had chipmunks in Pakistan?). And I was delighted this morning to discover this small world in the broken fountain off the side of the house:

The guard who was trailing me (out of curiosity or for security, I'm not sure) probably thought I was insane to be taking pictures of tadpoles, or at least very sheltered. I pointed and made some exclamatory sounds; his response was extended and a bit labored. Despite an utter lack of Urdu training, even I could tell he was patiently explaining to the ignorant foreigner the life cycle of a frog.

I listened carefully, trying to pick out words. "Machili?" I ventured hesitantly, pointing at the pool of water again. He echoed, nodding: "Machili;" tadpole. "Chorti?" I tried further, making a spastic jumping motion with my hand. He echoed again, giving an amused snort: "Chorti;" frog. This was a great leap forward from the previous day's vocab lesson, when an attempt to learn the word for "gecko" was misinterpreted as a request for lizard extermination. (No geckos were harmed in the end -- and the word turns out to be "chipkili.") [Postscript: In case you're wondering whether I'd considered that "machili" might mean "pool of rancid water" and "chorti" might translate as "weird foreign hand gesture," I went back to the guards today with a pen and paper to draw some pictures and better verify things. Turns out tadpole is just "chili" and frog is "mandak." "Chipkili" was spot on, though.]

Adding these to my list, I can now say "Thank you," "Yes," "No," "lizard," "okra," "frog," "tadpole," and something the internet identified as "Jambolan plum." Well on my way to fluency, to be sure.

Jaman are edible, but I wouldn't necessarily advise that you eat them.

1 comment:

Ellen said...

i'm really glad you're finding a way to stay engaged and grounded, katie. i'm thinking about you every day!