Things Overheard, Observed, and Possibly Misunderstood

Things Overheard, Observed, and Possibly Misunderstood
Jeff Gundy

1. The word for frost in the trees is something like scaršna, certainly not spelled that way but surely beautiful even against the heavy red brick of the large blocks of flats, even against the heavy skies and the great smoke- stack emptying masses of gray smudge into the wintry air.
2. Only the dog across the street who is angry with every aspect of his life could be angry on such a morning.
3. He has distilled this displeasure into a poem of a single syllable, which he loves so much he repeats it several dozen times an hour.
4. People tend to do things you don’t want them to do, she said. You want to convince the machine to do everything it can for you.
5. “We are like an artist who is frightened by his own drawing of a ghost,” said Thich Nhat Hanh.
6. The sea was so calm yesterday, she said, I could have walked on water.
7. Did you try? asked her friend.
8. After dinner we walked to the Rimi for cash, cheese, chocolate,
cinnamon. We took the shortcut through the quiet neighborhood, though one stretch is muddy with construction.
9. A young man saw us fumbling over the cheeses and said, Can I tell you something? You should try this one, it is our country’s cheese, it is delicious, you won’t be sorry. We took it home—it was hard and yellow, fragrant and earthy and delicious.
10. I tried to say scaršna before class, and my students hooted and snorted. They said it, I tried again, and they hooted again, louder.
11. We are building rapport and learning to appreciate our cultural differences.
12. A major difference is that the students switch among their various languages constantly, they laugh and joke and exchange deep confidences with each other as though Babel never happened.
13. I feel like I’m riding a unicycle in a land of four-wheelers.
14. Or like a ninety pound man with one huge bicep.
15. Yet they don’t seem to care, they tolerate my jokes, they ask me questions: borrowed words, is that the right term?
16. All words are borrowed, I think later, who do we get them from, how will we ever pay back what we owe?

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