Tuesday, December 7, 2010

How are you? How are you.

I had my first Khmer lesson Monday. There is something about learning a new language that never fails to make me feel like an infant. You’re completely helpless and don’t understand anything, and at the same time everything is totally new and beautiful and the world is filled with more possibilities than you can comprehend. There is also nothing like being able to appreciate the beauty in a new language, listening to it aesthetically devoid of meaning. Learning the literal translations that sound like poetry. To say tea you say water of the leaves, and for juice it’s the same; water of the pineapple. Something about that tickles my soul.

On the technical side of things pronunciation is difficult, but sentence structure is easy. There is no need for past or future tense, and no conjugations for different genders and people. Of course I could be getting this all wrong, I've only just started. The thing about languages is when I learn a new one my head tries to fill in the gaps with the same experience, other languages I’ve learned. So it goes down to Kyrgyz and then if no Kyrgyz maybe I know it in Russian, if not Russian than Spanish, and finally English. I’ve lost so much (everything except for scattered phrases) of all these languages but I always retain a few things.

How should I describe my experience: Should I tell you of seeing an elephant in the street? Going to the royal palace and seeing these fantastically beautiful buildings with golden roofs against a blue sky? Did I tell you of tasting a mango spleen, the white pearly center almost too sweet against my lips? Of seeing my first Cambodian rain fall gently into a pool while I sat reading on a pavilion without any walls?

This is a nation that rises at dawn, or far before that. With my jetlag I’ve been rising with them, staying in my room listening to the sounds of the city awaken. At night it’s a different story, by nine the streets are emptying, some tuk tuk drivers are asleep in their vehicles. But in the morning before the sky has lit up and warmth has seeped into every thing already things have begun to bustle.

The pictures; the Royal Palace, the Royal Palace, some marionettes in the Russian market, me with fresh passionfruit juice (so delicious), and the view from my bedroom window.