Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Saturday, December 27, 2008
The next morning after the continental breakfast (stale bread with yummy marmelade, egg of our choice, banana, and coffee/tea), we took a bumpy road to another area of Fort Portal. The day was gray and mists covered the lake. We were planning on spending the day in Fort Portal after we had dropped our bags off at the next hotel. We arrived at Mountains of the Moon hotel to find that we didn't want to leave. The hotel was a cozy and posh environment with lots of activities to choose from on the grounds. We relaxed by the pool, tried out a steam room, and drank tea while reading and watching the Rwenzori Mountains in the distance.
The next morning we were headed south towards a town called Kasese. Before reaching our next lodge we wanted to hike some in the Rwenzori Mountains. You can see them in the above picture. They actually have snowy peaks that were named by the Italians back in the day. After thirty minutes on another bumpy road and many staring Ugandans, we found a forestry office that could offer us a guided tour. They usually offer seven-day tours to tourists who want to reach the peak of Mt. Stanley (peak is called Margharita). We opted to hike three hours that day through a rain forest filled with fertile plants, exotic flowers, and just a few monkeys. The ground was wet and slippery as we were hiking near a rushing river. The guide told us that this particular area got about 250 cm of rain a year. I learned that our park guide, Solomon, has moved far away from his home village & family in order to keep his job and send money home. Sadly, this is the story of many Ugandans.
After leaving the Rwenzori's, we headed towards the Kingfisher Lodge. Before reaching it, we spotted a typical tourist trap....the equator sign. :)
The next two days would be spent at Queen Elizabeth National Park. It's a game park where birds and animals can be seen roaming freely. We drove for hours, spotting herds of cape buffalo, elephants, kob, warthogs around every corner, guinea fowl in the road, water buck & the spotted bush buck, one baboon staring at us from his tree perch, and a forest hog who was almost our dinner. He ran in front of our vehicle at top speed. We also enjoyed scenic views of crater lakes & valleys. After a dusty game drive, we decided to spend our afternoon on a river boat exploring the channel where some of the animals relaxed. The highlight of this trip was watching buffalo and hippos play together. We even spotted a baby hippo learning to swim. We passed a fishing village while on this tour and the villagers stared back at us as if we were the show. A boat full of burned muzungus in floppy hats with big cameras was probably a sight to behold.
The last two days of our trip were spent at Lake Bunyonyi, even farther south near the Rwandan border. I was tired of riding in a car by this time. We stayed at Bunyonyi Overland Resort which was located right on the lake. Our lodging was in tents, seated on platforms, elevated on stilts overlooking the lake. The view was spectacular from our tent and the weather was nice and crisp as we had drove up in elevation to get to the resort. The chilly nights reminded us all of Christmas weather. It was hard to get out of our warm beds at night to use the outdoor restrooms. We tried canoeing without success. The canoes were homeade dug-outs and ours kept turning in 360 degree circles. It was quite frustrating. It was even more frustrating to see the fishermen going out successfully in these canoes. A treat that we enjoyed at this resort was crayfish at dinner. They caught it fresh in the lake. We did have some unfortunate encounters at this campsite. The employees kept trying to overcharge us. We had to continually ask for receipts so we could see they were being honest. When we went canoeing, the guy informed us it would cost about $5. We agreed and went out and paid him when we came back. We then asked our friends if they had paid the same and they informed us it was only $2. We immediately went to the guy and asked for change, which he gave with a smirk. Terrill tried to talk with the manager of the campsite soon after the incident and the manager just shrugged off Terrill's concerns. This also happened to us quite frequently at meal times. The waiters claimed that they couldn't add right. They even asked for our help in adding the bill. We had a feeling that all the employees were in on some kind of scam. Needless to say, we probably won't return to that particular campsite for that particular reason.
So, this concludes our holiday. We had a long drive back to Entebbe but were excited to arrive home on the 24th and rest from travelling.
Monday, December 1, 2008
Monday, November 24, 2008
It’s just my luck that Ik is full of such ambiguous segments. Help!
The other night I asked our night-watchman how he was, and he replied: 'Sir, I am very fine because...I am enjoying your life and work.'
I brought a mid-morning snack out for my language informant. When he saw the garlic-roasted peanuts, he exclaimed, 'Very handsome!' At the sight of the fruit punch that I set before him, he added, 'Very fantastic!'
And some more priceless specimens from around the world:
In the window of an Istanbul souvenir shop: Sorry, we are open.
In a Taiwanese hotel room: Please beware of strangers dangling in the lobby.
Name of a store in China: Warm and Fragrant Bird
On an Indonesian Menu: Amiable and Sour Pork
In the window of a laundromat in Thailand: For best results, drop pants here.
In a Mexican brochure: Come to Juan's Jewelry Shop. We won't screw you too much.
In a German hotel: Serve You Right
In the washroom of a German train: To obtain water, move the handle to the left or to the right, indifferently.
On a Chinese train: Please do not throw yourself out the window.
In a Budapest zoo: Please do not feed the animals. If you have any suitable food, give it to the guard on duty.
Doorway signs in the Nigerian National Theater: "In Entrance," "Out Entrance"
Notice in a public bathroom in Italy: This WC is Goof for Everyone. Would You Like to Come Back Using It? Collaborate with Education. Don't Throw Bodies Solid into Toilettes!
Monday, November 17, 2008
We look forward to hearing from you!
(The reason we don't answer most comments is that we have very infrequent access to the internet. So when we do have access, we usually prioritize making new posts over commenting on comments. BUT, we LOVE to hear from you. So don't stop. :)
Monday, November 10, 2008
Last Wednesday, the first two patients I saw were men who both had scabies. Basically, scabies are mites that get underneath the skin and make people itch. When someone comes to me with this problem, I make them bathe first before applying Malathion cream to the affected area. I gave a bucket of warm water and a bar of soap to the first man who complained of this problem. He was a thin but well-dressed man. While he was bathing, the other man came and presented with the same problem. I told him to go around back and bathe with the first man. Men here all bathe together and don’t mind nudity as much. The second man went around the shed but came back quickly and said he wanted another bucket, different water, and new soap. I was perplexed. I asked what his problem was but he wouldn’t say. He got a new bucket and headed down to our borehole (well) to bathe there. While he was gone, the first man presented himself before me clean and ready for the lotion. I held the bottle and poured lotion into his hand so that he wouldn’t contaminate the bottle by putting his fingers in the medicine. He smeared himself up and walked away happy. The second man returned from bathing five minutes later and I asked if he was ready to put the lotion on. He asked me if the first man had already used lotion from my bottle. I told him ‘yes’. He then politely refused the lotion and said he’d be on his way. Again I asked him what was wrong and this time he said that he didn’t want to use the same lotion that the other man used. I informed him that I had poured the lotion directly from the bottle into the man’s hand and that the man had not handled the bottle. Still, the man refused and left. Later our day guard explained everything. The first man who had come for scabies treatment was HIV positive and the other man had known this. He was scared to touch anything that the first man had touched, even refusing medicine from the same bottle.
As I talked with our day guard about the need for HIV education in the area, he agreed that most Karimojong people have misconceptions about HIV. School children are taught about HIV but many, many people don’t go to school and don’t receive this training. As a result, those with HIV carry a stigma. It’s really a sad situation that people don’t understand the disease and treat others badly as a result. I tried to think about how we treat HIV positive people in the U.S. and I’ve realized that it’s not much different than the Karimojong treat their people. Deep down, many Americans still hold fears when around HIV positive people and even an ‘advanced’ society discriminates against their own.
I’m interested in getting a record of Nyangi for a several reasons. First, it is part of a holistic attempt to truly know the Ik people in such a way that when I help translate the NT into Ik, I have as much background knowledge of their language as possible. Second, it’s part of SIL’s core values to make our findings available to the world at large. Since I have the privileged position of being on the ground in Karamoja, where I can access the Nyangi, I want to gather and share all that I find with anyone who’s interested. Third, interest in a people’s language usually generates a measure of prestige and cultural pride (the good kind), such that loving the Nyangi language somehow translates into loving the Nyangi people. Fourth, when a language—a way of expressing the world—dies out, it is simply a loss to humankind. There are many similarities between biological diversity and linguistic diversity. When an animal, bird, fish, or insect becomes extinct, we should be grieved because a unique species that God created has vanished forever. Likewise, when a language goes extinct, a unique species of human culture vanishes forever. These extinctions are, of course, inevitable, but I consider it a worthwhile cause to slow their happening. And fifth, I like to explore the country with my lovely sidekick, Amber!
To reach the Nyangia, we drove about three hours west, the last thirty minutes of which were down a ‘road’ half the width of our vehicle. We reached Lobalangit, the ‘urban’ center of the Nyangi. Having got advanced notice, they were ready for us, and we were able to start almost right away. In about an hour’s time, we recorded 150 Nyangi words and one Nyangi story on video and audio. The video is just to have a record of a Nyangi speaker speaking Nyangi. The audio I have transcribed, and the transcriptions can be used by historical linguists to compare with other languages. This helps them know which language are, or might be, related ‘genetically’, allowing them to piece together better pictures of African history. I couldn’t recognize most of the Nyangi words, but some of them were clearly from Ik. And the ones that are from Ik have changed from Ik in systematic ways. For example, the Ik word ats’esa meaning ‘to eat’ has become hajetha in Nyangi. So we can hypothesize that /a/ in Ik changes regularly to /ha/ in Nyangi, as does /ts’/ to /j/ and /s/ to /th/. We can expect to find these same sound changes in other words, and in fact, we have.
On the way back from Lobalangit to Kaabong we had a couple adventures, such as when a well-dressed, distinguished-looking drunk man tried to force his way into our truck, and when 5,000-10,000 cattle occupied the road that we were trying to drive on.
In Ik, the present progressive tense is expressed by adding a conjugated form of the verb cem before the infinitive of the main verb in question. The root cem means ‘fight, battle, make war’. If one wanted to say ‘she braids her sister’s hair’ in Ik, it would come out like sikwá sits’á eyáti (literally, ‘braids-she hair of-sister’). But to signify an action of braiding hair in the present moment, as an ongoing activity, an Ik might say instead cema sikwéso sits’á eyáti, which reads literally ‘fighting-she to-braid hair of-sister’, and in translation ‘she is braiding her sister’s hair’.
Now, it’s tempting for a linguistic anthropologist like myself to read an interpretation into all this. At first glance, it would appear that in the worldview of the Ik, life is such a struggle that it’s a real fight, a battle, to carry out any activity. It would seem that for humans in a difficult situation like that of the Ik, life is war—war against the world. To willfully accomplish anything, one must fight it out with the opposing forces. Moreover, if there is famine (as there has often been among the Ik) and disease, bringing weakness of body and will, to do anything right now and continuously may feel like a battle. But as tempting as this interpretation might be, I must keep in mind a phenomenon known to linguists as grammaticalization, which is just a five-dollar word that means this: languages tend to take, over time, certain words with very specific meanings and turn them into words that have a grammatical function rather than a specific meaning of their own. For example, in the French, it’s possible (though I’m not sure), that the phrase en train de really used to be related to the English word train. Both ‘trains’ and ‘continuous activities’ kind of process along a path, such that it’s not hard to see the relation. But today, the phrase en train de also has a grammatical function, which is to give verbs a progressive feel. Another example would be the English word get. Alone, get means ‘to receive’, ‘to acquire’, ‘to fetch’, etc. But in modern English get can have the grammatical function of causation. ‘To get the car washed’ means ‘to cause the situation in which the car is washed’. The point is that over many generations, speakers lose sight of the meanings of certain words that end up taking on grammatical functions. As such, it’s quite possible that the Ik word cem no longer evokes a sense of struggle when used to denote the present progressive tense. If that’s the case, then the word cem has been grammaticalized.
But that brings up interesting questions about the origin of the Ik language, and of human language in general. If cem has been grammaticalized and has lost its original, vivid overtones, that implies that at some point in history it had not yet been grammaticalized! So even though it may be inappropriate for me to read a meaning into cem that is not there today, it may still be true that in the shrouded past of the Ik, their intense life-and-death struggle left its tell-tale mark on the Ik language itself. As we ponder the mysterious origins of language, we can imagine peoples all over the globe reacting and responding to their environment and giving linguistic expression to it. Today, our languages are littered with forgotten historical artifacts. The ancient, primal expressions of our ancestors have been layered over again and again by the sediment of time. How many of you think of the fact that the word express, originally from Latin, at some point in history meant ‘to squeeze out’, such that to ex-press something may have meant ‘to squeeze a word out of something’ or maybe ‘to squeeze a word out of yourself about something’? Or what about how we express the ‘future tense’ in English? Have you ever considered that when you say ‘I will weed my garden’, you may be echoing people hundreds of years ago, for whom to bring the future into the present, an exertion of will was required? ‘Will you come tomorrow’ means ‘do you will to come tomorrow?’ ‘Will you to come tomorrow?’ ‘Will you will to come tomorrow?’
In the end, ‘exerting your will to make the future present’ (English future tense) and ‘engaging in a struggle to remain in the present’ (Ik present progressive tense) are both profound indicators of what it means to be human. And that’s why I love language.
Sunday, October 26, 2008
Arlin on Kaabong Hill: 'Veni, vidi, vici!' (I came, I saw, I conquered:). The dark green patch to the right of Arlin's left knee is the compound where we live.
Velma with some Ik children in Kamion.
All of us on the Ik escarpment bordering Kenya.
Sitting on a 'di', an Ik place of gathering, counselling, philosophizing, watching.