Thursday Tidbits

Posted on May 6, 2021 under Thursday Tidbits with no comments yet




“Regrets, I’ve had a few,

But then again, too few to mention.”

My Way – Frank Sinatra

Words matter.

We all have regrets. If you don’t, then you are either living in a cave (alone), you are delusional, or you’re a saint. Who among us can say with a straight face that we’ve haven’t made some bone headed decisions over the course of our lives? Relationships? I can check off that box… several times. Financial decisions? Yup. Food choices? Affirmative. Vices? Too many to list on one page.

I have chosen, wisely I think, not to dwell too much on regrets. It’s just part of living. Actually, I’m with Frank. Overall, I had regrets too few to mention.

But there is one that remains with me to this day and that is my inability speak more than one language. Some would argue that I struggle with English.

Now, if I was living alone in a cave with my pet dinosaur, the only words I might possibly need to know are sit, heel and fetch me some food. For better or worse, I don’t live in a cave. Far from it. I’m not a home body and have a bad case of wanderlust which has taken me to some interesting places.

In high school, my French teacher, Sister Allana Beaton, did her best to drum some French into us. I actually did quite well in French and liked the subject, in part because my mom’s mother from Montreal was French. My yearbook says that I was part of the French Club, but I think that was a misprint. I also took a few courses of French in university and that ended my illustrious career in modern languages.

I grew up in a small Nova Scotian town which, until Covid reared its ugly head, had the longest continuous running of a Highland Games (156 years and counting). Just up the road a bit is the Gaelic College. My Scottish ancestors would be horrified that after all those years and all those Highland Games, the only three Gaelic words I ever learned were Ciad Mille Failte. (One hundred thousand welcomes). Even now, I’m not sure how to pronounce it. Just eat a bit of haggis, wash it down with a dram of single malt scotch, and no one will know or care what you said.

“I’ve lived a life that’s full,

I’ve travelled each and every highway.”

I can trace my earliest beginnings of wanderlust to my trips by train to Montreal to watch the Canadiens play. This was NOT glamourous travel. We were too poor for a sleeping berth and sat up the whole way on bench seats. Mercifully, there was a bar car to pass away some of the time.

The first time that I really noticed the importance of language was when I travelled to India in the fall of 2016. I was bombarded by Telugu and Hindi in Hyderabad and then Tamil in southern India. While I certainly learned a great deal during my six months there by observation and the assistance of translators, if I had known a smidgen a of one of these languages the experience would have been all the richer. Yes, English is still the working language of most large countries but being able to communicate in other culture’s languages is a huge asset.

Spain in 2019 was yet another awakening. People come from all over the world to walk the Camino and one of the greatest joys of this experience is sitting around at the end of a long day of walking, having a beer and sharing stories. It is a virtual meeting of the United Nations. Most Europeans speak multiple languages and easily conversed with complete strangers. Often, I sat back wondering whether they were talking about politics at home, their day on the Camino, or the mute bald guy with the Canadian flag on his Tilley hat. I have a few friends who are studying Spanish in their “golden years”. I can see why. Spanish is a very popular language.

And now, I live in the land of our founding people. Inuktitut is their mother tongue. I vowed to learn this language when I came up here, but I have been preoccupied with surviving in the classroom. It is a huge disadvantage not knowing the language. My students are chattering all day long in Inuktitut and I haven’t a clue what they’re saying. I can tell by their body language when they’re mad at me. Last year, I had the luxury of an Inuit classroom aide who kept the students in check, all the while simultaneously translating many of my lessons.

Regrets, I’ve had a few, too few to mention, but only speaking one language is definitely on that list.

“You think that I don’t even mean,

A single word I say,

It’s only words and words are all I have,

To take your heart away.

Words – The Bee Gees

(Not a particularly relevant song but it had the word ‘word’ in it!)

Have a great weekend.

P.S. Last weekend was particularly dreary. It snowed, it rained, it hailed, and it was foggy. After spending much of the weekend in my apartment, I knew I had to go for a walk on Sunday afternoon.  A few days earlier, we had received a warning on the community Facebook page about fresh polar bear tracks at the landfill. The landfill is only 5Km from town and polar bears pose a serious risk to one’s health and well-being. Our favourite walking trail takes us to within one kilometer of the landfill. Even dedicated walkers take these warnings very seriously. Luckily, local hunters found the bear and had to put it down…. before we went walking! Good thing. We ended up getting caught in a full -scale blizzard with whiteouts. Even knowing that the polar bear was no longer a threat, we still kept looking over our shoulders.

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