"Africa is, indeed, coming into fashion." - Horace Walpole (1774)


Eh, eh, eh, classe, en francais!

Things I learned how to say in five years of French class:
What time will the flight arrive?
Where is the foreign exchange bureau?
I have nothing to declare.
Where is the nearest pastry shop/butcher/florist?
I will have the escargot with burgundy sauce, please.
A double-mocha latte with soy milk and a touch of peppermint, quickly.
Thank-you for your kind invitation to the coffee shop/gallery opening/event to which one must wear all black.
I did/had/would/should/will/must/shall/would have/should have/could have/must have/shall have gone to the Sorbonne.
It is necessary that I find a textbook to purchase for my French class.
What was your score on the mathematics exam?
What a charming home/garden/museum/abstract sculpture/guillotine replica.
Modern art is like Sartre's Being and Nothingness - at once profound and an empty void.
Is that a Monet/Chagall/Picasso/Rodin? What brilliant use of light/color/texture/marble.
But a sense of ennui is a mark of genius, no?
Yes, $135 seems perfectly reasonable for a scarf of such exquisite taste and design.
Well, that may be true, but I would remind you that Texas is bigger than France.

Things that, given my current situation, would have been more useful to have learned how to say in five years of French class:
You are charging me triple because I am a foreigner.
There is no possibility that a kilo of rice/moto-taxi ride to my apartment/yard of fabric costs $1.
I do not want to buy dried fish/tomato paste mixed with palm oil/unidentifiable meat.
Because I do not have the first idea about how to prepare it.
There certainly is not a tax on bringing plastic dinnerware over the border from Rwanda.
That fee did not exist the last time I was in this airport/internet café/international aid organization office/border post/hotel.
My name is not mzungu ("white person").
Were those refugees/rebel armies/funeral guests/gunshots?
So that is what it looks like when a lava flow goes through your living room.
No, I do not want toys shaped like UN helicopters.
No, I cannot buy all of your friends a Fanta.
Must we all listen to the same Shaggy/Coolio/Celine Dion/Phil Collins tape over and over at top volume for the six-hour duration of this bus ride?
Yes, it certainly is exciting to make a hairpin turn around a pothole that is larger than the bus on the side of a cliff overlooking this scenic ravine.
No, I did not see the large apes in the road that our bus narrowly missed.
Because my eyes were closed in prayer.
Yes, I understand that Congolese suffer very much.
No, I do not want to buy your motorbike taxi.
Do you actually own this motorbike taxi?
Would I be traveling by motorbike taxi if I could afford to purchase one?
No, I cannot give you my phone number so that you may contact me when you come to Texas.
I cannot marry you because we just met three minutes ago.
I don't even know your name.
I have a husband/fiancée/boyfriend.
No, I don't think he would be okay with me having another boyfriend "just for the Congo."
No, you cannot have my father's phone number to discuss my bride price.
How would you ship the cattle/goats to America?
That would be very expensive.
No, my father would not pay the shipping costs.
No, in the United States it's quite normal to not have children at age 27.
27 is not old!

Swahili was slightly more useful in these respects, but even that didn't really prepare me for the reality of translation issues here. Maybe I should publish a phrasebook for these sorts of practical needs. Looking back over the list (and over my week), it's clear that I need a vacation. Goma is exhausting.


Blogger Jean-Marc Liotier said...

Thanks for sharing that - it brought back memories and put a smile on my face for the evening !

Tuesday, April 03, 2007 4:20:00 PM


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