Sunday, August 12, 2007

Do bees here speak Swahili?

They say that it’s easier to write about home when living away from it, that the colors, scents and sounds that filled our childhood come back to us in bold, clear detail when we are shut off from experiencing them. That’s not true. The last desire on my mind is to write about my home and my childhood. My memories are too precious to lay bare to the eyes of an outsider. And truth be told, my memories are rather hazy. I can hardly remember the names, faces and places. My present is more real to me.

I want to connect with the people around me and to talk to them about our shared reality. My present surroundings may not be the hibiscus lined streets of my hometown, but the white florets borne by the branch scraping across my window pane smell heavenly. The bees go about their busy way, moving from nectar sac to nectar sac. I wonder, do bees here speak a different language from the ones back at home? I want to laugh at this thought, but pause. Maybe it’s not ridiculous after all. No. It is ridiculous. What’s more, it’s indicative of that special brand of megalomania that has us humans constantly trying to recreate the world in our image: I speak Swahili, therefore the African bee buzzes in Swahili.

But I do wonder about this thing called language. Is it a normal state of “being”? Is it possible for humans to live and coexist without any form of language? When I open my mouth to speak over here, my accent betrays my foreign origins right away. Does something parallel happen to migrating birds during their winter sojourns in warm lands, when they encounter birds from other territories?

Here I am making a big deal of my foreignness when I have been drinking this water and eating of this soil for ages. Every single cell in my body must be “of this nation” by now. There is a kind of poetic justice in that. No matter how hard I try to dissect and to label, reality has a way of throwing all my neat classifications into disarray.

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This work is licensed to Rose Kahendi under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.

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