Monday, August 22, 2011

Home, the road, and the global village

this post belongs to and was inspired by the language/place blog carnival #9: "Assimilation / Individuation", which is hosted by Brigita Orel, and is now online.

Assimilation / Individuation

Individuation and Assmilition: such a huge theme. Surely, after some contemplating, it shouldn't be too difficult to say something about it, especially for someone like me who is German, yet writes in English. And who always is a bit hesitant when finding herself in larger groups or gatherings, yet doesn't feel intimidated by being part of this huge global village that is the world wide web.

Or, to move into this theme from another angle: the place we live, the language we speak: until not too long ago, those defined our interactions during a normal day. And the lure of big cities partly came from the fact that the chance to meet someone likeminded there - especially for individuals who aren't fully drawn to the well trodden paths through life - were significantly higher. Now, with internet connections and blogs, forums and online magazines, and with English as a language that is taught in many places, you can live in a village, and lead a cosmopolitan life, be part of groups that reach around the world.

Like the contributors of the language/place carnival, for example. Or the authors who joined the "Year of Flash" last year, to write a story a week, all inspired by the same prompt. The idea came from Michelle Elvy in New Zealand, and first was meant as a personal challenge. Then it hit a nerve with friends. and turned into an open group with authors from various countries. I joined, too. And now, while contemplating on indiviuation and assimiliation in reference to language and place, revisited 2 of the stories I wrote back then: "A Like" and "Home and the Road". Here they are, with the link to the associated stories included:


A Like (inspired by the prompt 'Lost in Translation')

“Sea,” he says.
Her eyes are closed, her toes curled into his. “She,” she answers.
He doesn’t get it.
She paints the words into the air: sea, see, sie.
“They are alike,” she explains, “sea and see. And in German, it would be understood as sie, which means: she.”

“Homonym,” he says.
Now she doesn’t get it.
“Different words, same pronunciation,” he explains. “Definition of homonym.”
“Probably the very same word in German,” she figures, and searches for more of them.

“I,” she says.
“Eye,” he answers,
“And in German: Ei. Egg.”

Outside, a bus drives by, honks.

“One more?”
“Easy,” she answers. More. Is Moor in German: bog.”
“Okay,” he says. “Done.”

She beams. “That’s another one, actually.”
Dann. Then.”
“So then,” he says, his hand in her hair, and they both fall silent while their minds go hunting for more words that sound as alike as they feel that day.


Home and the Road
(inspired by the prompt 'Home sweet home')

It was in a coffee break between two powerpoint presentations, with her expecting nothing but the usual small talk, that they came to talk about home. How it takes a while to feel home in a new place. How sometimes, you never reach that point.

“All my childhood memories are in another place,” he said. “When I moved here, I didn’t feel at home at all. It was just the place I lived, currently. Then, one weekend, I visited a friend, and after I left, somewhere along the road, I had this feeling of driving home.”

Maybe it was the combination of the two words that triggered the memory: home and road. “Once, when travelling in India, I went on an organized desert trip,” she remembered. “In Rajasthan, that was. Two days of desert, riding on camels, camping out there. A jeep picked me and the others up at the guesthouses, to take us to the starting point. They had music playing, Take me Home, Country Roads, and Sweet home Alabama. The songs accompanied us through the desert, and in the evening, at the camp fire, we sang them again, in the middle of this huge, empty, sandy landscape: Take me home, country roads, to the place we belong. Which was right there, for that day.”


the photos...
the first is a wall mural in Paris, near Les Halles / Samaritaine 
the second is from a ride in a French TGV train, which comes with notes in 4 languages
the third is Rajasthan, near Jaisalmar

related links...
for previous contributributions to the language/place carnival, try this: virtual notes


jkdavies said...

thoughtful and wistful, as ever

Dorothee Lang said...

thanks! it was good, to revisit those places / stories.

Brigita said...

This is one of my favourite pieces in this edition of the L>P blog, especially the A Like story. So much is revealed in such a short passage. Real treat to read.