I was just turning onto university grounds, chatting away while driving when my sentence was interrupted. The muted sound came from a piece of damaged plastic near my front left tire; an irritated foible induced by The Incident of the Cache Creek Dog, back in December ’14. Suffice to say the car survived (with bumps and bruises); the dog did not.
The rough noise it now occasioned sounded terrible.
I knew all this, but my passenger did not so I thrust up a hand to explain. The outburst made my trusty vehicle sound more than a little less-than-trusty, and I felt it unfair. Additionally, I hate to cause alarm for my fellow commuter.
“Oh! Ok, that sound sounds bad, but it isn’t!” I announced. “We hit a dog once and now a piece between the bumper and mudflap is a little bent. It’s shaken a bit loose recently and sometimes the thick plastic rubs itself, making the funky noise there. I need to fix it but I keep forgetting.” I apologized.
“It sounds sketchy, but it’s really nothing to worry about.” I reassured. How embarrassing.
I needed to change my windshield too, it’s so pockmarked it looks like it’s been through a battlefield, and now the plastic made it sound like my engine was falling apart. Great.
I pulled into my favourite parking lot – Lot B – and we gathered our things for the class my new friend was to visiting with me.
“Oh, ok. That’s not so bad then,” my friend confirmed. I wish I could describe her voice – She speaks clearly and matter-of-fact, with a beautiful tone and an unfamiliar accent. I can mimic it now, but don’t know how to describe it. “At first I thought it was gunfire.” she added nonchalantly.
Such unfamiliar words in this very familiar place.
My friend Sarah is new to Canada. Every occasion I get to spend time with her I walk away marveling at how I treasure our newfound friendship. It is an undeniable gift and I LOVE getting to know her. It’s been the highlight of my spring.
After expressing my delight in all things relating to language, she agreed to text me three “words of the day” in Arabic, her native tongue. My vocabulary is increasing (I can say about 15 words in Arabic on a good day now) and at any given time by myself I can be found practising my “Hard H’s” and trying to distinguish between different ways to roll an R. It’s a lot of fun. She’s a fluent English speaker so we don’t swap new words back and forth, but I do have fun pointing out idioms or slang that she may or may not know (the other day, for example, we “pulled a U-turn” while driving), and discussing what to do you do if you see a bear.
But walking into my school with Sarah painted some different pictures and brought new words into my mind. I asked questions and she described her old life. Her vocabulary of “normal” includes rockets, “the war”, and artillery.
“You get used to it.” She says. “We used to write papers for school and all the banging outside, it was like fireworks! And we were like, ‘I don’t care, this is due tomorrow!” She went on. “But then, it still sticks with you. The car, for example. I jumped. You think you move past it but you don’t forget. I thought it was gunfire. Some things surprise you.”
It was an interesting conversation, a humbling one.
We may share one language, and I may try to learn hers, but Sarah’s vocabulary is larger than mine.
(And I don’t think I’ll describe my windshield like I used to, anymore.)