Friday, June 09, 2006

Internet cafe, 3:45pm, Friday, 9 May 2006, Kano

Please, dear Lord,

let my Hausa improve.... Everything continues to go swimmingly, except that, gaskiya ne, my Hausa feels woefully inadequate. Everyone is being so terribly helpful and friendly and I've done more in this past week than I had really expected to do the whole summer, yet I feel ignorant and mute. Can someone like me really do rigourous work on Hausa literature? There are so many more qualified people. Either my Hausa has gotten worse, or I'm trying to express more complex thoughts on the spur of the moment than I've ever had to express before, and the words flee my tongue. The nice thing is that when I talk to and interview people, for the most part, they speak normal fast Hausa--so I'm getting some good recordings of interviews, which I will hopefully be able to go back over later and they will be really helpful. And I DO understand the jist of what is being said, but for the most part I kind of nod my head and smile and hope the recording turns out so that I can listen to it over and over again. And let me sing the praises of my little Olympus 1 GB digital recorder that I ordered right before I left the US. It is really exactly what I need (as opposed to the rather unwieldy minidisc recorder that I had before--it had better quality recording but I couldn't transfer it to my computer), although it does pick up a bit too much atmospheric noise.

Yesterday, I interviewed Nasir Gwangwazo, who is the screenwriter for the award-winning film Waraka (on HIV/AIDS) and a few other films that I've seen. Today, Alkanawy took me to see Ruqaya Umar, a producer and actress who acted in Jann Kunne, another award winning film on HIV. She was very nice to me, despite my horrible Hausa. I started out asking her questions in Hausa, and after recieving a couple of uncomprehending looks after my tortuous round-about way of asking things, Alkanawy said, just ask in English and I'll translate for you. It worked out fine. But, seriously, I wonder if I will ever really be qualified to do this work? I continue with the recognition that my work will be minor compared to what researchers here will (hopefully) accomplish, and with the recognition that I will need to do collaborative work with people here. I will need to figure out a comparitive angle. I also continue with a prayer, dear Lord, please, please, help my Hausa to get better. I'm sure it will, over the course of the summer. I fear the lengths of time that I go without using it (while I am in the U.S.). I wonder where I will end up, and if I can really ever accomplish anything significant if I don't committ to staying here? One thing I know I will come away from this summer with is humility--an acknowledgment of my own huge gaps in knowledge, all of my ignorance--hoping that I can do something useful with what I am learning but knowing that my story is just one small drop in an ocean of stories. I'm happy that I've been able to help edit a few documents written in English--I'm glad I've been able to be of some use.

I sit in an internet cafe beside the open sliding glass doors. Outside on the road, a boy walks by with a bucket of cakes, taxis and, acabas speed by. Over a loudspeaker, A muezzin calls "Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar." The breeze is pleasant. NEPA is on, so the generator is no longer puttering outside. I hear car horns, the clink, clink, of fingernail scissors clacked together by a boy advertising grooming services. A man comes up and greets me, "Talatu, yaya dai? Ina gajiya?"

I'm glad to be here. I glad to be learning. The Hausa will get better. I'm hearing more. Now to find the time to read. I'm in the beginning of two novels right now. I must finish them this weekend.

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