Language Travails

On the one hand, we’ve now been here seven months and I feel like I should be a lot closer to fluent than I am, and what I am is not even managing some kind of understandable pidgeon version of the language most of the time. I’ll struggle and struggle to get out the words that will make my point understood, even in broken Visaya, and then five minutes after I no longer need them, they all come flooding back.

On the other hand, I have several episodes in church where I am listening very intently, pen in hand, writing notes of words I recognize and it will suddenly dawn on me that I just understand an entire sentence, which is very exciting.

Only, in the aftermath of my quiet and personal excitement I realize I have stopped listening and it’s two paragraphs later and the preacher is mentioning a Bible reference, but I missed the book and only know I’m supposed to turn to chapter 1 and verse 4 of one of the 66 books of the Bible.

Even when I know the Visaya word and I get it right, sometimes I cannot make myself understood. I negotiated a ride with a Trike driver recently. I said several of the right words- Eskwelahan, Sunod nga kanto, diha lang, duol, wala sa kanto… dili turquoise nga dalan (school, next corner, just there, near, left at corner, not Turquoise street) and the driver and his friend cheerfully let me in and then tried to turn the wrong way and were surprised when I insisted I really did mean him to turn a different direction- and when we arrived five minutes later at my destination light dawned on him and he pretty much repeated every single thing I had said, while laughing and nodding in an “Oh, I get it now!” fashion. I know it’s my accent. My language teacher kindly tells me it’s not only that, because for most of what I want to say she says my accent isn’t bad at all, but, she says, it’s that so few Amerikanas speak Visaya that they don’t really believe that I am trying to do that. Yeah, I’m laughing, because she is trying to be so kind, but I feel like if I were really good at this, they would realize what I am saying.

Trike: (it’s a motorcycle with a little side seat and two back seats built all around it, and it’s pretty cheap transportation and hand for getting the Cherub and I to the school every day).

A lot of times I feel like I am treading water and not getting anywhere, but then I look at what I know now that I didn’t klnow in December, I feel a bit better. I can do this because I kept a notebook in December of all the new words I was trying to learn, and I came across it recently and I actually know all of those words quite easily. It’s a whole slew of new ones that I’m struggling with (pronouns are killing me).

I was frustrated with myself and my slow progress earlier this week and I was feeling glum and wondering if I should keep spending money and time to learn this dialect that I will probably never hear again when I go back to the states, and then I decided as long as we can afford it, we’ll keep doing this because:
I can understand more of the Bible lessons at church now than I could before.
Again and again I have found that when I do try, even when I cannot be understood, it is an ice breaker. People relax and will try to talk to me more, and will offer their own pointers on pronunciation or word order.
Quite a few times I wll find that it’s a great social lubricant with somebody I did not think new any English at all because they have never tried it with me. I offer up my pride and botched pronunciations of Visaya, and they laugh and laugh- but then they feel a bit more comfortable trying out their English with me. After all, I guess, if I don’t mind taking the risk of humiliating by telling ‘just believe’ when I mean ‘just turn right’ (a difference of a faintly stressed accent on the first or second syllable), they don’t mind risking similar mistakes in English. Or else my attempts are just that bad that they realize their English will be far less painful for both of us.
And that works, too.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Yes, I ate this

And I went back for seconds. I have it every time we eat at this particular restaurant. We take new people here because it’s all Filipino food and it’s a buffet, so you have a chance to try out all kinds of different dishes in small bites to find out what you like and what you don’t like, and later, perhaps what doesn’t like you.

I’m told it’s deep fried pig intestine. I’m not sure that’s what it is- I also have eaten BBQ pig intestines on a stick and they were much, much smaller, but maybe they were from piglets and this is from a grown pig? It’s served with a bit of a vinegar and soysauce dressing for dipping, which helps cut the grease. I think it’s very tasty, and not surprisingly, mildly reminiscent of bacon. A little does go a long way.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Response

View on my street

One of the things I want to post more about, but am having trouble loading pics and video and explaining coherently, is the recent work we’ve had going on to update our ditches and culverts on our street. You can see a small bit of that here. But what you mainly see is the carabao- the water buffalo. I was chatting with a neighborhood boy, 8 years old, and he speaks very good English (it’s his favourite subject in school). As we were chatting this massive horned beast came ambling down the road behind the child, with his keeper behind him. I grabbed my phone to take a picture. the child just shrugged. It’s such a common sight.

I’m working at the school every day now, manning the high school library and study hall in the afternoons. On our walk to school we pass a large open field which often has various livestock- goats, carabao, ducks and other poultry.

There are also a couple of signs in the filed right by the sidewalk, about the size of a small bulletin board, advertising a local business, or announcing roadwork. The sun is blazing hot when we walk- I use an umbrella for portable shade. Sometimes a local craftsman who sells wove floor mats and hand fans sits in the shade of one of the signs to market his wares to passers by. One day last week he had moved to a shadier area across the street. As we walked along on the sidewalk, just about the time we reached one of those signs, the shade on the other side shifted, and stood up and we found ourselves about six inches from the dark gray water buffalo that had been resting in the shadow of the sign. It was rather startling, to say the least. They seem to be mild mannered, easy going animals, but still, to suddenly find a shadow shifting and becoming corporeal and very, very large and solid is mildly shocking to my system.

Posted in Davao Diary | Leave a comment

Chicken Liver Afritada

This dish tastes much better than it looks here, provided you don’t mind chicken liver, and I don’t mind liver, period. It’s super easy on the budget as well. We have it about once a week now. I should also mention that a Filipina friend brought this to a shared supper a few weeks ago, and it was so popular that I didn’t think to stop eating and take a picture until the dish had been largely devoured, so this picture is also the bottom of the bowl. It’s not a pretty dish, but it is a hearty, filling, nourishing, and very frugal dish.

There are several variations on this but this is my friend’s recipe:

2 pounds chicken livers
4 medium or large potatoes, scrubbed and quartered
1 red bell pepper sliced into strips
1 can pork and beans (this is optional, and I have had it without the pork and beans,. Most westerners would prefer with)
1 onion, sliced into strips
3 minced cloves of garlic
3 cups of chicken broth
1 T cornstarch diluted in 1/4 cup water (also optional)
Salt and pepper to taste
Cooking oil for sauteing

Optional: One boiled egg per person, or boil a few eggs, peel, and press them through a sieve or twice through an egg slicer and just spoon a tablespoon or so of minced boiled egg over each bowl.

Cooked rice (optional in the US, but not in the Philippines)

Step 1: Optional, but westerners who are on the fence about chicken liver will prefer this. If you hate chicken liver, you don’t want this recipe. It could only be fixed if you made it with ground pork or leftover pork roast or pork chops, diced and sauteed, or basically, any other meat you *do* like.
Pre-cook the chicken liver by blanching in a pot of hot water with a tablespoon of vinegar (I’d get the water/vinegar well heated and put the livers in a metal strainer you could dip in the water for a minute and then lift and drain)

2. Saute garlic and onion in oil until golden brown. Add potatoes and broth. Let potatoes cook a bit before adding liver, bell pepper, pork and beans, salt and pepper. You don’t want the potatoes to be mushy, but you do want them still firm but not totally crunchy.

3. Let simmer for a few minutes, add cornstarch/water mixture, stir until thickened.

Serve over rice.

Other variations: Ketchup for kids who are willing to try liver but need help (also for adults)
Diced carrots or sweet potato or hubbard or other winter squash, diced.

Posted in cookery, Davao Diary | 2 Responses

Juan Bobo and the Pot, an ERIC publication

ERIC ED159874: Juan Bobo and the Pot 1.by ERIC

Publication date 1975

This story and coloring book is one in a series of Puerto Rican folktale books and is designed for use in a bilingual/bicultural education setting. This volume is geared to those students just beginning to learn English. The illustrated story is followed by a teacher’s guide, consisting of information on the series, background on Puerto Rican folktales, teaching ideas, a vocabulary list, and testing procedures. (AM)

ERIC: The Education Resources Information Center is an online digital library of education research and information. ERIC is sponsored by the Institute of Education Sciences of the United States Department of Education. The mission of ERIC is to provide a comprehensive, easy-to-use, searchable, Internet-based bibliographic and full-text database of education research and information for educators, researchers, and the general public.

Presenting a few of the pages without comment:

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 1 Response


  • The Common Room on Facebook

  • Amazon: Buy our Kindle Books

  • Search Amazon


    Try Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks

  • Brainy Fridays Recommends: