what I was up to in Benin and central(ish) Senegal

I just noticed that the videos I made in Benin have been published, and I realized I never shared the ones I made in Senegal, so here they are.

The 3-minute English version of the Benin video:

And the 5-minute French version, which makes me want to jump up and down shouting, “I did it all by myself!” (Even though I didn’t. I got help revising the subtitles, which I butchered on the first attempt.)

And below are the Senegal videos, Forou Serer first and Latmingué second. Mamie is the narrator of both! (She thinks I have made her a star because the videos played in New York. 🙂 )


bon week-end

I just exported the close-to-final cut of a 5-minute video I shot and edited almost entirely in French (aside from a small amount of a béninois dialect that was translated for me into French), and I’m feeling very proud of myself.

Going to the field and, in very challenging conditions, “one-man-banding” – directing, producing, shooting, recording sound, and then coming back and writing and editing a video singlehandedly – takes every ounce of everything I have. And yet I somehow found a way to do that all in French, which also requires copious amounts of my brain-space and emotional mettle. (I found a way by sacrificing some technical quality to instead concentrate on solving logistical problems in my non-native language. I’m okay with that.)

I’ve still got a lot of work to do on this particular project, which calls for a 3-minute and 1-minute version as well as the longer one. So maybe I should beware the evil eye and shut up about it…

But before I do, here’s a virtual toast to a weekend well-deserved. (Even if you didn’t work your butt off this week, I bet you made a superhuman effort not to implode emotionally while reading the news, and that is also worthy of acknowledgement.)

And here’s some news that will make you feel neither disrespected, degraded, disgusted, depressed, nor disappointed! (At least I sincerely hope not.)

How do you say “butt dial” in Yiddish? Updating a thousand year-old language’s words.

“The concept of authenticity is much over-hyped these days, and it seems to me a sad state of affairs that it’s something we need to cultivate — as if being authentic is just another act. A few weeks ago, I came across a term online that stopped me in my tracks: identity fatigue. We are getting tired, it seems, of creating and fashioning our personas in a world filled with personas. We’re confusing persona with personal life.” – Dani Shapiro on authenticity.

‘Th’ sound to vanish from English language by 2066 because of multiculturalism, say linguists

How to plan your trip using Google

What happens to languages that you understood as a kid but then forgot? Are they truly lost?

Passez un bon week-end!

a French first

on a boat.jpg

Back from Benin! Four days of my week there – Tuesday through Friday – were spent on a boat, during which time I experienced no sea-sickness… until I was on solid land. Just a few minutes after I stepped into my hotel room on Thursday evening, I started feeling the odd sensation that I was still out on the water. My head was swimming back and forth and I couldn’t get my balance. I’d be fine one minute, and gripped by wooziness the next. I figured it was dehydration, so I drank a lot of water, went to bed, and felt fine the next day.

But then last night, after the longest day on the boat yet, the swaying got worse. I almost fell over in the shower. My head started lolling back and forth of its own accord. I met a French friend of a friend for dinner and when I told him how weird I felt he nodded knowingly and pronounced, “Ah, oui, mal de terre.” Apparently, mal de terre is the flip-side of mal de mer, but with the same general sense of malaise. It happens after you spend a lot of time at sea and then return to earth. I guess my brain is confused about whether it is still out there on the waves or not. More than 24 hours after I got off the boat for the last time, and all the way back in Dakar, I am still swaying from side to side and feeling not exactly nauseous, but nevertheless pretty icky.

Anyway, the silver lining here is that I do not know any actual English word or phrase for “land-sickness,” so mal de terre is the very first French that I have ever learned before its English equivalent. I find great pleasure in that, despite the condition itself being not at all pleasurable. (I also enjoy the fact that mal de mer and mal de terre are so personifiable – I’m imagining them as Oompa Loompa-like twins whose rhyming names make them seem charming but who are actually malicious little imps.)

More once my head stops spinning…