new and untranslatable words, for a new and untranslatable time

pasteis de nata place in lisbon

I’ve been thinking a lot about how the Portugeuse word, “saudade,” encapsulates my emotional state during the COVID-19 pandemic — even though it is technically untranslatable. But, so is this surreal period we are living through. The fact that it defies easy English translation seems somewhat appropriate.

Wikipedia’s definition:

Saudade is a deep emotional state of nostalgic or profound melancholic longing for an absent something or someone that one cares for or loves… Moreover, it often carries a repressed knowledge that the object of longing might never be had again… It is the recollection of feelings, experiences, places, or events that once brought excitement, pleasure, and well-being, which now trigger the senses and make one experience the pain of separation from those joyous sensations.

If that doesn’t perfectly describe life in the time of coronavirus, I don’t know what does.

The Welsh word, hiraeth, is similar to saudade, I recently learned. One person describes it as:

…a combination of homesickness, longing, nostalgia, and yearning, for a home that you cannot return to, no longer exists, or maybe never was. It can also include grief or sadness for who or what you have lost, losses which make your “home” not the same as the one you remember.

Yup. I’m a bundle of saudade and hiraeth these days for sure.

Meanwhile, according to CNN, the Dutch have been fast and furiously coining new words to make sense of their novel (coronavirus) circumstances. The neologisms include huidhonger (skin-hunger) to describe a longing for human contact while in isolation, and hoestschaamte (cough shame) for a particular COVID-era genre of anxiety provoked by coughing in public and setting off a panic. The new lexicon is being collected in a coronawoordenboek — itself a new word.

Too bad I don’t know any Dutch. I’m sure that dictionary is a cathartic read.

P.S. I just looked through my Portugal pictures from 2016 to pick an image for the top of this post, and now my heart actually hurts, the saudade is overwhelming, and I’m going to bed.

12 months, 12 countries

I came to Senegal hoping I’d be lucky enough to see a bit of this country and a few others nearby. Things worked out beyond my wildest dreams, and I ended up visiting 12 new countries in 12 months, a personal record. Half the trips were for work, half for vacation, but all of them were a pleasure to see. (Though they were definitely not pleasurable at every moment, to say the least.)

I’ll share my favorite pictures from Dakar later, but first, here in one place are my travelogues from all the countries I visited from last February to this January.

Senegal: the western and northern parts, and a central / southern part

Portugal

Morocco: Marrakech and Casablanca

Liberia

Ethiopia

Tanzania: safari on the mainland and Zanzibar

South Africa: Cape Town and Johannesburg

Benin

Mauritania

Burkina Faso

The Gambia

Cape Verde: Cidade Velho, Praia, and Mindelo, and the island of Santo Antão

And with that, I’m off to the airport, America-bound…

Portugal eu te amo

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Hard to believe it’s been almost two months since I left Dakar for a vacation starting in Lisbon. Life has been moving along from one thing to the next pretty quickly, and I am only now coming up for air after a whirlwind tour of Portugal, Morocco, Liberia… and Adobe Premiere, whose depths I plumbed day in and day out for the past three weeks while working on various video deadlines.

Since those deadlines are not yet completely behind me, I’m still liable to go MIA for days at a time, but I now have a ton of stuff to post here, so I’ll try to keep up with it.

On that note, here are some many photos from Portugal. Continue reading