This is a short story about two things: the moon and learning languages.
When I met Arvid’s mom for the first time, she told me of how she would look at the moon when her children were away from home. If Anna was in the States, or Mia was in Switzerland, or Arvid was in France, mamma Eva knew that they were all looking at the same moon. It brought her a sense of closeness when there was an empty nest, she said.
And she encouraged Arvid and I to do the same when we were apart. So we did just that. Whether we were between Ft. Lauderdale and Cape Town or St. Maarten and Rio de Janeiro, we looked at the moon and felt we were right next to each other. One evening while I was working on a boat in Tanzania, I went out onto the helipad to look up at the moon.
At the time, we were serving high profile guests and were only allowed to ‘speak when spoken to’ but otherwise ‘just serve’. That night, one of the older, wiser of our guests had followed me out onto the helipad and stood next to me as I looked up at the moon. “Bianca,” he said, “Do you have a boyfriend?”
“Where’s he from?”
“Ah. Are you learning Swedish?”
“Yes,” I replied. “But I’ve never been very good with languages boss.”
And then one of the most wonderful things I’ve ever heard:
“Bianca, remember that love inspires motivation in us.”
And then he stepped off.
One thing that makes South Africans less worldly than — for argument’s sake — Europeans is how many (usable) languages we learn when we’re growing up. A few of us learn French/Spanish and the rest of us end up saddled with Afrikaans. Admittedly, I was one of those who studied Afrikaans until final year school (but wouldn’t dare speak it), attempted and failed French at University, and sign-languaged my way through France with the odd “en sac s’il vous plait” (a bag please).
Have South Africans ever considered how linguistically short we really are?
It’s only when you’re abroad that it becomes obvious. For example, my old captain Swiss Chris spoke English, German and French fluently and as an aside, Italian pretty darn well. South Africans need to learn more languages. It makes us more desirable as workers living in foreign countries, it makes us more interesting and more worldly.
So that’s the story of why I started learning Swedish: because of love. Love inspires motivation in us.
Later blog posts on how I learn Swedish and (cringe) why I’m not yet fluent.
Oh! And talking of Arvid’s mom: a happy, happy 60th birthday to you mamma Eva! Grattis på födelsedagen! We celebrated with her last night at castle Örenäs Slott, ate julbord (Christmas dinner) until we popped, danced 70’s style and stayed the night. What a spoil!