Searching for the Right Frequency
Synopsis: a piece on language barriers at the Power House, and how we sometimes don’t notice how differences in speech can leave room for a lot of misunderstanding. Yet, all of that can be a catalyst for insight into a person and community, and allow for an immense sense of gratitude to arise.
The Sotho-Setswana Switch
It’s been two months since I’ve been here, in the land of Tara Rokpa, the land that holds the 1000 year vision of Chöje Akong Tulku Rinpoche. The first two weeks were very exciting; I was getting to explore a whole different side of life that I’m not so familiar with. Being a Jo’burg, ‘Sotho’ speaking young black woman can have its disadvantages when trying to communicate with the residents here. Yes, to some degree Jo’burg Sotho and North West Setswana have similarities.
But the differences leave my brain scrambling for the YFM FM frequency at 95.9 MHz, while in the North West, static I tell you that’s all you pick up.
You set your favourite radio stations so that you don’t have to manually search for them everyday while you drive. Simply press a number for the desired station and voila, Bob’s your uncle. Now, while you are in Johannesburg it makes sense, it gets a bit more complicated when you cross provincial borders, because then comes the admin that comes from the switch; manually finding the frequency of your favourite station.
When I used to drive to work with my mom during my varsity days, I would hear the switch, and I’d know we’d crossed over into Pretoria where Metro FM wasn’t 96.4MHz. At 96.4MHz all I heard was static. The next channel had already been set to 92.4MHz, and she can simply switch to her scheduled show without missing a beat.
With language, things can be similar. We all have different preferences and tune our settings according to them. Why not? It is part of our daily routine, and it is important for us to surround ourselves with what is familiar so that we can feel comfortable.
Now what happens when ‘the switch’ becomes our daily reality? When he channels we have set only pick up static. When you press number 1, static, number 2 all the way through to six, no matter what number you press, all you pick up is static.
I think this is the time I must rely on the manual setting, and create a completely new channel system. The settings previously implemented won’t work because the frequencies are not set to frequencies in the North West.
Resetting the Radio Channels
My communication has been like manually finding my favourite radio station and resetting the channels. There is a lot of static, and in some instances, I am relieved at the somewhat audible sounds. Then I stay on that frequency for as long as I can, and that’s when I can hear the similarities when people talk Setswana, and my half-baked Jo’burg Sotho lets it be known that I am now out of my depth. Static again, I have lost the frequency.
Most times I remain silent. Reading the body language of the individual in a group, and while having a two-way conversation. I guess that bolsters my hearing by about 2.5% and it steadily increases with time. It’s has been a bit tough, I won’t lie, to not be able to relate to others as my goofy, laid-back, and charismatic self. I understand that all of this is necessary, because it’s another part of me that I look forward to discovering, and possibly changing.
Reaping the Rewards
With that being said, although it is a struggle, the rewards far out-weigh the disadvantages. I know, I just rambled a whole tapestry about the ‘negatives’ but it’s simply what I’ve felt and experienced.
I usually don’t believe in good or bad, I believe in the existence of things organically without placing my own value or definition.
‘Organic’ is another synonym for my experience here. I have met one of the most insightful, peaceful, loving, understanding, and accommodating people. Lebuamang for instance, is impeccable at communicating what is on her mind. She has this confidence in what she says, and it comes so natural that she isn’t even aware when she is doing it. It’s second nature, it’s part of her speech, her vocabulary, and it all shows her essence. Raw, uncut, straight from the source, no nonsense or the boring stuff in between. But what you see, is not what you get.
There is a side of her she will let no one explore. It comes out briefly in conversation, but then is unnoticeably excused with a conversation changer. I see that part of me in her. Especially now more than ever.
I have a side that only I know. No one has seen that side, and that’s because it’s so precious, so valuable, so vulnerable, so deeply entrenched, that I guard it with all I have. It’s not because I don’t enjoy sharing myself with others, but purely because I feel that there are some things that are reserved for only myself, and no one else. Lebuamang’s reason may be different to mine, who knows but her.
Then there is Jackson. Jackson is a thirty year-old man that has the highest respect and love for nature, people, and himself. His love for people led him to a spiritual journey to the Zion Christian Church. He is the secretary of the highest priest in his church. His devotion for people is also seen in his role on the committee that governs Rietvaly. He is enthusiastic about helping, and setting a good example to the children that run in the streets of Rietvaly. I can take it as far as to say that they are part of the reason he has chosen to stand up for his community, and make a difference. He is the one that I have spent the most time with, and he has shown me what it means to be brave. To be aggressive in what you believe in.
Finally, Pricilla. As the name may (or may not depending on the individual) suggests, she takes no nonsense. Pricilla has the attitude, demeanor, and physical appearance of a young school head-mistress. Whom, to your confusion, gives the impression that she’s already had forty years worth of experience in the schooling system, shaping young minds. Like she has been the head-mistress for over five schools, and she knows all the tricks, schemes and mayhem people try to cause. Nothing goes past her! Not even a single cent (she is especially virtuous with numbers).
When you first meet her, your first instinct is to show respect. Her gaze pierces right through your soul and she sees you for exactly who you are.
The Power House
These are the members of Power House that have made my stay here at Tara Rokpa worth it. Engaging with the youth from different region to my own has been nothing short of spectacular. And this is only the beginning! I am excited to see what comes next, once I have reset my language frequency to the correct station, when there isn’t static. Only the perfectly audible personalities of the individuals that run Power House, and those that are touched by it. Only love, light, and making dreams come true. I feel very privileged to witness such greatness, such beauty in a place, and it’s people.
“Re bana ba Mmobu”
We are children of the soil