Depaysement

Depaysement

In an age where everything is so accessible, I want to learn and memorize new words. I want to scour the literary lands and find the punctual vocabulary to describe life’s many phenomena.

And when I fill up my brain, I’ll have to go further: I’ll have to learn another language to catch the nuances of living. I’ll need to live in new places to experience more sensations to describe the nuances of living.

Thankfully, I am already abroad. Here in Nairobi, Kenya, I found a this NPR article on foreign words that are difficult to translate. Swahili made it in the list for Pamoja, a word that transcends the definition of unity. Meanwhile, I smirk at the French word Dépaysement which describes the particular feeling of not being in one’s country.

As you ease into a foreign country and lose that sense of dépaysement, you pick up on colloquialisms, pronunciations, and terms locals may use to talk about you unknowingly. The catch-all phrase for foreigner is Muzungu, but I’ve heard different definitions: that it only applies to the British people, or it can be used for all whites. Either way, my Kiswahili professor said the word literately translates as “aimless wanderer.” He said it originates from villagers seeing Christian missionaries travel across the land, mistaking one white man from the last—thinking that all of them was one, lost person. Interestingly, muzungu stems from the verb kuzungumza which literally means “to talk,” but connotes a blabber mouth.

So ramble on.

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