adrian is rad


q x c

Filed under: — adrian @ 11:14 am

So there are three click sounds in Zulu and I’ve been practicing them quite hard. Today while trying to master two words, Abaqophi (the shortened name [1] of the radio project, I believe this is “recorders”) and uxolo, meaning “excuse me”. A Zulu guy was trying to explain the q click sound: “It’s the sound you make when you call a chicken.” “Uh…I’ve never called a chicken.” I’ve previously heard the x sound described as the sound one makes to call a horse. I feel like the average American may have problems relating to these descriptions.

Well, I’ll try to describe them a little more clearly. C is the sound you may make if you’re tsk tsk tsking someone. Back of the tongue is anchored on the molars and the front pulls down fairly softly right behind the front teeth. It’s fairly high pitched and has a bit of a ‘wet’ sound. Q is the sound you make if you place your tongue flat against the roof of your mouth behind your teeth and then pull down quite strongly, but don’t smack your tongue against the bottom of your mouth. It’s quite a strong, low and open. X is perhaps the trickiest for me. Anchor the front (on the palate behind the teeth) and back (on the molars) of the tongue and pull down with one side. It’s not a clean ‘click’ but it’s cleaner than the c sound. It’s medium pitch, a fairly percussive beginning and a ‘wet’ middle.

One final note: these sounds can have a n sound to them (nx nc nq), but in their purest form have no n sound to them. This is the trickiest part of their pronunciation to me. Alright? Got it?

A few days ago Colin pointed out that there would be a race between a carrier pigeon and the ADSL of Telekom, SA’s (formerly?) national telecom company. The task would be to transfer 4GB of data between computers 50 miles apart. I told Colin that I’d be betting on the pigeon. Well, I would have done well if I’d bet money:

[The] 11-month-old pigeon, Winston, took one hour and eight minutes to fly the 80 km (50 miles) from Unlimited IT’s offices near Pietermaritzburg to the coastal city of Durban with a data card was strapped to his leg.

Including downloading, the transfer took two hours, six minutes and 57 seconds — the time it took for only four percent of the data to be transferred using a Telkom line.

Wow–that’s pathetic.

The line between hitchhiking and public transportation here is quite blurred. Public transportation, as I’ve mentioned consists of ‘minibus taxis’ which you flag down when you want to get on and get off where you want, paying a fair for the distance in between. Except in Ingwavuma, these aren’t just minibuses[2]. They’re pick-ups with benches in the back, SUVs and, this evening, a sedan. So basically the only difference between this evening and hitchhiking is that I paid the guy about a dollar.


Above are the aforementioned potpits in the road between Bhambanana and Ingwavuma. Shown are somewhat benign examples. For a sense of scale, the one in front is about 2.5 feet across.

The day after last Thursday’s soccer game, I felt fine. First thing into Monday’s game, I pulled—maybe tore—my quad. It’s fine when walking around but the first steps of running, it hurts like crazy. I’d better be careful about it.

The power went out this morning so I couldn’t heat water for my bucket shower. I ended up taking a cold half-shower and with yesterday’s temperature dip, I was shivering the whole time. And yet, still, there is something about life here that draws you in. I’ve met a number of people here who came here for a year and are still here three years later. I wondered how that could happen, but yesterday and today I’ve been wondering to myself if I couldn’t postpone my return to Cape Town a few more days, a week, maybe.

[1] Abaqophi basOkhayeni Abaqinile is the full name–the Strong Recorders of Ohkayeni; Ohkayeni is the primary school where the program is based.

[2] In Cape Town they are strictly minibuses and run quite regular routes and do generally work more like buses. The locals both here and in Cape Town just call them ‘taxis’ or ‘public transportation’.

One Response to “q x c”

  1. Natalie Says:

    Somehow, I know the difference between clucking to call a chicken and to call a horse. I blame either growing up outside Harrisburg or the fact that I was obsessed with horses as a kid. Weird.

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