I ended up living in various people’s homes while waiting for my shipment. Our small guesthouse couldn’t accommodate all the visitors who were coming and going. After ten days, I was “farmed out” to an Austrian family. It was my first experience with Germanic people. I developed a lifelong interest in finding out how those from other cultures and lands live.
One night, they invited a German couple to dinner. There was no work for me in the kitchen, so I listened to the men converse. I was listening to them talk, understanding nothing because they were speaking German and I didn’t know the language. After ten to fifteen minutes, they realized I wasn’t taking part, so they switched to English. I inquired if they had any difficulty understanding each other since they came from different countries. “No,” they said, “We understand each other without a problem.” Then I asked if the same were true for the Swiss. The Austrian expressed his opinion, saying, “Swiss German is not a language, it is a disease of the throat!”
My host told me about his one excursion into southern Sudan. He worked in the cotton business and decided to check the quality of cotton there. He traveled overland to Juba and knew when he had crossed the Sudan border from Kenya as soon as he saw a man wearing nothing but a pair of flip-flops and carrying a bow and arrow. He found Sudanese cotton was not usable for his purposes, so he never returned. I don’t know how many years had passed since that trip, but I couldn’t get that image out of my mind. What was I getting myself into moving there?
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