Budapest Chronicles, Series

Budapest Chronicles: Language Disabilities!!

By Brian Friday Bwesigye

Ever since I started my three or so hours a day internship at the Mental Disability Advocacy Center (MDAC) Budapest, life has become one long 'routinised' process. When the hours spent at MDAC are added to those spent in class, and those spent doing assignments that have razor-sharp deadlines, the days of the week become a long continuum of suffering! I no longer enjoy sleepless nights online. 10 pm is now 'late' for bed-time! 2012 has brought the tiring 'normalcy' to my life!

One of the evenings when I am nothing but a bunch of tiredness, returning from class with this bag that has lost its arms in my hands, my stomach grumbling for a bite, I give in to the demand to check in at a fast foods joint. From McDonald's, through Kentucky Fried Chicken to Burger King, Budapest has enough fast food joints! McDonald's it is. Standing at the counter after ordering some French fries and chicken nuggets, someone taps my shoulder.

Wondering who it is, thinking it is a fellow Central European university student, I turn. She smiles so broadly, I can't stop my lips from returning a grin for her munificent smile. She says some things but I can't figure out what she is saying. I do not understand French but I know it when I hear it. Just like now. French words are a whale in a desert to my mouth; I have nothing to say in return. She tries to gesture to make the moment less awkward but I can't figure out what she is saying. Embarrassed, I stand still looking at her, frustrated by my deaf and dumb moment! Then she points at the counter and I turn to realize that my food package has been hanging off the hand of the waitress for moments!

I pick the package and as I turn to go, I give her my hand, hoping for at least a handshake, to save myself from the embarrassment of being unable to communicate with a rare dark-skinned beauty in a foreign land! She comes close and I see her shoulder surging forward, her chest following and I give myself up for the hug! It is brief though and we wave at each other like two mutes reduced to using an unfamiliar sign language to communicate.

As I stand on the bus-stop waiting for a bus to take me home, my mind stagnates at the McDonald's counter. Images of her full body start conjuring in my mind. I start making up her legs, although I had in my embarrassment not looked lower than the hips! The touch of her breasts on my bony chest starts replaying itself in the mind. The bus comes and I board. Seated in the bus, the movement does not take my mind away; I am still at the fast foods joint.

I reach the residence center, disembark, head to my room, spread the food on a plate and as I eat, the mind resists any distraction from the awkwardness of the strange meeting! But somehow I manage to think beyond the gaffe. Ever since I arrived here, I have seen more dark-skinned people than I expected to see before coming. Beyond my classmates and others who study from Central European University, I have seen some black people on the metro. At least in three days, I see one black person in the city, walking, at a fast foods joint, on the metro and in other ways. Most times, these people wave at me. I wave back of course. They never stop for us to talk; it is just that small wave that I have come to expect. Probably, could it go beyond the wave, I would have had more awkward moments with them. Probably not, because all of them have been male, but who knows?

Not all the black males however bother to wave. One such I saw while walking from the university past St. Stephen's Basilica. Used to the waving, I kept looking at him expecting the wave, but I later realized I was wasting time waiting for a wave that was not going to come; I resumed my fast walking pace. I blamed it on the fact that he was walking hand in hand with a lady of a different skin-color and moved on.

Back to the eating of chicken nuggets and the disability of language, I remember a conversation I had some time back with an African friend who lives in London and was joking about the fact that many of his English friends find it hard to talk behind his back because they have no other language than English, their native, official and national language. Because he has been educated in English, he can speak and hear it thus he can figure out all they are saying, whereas whenever he feels like backbiting them with a kinsman of his at their university, he just switches to their native language. Of course when he was telling me the story, I could not imagine myself disabled by the language barrier, but here I was with a nagging regret of my not being able to communicate to a sister because we speak different languages!!!

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