When moving to a far away island, one often has to learn a new language. Many hours are spent behind a laptop or in a hot, smelly classroom in order to master a language that doesn’t resemble anything your ears have ever heard before. Now, the ‘learning-a-new-language’ issue isn’t as pressing when a Dutch girl, like myself, moves to a Dutch island, like Bonaire. However, the locals do appreciate it when you understand their language and I’ve therefore been trying to get the hang of their exotic idiom.
Which has been a complete and utter failure so far. I was therefore overjoyed when I met my neighbor.
Our quest for a house on Bonaire wasn’t the easiest. Houses are overprized, and there’s too many people looking for the same thing: a two-bedroom apartment with a little garden, furnished if possible. So when we received a phone call from a mutual friend who had a mother-in-law with a friend who had a house, we were stoked. A few weeks later we moved into our new home, with a shower big enough to invite all the goats on Bonaire for a soap party, and a great garden with plenty of space for my hammock.
So our neighbor, whom I was very pleased to meet, is a charming lady that wakes up every morning at 6am in order to enjoy the silence before all of her nine children and too many grandchildren bring her cottage to life. Right after the boyfriend and I moved in, this 90 year old superhero accepted the challenge of teaching us youngsters her mother tongue. And she’s been very persistent ever since. Every morning at 7:30am, when we exit our house and walk into our little garden, still sleeping, she greets us and presents us the word of today. We then repeat the word a few times, which makes all her wrinkles wrinkle to the fullest, and are not allowed to leave before we master the new word. At 5:30pm, when we return home after a day of hard work, she’s sitting in her rocking chair waiting for us to open the gate and greet her with the newly acquired word of that morning. Obviously, we fail most days, but the corners of her mouth curl into a smile and her eyes light up as we try each and every single day.
Her mother tongue, that mixture of many exotic idioms, remains a mystery to us, but we enjoy her presence so much, that we’ll never stop trying.