Thursday, May 15, 2008

We are nerds

It was just after 11 PM and we were both dog tired, but of course we had to discuss everything that we hadn't found the time to discuss yet. Our topic for this evening was the earthquake in China.

We had listened to a program on NPR about it earlier in the day when we went to pick Tiffany up. My favorite part was when they interviewed a native Chinese volunteer, asking her what kind of volunteer work she wanted to do. Her response was something like this,

"We want to go to the place...where it happened...the earth...the earthquake. And we want to help. We want to help the people. We want to save the people there. We want help the best we can save help the people."

That's exactly how I sound when I speak foreign languages!

Anyway, we were brushing our teeth last night and Andrew was showing me the region the earthquake hit on our shower curtain. That is evidence that we are nerds right there: that our shower curtain is a map of the world. He drew his finger lazily around the bulk of China, a bright green blob with cities happily dotting its breadth, probably misplaced, but it's only a shower curtain, so that's okay.

"Honey, that's like half of China..." I pointed out.

"Well, it was a big earthquake," he said.

We talked about the region it hit, then about Myanmar, since it's right below China. We talked about the differences in the governments and the aid that is being given. We warned Mongolia--if the northward trend of natural disasters continues, Mongolia is next.

And then we finished brushing our teeth. Just before we got into bed we both had questions pop into our heads. Questions so important that they could not be ignored.

"Are panda bears violent?" I asked, "I always picture them as big, fluffy, lazy, friendly guys chewing on bamboo...but they do have big claws..."

"What's the Arabic word for earthquake?" Andrew wondered aloud, "I know it's almost onomatopoeic...but I just can't think of it what it is..."

We looked at each other, then our big comfortable bed, and then at each other again. Almost on cue we both headed back into the living room.

Andrew pulled the Arabic-English dictionary off the shelf, while I flipped open the laptop.

"الزلزال! Al-zilzal!" said Andrew, "I knew that!"

I found an article on CNN describing a panda bear attack, "Yeah, they're just like any other bear, only they eat sticks instead of meat."

Only then were we able to fall asleep, our minds at ease, knowing that panda bears attack when provoked and that thousands of people died in China because of a zilzal. Now we know.


  1. As your resident panda expert, yes, they provoke when attacked, but they aren't nearly as violent as, say, a grizzly bear.

    And nerds are awesome. :)

  2. do you know, I think our upstairs bathroom at home in Italy has world maps scattered all across it as well. I knew I'd seen one recently. :) I do love a good map!
    Andrew, dumb question: the particle "Al" in Arabic - I see it all the time, and had always automatically assumed it was part of the word "Allah." That's probably not true. If it is, why is it part of so many words, and since it probably isn't, what does it mean? Just something like "the?"

  3. Bingo! It means just "has" to be there at the beginning of words for some reason. Andrew could explain it better. :P

  4. Nancy is right - it is the definite article and it is used a lot more often in Arabic than in English. It is used a lot in Italian as well. "I eat bread" in Italian is "Mangio il pane," literally "I eat the bread." It's just the way the language parses nouns. Nancy would know more about that. :)

    Regarding Allah, the al used to actually be a definite article. The semitic root for God is "ilah" (the Hebrew word for God is "Eloh"). "Al-lah" refers to "The God," but a special type of gender-neutral God that transcends all the other gods of the polytheistic pre-Arab canon of gods.

  5. I know that our government isn't perfect (who's is??) but after hearing about how the Myanmar government is handling their situation, it made me a lot grateful for our own government system.

  6. I want your shower curtain! that's awesome!