Friend and science fiction author David D. Levine blogged on 29-Dec-2014 about his wife Kate Yule's "Journey" into Cancerland. Kate, who is adept at learning new languages, had recently undergone a craniotomy for a malignant brain tumor and is now dealing with aphasia. David gave me permission to share what he wrote.
She has landed in a country she never intended to visit, on a flight she does not even remember having boarded.
She is an experienced traveler. Frequent flyer, passport full of stamps, culinarily adventurous, multilingual. Learning foreign languages is what she does for fun. She is not ready to be here.
It was a rough landing. She is still trembling.
She has not done her research — places to stay, things to do, people to see. This is very much unlike her. But the computers here are strange, incomprehensible. The keyboard is subtly different; it looks the same, but when she places her fingers on the keys she cannot even type her name. Her Google searches are redirected to a localized version.
The language barrier is the worst part. She can understand the people and the signage, mostly, but none of them seem to comprehend English. Instead, she must try to speak a language she has never studied — a language with strange grammar and inexplicable lacunae, lacking words for many common things. How could you not have a word for — ?
Her husband, her flying partner, is with her, which is a comfort. But though he is patient and helpful, he too must be addressed in the local language. Their friends sometimes travel here for a visit, but they share the same communication barrier and they depart far too soon.
This is an expensive place to visit, she knows. Fortunately this is not a problem for her. She is keenly aware that many others would be financially destroyed by this journey. They stay in the nicest hotels. The food is sometimes terrible.
They visit the American consulate every day. The staff are friendly, considerate, polite, helpful… but they cannot give her what she needs, which is a visa to return home. So sorry. Sign this form, sit here, take this pill. Maybe in a few weeks. The local government is difficult, fickle, intractable. Many travelers do not return.
She comes back again the next day, and the next.
She works to learn the language.
There is yet hope.