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7/30/09 Well, that's the world

During lunch, my host mom and I were sharing the problems that we've both run into this week. I got my backpack stolen off a transit. Her oldest son was in a bike accident and shredded big patches of skin. I'm being condemned by neighbors for involving the widely-shunned gendarmes in my efforts to get my stuff back. Her second son poked a finger in a flour mill to "see what would happen" and lost part of said finger, plus refuses to go to the doctor. Etc. It's been a rough week.

After lunch, she rattled off our mutual lists of misfortune while nursing Baby M'Barak. At the end, she murmur, "Problems, problems..."

I chimed in, "There are always problems." (I know, this doesn't sound like me - and it isn't like me. I'm just feeling disheartened lately.)

She shook her head. "No. Not always. Sometimes, everything is going well, and then other times, there are problems. Sometimes, people laugh; sometimes, people cry." I suddenly remembered Ecclesiastes 3 (or The Byrds, depending on your frame of reference): To every thing there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven...a time to laugh, a time to cry...

She continued, "That's dunit. Sometimes good, sometimes bad. Sometimes happy, sometimes sad. It's not all just one thing. It's dunit."

I sat there nodding, feigning comprehension, spinning through possible meanings of dunit. I remembered learning the word...but what did it mean?? A near-homonym, d-dunnit, means they will come to it, but obviously that's not what she meant. Dunit, dunit, dunit...I tried to joggle the memory out of whatever crevice it was wedged into, in my cluttered attic of a memory, but without luck.

I grumpily (but silently) reflected that one of the things in my backpack was my Tamazight notebook. Every word of Tam I've learned or studied is in there...wherever that may be. Dunit is in there, I'm sure of it. But what does it mean???

When I got home, I dug out my Tam-English Dictionary. It's not comprehensive and includes lots of words from Tasuseit, the southern variation of the Tashelheit dialect, so I rarely use it...but it's all I've got at the moment. Flipping it open, I remembered why I'd let it fall into disuse: because Tam is an oral language, not a written one, there are a dozen possible "spellings" for any word. I looked for dunit, dnt [since short vowels are often dropped], dunnit, doont...I finally found it as ddunit - world; Earth; planet; universe.

That was the piece it took to dislodge my stuck memory. World! Of course! I'd learned the word when preparing for Earth Day last year. I usually use the Arabic word 3lm instead of the Tam word dunit, which is why I'd let myself forget it, but they mean the same.

Reflecting back on my conversation with Ama, I realized that I've just discovered the equivalent idiom for English's "That's life" - It's the world.


  1. Sorry that you and Ama are having a rough week. Better ones will follow.

  2. I'm glad that Blogspot's working, though. That's something. Hopefully your package makes it to you soon and you like the goodies in there.

  3. Liz,

    Hope tomorrow will be better.

    And I really enjoy your blog. Every time I see a new entry i'm cheered up!

    Fatima's mom


Think local. Act global. Learn more about the Peace Corps