Some time during the eighth grade, Mom bought me a copy of Hugo's Norwegian
. She got me the book because Dad had often spoken of his
mother's Nordic heritage & I saw the book as a chance to figure something
else out: who I was.
As I was learning Norwegian, I noticed how much it resembled
English. It was the beginning of my interest in linguistics. I wanted to hear radio programs from distant places, and I knew this only happened on shortwave radio, about which I knew basically
So I pestered my father some more and eventually he sprung some of his hard-earned cash for a brand
new Hallicrafter's S38E radio.
One of the first stations that I heard was Radio Australia,
which I discovered one morning while Dad was getting ready
for work. At the time, Radio Australia started its transmission with a
bell chime version of "Marching Matilda." I had heard the song many times
see, back when I was a very small child, my father would sit me on his
knee and sing "Waltzing Matilda" to me. At points in the song he would
explain the different words. Swagman. Billabong. Kulibar trees. He also
talked to me in a language that he had picked
up during the war on the Soloman islands. The language
was Tok Pijin. But more about that later.
I got a lot out of that radio. I tuned in to Radio Havana and the
Deutsche Welle, Radio Moscow and the Voice of America. I learned about
languages that I had never known existed. I got preachments on every political
system imaginable, and from a variety of viewpoints.
By the time I was off to college, while
my friends were trying to understand Karl Marx from classroom lectures, I already understood him. I'd
listened to Fidel's speeches and Joe Adamov's explanations of Soviet society on Radio Moscow.
my youngest son and I were sitting in the living room, listening to my
modern, much more portable Sony ICF7600 receiver. It was morning and the
conditions were perfect for listening to Radio Australia, which I found
easily enough . . . transmitting their program in Tok Pijin.
felt as if my father were there in the early morning light of the living
room, with me again. I could hear his voice singing "Waltzing Matilda"
softly in the room around me . . . which leads to the next page.