One of the dangers of lingering around in expat circles – besides having to explain for the thousandth time where you’re from and how you ended up in Haarlem and being drunk all the time – is that you get accustomed to the idea that English is this funny language of weird accents, a very limited set of words and badly constructed sentences. Of course we all do our bests, but almost all non-native speakers, including myself, struggle as we go along, trying to make ourselves understood.
To outweigh this almost constant exposure to expEnglish I like to listen to This American Life, a weekly public radio show from Chicago. They offer great stories that fit a weekly theme, told to you by a selection of the finest radio journalists. Of course it’s all being offered on their website and you can subscribe to their podcast to never miss an edition. You should definitely check it out.
Only recently I came across a spinoff show of TAL. One of my favorite contributors, Sarah Koenig, produced and hosted this podcast, completely downloadable. Serial tells one story, split up in 12 episodes, that evolves around the murder of Hae Min Lee in 1999 and her supposed killer, Adnan Syed, who has been in prison ever since. Fifteen years later Sarah and her team revisit the evidence, go over the trial again and talk to almost everyone who was involved at the time, including Adnan himself. They try to reconstruct who did what, when and where.
Or, as she puts it in the first minute of the first episode:
“For the last year, I have spent every working day trying to figure out where a high school kid was for an hour after school one day in 1999.”
Once you start listening to Serial, or at least that’s how it worked for me, you cannot stop. To start with, the story is really intriguing. There’s this guy in jail, who seems nice and all (we hear him speaking to Sarah on the phone) and the victim of some terrible mix-up. There are things that don’t add up, testimonies that don’t make sense.
There’s the Nisha call. Jay’s deal. Leakin Park.
All this is brilliantly narrated by Sarah Koenig, whose voice is supple, elegant and lively with just tiny vocal-fried raffles to it, to whom I could listen for hours on end. In fact, that’s exactly what I did. For a week or so every available moment you could find me with earphones on, wishing my commute was just a bit longer so I could hang for just a bit more.
If this sounds all too familiair to you, you’re in already. If it doesn’t, you should get in soon.
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