Mama wangu alinunua mbwa mdogo kwa mimi kwa sababu ninapenda wanyma!
(My mama bought me a little dog because I love animals!)
September 18, 2009
So, today was my last full day in Riruta Satellite! I took my final written Kiswahili exam (there is still a verbal exam to look forward to at the end of the program), and I think it went better than I was expecting. Unless, I’m way more clueless (and much more of a mzungu) than I think I am, I did ok. I’m sure I probably biffed a verb tense or five and also likely mispelled or misidentified a few adjectives here and there, but overall I’m feeling pretty good about it. The biggest mistake I can think of right now is that on the way home I realized in the “Translate from English to Kiswahili” part of the test I definitely translated the phrase “His tea has hot milk in it” as “His tea has cold milk in it”!
We also had two essay questions that had to be written in Kiswahili. I will share with you what mine was like (mostly) in English. It must be hilarious to read them all as I’m sure they all read as if they were narrated by not particularly bright four year olds.
The instructions for the final essay were to describe yourself and your life so far using all of the verb tenses we know and two words/phrases of the day. My essay read pretty much as follows:
I was born on the first of April in 1989 in the country of America, in the state of Connecticutt and the city of New Haven. When I was a few years old, my family and I moved to the state of Georgia because my dad and my mom were doing work in the city of Atlanta. We lived other places in the east of the United States too.
Later, when I was nine years old we moved to the state of Oregon because my family and I didn’t like the east part of America but we did like the west part of America. My dad bought a nyumba kubwa (big house). I liked the big house and my chyumbani za kijani (green room – green was a word of the day) a lot. My mom bought me a mbwa mdogo (little dog) because I love animals!
Today, mbwa wangu si kubwa (my dog is big)! He is called Lancelot and he is my very best friend. Right now, I miss Lancelot because he is in Oregon with my family but I am in Nairobi. I am missing him and want to see him a lot, but after Nairobi, I am going to Mombassa and Tanzania and then to the UK to see my friend called Maria Christina before I am returning to Oregon for Christmas with my family and Lancelot. I miss my family a lot too.
When I go back to my home in Oregon I will be back in my country. My country is the country of the president who says “Ndiyo tunaweza!” (“Yes we can!” – it was another word of the day). I love my country a lot but I love Kenya too. I will miss Kenya and my Kenyan friends when I go home.
Cleary, that’s the work of a future Pulitzer winner, don’t you think? Seriously though, I’m actually proud of what I have learned because I came not knowing a word of swahili beyond what I knew from obsessive viewing of “The Lion King” as a small child. The fact that I can write a narrative, no matter how simple, is pretty cool after only 50 instructional hours of swahili. Writing is one thing though, because I have time to think, so I’m pretty nervous about the three day homestays on Pemba island next week where my family won’t speak any english at all. I’m going to be saying “Polepole, tena, tafadali!” (Slower, again, please!) an awful lot.
I’m really excited to be living with a muslim family as I think Islam is a relly fasinating religon and this is a really unique opportunity to experience it first hand that few people ever get. The island where we will be living is not a tourist destination in anyway and indeed the first time the L+C students went there a couple of years ago, a good number of the members of the council of elders had serious reservations about them staying there because they were worried the students would provide a destructive influence for the younger generations. But the L+C students have proven to be very respectable and respectful (the other woman and I will all be dressed traditionally – long skirts and veils, with only faces, feet and hands showing) and the village has come to enjoy the visit, according to our history professor, David Sperling.
It is going to be so different than anything I have ever experienced. He told us today that two of us would be staying with the Imam’s (muslim leader of prayer) family, but that we would be living in different houses as one would be living in one wife’s house and the other in the second wife’s house. Its going to be weird to have to think about always letting the men in the group go first, sit at the front of the group, take food first, etc. buy I’m sure I will learn a lot. We are also going to have the opportunity to visit a mosque and learn the ritual routines and maybe a bit of the prayers too.
He also said that he expected with a group of so many girls going that he expected at least three marriage proposals before the week was out! Professor Clifton found the section in one of our readings about Islam that translates a passage from the Qoran into english about how Muslim men are not allowed to marry women who are not themselves muslim or other “people of the book” (Jews or Christians). He jokingly informed us he would translate the “marrying infidels is not allowed” verse into kiswhili for us to write down and memorize on the eight hour bus ride to Mombasa. He also shared with us his two absolute rules for particpants on the program. Rule #1 – No dying. Rule #2 – No getting married. Those seem pretty reasonable to me!
My host family has been so sweet to me on my last day! Baba came home from work bringing me a bright red t-shirt with the Kenyan flag embroidered HUGE-ly across the front of it. It absolutely screams MZUNGU as if it were printed in flashing neon letters across the front of it, but nontheless I love it.
Mama gave me a black sweater that is very pretty and was hers but doesn’t really fit her anymore and then presented me with two very african necklaces to take home to my mother because she says that I have talked so much about her she feels like my mom is part of the family too and wants to give her a present, one mama to another. She really, really wants to meet my mom if ever my mom travels to Nairobi (which I think will happen just as soon as Hell freezes over or my mom because a fan of the U of O Ducks).
My swahlli exam today was two hours long, but quite a few of us finished within the first hour so I was able to go home for a quiet lunch of ugali, salad and cooked cabbage all alone with mama while the kids were out at school. It was very nice and she told me how sad she was that I was leaving and wouldn’t be around next weekend because she will be celebrating her 30th birthday next weekend and is going out to all the clubs with her sister to get drunk and she thinks that I would be very fun to have along on such an adventure, haha! Mama was quite the wild woman in her day, it sounds like and she was very diasppointed in my when I confessed that clubbing was not a routine part of my social life, I have no one interested in dating me back home and no potential dates within the Lewis and Clark group. When I told her that I considered the guys on the program to be more like brothers and that most of them have girlfriends back home anyways, she told me that she didn’t see a problem with that as most university girls in Kenya consider boyfriend stealing to be a sport!
At this point, she of course started in again on how that “young man who walked you to the door last week is a nice looking fellow except for his bad hair that makes him look like Jesus” (poor Zach!). When I then informed her that children in the Ngong Hills last Saturday really did call Zach “Jesus”, she laughed so hard that she forgot about her need to lecture me more about men and dating and I was quite relieved! She can be very persistant.
Mama also told me about all of her favorite television shows. They are Desperate Housewives, Big Brother Africa, Prison Break, 24 and most of all the Australian soap opera, Neighbors. I am not exaggerating even the slightest bit when I tell you that Neighbors has been on the air literally longer than I have been alive, possibly even before my parents met each other. Also, somewhat distressing was last week after mama had looked at my photos from home she had to point out that one of the supporting actors on that show bears an alarming resemblance to my friend Bryan, down to the mannerisms the actor used. I don’t think that I would have made that connection on my own, but after she pointed it out, it really kind of freaked me out a little bit!
She also told me about her plans to open her own business, a small beauty shop, this upcoming Januray. I am very excited for her and hope all works out according to plan!
After lunch, mama and I went to pick up the dress she had made for me to wear to the goodbye party tomorrow. The skirt is beautiful and I think looks very nice, but unfortuntaely the shirt really accentuates the fact that I have the world’s shortest torso and makes me appear as if I have no waist and am really chubby – in other words, totally accentuates that good old east africa weight gain. Ugh – maybe I can get away with a sweater over the top? Really though, I am so thrilled and thankful that she did that for me. The skirt is something that I will have and treasure for the rest of my life and I will always remember mama’s kindness and openheartedness towards me, a mgeni (stranger/guest) mzungu. It is beautifully made and it is hard to believe it was made by a hand in the stall on the side of the road by a single woman using a foot pedal (non electric) sewing machine. We also got a matching pair of Masaai sandals beaded to go with it. My mama is so excited for me to wear it and made me try it on right away. Mercy the housegirl thought it was “very smart” and Mama thinks I may end up with a boyfriend yet, haha.
I feel a little silly wearing it because the pattern is bold and beautiful and bright and very, very African and I’m not exotic looking enough in anway at all to really pull it off and do it justice the way a tall, slender and regal African woman could, but I will try my very best!
The history lecture tonight was more about Islam which was very interesting and I’m embarrassed to admit that I kept almost dosing off because I slept in very fitful twenty minute increments last night because I was so worried about the swahili exam! (Rachel confessed that she too hardly slept last night, but to her credit she appeared to be much more alert than I during the nearly 3 hours of history lecture that occoured.)
Ready to cuddle with the fleas one last time as I’m pretty exhausted! I promise there will be pictures of the skirt ASAP!