The recorded ramblings of an unschooled writer, aspiring biologist, amateur equestrian, ardent bookworm, avid music appreciator, increasingly addicted runner and college student spending the summer in Ely, MN.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

We are not white chickens.

Hatuitwi kuku weupe (We are not white chickens).

Swahilli classes so far are overwhelming but enjoyable. The sheer amount of information we are expected to retain quickly is enormous, but I’m kind of enjoying the challenge.

I started off this morning for the first session in Julius’s class with Rachel, Kai, Mara, Anton, Heather and Natalie. Julius is a very jolly Keynan man, perhaps in his early 30s, with a wide infectious smile, despite the fact that his two front teeth are missing. He was dressed in a very nice white button down shirt, belt and slacks and I think the rest of us all felt a little underdressed in our strange collection of safari clothes! We spent the morning learning the basic questions, answers and phrases that compose the way Kenyans tend to greet one another. The nice thing about this is that it is kind of formulaic and Kenyans are typically very polite, so it is entirely socially acceptable and even expected to answer just about any question with “nzuri” (good), “salama” (peaceful) or “njemba” (fine) – so you can always answer without worry even if you haven’t a clue about what was really asked.

The second session of Swahili was with Ruth and the same bunch of LC students. Ruth is tall and elegant and has a way of making everyone laugh at themselves when the inevitable mistakes occur. She started and ended the session by making us write out a conversation using everything we could remember and then reading it out loud to the rest of the class so she could give us help with our pronunciation. I thought it was a really useful exercise and it really made me understand what I knew pretty well already and what I need to work on and study extra.

After an hour and fifteen minute break for lunch at the guest house, we had a 3rd two hour session with the head instructor, Rose as our teacher. We learned more verbs and learned about attatching different prefixes to the verbs depending on the subject. For example to say “My name is Bob” you would say “Ninaitwa Bob” but to say “his name his Bob” you would say “Anaitwa Bob”. Or “I sleep a lot” is “Ninalala sana” but “you all sleep a lot” is “Mnalala sana”. Swahili to me seems like such a happy sounding language.

After classes I went for a swim and did some laps to try to comabt the lack of exercise problem that is existing far. That shows how desperate I am for some activity – I HATE swimming laps, but I found that I almost enjoyed it today. I am starting to feel a bit too full of anxious energy because I am not as crazily active as normal. As a result I’ve been chewing my fingernails way too much!

Rachel and I had another adventure wandering Nairobi today trying to find something remotely index card like in order to make flashcards in order to study our Kiswahili vocabulary. The highlight was a man walking up to Rachel and asking her if she would like to “Come into with him”…. Meaning would she like a taxi ride. It was quite amusing. Traffic is crazy and terrifying. If I die here it will be by being run over by a vehicle, not because of a strange tropical disease. Or it could be from electrocution as there are many downed power lines to be discovered as I wander the streets with the other students. But don’t worry I am being very careful about avoiding downed lines and am making always sure to look to the left (not the right – traffic runs the opposite direction from home) for my last glance before I cross the street.

Then as a group we all went out to dinner at an Indian restaurant. It was very fun – though I kept being encouraged to eat more… I think I am seeing that shape of what is to come during life in Kenya, haha. Now if I could only get out for a good long run, I would be able to impress everyone with my amazing eating abilities, but alas it is not to be. But still I enjoyed the very nice vegetable dish, naan bread, rice and fruit salad for desert. I also had fantastic passion juice with my dinner (not called “passion juice” when ordering but simply referred to as “passion”, as in “Yes, I would like a large glass of passion please”, haha).

I can’t wait to see what tomorrow has in store. I’ve already learned so much and I haven’t even been here close to a week yet!

-Hill

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