August 4, 2016

nyoka - learn your swahili

i've got a swahili instructor that comes to the office once a week when i am in town for a 30 minute session.  she's a proper teacher so she wants me to learn verb conjugation and grammar.  fair enough, but i find it really, really hard to shut down the analytical management part of my brain and fire up the learning center so i usually just stare like a deer in headlights and we haven't gotten very far.  she suggests two or three classes per week.

also, i just need some basics to get around - like how much? where? when?  instead of learning 'hello sir, how are you today?' 'i like your carrots very much  ' 'how much will it cost me to purchase one bag?'  when i really just need to smile and say 'shillings ngpai?'

seriously world, a smile translates into every language.

so one day last week we had some staff cleaning a room that is used regularly but mostly for storage.  i hear a scream from the other side of the building.  then a westerner who was in my office space turns to a national and says 'nyoka - that means mouse, right?' and she replies, 'no, nyoka means snake'.  in about two seconds i am standing on top of my desk shouting 'INSIDE THE BUILDING - IS IT INSIDE THE BUILDING?' and thinking that somehow i'll be protected by standing on top of my desk - and even more ironically that the staff will understand me shouting in english.  appropriate measures were taken and after some time i was able to gracefully exit the building and go home.  but, think about it, when was the last time a snake showed up INSIDE your office?  [vets excluded] it's Africa and life is raw here.

i don't know what happened to that snake and i have no picture to share but the next time my swahili teacher shows up i get aggressive about learning vocabulary instead of grammar.

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