Tuesday, 17 July 2012

"WANJI?"


Habari zeno! I have finished my fourth week here at Omwabini and my 11th week in Africa. How time flies! On the 23rd I will be leaving on my two-day journey home. Oddly enough, I am looking forward to the four flights and the numerous hours that I will have to just think and process. My time here has been one continuous learning curve with little to no time to reflect. I look forward to what I will learn during that time.


Today was a typical day at school. It began with the nurse coming to see me, wondering why I had not shown up at school yet. I think that my fainting spell scared the wits out of her so when I was 5 minutes late, she flew to ensure that I was still breathing.


After assuring Joanne that I was on the mend and, in fact, was breathing just fine on my own thank you very much, I hightailed it to the staff room. I brought along my trusty Bible, journal, handy piece of chalk, pen, and the book that I had just started reading. I have learned in my short time in Africa to always bring something to do or to occupy your time with - no matter where you go.  You never know when you will be sitting for hours with nothing to do. 


Today proved to be very typical. I greeted everyone I came across with the expected "Habari" and handshake, stopping for short conversations as I made my way to the staff room. Once I had greeted all my fellow teachers, I then proceeded to sit down and talk to those sitting around me. It is seen as bad manners (not so much from the whites because such behaviour is expected) to not greet everyone you come across. As soon as I learned this in one of my conversations, I have endeavored to always shake the hand of everyone in the room (unless of course the number is just too impractical). Unlike our western culture where it is considered rude to interrupt someone who is in the middle of something in order to greet them, here in Kenya, greeting is of utmost importance and, when your presence is noticed, conversations will be paused and pens put down to greet you. When greeting someone in the morning you ask, "how was your night." If you greet them in the afternoon you ask them about their day. When you say goodbye you always wish them a good night or a good day. I love to learn these little cultural nuances. 


Making the transition from Uganda to Kenya has been a challenge due to the language change. Having grown accustomed to responding and greeting in Uganda, I have found myself constantly reminding myself to not use Luganda to greet my fellow Kenyans. No longer can I use "Wasuze Otya" but I now must use "Habari ya asabuhi." In Uganda my mama would often call (from quite a distance) "CHRISTEENA!" and I would have to respond "WANJI?" So, now that I am in Kenya and I hear my name called the automatic response is to yell at the top of my lungs, "WANJI?" But that is Luganda, not Swahili. So I have figured out the appropriate response. I will now have to incorporate, "NAM?" into my vocabulary. It is all so much fun, but it keeps your brain on it's toes. 


I discovered today that one of my fellow teachers Vincent, speaks some Luganda. So we enjoyed the looks the other teachers gave us as we greeted and conversed in Luganda. It made me happy to be able to use "wabalay" and "seybo" again. Vincent has 9 children and is 54 years old. He lives just in back of the school and is one of the senior teachers here at Omwabini. He is one of the most caring men I have met here in Africa- one who loves children and does whatever he can to see that they grow and develop to the best of their abilities. He is even having me edit a book that he is working on. He hopes to have it distributed to the surrounding community leaders so that they could be educated on how to properly care for children. In reading what he has written, I have learned a lot about the African view of children. They are often seen as mini workhorses and are often caring for a younger sibling by the age of 3. I have seen three-year-olds lugging their year old sibling around on their backs- not an easy feat considering they are quite close in size. Vincent is one of the most forward thinking men I have met and I have been greatly encouraged at hearing and reading his ideas.



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