What a month in Tanzania! All said and done now we are glad to be back in Kenya, but are thankful for our time in Tanzania where we had a chance to study Kiswahili. The AIM Engedi compound was filled with friendly faces from long ago, and we were reacquainted with the Hamptons and the Strong families. The views of Mt. Meru and Mt. Kilimanjaro (pictured above), lush green grounds, the small cement bandas monkeys swinging from tree to tree, banana, pomegranate, fig, lime and papaya trees, bush babies and their protest in the evening game of hide and go seek, the evening rains, the smell of soil freshly churned for planting and the sound of the cows during the morning milking are all apart of the ambiance of Engedi and our time in “shambaland” Tanzania.
It took a lot of discipline to walk the 40 or so minutes to school. Our first day walking I was very skeptical whether the daily commute on foot was feasible with 4 small young in tow. The Colobus monkeys seemed to swing in mock protest watching us as we stomped over siafu (biting ants) and through riverbeds filled with pinching crabs and down the slippery slopes of a freshly rained mountainside. But the beauty of the early morning air breathing through a sunshine glazed world. The crops were planted during our walks, and we saw in three short weeks grass grow up to 3 feet tall. Women and men, barefoot with kerchief and hoes busied in the fields planting by hand, digging and covering rhythmically with their feet and looking up to wave and give the “Mambo” greeting.
The kids enjoyed their time at the “Danish” as it was called, the rather organized stately school placed in a rather obscure spot. Apart from learning Swahili they learned how to paint Tinga Tinga paintings, worked on animal carvings, made traditional African Madazi (doughnut), and masai bead necklaces They went on outings to the market (sokoni) to the snake park and to the lake. The school bordered land from Arusha National Game reserve, however monkeys know no boundaries and often there was a troop or two which would gather in the trees above the Checkychea (kindergarten) and provide the kids with their own Natural Geographic entertainment.
The “beginners intensive” course was indeed intense, and 7 hours a day in a classroom tested our mental capacity. Our brains saturated with syntax and grammar and sounds that have started to become familiar. I catch myself thinking in Swahili sometimes practicing phrases and sayings and wondering if I will ever master the language which our teachers were adamant was “so easy to learn”. We have a long way to go before fluency, but we can compose a rudimentary sentence, bargain at the market and greet our fellow African which is such a significant part of the culture here. You do not walk by without offering a greeting a word of respect and noting of hello.
Some of my favourite words:
Shagalabagala (every things all in a mess!)