I have completed my last few days of language school. May 10thI will be moving again, for the last time for a while, to Tenwek. My classmate finished last week so that left just me in my class for the last week and a half. I stopped working through the textbook and instead I had the teachers teach me medical things. Medicine in Kenya is done in English(the staff all communicate in English regarding medical matters) but the patients may only speak Swahili and their tribal language, or just their tribal language– in which case my learning will not be helpful but this is still time well spent.
To illustrate the importance of the time I have spent learning Swahili over the last three months here is a true story from last week. It was a holiday in Kenya and I took the opportunity to head into Limuru to pickup a few things. I went by matatu (after walking a mile to the main road). I got in a matatu where not much communication is needed, after you are seated you get a tap on the shoulder and/or a look that is your cue to pass up your fare and say where you are going. No need to speak Swahili there. After I had paid there was some confusion between the tout (guy who collects the fare, not the driver) and a passenger over the fare. This fellow ended getting off thematatu early saying in English “how would I know I don’t speak Swahili”. Now this fellow blended into the population much better than I did, and when he got off there were a few murmurs of “he should speak the national language”. At this point I turned to my seat mate and said “Nasema Kiswahili” (I speak Swahili).This spread some smiles around the matatu, and it reminded me that communication is only one of the goals of language it is also to be a part of the culture, to show respect and to be able to be one of the crowd.
So since last weeks holiday, I returned to school and continued to make my lovely mistakes. The other day I mistakenly said “when my brothers and I were cows” Instead of when my brothers and I had cows – introduced much laughter to our lunch break. I am sure that was not my last mistake and I will daily make more.
I ask that you pray for me in these final days of formal language study – that I will continue to learn and that I will know how to best focus my class time. These past 2 weeks have been fun. During the mornings I create my lesson plan – we joke that I have a clinic, and it’s not far from the truth. I am explaining, in Swahili, how to manage asthma and we are doing “spirometries”. One of my teachers desires to be an actor and he is loving putting his skills to use when I tell him – Ok you are coming to the clinic because you are short of breath. I have learned the words to use during chest physiotherapy – interesting as the best word we have is "beat the patient", hopefully I don’t scare them away.
My next post will be from Tenwek my home for the next 2 years - the time has finally come.