Telling Time in Swahili

October 20, 2011 by
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Kenya & Tanzania: Wildlife Management Studies, SFS students

Name: Veronica Crosier
School: Mount Holyoke College
Major: Geography
Program: Wildlife Management Studies, Tanzania

We’ve been in Tanzania for a month now and time is slipping past faster than the cheetah we saw in the Ngorongoro crater a few weeks ago.  In that time, we’ve visited an orphanage, read at the primary school, studied in three national parks, and biked amongst zebras.

Classes have been rigorous though. We’ve written enough papers to compile a small book, yet, I believe it is the skills and knowledge we’ve gained outside of the classroom that would make the better story.

For instance, the other day we were taught to tell time in Swahili by a group of eight year olds from the local primary school.  Hunched over tiny wooden desks that seat three, we practiced our numbers as tiny hands played with the buttons on our watches.

During our home stays, the mamas taught us how to properly wash clothes. Most of us brought fancy detergents and scrub brushes with us, but with only a bar of soap and their hands, the mamas easily outdo us. They hold the material over a bucket of sudsy gray water and rub it together between their knuckles to get out the dirt. Their hands are tough and experienced, but my hands, which are accustomed to putting quarters into a washing machine, are left red and raw after laundry day.

In the market we practice our Swahili and learn to bargain. We now know that “Mr. Cheaper” does not always give you good price and that 10,000 Shillings can get you a Tanzania jersey, 5 coffee bean necklaces or a small Maasai knife painting if you’re especially crafty.

Yes, everyday here our lives are being enriched by these extraordinary social exchanges that will shape us and perhaps change us in ways we may not have even expected, making our time here the unforgettable experience we hoped it to be.  Oh, and seeing elephants, zebras, giraffes, rhinos, cheetahs and lions from the top of a Land Cruiser in some of the most amazing national parks in the world hasn’t been half bad either.

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