Showing posts with label language. Show all posts
Showing posts with label language. Show all posts

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Rivervalley Campsite (aka Language School)

I made it to Language School! I've been here for two weeks, and have been able to get online a bit on my phone to share pictures HERE, but this is the first time I've been able to sit in town at a coffee shop and use real internet on my real computer.  It's crazy how much little things like typing on a real keyboard make me happy!  Anyway, since this place is a bit different from some of my previous homes, I thought I'd share a few pictures and a bit of what life is like here for me these days.
This is the pathway up to my tent... along with a couple of bandas (bigger structures where families are living) and 2 other tents.  The Gerths (the family from Holland, MI) are up here too, but to the left!
My home.  In a nutshell.  It has a real foam mattress and bed in it and some cubbies for my clothes, and I can fully stand up in the middle.  Electricity is a little sketchy and it gets dark at night but... I'm thankful I'm not on the hard ground for sure!
 I meant to take some pictures of things like the shower/toilets down the way (behind me in the first picture) and how they heat the water (sticking long logs into the boiler and slowly putting them further in as they burn), but I'll have to work on that for another day. 

There are lots of boulders around the campsite, to my heart's delight!  I haven't actually "rock climbed" any yet but I'd love to hook up some supports on top and wish I had my climbing harness!  Oh well.  In the meantime, I've been hiking a lot.  And climbing rocks.  There's a little path up to a high spot on the campsite that the kids have taken to calling "Little Kilimanjaro," and we took a few fun pics there. 
A couple of the kids I had at orientation, with Jeannette Gerth.  Love these girls!
A view of the campsite from Little Kili
This place is a kid's playland.  There are fun things to do, rocks to climb, sticks to pick up and keep, holes to fall into... dirt to cover you from head to toe... everywhere!  :)
Kara was practicing tying her kanga (the cloth) to hold her babydoll,
just like all the mama's do with their babies!
Her brother was diligently feeding the termites (in the big holes) this morning. 
I'm sure they were glad for the free meal and the welcome to stay at the campsite.
Just in case you're tempted to think all we do is play... here's a look at what we do every day from 8:30-1:30.  It seems like it might be better to do more school in the afternoon, but by after lunch our brains are fried!  We use the time to do homework, eat meals, go to town occasionally, take naps, play with kids, all sorts of normal everyday life activities.
The Gerths in front of their classroom banda
Me trying to write a story in Swahili on a boulder.  This was in the afternoon.
I sit here most mornings before class starts, soaking up the sun... it's cold first thing and at night!!!

Friday, January 13, 2012

What's My Name Again?

(Miss Auntie Lucas Crystal ChRiStY WHAT???)

A little over a year ago, I wrote a post about how I was unofficially changing my name to make it easier for Tanzanians to say.   Lately, I've been realizing that I might need to change it more than once.  It might, in fact, become more like a hobby.  It seems that while most people talk about the various "hats" they wear throughout life's challenges, my rotating daily wardrobe change is my name-tag. 

Don't get me wrong.  I've had a great (though busy) week.  I've loved every minute of it.  But I just thought I'd give you a glimpse of what furlough (without Masters classes) is looking like... and the occasional confusion that sometimes happens along the way!

Last Sunday, I started off the day being Crystal.  That worked pretty well for church and an afternoon with my parents.  But by evening, I got a warm welcome of little girls jumping up and down saying "Miss Crystal is here! Miss Crystal is here!" with excitement as I entered their home down the street to have dinner. 

Monday, I was “at work” on the computer, talking to people, ordering needed supplies, scheduling meetings, writing thank yous, etc.  My name was Crystal Lucas.

Tuesday, I went up to Holland to visit my dear friend Anna and her family.  3/4 of her kiddos came into their brood by way of orphanages in Uganda, where the term “Auntie” is applied to every (female) non-familial member.  So I was Auntie Crystal for a day. 

Wednesday, I caught up with some friends via email, slept a lot to get over my allergies/cough, emailed some MKs (and their parents) in Tanzania, and made dinner before a crazy night.  I’m thinking my name might have just been Crystal.  Except in my emails, where my name was either Miss Lucas (for kids in Dar) or Miss Crystal (for kids I'll be teaching in Musoma) respectively.  Yikes.

Then it was time to gear up.  Put on my teacher face.  And pretend to be Mrs. Lucas.  Actually, I was Miss Lucas for the day to a bunch of 8th graders, who of course felt the need to remind me every so often that I was, indeed, subbing for my mom.  Thankfully, it was a pretty low-key day, but I still came home and promptly … well, took a nap.  Ate, then fell asleep again.  I guess I could have been dubbed “Sleepy” since I was so exhausted from the day!  (I’m out of teacher practice, it would seem!)

And today, I woke up with excitement over a snow day that really didn't affect me... but made me giddy and excited and feeling like a little kid.  I got to Skype with a dear friend (I know, it seems I have a lot of those… just wish they’d all stay living in one place!) in Tanzania, where I was properly Crystal... but who often refers to me as Miss Lucas within the school setting of HOPAC.  And then, this afternoon, I’m getting ready to head over to a friend’s house to babysit and hang out with their kids for a couple of days.  So for the next 48 hours-ish, I’ll officially be Miss Crystal again.
Sometimes when I’m with kids, I find I don’t know how to refer to myself.  Am I Miss Crystal?  Auntie Crystal?  Miss Lucas?  Or just plain old “Crystal” who was the now-teenager's babysitter a few years back, before I was old enough to have a distinguished title?  (I guess it's a good thing 8th graders don't make the mistake of calling me "mom" from time to time, as my elementary students used to do!  Hmm...)  I especially have to think before signing an email or a letter to a special little person in my life!  Regardless, I love the fact that I have so many great friends… so many amazing people in my life… and likewise, so many roles (and special names) in the lives of those around me.  I’m so thankful for the people who keep me going along the way… and who hopefully, I can help along a bit as well! :)

Friday, August 12, 2011

British English vs. The American Version

12 August 2011

I sometimes find myself referring to my normal language as "American" rather than "English."  I know this might sound strange at first, but you have to understand.  Living in a multi-cultural community does things to you.  I've picked up a whole new set of words and fit them into my already-existing vocabulary, only to create a whole new way of speaking that is uniquely... me.  (And yes, slightly confusing along the way.)

The situation got even more interesting when I returned to my country of origin.  At least in Tanzania, people understood me regardless of whether I referred to those annoying, biting bugs as "mozzies" or "mosquitoes."  We all laugh at our differences and life goes on.  Now that I'm back in America, though, I either have to try to catch myself from saying things like "blue tack" and "full stop," or suffer the strangely confused look that the listener is bound to throw my way.

I'm borrowing this list from friends in Tanzania... and I hope this helps you to understand if I say something a little "strange" when I see you next!

chips.......french fries
gammon ........... ham
aubergine .............eggplant
rubbish bin.........trash can
full stop........period
speech marks.......quotation marks
lorry........truck shoes
mobile ......... cell phone
napkin........sanitary pad
mobile phone.........cell phone
tea........dinner (supper)
ice lolly...........popsicle
feeling peckish ............feeling hungry
pram/push chair.......... stroller
car park.........parking lot
road/speed way.......highway
boot sale............garage/yard sale
swimming costume.........swimsuit
sugar paper
dust bin.........trash can
peg board.........bulletin board
to erase
plectrum......guitar pick
quaver.....eighth note 
pegs........clothes pins
straight away.......right away
invigilate......proctor (an exam)
fortnight......two weeks
air con......air conditioning (or AC)
blue tack.......poster putty 
post code .......address
register.......attendance book
pigeon hole......mailbox
sin bin........penalty box
Feel free to add on to the list.... I'm sure I've missed some along the way!!! :D 

(Apparently I've mixed in a few Aussie-isms as well... I've gone back and * those!)

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Jina Longu Ni Crysti (My name is Christy)

2 October 2010

Names in foreign countries always present an interesting problem.  They were made for one culture, one country, one language… and many don’t transfer well from one place to another.  Take David, for instance.  In German, it’s Daudi.  Which is fine.  Except when I’m talking to parents about their kid and realize that we’re both using different names for one person… and I wonder if I’ve been calling him the wrong name all along!

"Crystal" presents another interesting conundrum.  Most people here in Swahili-Land have never heard the word crystal before, even meaning a rock of great value.  So hearing this for the first time, they jump to the most obvious conclusion – Christo.  Yes, this does mean Christ, or Jesus, in Swahili.  So I introduce myself as Crystal, and they nod and laugh and acknowledge that they understand by pointing upward and saying, “ah, Christo!  Yesu! (Jesus).”  Hmm… not quite what I was going for.

Some people, like my roommate Marie, have had just as bad of luck.  Her name here is either pronounced Mary (as in the mother of Jesus), or Maria.  For a culture that loves to put the “ee” sound at the end of every word, it’s kind of funny that they can’t grasp this one.  But we once had a doctor give us our rabies vaccine here in Dar who laughed and laughed… his name was Joseph, and Marie’s name was Mary… Mary and Joseph!  Hahahaha! :(

In the end, I’ve come to the conclusion that I should change my name, at least a little, to make it more accessible for the average Tanzanian.  Makes sense, right?  If they’re going to get it wrong anyway, I may as well help them by giving them something they can say.  After some consideration, I tried dropping the “l” at the end… leaving me with “Crysta.”  Sometimes this works, but more often than not, they just look at me with a blank and confused expression and say “samahani?”  (excuse me?). 

So I decided another tactic was necessary.  Since Swahili-speakers love to put “ee” (spelled i) at the end of EVERYTHING – no joke – I decided the closest thing to Crystal was going to be Crysti.  Or Christi.  Or Christy.  It doesn’t matter how you spell it, as long as the person I’m talking to can say it! 

It was soon after this decision that I discovered another person with the same name… curiously, a character in a book.  Her name was Christy, and she, too, went away from home to a very different place to be a missions teacher.  And though she had little idea of what she would find when she arrived, she fell in love with the people and place.  I felt the name just might suit me.

I’m still not used to introducing myself as Christy, and I’m not sure it will ever really stick.  I certainly don’t turn around if someone calls me by that name!  On the other hand, I think the legacy of the character whose name I adopted gives me something to connect to here as a single missions teacher in a very different place from “home.”

Jina loko ni nani?  (What is YOUR name?)

Saturday, May 8, 2010

African Peas... and hiccups

8 May 2010

We have a lady being supported by the local church that has started up a business.  She texts people (me included) on Saturdays and finds out what kinds of produce we are hoping to get for the next week’s cooking.  Then on Sunday mornings early, she heads to Kariyakoo, a place WAY across town where you can buy produce very cheaply.  In the early afternoon, our veggies, fruits, etc. arrive in a bag on our doorstep.  We pay, she leaves, and life goes on.  It’s really a pretty nice system overall!

Recently, though, the system experienced a slight hiccup.  Marie and I were excited about the idea of making a pear crisp (something that she had, unbeknownst to me, made while I was in Kenya.  I can’t believe she’d do such a thing with me gone!)  We didn’t know if Stella, the veggie lady, could find pears or not, but we thought we’d give it a try.  So we ordered our usual 2kg of tomatoes, ½ kg of onions, some green peppers and garlic… and 2 kg of pears.

Low and behold, the next day we got our order.  Inside were the tomatoes, some onions… no peppers or garlic (turns out they were out, which is pretty strange)… and a huge bag of PEAS!  At first, I thought she’d gotten our order mixed with someone else.  There was no way we would order peas… we’ve had bad luck with green beans going moldy within a few hours of getting them, and we like green beans a lot better than peas.  Besides, who would order that many peas, anyway!?

Then, I realized.  The words sound different, but the spelling is only one letter off.  And for a none-native English speaker, it was too close to call.  Pears.  Peas.  Hmm…

So now we have 2kg of peas sitting in our fridge.  Well, they were in our fridge.  But obviously we’re not using them all up right away, so they ended up in our freezer.  Which presents another problem.

All of our ice now tastes like peas.  Which doesn’t tend to be so refreshing at the end of a long day of school!  Granted, I’m a HUGE fan of V-8 Fusion Juices in the States… (just as my friends in N.C!)  but only because it tastes like FRUIT, and not PEAS!!!  Something about veggie-tasting ice – and thus, glasses of water – doesn’t quite do it for me.

 Our many bags of PEAS... and lots of ice that has acquired its taste!!!

So if you have any fabulous recipes that use peas in a not-so-obvious way (my housemates aren’t big fans)… let me know.  I'm open to suggestions.  We need to get our ice tasting back to normal!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Kusema Tena? (Say Again?)

20 February 2010

When does saying “I love you, God” get misconstrued as Satan-worship? Only in Tanzania…

This week was my third grader’s assembly, and we worked hard all week despite all the in-and-outness of my kids with sickness. We finally made it through the week and I actually made it to school early on Friday morning. A Tanzanian parent came in to see me, so it was good I was there. She was concerned about one of the motions we were doing in our song “Friend Like You” by Big Daddy Weave. She told me that if you make a fist with your hand, and lift up just your pointer and pinky fingers, it’s a sign of Satan-worship here in Africa. She said if I looked it up on Google I could see people in pictures holding this up all over Africa. I haven’t checked it out yet, but I’ll take her word for it. I was definitely surprised, and she said she was sure I never knew this before… which of course is true. Then I shared that what we were doing actually included using our thumb, which is the “I Love You” sign from American Sign Language (ASL). She was shocked to hear it’s meaning in America. I may not use the sign again here, but it was too late to make a change for the assembly that morning… so I made sure my kids knew to use their thumb on stage as well as they lifted their hands to praise the Lord!

The verb “panda” means to climb or to plant in Swahili. Recently one of Marie’s students asked if she knew what it meant, and Marie explained this. The student giggled, then wrote a sentence using it on her white board. When another child got mad, Marie learned that the third meaning for panda is “to kill.” Uh, somehow our Swahili teacher neglected to tell us that one…

My students have signs to use when they want to blow their nose (a common occurrence these days in my class!). They cover their nose, and I nod for them to go get a tissue. Or I make a circle with my finger and they know to sit back in the criss cross position. It saves unneeded vocal conversations and answering questions in the midst of learning in the classroom. Recently, I decided that we should do the same for times when they want water or are requesting a trip to the bathroom. The students suggested that we use signs from American Sign Language, and I said I’d let them know. Later, as I talked to my in-house ASL expert (Marie used it a lot in Alaska), I learned that maybe this wasn’t such a good idea, after all. Turns out that the same sign we use for bathroom in ASL is a swear word in some African sign language. She’s not sure yet what it means, but in the end it doesn’t really matter anyway. I guess we’ll be coming up with a different sign for bathroom in my class.

Living in a place where so many languages are mixed makes things interesting for sure. Today I stood with our house-help Esther in the kitchen cutting up tomatoes for spaghetti sauce, with my head plugged up from my cold. I wanted to ask her if she liked the music I put on in the background, but for the life of me all I could think of was “Te gusta?” and a whole string of Spanish. That’s great, if we were in Mexico! But if her English is limited, there’s no way she knows Spanish. It’s just not spoken here at all. I finally asked something – “sawa?” (ok?) – and she responded back with the appropriate short-phrase, “vizuri sana!” (Very good!) and a smile. Lately, with other stresses pushing down on me, I’ve been tempted to throw up my hands and throw out Swahili altogether… but ultimately, that’s not what I want at all. It’s just so frustrating to want to communicate something and not be able to say it. Pray that I’d soon learn my way around the language – and sign language – of my new home here in Dar, and that I’d be patient with myself along the way... kama Yesu akipenda! (If Jesus wills!)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

5000 Coaches

One of my favorite movies is “Akeelah and the Bee”. Akeelah is an amazing speller in a run-down local school, and begins to be coached by a professor for the National Spelling Bee. For one reason or another, though, the coach had to stop just as she was beginning her final training stretch, and she felt totally alone. Her mom, and many others, helped her to see that she had 5000 coaches – people all around her in her community that were all willing to help her learn the words she needed in order to succeed.

Lately, I’ve been realizing I’m in a similar situation. No, I’m not training for the National Spelling Bee. But I am training to be able to communicate with those around me. And though I can often be frustrated with my lack of skills, or feel alone in the process, God is showing me that He’s given me five thousand coaches right around me.

Whether I’m going out of our compound… walking in to school… greeting my househelp at home or cleaner at school… going across the street to the duka… in my classroom with my kids… or talking to new friends at church… I can practice my Swahili anywhere. And there is always someone who’s willing to help me.

Today, our friend Edward (who also happens to teach us Swahili) brought us to Kariyako. This is the place where you can supposedly find EVERYTHING you want or need. On the dala dala (bus) to and from, we practiced our Swahili as we learned the names of trees, plants, places, and things. On the way back, I practiced saying that my younger brother is coming to visit on December 12! It didn’t matter that we were on a bus filled with Tanzanians; he was willing to help, and I had learning in an every-day situation. (And, it made the hour-long trip go by much faster!)

Once again, I’m realizing God did not make us to be alone. Even as He chose to confuse our languages for His glory at the Tower of Babel (something I often wish hadn’t happened…), He is now graciously giving me opportunities to practice a new language – and providing people to teach me – everywhere I go.

Five Thousand Coaches. Though sometimes I feel 5 million miles away from anything that seems right or familiar, I’m once again reminded that I’m surrounded – and that I am not alone.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Habari za Kiswahili? (How is your Swahili?)

11 November 2009
Every day after school, Hey-In (Helen, in American) says goodbye to me. It started out “bye,” but now has progressed to “see you tomorrow!” On Fridays, when she says “See you tomorrow,” I correct her and say “see you on Monday” without a thought. For some reason, it took me a while to realize this habit. Helen came to HOPAC knowing little to know English. She is picking it up quickly, but is shy none-the-less. When coupled with her Korean background (of perfection expected in the classroom), she ends up speaking very little in my classroom. And I rejoice when she uses her lovely little voice to say “Good morning,” or when she repeats “See you on Monday” after me.

These phrases seem simple enough, and I use them with my kids every day. I also use a thousand other words to describe area, haughty, salvation, and to get kids thinking about how to solve problems in their own individual lives. Yet, for Helen, these few words are a great start.

Then I realized that I might as well have been talking about myself. I’m still stuck on the “greetings” of Swahili, and often get my “habari za jazioni” and “habari za asabuyi”s mixed up. We correct Tanzanian students on the street when they say “Good morning” to us at five in the afternoon, but get frustrated at ourselves for doing the same thing in Swahili.

I’m still on the greetings. Some day, perhaps, I’ll get on to some real meat! But I’m thankful that my guards, cleaners, house-help, and many other individuals around me are willing to extend grace and laugh with me when I tell them “good night” first thing in the morning.

From everything I’ve learned about teaching another language, to everything I’ve learned about teaching English to native English speakers (eg. reading and writing…), I see it all coming in to play here in my own language learning experience. Today, I sat down to draw a calendar, so I could visualize my days; yesterday, today, tomorrow… weeks (wiki), months, years… I felt like I should sit down and write out the “today is… yesterday was…. tomorrow will be…” signs that have adorned my calendar board for the past two years… but in Swahili, instead of English!

All the things, too, that I learned in Spanish are coming back to me as well. Whereas before, I would say I spoke un poco (which is very true), I’m realizing now just how much Spanish vocabulary I do know. Describing words, especially. I think “how do I say this is Swahili?”, then realize I already know how to say it in Spanish. Nothing like learning a new language to affirm your knowledge of the old!

It’s a slow process. Just as some volunteers at HOPAC are making word cards to put around our classrooms to help our Korean kids, Marie and I are sticking notes around our house to remind ourselves of the Swahili version of our daily vocabulary. And as we sat with Edward tonight outside our house, and as I struggled to remember just what Amka na tandika kitanda chako means (Wake up and make your bed!), I tried to remind myself that I do know some things – even if I can’t remember some of the verbs in Swahili that I want to! Wish me luck!

A Few of the Perks to Living in Dar

10 November 2009
I was taking a shower last night when I realized the ridiculousness of me plunging into the cold water – and refusing to turn on the water heater. I thought back to friends who’ve said that it’s best to take hot showers in hot weather – I’m not sure I’m sold on that yet. Anyway, sometimes the best way to live and transition to a new place is to LAUGH!!! Here are a few of the perks I’ve come up with from living here in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania!

10. Improved hand-eye coordination, as I master the skill of killing mozzies (mosquitoes) with one hand. Kyle, you'd be proud! :)

9. The opportunity to laugh – hard – as I learn to say things like nyenye (yes, think Chinese-sounding), and as I make up my own new version of Swah-English. (No-sante?!) I’ve also started to add Spanish into the mix, sometimes not even sure if I’m speaking Spanish or Swahili.

8. A great opportunity to learn the process of sweat vs. hydration – and practice it daily. It’s got to be good for your pores, right?!

7. A constant supply of “karibu - welcomes” everywhere I go. (I guess that should mean I’ll never feel lonely…)

6. A new appreciation for things like: candles, colored pens, corn syrup, cereal, and ziplock bags.

5. A never-ending question to mull over as to why there are so many cows – everywhere – and yet beef and dairy products are outrageously expensive. (Must be everyone is saving up their cows for bride-prices…)

4. Learning new things about the United States daily, such as “There are no M’s in America” or “Obama was my next door neighbor – I grew up with him.” Should I be impressed???

3. A new appreciation – and love – for cold showers. (Not to mention AC!!!) No need to turn on water heaters here!

2. A beautiful palm-tree sunrise out the window every morning, and a nice ocean breeze as you get out of school (yes, that means 4pm, mostly!).

1. Having a sweet vacation spot for people to come visit. Karibu!

Saturday, October 24, 2009


Yesterday, as Marie and I read a newspaper article in Kiswahili with our language teacher after school, we came across a word we actually knew: kwanza. "Aha!" we thought. Now, at last, we'll find out what Kwanza is REALLY all about! (Since Kwanza is an African-American holiday that is taught all over the United States around Christmas time, and since I've never really figured out what it's about... I figured this was a great opportunity to go straight to the source - Africa.)

However, when we asked Lawrence what Kwanza meant, he told us it means "first" in Swahili. When asked about the holiday itself, he looked at us with confusion. Turns out that, though the word is derived from Swahili, the people in the countries where they actually SPEAK Swahili have never even heard about it.

Makes me wonder if we should be teaching it in schools...