Friday, 26 October 2012

Crazy Banana

Wednesday October 26th

I think I've started a craze, or rather Cliff has.  Whilst in Dar es Salaam he used a phrase that I had heard last year but had not yet added to my vocabulary, “Poa kichizi kama ndizi”.  I’m almost tempted not to translate this because it does lose a little in translation and you would not get the same effect in Leeds if your reply to “How ye doing mate” was “Cool like a crazy banana”.  As I've said before, greeting someone in Tanzania is an important ritual and can include a variety of questions and replies.  One of these is Mambo – Hi, which usually follows a more traditional greeting and the expected reply is Poa – I’m cool, so the first time I added my new phrase in school the students looked a little askance as they had never heard it before, but very quickly they decided that this was funny and worth repeating.  I can see quite a few crazy bananas developing over the next few weeks. 

The YMCA stands in about 2-3 acres of land, much of it covered in a tidy grass ‘lawn’.  I found out today the work involved in keeping it tidy as I returned to find Mama Gladness, Vicky and Deo, cutting the grass.  This was done using an implement called a Panga which is a curved, golf club like, blade  serving the same purpose as a sickle but without the need to bend as much.  

A Panga

The action is a truncated ‘golf swing’ to either side of the body ensuring that you don’t take a divot at the bottom of the swing or put too much into the back swing and lose an ear.  Quite easy really and avoiding my toes I had a go.  Easy, did I say?  Yes it was, for all of two minutes and then you realise the energy expended in covering two acres like this.  Even Vicky said at the end of the session, “nimechoka”, and you don’t need a degree in linguistics to realise that she was knackered tired. 

I would imagine the wellies are a safety precaution

Vicky’s outburst as she finished a session of lawn mowing brought back a discussion I had with my students during my daily Swahili lesson, which is now becoming a necessity more than a game, as I realise how poor the English is for some members of the group.  I know the prefix ‘nina’ and had said ninachoka, which as far as I was concerned was ‘I am tired’.  “No!”, said Sylvester, “it’s not ninachoka, it’s nimechoka!”.  When I asked why as it was ninawenda and nina everything else I knew, he said that when it is a feeling about yourself you use ‘nime’ and not ‘nina’.  “Ah, says I. Nimechoka, nimejoto (I am tired. I am hot).  Once again I was corrected, as it should be the usual ninajotto.  I argued that this too was a feeling about myself but no it’s not the same.  Confused? So was I, and don’t bother going back and reading this paragraph again, I’ve just done that and it doesn't help.


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