We went to see Baraka’s mom and grandmother. I’m never really sure what to do/expect so often I just smile and use my limited swahili which makes people laugh and go along for the ride. We sat down with The grandmother and mother (her father had just passed away) for an hour talking about the project. I showed them the book from Strathcona and the song and videos. Her mom saw the great learning potential for Baraka and agreed it was wonderful for Baraka to come with us IF her teachers allowed her out of school. Afterwards Moshi, myself and Baraka’s mother all went to her school. We greeted the head master and told her about the project who then brought us to Baraka’s teacher where we had to explain the project again. It’s very formal here and greeting someone takes time so we spent over an hour at the school before they released Baraka from class.
Finally we were ready to go but everyone was hungry so we stopped for a meal which took another hour. I won’t get into ordering food here but know it is a lengthy process and never quick.
Our plan was to leave for Iyoli at 1pm but we arrived in Iyoli late in the afternoon at 4pm with Moshi, Baraka and the car driver. The purpose of our visit to Iyoli was to prepare the villagers for the water survey that will take place the day after tomorrow. Moshi had been back and forth to the village a few times over the last 2 months but it was better for us to go together. There are politics in the villages that I don’t even try to understand suffice it to say that it all boils down to gossip and mutterings that the project isn’t real so having me there makes it a reality for the villagers.
We were greeted by the village chairman but there were only men at the meeting spot. Moshi had a long talk with the chairman and in a nutshell Moshi was VERY mad. The great thing about having Baraka with me is that she makes commentary on the happenings, which I love because sometimes I’m not sure how to interpret things. Moshi stood up and was speaking very loudly. Baraka interpreted it to me by saying “Moshi is very mad that the woman are not here and he won’t start the meeting until they come since they are the ones that collect the water.” Then she turns to me and says “Moshi is very brave”. I have to say that I was nervous and uncomfortable however about 15 minutes later the woman started coming and soon after we started the meeting.
I am always impressed when I hear Moshi talk. I don’t entirely understand what he is saying (my lovely interpreter got distracted drawing pictures of the trees and colouring her fingernails) but he brings people together and makes them laugh. He said that we must all work together and I could feel a sense of peacefulness in the faces of the villagers. I think when people argue it is in a very respectful way so even though Moshi called out the chief, they talked as friends afterwards.
The meeting went on for about 2 hours, yup, you heard me 2 hours. Moshi talks, then the chairman talks, then people from the village can stand up and talk so it was dark by the time we left but people were happy and came up and greeted me with great joy. The pictures don’t really show all the people but in total I would estimate about 100 people at the meeting.
I am very happy here, even with all the complications.
LITTLE SIDE NOTE…
Greetings make me panic. I think it’s because they are almost an art form and an average of 2 to 3 question/answer iteration is normal between strangers and even more if you actually know the person. A casual greeting such as ‘Niaje’ or ‘Vipi?’ calls for an equally casual answer and there are so many words to choose from. The respectful ‘Shikamoo? Marahaba’ is a way to address an older person. A typical early morning greeting could be ‘Umeamkaje?’ (how did you wake up?) whose answer is ‘Salama!’ or ‘Vyema!’.
I was sitting at the hotel restaurant and an older man came up to me and said “How are you?” and my brain went blank because I was trying to respond in Swahili and I couldn’t think of anything, so Moshi turned to me and said you should say “I am fine” ,which I repeated back to the old man. Then the man turns to ask Moshi if I speak ANY english at all. It didn’t register with my complicated brain that he was actually speaking to me IN ENGLISH and I panicked as I do in Swahili, searching for a response. Swahili is hard and embarrassing sometimes.