I bet you didn’t know that you knew Swahili. If you’re one of my Canadian friends, I’m sure you know more Swahili than German.
We’ve been volunteering for five weeks now in Tanzania, and we’ve grown accustomed to life in Africa. The pace is slower here, and might offer some learnings for the Western world.
We’re staying at a hostel dedicated for volunteers called Hostel Hoff. Between two hostels there are about 40 volunteers working on projects that range from micro finance loans to women empowerment programs, hospital internships, schools and orphanages.
Volunteers range in age from 17 to the mid-60s, and have various backgrounds. Most are students, but many are professionals along with retired folks. People come from all over including fellow Canadians, Americans, Australians, Scandanavians, a couple of Irish women and one person from Israel.
The kids love being around all the volunteers. Not only are they positive people here to make a difference, they generally love kids. The girls have never had so much attention!
The main building houses some volunteers, while others live in tents surrounding the building. We feel lucky in our four-person tent. We’re the only tent at the front of the hostel, so when we go to bed earlier than the younger folks, we don’t hear the noise.
Our tent is a large canvass structure with a solid fly that seems to outwit the worst tropical storms. We have electrical outlets, proper beds with mosquito nets, and chests of drawers for our things, so it’s quite comfortable.
We hand wash our clothes outside in large tubs, then hang them to dry. I find the job quite relaxing, and swishing clothes around in cold water in the heat is quite pleasant. The only problem are thunderstorms that blow through and you have to rush to get your clothes off the line!
We’ve been taking two-hour Swahili lessons every week. The most interesting part of Swahili is all the words based on English like rula, picha, eroplani (ruler, picture, airplane). One of my favourites is the word for round-a-bout: keeplefti (they drive on the left side in Tanzania). Of course my all time favourite remains “shugalabugala” which means holy mess. You betcha I will use that in a meeting when I get home!
And in case you didn’t know, The Lion King is full of Swahili. The first day I was in the Grade Two classroom, one of the kids pointed to the painting of a lion on the wall and said in an excited voice, “Simba, Simba!” I thought how in the heck did this kid know about The Lion King? Then I found out that Simba means lion, Nala is gift, Rafiki means friend (and he doesn’t sing jibberish), and so on and so on. Even Pride Rock is a real place in the Serengeti!