The day started out like a lot of other days, with my dear Tanzanian friend showing up for work around 8:30. "Karibu!" I welcomed her in, and we exchanged greetings in Swahili... "How is it here?" "How is your house?" "How are the children?" "How is your son?" Our three boys came one by one to greet her, putting their hands on her head and respectfully greeting with "Shikamoo!".

After everyone was thoroughly greeted, the two of us headed to the kitchen to discuss the day's projects. At this point in our lives, we've only been in the country for nine months, and are still very much into language study. Fortunately for me, my helper-friend, Ikupa, speaks almost no English, so our communication is forced to be entirely in Swahili. I gave her a run-down of the day's plans, with a little confusion and clarification needed as I tried throwing in a new Swahili word. After she started "kuosha vyombo" (doing the dishes), I sought out my Swahili book and started studying. I usually don't get much study done in a day, since homeschooling, cooking, sewing, and people (especially little people:-) make up a big part of my life. As I read through the chapter, I became frustrated and discouraged, as I realized I did NOT get it. I don't have a language teacher, ao although there are people around to ask questions of if I can't understand what the book is trying to say, it can be very discouraging. I wondered aloud if maybe  it would be possible to just skip that lesson completely and hope it'll come later! Soon I was needed by the children, and the morning began slipping away into the many things that make up a Mama's life. Soon after 11:00 I put a pot of rice on to cook, and was just ready to start with the vegetables, when I got the call for Ikupa and I to go to one of the other houses to discuss a rental arrangement in which she would be caring for the property in exchange for renting two rooms. My husband and I are nearly at the same place in language study, with him being a little ahead of me. But because we needed to discuss things with my friend, he asked me to act as interpreter for him! I was glad for the challenge, so we spent the next 20 minutes or so with him laying out the details in English, and I did my best to translate them into Swahili. I'm very thankful that Ikupa is quite accustomed to working with and understanding Wazungu (white people) who are still learning the language. My grammar is quite bad at times, but we were able to get the point across, and with my husband double checking my Swahili, we were fairly confident that the agreement was made with understanding on both sides. After we were finished, Ikupa and I hurried back up to the house, me to finish lunch and her to finish cutting up a pile of mangoes. Lunch was a bit late, but nobody seemed to mind. After lunch was finished, Ikupa headed for home and the two youngest boys went down for naps. I knew I had a pile of dishes in the kitchen to clean up....but first I headed outside to talk with a friend, and spent the next hour or so chatting in our arbor. After a morning full of Swahili and a deep conversation afterwards, my brain felt a little numb. My husband arrived back from market about then with a bucket full of rice, a  pile of bananas, a huge sack of potatoes, and a few other items that needed to be unloaded and taken inside. I had somehow managed to run low on those staples all at the same time, so I was very grateful to have our supply restocked. The kitchen eventually got cleaned up, and by then it was nearly suppertime. :-) I was thankful that this was the evening we were sharing a meal with the other workers, and my part in making it was quite minimal so it all came together about a half hour before we needed to leave the house.

And the Swahili continues, day after day after day....many times it feels like I'm making no progress, especially since we have agreed that my main focus needs to be on our three boys, rather than on language study. But as I realize that I'm able to communicate more and more with Ikupa and others, and often when I hear an English word or phrase, the Swahili translation comes to mind automatically, I'm encouraged to think that it IS coming, even if it's slower than I'd like. Sometimes I think God gives extra grace to the mother of little often seems when I keep my priorities straight and put my husband and the children before these other 'goals', the details somehow fall into place. I'm so thankful for His love and mercy, and the assurance that He cares about even the small things in our lives.

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  • Guest - Lysanne

    Oh wow Maria that was really fun to read. We're just a few months into language learning and I have echoed your last paragraph to my husband so often... As soon as I 'freak out' and think I'm NOT learning and I can't and I have to do something different then it's like my brain stops learning altogether. But if I'm just confident in the course we have decided works for us, and trust God and just do what I can, hey, somehow it seems like I'm learning after all... :) thanks so much for sharing and God bless you all!!

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  • Guest - teresa

    ahhhhhh. I loved this Maria. i feel your pain with that precious Simplified Swahili book. only sometimes it feels not so simplified, And then there comes a day when you realize that you understood every word that was just spoken......... [beware of a floating sensation] Thank you for writing about Tanzania, it made my heart feel all fuzzy inside. Mungu Akubariki. Sana.

    from 81-1 Bukchon-ri, Jochon-eup, Cheju, Jeju-do, South Korea
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