Thursday, November 4, 2010

Contemporary History Lesson

When I was just starting out as a baby development worker, green and earnest and totally clueless, I was lucky enough to get an opportunity to tag along on a trip deep into Dodoma. I mean way, way deep into Mpwapwa which is the only place I have ever seen so many baobab trees, like a forest almost. Harsh, dry, gorgeous land... but I digress.

My assignment was to interview some of the project's beneficiaries to document their satisfaction with the service provided. It was mostly elderly people that I was talking to, which was actually pretty cool. One fiesty lady in particular who looked older than Bi Kidude said something to me that I'll never forget. You know how some of our elders have that way of teaching you a lesson, putting you in your place, making sure that the message sticks, and making you laugh, all using just one sentence?

Well. She let me get all my stuff set up, tape recorder switched on, pen and paper ready, everything good to go. Then, after watching me placidly and nodding at every pause as I greeted her warmly and explained my assignment and asked for her name and age she calmly replied: "I don't speak the colonialist's language. Find a translator."

She was referring to Kiswahili.

We dutifully proceeded in Kigogo after my befuddled self found a translator who could tell me what she had just said. I noticed that she did know how to say "Marahaba, mjukuu wangu." She's probably somewhere terrorizing cherubs and disciplining choirs of angels, in Kigogo of course, as I type this. Bless her crabby soul.


  1. LOL, what a great story!

    Here's to crabby old ladies (& gents)everywhere ;-)

  2. Hear, hear Dr. Bob. I raise my Safari to her.

  3. Mbukwenyi! Clueless needs an open mind.


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