Monday, March 19, 2012

Things I've Learned in Kenya - Part 3

It's been a while since I posted a 'things I've learned' entry. Perhaps it's a sign that I've learned all I can in Kenya? Ha! Unlikely! Here are a couple of recent things that I've learned.

A Kenyan child in a woolly hat trumps every other child in the world in terms of cuteness

Despite the fact that it's still summer here (just about), small Kenyan schoolchildren insist on wearing woolly hats. Well they probably don't insist on it their parents do but still. I am beginning to think they wear them to play up their cuteness and not for any heat-keeping-in purposes.

Now, I've seen cute children before. There were at least 3 children that I tried to sneak out of my school in Calcutta on the last day. And I volunteer for UNICEF so my desktop background at work is a revolving slideshow of ridiculously cute children. But the Kenyan kids with their little woolly hearts would melt the heart of a stone as Mammy Wickham would say. If there were a top trumps for children of different nationalities (and, you know, there shouldn't be as it would pose lots of ethical issues but bare with me) Kenyan children would score 100 for cuteness.

You need proof? Well I haven't got any from this trip and I think whipping out my camera to take pictures of small children on the bus in the morning might get me in trouble but here's an illustration from Gatoto School that I took back in 2009.

See? See? Or is it just me?

Just because it's dry doesn't mean I can't ruin more of my trousers

So one of my first entries on this blog detailed an unfortunate incident involving cream trousers, a matatu and some mud. Since then I have sensibly removed all items from my wardrobe that show up mud really badly. Considering the fact that it has rained only once in the past 7 weeks, just how have I managed to dirty myself up? Well now the mud has been replaced by dust. Lots and lots of dust. So now all of my black and navy trousers are covered in a layer of dust by the time I have completed my 3 matutu journey and have reached the office. I consider my ability to dirty myself to be a special gift. It could almost be my superpower. Though admittedly it would be a really rubbish superpower. Almost as rubbish as this one.

Swahili is hard

I've been trying to learn Swahili while I'm here. Admittedly, I haven't always been as dedicated to this goal as I should have been. In recent weeks however Nicole and I have found the time, and the enthusiasm, to go back for lessons with Lucy. Up until this point when I show off my (limited) Swahili skills to my colleagues, the security guards in our estate, the person sitting next to me on the bus, I tell them how much I enjoy Swahili as it's quite a straight-forward, mathematical language. They in return praise me for being able to say things like 'I am going to work', 'I have returned.' Everyone in Kenya has become my Swahili teacher in some shape or form.

Recent lessons with Lucy as we begin to delve into the more complicated grammar stuff have proved my assertions wrong. One quick example, Swahili, as a language, isn't big on prepositions. Very few exist in the language. So, how does one say 'I will cook for you.'? So ni is I, ta means future tense, ku in this situation means you, and then pika is to cook. So, nitakupika. Except, wait, no. That literally means 'I will cook you'. Not exactly a sentence one needs (unless you're Hannibal Lector). So the very patient Lucy taught up how the verb itself changes so that this translation should actually be nitakupikia. A small, but vital difference you'll agree.

And do you know how many verb endings to convey lots of slightly different situations there are? 6! Expect a rant in coming weeks when we have to learn about the 9 different types of nouns. 9!

Studying hard with Lucy
(photo courtesy of Nicole)


  1. Those children are rediculously cute and yes the wooly hat adds to the cuteness. Keep up the swahili even though it seems very difficult. x

  2. 9 different types of nouns! I'd be very (nerdily) interested in see how/why a language would require such indulgences! p.s. very cute kid in wooly hat. I think it's the ratio of hat size to head size that triggers the cute-ness.