To the ends of the earth…and back!

Finding my way from being lost in translation

While preparing for my departure, I dusted off my Kiswahili language guides and resumed listening to practice exercises on my iPod. Though I have been uttering several Kiswahili phrases since my return last year, it was time to get serious! A special thanks to the friends who have flattered me by learning the simple phrases they so often heard from me.

Well, recently, I was out to dinner with friends when we discovered the waiter had lived in France for a bit between living in West Africa and NYC. As my friend urged me to speak en francais, I began the conversation in French but then at the end, rather than saying thank you in French, ‘asante’ (‘Thanks’ in Kiswahili) fell from my lips! I’m sure this will happen a few times in Tanzania as my brain enters second language mode and both French and Kiswahili fight to be first!

As I sat on my KLM flight to Amsterdam (the first leg of the journey), I was a bit confused by watching/reading the screen with the emergency exit instructions. It was not until the second or third frame that I understood my confusion–simply, the top line was in English and the bottom line was not. Now before you judge me and remember that I am indeed a golden haired beauty, I would like to defend myself and say that there were some very similar words before all the consonants began showing next to one another.

To add more confusion, once the safety guidelines video ended, a map of the area appeared which was followed by the listing of destination time, hours traveled, miles covered etc. All of the cities/states were listed in English, except for ‘Nueva York,’ on the map. Then all the listings continued in Spanish.

I am safely now in Tanzania. Though I am hearing the occasional ‘Salut’ followed by double-cheeked kisses, Italian, English and plenty of other languages, I am not confused about my response to the greetings “Mambo!’ and “Karibu!”

Feels like coming home…

NOTE: Check back for more updates in several days once I have seen the children.

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