Mzungu — and monkeys


There’s a little one in there somewhere, whose brother or sister was playing in a tree on the other side of the trail.

Day 5

Another good morning of class — and monkeys. During a break I went for a walk around campus and heard a sound in the bushes. Imagine my surprise when a momma monkey was staring at me from a nearby tree, and her little baby crawling around in the branches above her. I took a picture with my phone. (I pride myself on knowing my animal and bird species, but for now it’s just a monkey.)

On my way back to class, I heard someone say “Hey! Mzungu!” It was one of the boys who called me “Mzungu” a couple days ago, and his friend. I tried out my Swahili on them: same old “What’s your name? My name is Mr. Larson. I am trying to learn Swahili. You can help me.” They asked if I was going to walk behind their dorm again, and I said I probably wouldn’t, but I might come by if they would teach me Swahili. They said they would.

In class, I met some new students. One of them, Vailet (Violet), asked me if I speak Swahili, so I trotted out my usual speech, which seemed to impress the whole class, including Mrs. Duria, one of the special ed teachers on campus.

It’s funny how learning a handful of sentences and dropping them at the appropriate time can lead people to say you “speak Swahili.” It’s a generous assessment, to say the least, but it demonstrates how important it is to try (and probably that it’s a little unusual for an old Mzungu like me).

This afternoon I’m tagging along on a trip to a public school, where some of our students go for a service learning project to help kids with their English by engaging in debate and dialogue. I’m sure I’ll get more Swahili practice, and hopefully some photos of the students and the school.


4 thoughts on “Mzungu — and monkeys

  1. This reminds me why it’s so hard for teenagers, especially girls, to learn language. They’re so self conscious at that stage and the idea of looking like a mzungu idiot is mortifying, whereas for an old fella it’s just fun. Reminds me of a guy I know here in town who was in Vietnam and wanted to learn Vietnamese. He would guy buy a stack of newspapers and then go to the corner store and start singing and coaxing people into buying his newspapers in exchange for conversation. Complete wacko but it worked!

    • Thanks, Amy. Yes, I would not have been able to do it when I was young and self-conscious. It’s too bad, because using it (even wrong) is the best way to learn it. Great to hear from you, and stay tuned! Your friend and I would get along great.

    • Nice to hear from you! Yes, I believe you’re right. You would also enjoy the African hornbills that fly around, and lots of other pretty birds whose names I don’t know. I’ve been in town and around the school most of the time, but this weekend I’m doing a hike in the Pares Mountains, and the week after next I start a two-week break that will include a “safari” to Serengeti and other areas, and possible a village-to-village hike in a mountain area. It is indeed a great adventure!

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