A good day’s work

Today I reached a little milestone. I have started to learn words that I have never looked up on Google Translate or my Swahili dictionary. I learned the word “kazi,” “work,” a few days ago, and have tried to use it in conversation a few times. I’ve heard people saying “fanya” with a prefix, and I’ve started trying to use it. I suspect “kazi” is the noun for “work” or “job” and “fanya” is the verb.

I saw one of gardeners from my house today working at the school. I started to say, “Yesterday I saw you at my house, and today (leo)” and he filled in the rest. Something like “Leo ninafanya kazi hapa.” “Today I am working here.”

I also taught some classes in English. I’m creating blogs with the classes and showing them how to use them for class discussions and a school newspaper. I went to a science fair, where a couple dozen students showed off their projects. I was impressed and took pictures and uploaded them to a class blog.

I also tried “fanya” at Woodland, where I went for supper with Madalena. We had a great talk about travel, and life in general, and ate goat (a little tough tonight) and had a beer (two for me, thanks). The owner came in and remembered my name, which impressed me. I remembered his, Genes, and we talked a little in Swahili. I heard “fanya” and told him I’m teaching at International School. He gestured to Madalena and said “Mama,” which means “Mother.” (She’s in my age bracket.)

I said “Anafanya volunteer.” He might’ve understood, but I’m not sure. I talked to Leodgard, his son, and Naima, the bartender, and a guy at the bar named Samuel. I told the cooks in Swahili that the food was good, and that my wife said thank you for sending greetings from Tanzania.

Earlier in the day I had talked to the gatekeeper and gardener, trying out “hatua kwa hatua” (“step by step,” which Samuel taught me last night). They seemed to get it. I talked to the guys at the Outdoor Program when I checked out my gear for a backpacking trip I’ll take this weekend. I talked to Inyasi, the guy who cleans the staffroom, and he introduced me to his friend (“nirafikiangu”).

In English, at lunch, I talked to a couple Kenyan teachers, and a teacher from Maryland, whose wife, I learned, wrote the Lonely Planet guide to Tanzania. I gave Alfred my crash course in Swahili, which he ate up. He’ll learn fast, if he tries, which I think he will.

When I came home, I talked to the new guard, since it’s Samuel’s night off. He told me his name was Eddiesomething. I asked if I could call him “Eddie,” the name of many men in America. I tried to say “Samuel is not working today,” “Samuel sifanyi leo,” but he stared blankly at me, so I tried a different tack (in the sailing sense). “Samuel works here six days; you work here one day,” using “ana/unafanya na kazi hapa.” He understood (Anaelewa).

Later I went out for a long talk with Eddie. I can’t even remember what all we talked about, but he threw out some English words that made it clear that he is trying to learn English. I tried to help him, and he helped me. He told me reads the dictionary and lives in Arusha but works here. “Ninafanya kazi hapa.” “Unafanya kazi hapa?” “Ndio.”

I said he was “mwalimu nzuri” — a good teacher. He said, “Me?” I said “Ndio.”

Now I’m home alone, and the power is out. Just before it went out, the dogs started barking. Now I can hear insects, and cars, and dogs, and it’s black as pitch. Alfred and Madalena are at school, and I’m here with a fully charged wifi and computer. It’s peaceful. Salama.

It was a good day. Siku nzuri.

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