Today I had the option to go to a “graduation” (I put the word in quotations because I’m not sure who is graduating or under what circumstances) but I chose to stay home. I had some college essays to work on and I also wanted to finish the September newsletter for Uzima and do some reading.
I have learned that a full day alone can be a long one. I am here with the house staff (two young women and a man) who have been cleaning and cooking during the day. There is one girl named Sarah who is 18 and particularly friendly. She is somewhat weak right now because she has malaria, but she is recovering. She knocks on my door or comes outside to where I am sitting during the day to bring me a drink, or show me the flowers she picked. She always smiles.
I am shy around the house help because they don’t speak English, but as the day went on I got a little bolder. Sarah entered my room just to give me a friendly wave hello, and I asked her to sit on the bed to show her that I was working in my English-Swahili dictionary. Through a lot of page flipping and hand motions I was able to express to her that I was about to go out to pick up some bread at the store nearby and asked if we needed any other food. I think she understood the question after I asked it two or three different ways, but I proceeded with another few after that before giving her enough time to respond (oops, I’m American). She said that we didn’t need food but thank you. “Chakula hapana, lakini asante”
I went down to the store feeling chipper. I returned with no bread because they didn’t have any, but I was proud that I successfully asked for “mkate”. I came back empty handed and explained with few Swahili words that they didn’t have bread. Sarah responded by saying what I interpreted as Baba (Glorious) will bring bread home. Then she asked if I was hungry. I responded in rapid English accidentally. This made her laugh and she gave an understanding nod, so I think my facial expressions got my answer (no) across.
This encounter really excited me. I think it had a similar effect on me because she just entered my room while I was writing to ask “Wewe kakee?” Which means “you - something –“. I don’t know what that something is because I can only find my English-Swahili dictionary, not the Swahili-English one. They don’t sell them together here…I find that odd. Also I am running low on Internet money on my modem so I don’t want to look it up online. I’ll ask Charity when she gets home.
Our small interactions through the day have reminded me of something: I love cultures. I love people. I love people who exude their culture with every ounce of their being. I am not shy among friends, but sometimes I am reserved among strangers, especially those from a different background because I don’t want to come across as the ugly American. My time with Sarah today reminded me that in a reserved but vibrant culture like the one I am living in, sometimes it takes a boost of confidence on my part to get the conversation going.