- Nimeshiba = i'm full
- Kamwene = (kihehe greeting)
- Umeamkaje= how did you sleep (directly translating to 'how did you wake up?')
- Umependeza= you look nice
- Nimechanganyikiwa = im confused
- Sielewi = i dont understand
3 hours from Iringa in the Mufindi region is a small village of 2450 people called Ludilo. A month ago if someone asked me about this village I would have no answer, but after living here for 2 weeks I can tell you exactly how many houses are here, where every church school and shop is, and even which land is used for which type of farming. For someone who had to check my hands to see which way was left and right during my driving exam, this is really impressive. The reason I’m in Ludilo is because for the month of November I am living with a host family in order to conduct research about how the local language of Kihehe affects the identity of community members here. I had no idea what to expect coming into this experience, but even after such a short time here I haven’t even been able to process all of the things I have seen and done so far.
I’ll start by introducing my new family. I
n the house currently is my little brother who is 16. My sister left for college the day after I arrived so I only got to meet her for a little while. I’m not sure if we have other siblings in University because asking a mother to count her children I’ve learned is almost asking for something bad to happen to them. My father is a pharmacist and my mother is a small-scale farmer. Most of the people of Ludilo are small scale farmers. In addition to my new family I also now have a pig, many chickens, and a cat.
The first week my classmate Lucy and I walked the entire village and met with the village leader in order to get the history of our new home and a general idea of where we are now living. He was so kind and helped us quite a bit with our Swahili before inviting us into his home for chai. Everyone is very kind to us and goes out of their way to invite us over for meals or chai. When I pass by people I always greet them in Kihehe, which surprises people a lot and usually makes them laugh. Kihehe is the local language because most of the people in Ludilo are Mhehe people. They learn Kihehe in their homes and usually then learn Swahili in school, because it is the national language. I have had so much fun learning both languages at the same time. The key to learning any language is being okay with discomfort and making mistakes, because that’s the only way you’re going to learn. Trust me, I have made many mistakes and embarrassed myself plenty and it helps me each time.
Last week I met one of the school teachers and he asked us to come in and help teach the students English. After getting there he informed us we would actually be teaching math to a class of mostly 11 year olds. When I walked into the classroom and saw long division on the board I immediately realized I didn’t remember how to do that and the students ended up teaching ME how to do it instead of the other way around haha. When I got home my host dad told me the teacher called him to joke about how bad I am at math. Thank god I’m not a STEM major.
You know how they say everyone eventually turns into their mother? I have partially turned into my host mother. Let me explain.
Every morning I have chai and bread with my host mom and I return back to the house around 1 for lunch. Later I help my mom cook dinner in our kitchen of an open fire. Usually we cook ugali and greens because I told her it is my favorite. (ugali is made from flour and water that is basically the staple of Tanzanian food). After a couple days doing the easy parts like chopping vegetables or cutting fruit, my host mom handed me the ugali spoon. I stood over the fire, tears streaming down my face not from crying but because of all the smoke, boiling hot ugali water popping my feet like bacon grease, and I appreciated all of my meals like I never had before.
Every meal my host mother sits opposite from me and watches me while I eat. As soon as my plate runs low she fills it back up again and tells me to eat more until I’m full. If I tell her I’m full she makes a crying face and tells me to eat as she puts even more food on my plate. The first week in my home I was feeling so full I was basically waddling between meals but this week I was reaching for thirds by myself. My research assistant who is from Ludilo and helps me translate interviews came over one day this week and I sat across from him and filled his plate and made sure he was eating just like my host mom was doing to me. I hate cooking and will always choose ramen and coffee ice cream over making myself food because I feel like I don’t have the time to cook. But being in Tanzania I’ve learned patience. Cooking is such a labor of love, and sitting on stools in our kitchen making dinner while my host mama Joyce teaches me different words in Kihehe and Kiswahili is something I look forward to now. Nimeshiba sana but so is my heart. Bah dum tss. Get it. haha