Although I do not know much Swahili, I am learning to understand many things. It is perfect communication when the nursery school students greet me as I walk up the path to school, and they run to hold my hand. During a lesson when I get tickled by something a child has done, I often exchange a glance with one of the teachers who is enjoying the same moment and we give each other a smile. Around Grace’s and Festo’s dinner table, the grace is said in German, Swahili or English depending on who is saying the grace and each prayer is understood.
One afternoon, Jim and I walked to the village so I could buy a straw hat. As we passed houses, people were sitting in the shade and we waved and greeted them. On the way back, I showed my hat to those whom I had greeted earlier. They waved and approved of my purchase. It was the simplest of communication, but it made me feel like I was not a stranger.
The key to understanding others in this culture which is not mine has been to adopt an attitude of watching and waiting. This experience has made me wonder about words and how often they distract and clutter a situation. Being lean on words because of my lack of language has caused me to notice more. I wonder if this is a good lesson to take home with me—watch and wait to notice and appreciate people and surroundings more fully.
Jim and I are half way through with our time in Tanzania. We are well and send our greetings homeward to family and friends.