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The Art of Learning a (new) Language

 

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Eleven years after her first visit to Tanzania, La Chica has decided it’s time to learn how to speak Swahili. She’s managed to get by with a mixture of Swahili, Maa (the Masai language) and English, but now she’s ready for fluency. Thanks to her brother’s friend, Babu Simba (Grandpa Lion), she has discovered Pimsleur. Pimsleur language courses provide oral lessons, which has transformed La Chica’s command of Swahili. One of her new year’s resolutions in 2016 is to become fluent in Swahili. No mean feat for a girl who doesn’t get English grammar let alone grammar applied to other languages. Every morning, propped up in her bed with a cup of tea, La Chica plays a 30 minute oral lesson. Unlike learning French, Spanish, German etc where there are always some vaguely familiar words, Swahili has none….unless of course you’re into Lion King, but La Chica hasn’t yet seen Lion King so she’s a step behind everyone who has. So she painstakingly listens without fail, every morning, and responds when told to do so. La Chica has tried not to hit the ‘pause’ button on her computer, but…it takes her longer than the time allowed to work out the word order, then to recall which is the correct verb etc. To help her recall, she’s resorted to reminders and associations. So, for example, the Swahili verb to drink is kunwya. Sounds a bit like quinoa, the Peruvian grain, when pronounced the correct way. So when Pimsleur asks La Chica to be an American man asking a Kenyan woman out for a drink she thinks of quinoa, which is a food which reminds her of kunwya. Then, when Pimsleur asks her to say the drink the Kenyan woman wants is a cup of coffee, oh boy, La Chica might as well push stop rather than pause! Now, in real life, if La Chica is able to pause the world while she remembers her word prompts, puts the words in the correct order, and uses the correct beginnings and endings for the pronouns and verbs, she’ll be able to have a conversation, of sorts. And when La Chica goes to the market in Tanzania? She’s learning numbers so she can bargain. But what silly numbers! Wouldn’t it make sense for ‘nane’ to be the number 9? Of course, but it’s 8. And nne, what sort of number is that? (4). There are books and articles written about the elasticity of the brain, but La Chica’s brain feels like an old elastic band that’s become hard and brittle. Hmm, anyone know a good translator?!

La Chica and lots of women

IMG_3747La Chica was thrilled that a wonderful group of women came to her parent’s house for a Testigo fundraiser that celebrated and supported women.  Testigo’s graphic designer Alli hosted a Jamberry nail wrap session that had the women trying some wonderful designs on their finger nails (watch this space – the promise one day for Testigo branded nail wraps!).  La Chica showed the latest film made of the sixth Testigo trained Masai village in Tanzania (you can watch it at this link http://testigoafrica.org/).  La Chica’s mum prepared a lovely spread for afternoon tea, and Sue donated a wonderful raffle prize that was a successful fundraiser.  La Chica is looking forward to showing her Jamberry nails off in Masai land, and is sure to evoke sighs of envy from the expats living in Tanzania.

Handsup fundraiser

The Year of Collaboration

La Chica has decided that 2016 is the year of collaboration.  The dictionary (ie. google) defines ‘collaboration’ as working together. La Chica is collaborating with four other NGOs (non-governmental organisations – or charities) so far, and it’s not even mid January yet.  But La Chica doesn’t like to waste time!

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La Chica’s charity Testigo Africa is positively changing the lives of Masai women in Tanzania. She’s very excited to collaborate with ‘One Planet Classrooms’,  a project that connects schools in developing countries with well resourced schools from contrasting cultures, and builds relationships across the globe that will empower the next generation.  A class of women from one of Testigo’s six completed villages who have been trained to grow their own vegetables and collect rainwater using permaculture principles will be provided with laptops and set up on Skype to communicate with other women’s groups elsewhere in the world.  Very exciting.

One planet

Another collaboration is with an American NGO called ‘The Outreach Project’.  Last year La Chica met the founders during one of their visits to Tanzania, and was very excited to find overlapping objectives.  They want to ensure a future of self reliance for Tanzanian women in Singida region, and one of their aims for 2016 is to research Masai women and agriculture.  La Chica is going to project manage this research for them in Masai land.

outreach

A further collaboration is with a small UK NGO called ‘Water Aid Matters’.  La Chica met the founder of this NGO many years ago in Longido village, where La Chica has her mud hut homes.  The founder is now living back in the UK and is keen to join forces with La Chica in Testigo’s permaculture project. This is not the first time that these two charities have worked together – they combined forces to ensure the completion of Longido’s water projects.

And Testigo continues to collaborate with AFAP, a partner organisation based in Sydney.  This partnership started in May 2010, and it is thanks to AFAP that Testigo was able to begin its permaculture project with a demonstration plot and training funded by Australian AID.  La Chica attended a child protection training program last year in Malawi, run by AFAP for its African based partner organisations, and La Chica is keen to see how Testigo and AFAP will continue to work together in 2016.

afap

 

 

 

2016!

 

La Chica welcomed in 2016 in Gippsland, rural Australia.  She witnessed stunning Aussie beaches, and got to hold a giant koala.  After spending nearly the entire 2015 in Tanzania, La Chica is thrilled to have time back in her home country.  As always La Chica has set new year resolutions so she can be perfect!  No one has the heart to tell her that it will take more than some resolutions, but that’s ok.  One of her resolutions is to improve her Swahili, the official language of her adopted country Tanzania.  After struggling for over 11 years talking to her bestie (Namnyak) in a mixture of English, Swahili and Masai, she’s finally decided it is time to sound older than two years old when speaking their native languages.  Thanks to Pimsleur she can be heard repeating the same Swahili phrases again and again.  One can only hope that when she returns to Tanzania next month she’ll be required to ask a man if he is from Kenya, and tell him that she wants to eat  (she’ll have to go thirsty, because she can’t get the word for ‘drink’ into her head!).

Another of La Chica’s resolutions is to blog once a week – so be ready for more regular updates again of La Chica’s adventures in Oz and in Masai land in print or on radio.  La Chica has one radio interview under her belt already this new year, and will no doubt speak again soon (can’t shut La Chica up!).  You can listen to her radio interview here http://testigoafrica.org/media

2015 was a great year for Testigo, with another two villages trained in permaculture.  Over 100 women and men in each village were trained over an eight month period to grow vegetables for the first time.  The villages, Olchurai and Loiborsoit ‘A’ excelled in their enthusiasm and hard work, and La Chica is very pleased that when she returns to Tanzania she’ll be starting the seventh village for Testigo Africa’s permaculture project.

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Last month La Chica graduated with a Masters degree – a Master of Commerce in Social Investment and Philanthropy – so now she’s allowed to run Testigo Africa, the charity she founded (and has been running) for about seven years now!  Ok, so not having the degree didn’t stop La Chica, but now she’s excited by all additional knowledge she can bring to her work with the Masai.  Yay!

 

 

 

What do cows, rain, reindeers and snow have in common?

La Chica has been intrigued recently by the array of words available in the Masai language to describe different attributes and behaviours of cows. Here are some examples:

Ngarip – means the cow who runs to be united with her calf when she returns from her day of grazing

Nengalejani – means the cow who withdraws her milk from her Masai owners who are trying to milk her, saving it for her calf

Nladutio engine – means the cow with small teats the size of a goat’s

Ngaipilay – means the cow who walks around in circles while being milked

And how are cows similar to rain, reindeers and snow? Well, in recent conversation with some British chappies, La Chica was told how the British have many words to describe rain – pouring, bucketing down, drizzle, deluge, downpour, mist, spitting, light, raining cats and dogs, pelting down and no doubt many more.

And snow? Well, according to authoritative sources (google) Anthropologist Franz Boas ignited the claim that Eskimos have dozens, or even hundreds, of words for snow. Additionally, the Sami people, who live in the northern tips of Scandinavia and Russia, use at least 180 words related to snow and ice, according to Ole Henrik Magga, a linguist in Norway. The Sami also have as many as 1,000 words for reindeer. These refer to such things as the reindeer’s fitness (“leami” means a short, fat female reindeer), personality (“njirru” is an unmanageable female) and the shape of its antlers (“snarri” is a reindeer whose antlers are short and branched). There is even a Sami word to describe a bull with a single, very large testicle: “busat.”

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The moral of the story?  La Chica has too much time on her hands!

La Chica is back! Orpul fever!

La Chica is back blogging!  For all her latest exploits in deepest darkest Africa (read: Masai land) keep an eye out for her future blogs too.  La Chica was so excited to be invited to her first ever Orpul, she just had to blog about it.  An Orpul is a Masai meat fest!  It’s usually men only, so La Chica assumes that these Masai men haven’t yet realised she’s a woman, so she was very lucky to be invited to participate in the Orpul.  It typically last for three to four weeks, and is an opportunity for a small group of Masai men to go on a men’s retreat to eat beef and drink Masai medicine.  They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so La Chica has written many thousands of words merely by posting some photos of her Orpul experience.  Says it all!

Road block on the way to the Orpul

Road block on the way to the Orpul

Testigo volunteer Jessie enjoying an informal Orpul chat

Testigo volunteer Jessie enjoying an informal Orpul chat

Cooking beef

Cooking beef

Fresh beef hanging, waiting for its time to be cooked and eaten

Fresh beef hanging, waiting for its time to be cooked and eaten

Hang your knife on the tree as you enter - one of the rules of the Orpul

Hang your knife on the tree as you enter – one of the rules of the Orpul

Traditional medicine - roots and branches, drying ready for adding to meat broth

Traditional medicine – roots and branches, drying ready for adding to meat broth

The kids get to eat the meat, drink the broth and  help prepare the ongoing feast

The kids get to eat the meat, drink the broth and help prepare the ongoing feast

Using the cow skin as a water proof chopping board, plate, etc

Using the cow skin as a water proof chopping board, plate, etc

A notch is made each day of the Orpul

A notch is made each day of the Orpul

Adding fragrant leaves to the collected cow blood

Adding fragrant leaves to the collected cow blood

Basket of used Masai medicine

Basket of used Masai medicine

Adding fresh cow's blood to the cooked meat

Adding fresh cow’s blood to the cooked meat

Eating the intestines!

Eating the intestines!

La Chica drinking Masai medicine soup - containing roots, branches, beef broth and cow's blood...yum...

La Chica drinking Masai medicine soup – containing roots, branches, beef broth and cow’s blood…yum…

Pounding the cow fat

Pounding the cow fat

Balls of cow fat ready to be added to the Masai medicine soup

Balls of cow fat ready to be added to the Masai medicine soup

Lengai, the host, making balls of fat

Lengai, the host, making balls of fat

Pull the tail off the ...cow

Pull the tail off the …cow

The cow's tail becomes a handle cover for a knife

The cow’s tail becomes a handle cover for a knife

The cow's jaw is the only non-edible non usable part in an Orpul

The cow’s jaw is the only non-edible non usable part in an Orpul

Preparing the ribs for the Masai style BBQ

Preparing the ribs for the Masai style BBQ

One of the Orpul participants

One of the Orpul participants

Another Orpul participant

Another Orpul participant

The kids learn about the Orpul and eat an abundance of beef

The kids learn about the Orpul and eat an abundance of beef

Masai style BBQ

Masai style BBQ

Dancing Queen

Dancing to Beyonce

Dancing to Beyonce

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La Chica was home alone, a little bored, so she decided to play some dance music. She was dancing alone, outside the house, looking at herself in the mirrored windows.  She popped out the gate to look to see if El Chico was coming home, and saw two kids from the neighbourhood. She invited them in to dance with her, and they lined up watching themselves in the windows. Then a few more kids came…until there were 16 kids dancing, all copying her less than professional dance moves.  They danced until dark! Gotta love Arusha!