13 October 2010

Learning patience in Nairobi

My waiting period in Nairobi continues, with no clear sign of when I will be able to leave for Tanzania. However, I am not just sitting, doing nothing. In the past three weeks I have pursued further language training and have started working at a Sudan development NGO based in Nairobi.

The two weeks of language lessons were unremarkable, though I appreciate the additional practice to speak, hear, and read in Kiswahili. Class with Bwana Robinson was an excellent way to start my day. I would leave the apartment by 6:30, pick a matatu (48) toward Karengware, alight on Gitanga Road, and walk the rest of the way. I enjoyed walking because it was a chance to listen to the latest BBC World News, News From Lake Wobegon, or Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me! podcast. Class was from 7:30 – 8:30. I would then find my way to breakfast at Junction and maybe stick around for lunch with Grace and Michael.

You may recall 3 weeks ago that I expected to be leaving last week. That idea changed because, while my visa has been approved, the physical entity of the visa is not yet available. This week I am waiting on our Tanzania contact Ezekiel to come to Nairobi and take me directly to the school. I have taken advantage of the extra time in a few ways.

-I have completed the major work of my graduate school applications. All that remains is to upload personal statements and resumes and pay the application fees. My gracious reference writers have an important role to play, also. (I am applying for graduate study in biostatistics.)

-I began working at an NGO in Nairobi. The organization is called Across and focuses on development work in southern Sudan. Thus far, I have made suggestions on how to improve the website (http://across-sudan.org/) and I am currently working on compiling human interest stories to be put online. This week I leave the apartment at 6:30, pick the 48, then 46, to Yaya, take breakfast in Yaya, and walk to work by 9:00. (Yaya is a mall.)

On today’s matatu ride (46), I was lucky and got to sit up front. A brief conversation with the driver ensued.

“What is that?” The driver asked, pointing at my iPod. I was listening to Mumford & Sons at the time.
“It plays music, you know?” I replied, expecting that to be the end of our discussion.
“How is the music there?” He said after a few moments, picking up the iPod in his free hand and examining the screen.
“It plugs into the compyuta.” I said, attempting to incorporate the vernacular. Beat. “I’m going to Yaya.”
“To Yaya?”
“Yeah – I  work near there.”
The driver paused.  “Do you know Kiswahili?”
“Kidogo.” A little bit.
Another pause. “Unaenda wapi?”
“Ninaenda Yaya.” I am going to Yaya.
“Na unafanya gani?”
“Ninafanya,” I hesitated. “Ninafanya kazi.” I am working.
The matatu pulled over; I got out and crossed over to Yaya. The guards with automatic weapons were not posted yet but I saw them later.

I am going to read this blog entry in a few months, laugh, and, I hope, appreciate how much joy I felt engaging in this simplest of conversations in Kiswahili. 

I continue to learn from daily interactions; it's an education worth having.

That is all.

1 comment:

  1. I too love listening to Wait Wait and Lake Wobegon podcasts on down times or when I need a sense of life back home. Keep up the good work, rafiki!

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