Today I am hanging out on B’s veranda. He is the mechanic at a fancy ranch near our camp, and so has a real house. Lizzie has gone to another ranch where she is working on a batch of honey wine. Tonight Loisaba’s hot air balloon pilot is holding a party where he plans to deep fry a turkey, and Lizzie and I decided we couldn’t pass that up.
Last night I was homesick. Figuring anything out here seems both pointless and hopeless; I am unconvinced there’s a pattern to communities’ behavior, and the language and cultural barriers are so high. But I won’t know if there’s a pattern until I go out to look for one…
The rain yesterday caused a zillion bugs to hatch, and the bugs were landing on the table in our mess as though it were raining nasty little black flying beetles. So Lizzie and I ate dinner in her tent, and that was nice.
The number of years living here that it could take to gain competence is daunting. I am to the point of taking the car on tolerably long drives, but I would be scared to cross deep gullies (imagine descending 15 feet in a Range Rover to a dry, sandy river bed and then climbing out of it) without Lizzie in the car. There are also rivers to be forded when I want to drive further. And never mind if the car were to break down.
But I am improving, and I’ll just take it a day at a time. I don’t drive without a radio, and with it I can call Lizzie no matter where I end up. That is a comfort, and yet being completely dependent on another person to come retrieve you is humbling. (More later on how humbling it is to be so obviously less hardy and competent, and yet so much better fed, than the Maasai all around me). Also, even if Lizzie isn’t there, I’ll always have a local person with me to direct me, seeing as I can’t tell apart the different paths through the scrub.
I think my Swahili is getting a little better; my Maasai is going essentially nowhere. The sum total of my Maa is as follows. You can see there’s no grammar yet, but it is helpful to be able to tell people that they have beautiful children, and they get a good laugh when I point at myself and say “kachumbai”. Some of them also call me by my Maa name, which is Nagira (“the quiet one”).
- Kachumbai = white person
- Kesidai = beautiful
- Ntitai = little girl
- Layioni = boy
- Enkang = house
- Lapa = moon
- Damesi = camel
- Nchan = grass
- Esserian = hello (plural)
- Sopa = hello
- Lesere = goodbye
- Ashe oleng = thank you very much
- Nabo = one
- Aré = two
- Dey = my friend (as in “Eva, dey”, which is what my friend S. calls me)