Monday, 10 August 2009

PXR: East Africa 2009 - The Linguistic Highlights

Well, I'm back from a wonderful time in East Africa. My stomach is still having a little difficulty readjusting to the gut-abusing unhealthy rich western meat heavy diet, but I'm sure I'll get over it! Moreover, I have quickly got back into the habit of staring through people when walking around town rather than greeting them/making friendly eye contact! Not sure I like that though - I feel like an alien in my own hometown.

Anyway... highlights by category! Starting with some Swahili phrases I found fun/useful:


Mimi ni mzungu chizi.
I am a crazy white man.

Kenyatta Avenue iko wapi?
How do I get to Kenyatta Avenue? (Every town seems to have one in Kenya!)

Hapana, si jawahi koopatana na Cece Fabregas.
No, I have never met Cece Fabregas.

Wakenya hoopata ngovu kwa kula ugali.
Kenyans are powered by ugali.

Si jui kufukuza kuku!
I'm not very good at catching chickens.

Una kula kitu ee-yo??!!
Do you really eat that bit??!!

Mzungu si mti ya mpesa.
White man is not a money tree. (Said with a smile to small children who would randomly - and boldly walk up to me and ask me for money)

Mimi ni nu africa mwenye eme yungwa kwa mwili ya mubeberu.
I am an African trapped inside a White man's body.

For those (like me) who are interested, here is the etymology of the word mzungu (taken from Wikipedia)

Mzungu stems from a contraction of words meaning "one who moves around,"(possibly zunguluka, zungusha-meaning to go round and round) and was coined to describe European traders who traveled through East African countries in the 18th century. The word became synonymous with "white person" because of the traders' complexion. Many rural villages in Tanzania and Kenya are rarely visited by "bazungus" , making Caucasian passers-through an odd sight for young people. Also the mzungu was probably preferred to words linked to color because in central and east Africa people do not link Europeans to white color as most Europeans were trying to translate the name of their race in African languages. They instead see them as reddish or pinkish. For instance in Kinyarwanda and Kirundi white people are also known as rutuku which means red. However it is not used formally because its prefix ru- makes it sounds a little bit derogative.

Mmmm... Pongezi Walker!!

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