sikisa hapa

August 4, 2007

I was struck today by the difficulties of working with the Burundi refugees . . . the newness is wearing off a bit—the “honeymoon” period, if you will. So now I am getting more concerned about the hugeness of the task of teaching them—and the hugeness of the problems they will face in general as they try to acclimate to life here. There is so much that needs to be done before they can live independently and I worry about the logistics of it all. How will the children get registered in school in a couple of weeks now? Who will help them with all the practical matters entailed in moving into their temporary government housing? How will the children get used to school life here when they don’t even understand English yet? . . .
My head starts to spin just trying to figure out what needs to be done, never mind figuring out how to do it! But of course it is not up to me. And Lord knows we would be in a sorry state if it were! Thankfully there are people much more suited to figuring out logistics and, well, just “taking care of business,” than I will ever be!
Anyhow, telling of the past few days of lessons are the phrases that have become my most useful Swahili words of late: Wacha hio, Sikisa hapa, and Hapana. Loosely translated, that would be “Don’t touch that,” [for when they get overly zealous about starting the tape player again that we use for ngoma, or “drum and dance”], “Listen to me!” [this one needs no explanation, I expect], and “No” [i.e. no, don’t climb in my car and lay on the horn today—that was a rather noisy ordeal yesterday!].
So we stumble along each day. We figure things out as we go, making plenty of mistakes, laughing at mistaken translations, getting frustrated when we can’t understand each other . . . and, by grace, perhaps we make some learning progress along the way.

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