Thursday, October 18, 2007

The Moose Analogy

Even though we have been at site in Kibakwe for almost two months now, we still don't know everyone in the village nor do they know us. This brings about an interesting situation. Since there is a koki (water tap) right outside of our courtyard, many people - mostly women and children - come here to fetch water. Most everyone is very cordial and familiar with the wazungu(white people) living in the house by the koki, but occasionally there are children who are taken completely by surprise by our mere existence. When they see us, they stare and their jaws drop struck dumb by our presence. We greet them first in Kiswahili,"Habari za leo?" then in the predominant tribal language Kigogo,"Mbukwenyi?" At this point, we realize there's no amount of language that will be able to force comprehension on their part of our presence in their village. I tried to understand this behavior by putting myself in their place and I developed this analogy: Imagine you're walking down the street near your house, you look up, and there's a moose ten feet away on the sidewalk. It's safe to assume that this situation would render most of us not only motionless but speechless as well. Now, imagine the moose greets you in English,"Good day. How are you?" I think it might take us a while to get over the initial shock of a talking moose. In conclusion, Carla and I (and most white development workers in rural Tanzania), are talking moose.

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