Tuesday, November 4, 2008

By the way...

One of the most interesting challenges of my time here is picking up the lingo. Having been a British colony, much of the Kenyan culture and language has been affected by British culture. And in time, phrases and ideas have melded into truly Kenyan sayings. A few favorites so far...

"By the way" - what we would use as a preface to something secretive or gossipy, Kenyans use all the time - at least once in a conversation. Used like this:

"How are you today? By the way, your dress is very nice, where did you get it?"

"I am so bored" - used to mean that things are slow, or someone is feeling tired. In the US if someone says this, at times you could take offense, as if the person is bored in your presence. Here, it's more a statement of things - like, "man things are slow today!"

"You are so fat! You are huge!" - meant as a compliment, because obviously life must be good if you are able to have enough food to eat to be so healthy. Size is also equated with age, so here I am very old and very wealthy. :)

"You are so white!" - the irony is that while the Africans admire my fair skin, I envy their beautiful dark color.

"Sema" - not an english word, rather a kiswahili word, but said a hundred times a day. It means - "say something" - as in tell me how things are? At night, when I try to fall asleep I have this phrase and "by the way" playing through my head!