Thursday, March 19, 2009

It's the simple things that matter...

The art of art, the glory of expression and the sunshine of the light of letters, is simplicity.
~Walt Whitman

Every morning as I walk to work, (or trek as most Kenyans would say), I walk by a primary school. Almost every day, I end up walking with several children who attend this school. Most of the children that walk with me are very young and thus do not all know Kiswahili yet - rather they know their tribal language Kikuyu. As most of these children do not know Kiswahili, we were for the longest time unable to exchange verbal greetings, instead we would smile and wave.
Recently, I have started learning some of the Kikuyu greetings which has changed this entire scenario. The children will say something that sounds like Natea (I don't know the spelling of any Kikuyu words yet) and I will respond Nicuega.
Within 24hours of the children realizing that I had learned Kikuyu greetings, children from every school in the community have started greeting me in Kikuyu.
The next morning, as I was approaching the school I heard a group of children chanting Muthungo (which sounds very similar to the Kiswahili word Mzungu; both words mean foreigner). As I walk closer and closer to the school, more and more children began to chant. The chant continued until I was right outside the school gate in front of them. Just then, there was a brief moment of silence.
And then, in unison, the children said Muthungo Natea to which i replied Nicuega. Then I greeted them all saying Muriega - a greeting for groups of people as if saying "how are you all doing today?" The children, again in unison, replied Turiega meaning "we're fine".
Such a simple thing as a greeting can really make a large difference. Before I came to this community, the children whom I greet every morning had probably not seen a Mzungu (or Muthungoi) that would be able to greet them in their own language.
Every morning I look forward to greeting these children as they all become very very excited that they are being greeted by me.
I walk away from the school on my way to work extremely happy every morning.
And all of this is the result of a simple greeting.


  1. I bet you can say hi to a wildebeest. I can't because I don't have one.

  2. Well I might be able to say Hi to a wildebeest, but I'm not sure which language they would understand. I suppose I could try greetings in Kiswahili, Kikuyu, Spanish, English, Italian, French, German, and Kenyan Sign language and try to see which one is effective. I'll get back to you on that one ;)