Haraka, Haraka, Hayina, Baraka.

Posted on October 17, 2012


By John

No, that is not a political statement in favor of, or against our president. It is an African proverb that means “Hurry, hurry has no blessing.” It is an oft repeated phrase in our Swahili lessons. We want to quickly spit out the words instead of pronouncing them fully and slowly, accenting the right syllable and filling out all those vowels that English swallows but Swahili uses.

It is also a very appropriate theme for our lives here. If we try to pack too much into one day, AKA try to run more than one or two errands, we end up frustrated. You can not rush things here. Our daughter still does not have a birth certificate, the vehicle we bought is still in the previous owner’s name, and still does not have working AC. We have not finished getting all of our rental furniture replaced with things we actually own; in short, some things just take longer than they do.

It is easy to get frustrated, to think of Kenya as inefficient and backwards. I have noticed that I tend toward  these negative thoughts more when I am in a hurry. Hurry though implies something: efficiency. When you are learning a language all your efficiency goes out the window. You are suddenly reduced to the level of an infant, struggling to pronounce the most basic words.

Is this what Jesus meant when he said we must come as little children?

Six weeks into learning Swahili, and I can have a basic conversation with you if I am buying vegetables, talking about where we come from or asking your name. I can not, however, tell you that I will not do something or even ask the question “how.”

I just started working in the hangar full time this week. Full time structured language lessons are a thing of the past, and now the real work begins. I spend chai time sitting with the Kenyans on the tarmac outside of the hangar. I have been the only white face so far. I pick up snatches of conversation, words that I know and occasionally a phrase. Slowly an entire world is coming to me piece by piece.

It is very possible to get around Nairobi and most of Kenya without Swahili. There have even been some who think of all the time I have spent learning language a waste of time. Most of them, I have noticed, are always in a hurry.

Posted in: Africa, John