Rolling siSwati and toddler fluency

A few weeks ago, I was leaving school to go home. As I pass the gate and say bye to the students, I hear “c’ombole” as one of the students points to my bike. The confused look on my face lets them know that I don’t understand. “Cela boleke“, they clarify. I’m understanding a little better now.

One of the students explains c’ombole is the shortened version of cela boleke (pronounced click c-eh-la bo-lay-gay) meaning “please borrow me…/may I borrow…”. In this instance, the student was asking to borrow my bike. The student who explained the shortened siSwati went on to entertain my lamenting about how siSwati changes whenever I feel like I have a handle on it. She explained the concept of rolling siSwati by comparing it to English contractions and various stylistic preferences (that are present when speaking any language).

In English, “How are you doing?” becomes “How you?”; “cannot” becomes “can’t”; and “Where are you?” becomes “Where you at?” In siSwati, “uyakuphi” (pronounced oo-ya-goo-pee) becomes “uyaku” (pronounced oo-ya-goo) or “uya” (pronounced oo-yah). No meaning is lost, and the listener understands you want to know where s/he is going. This is not to be confused with “ukuphi…” (pronounced oo-goo-pee) meaning “Where is (a person)?” Sometimes, this gets rolled into “uku…” (pronounced oo-goo) or “uphi…” (pronounced oo-pee). Take for example the phrase, “ufuna ini ku wati” (pronounced oo-foo-nah ee-knee goo wah-tee). In everyday siSwati, this phrase becomes “ufunani kwati” (pronounced oo-foo-nah-knee gwah-tee). Both phrases are asking what you want to know.

With these realizations, I decided that I would focus on speaking and listening rather than reading and writing. One of the things that has helped me with this focus is a mobile voice recording app. When I hear a word or phrase I don’t understand, I record myself enunciating the word or phrase several times in siSwati with its English meaning. From time to time, I go back and listen to the recordings to refresh my memory. In that vain, I’d suspect that I’m around the fluency of an average toddler. Maybe a slightly below average toddler. Like toddlers, my subjects don’t always agree with my verbs. Sometimes, I mispronounce things. It’s possible that I might need something explained repeatedly. But eventually, we all understand. My conversations with toddlers and preschoolers are awesome, as everyone understands what’s being said. Sometimes, I can manage a conversation with my gogo, or grandmother.

Be kind to yourself.


Monday in a Picture – A Made Bed

This is my bed. There are probably several around Swaziland and southern Africa that look like it. But, this one is mine. This is not a post about the impeccable fashion sense of my blanket or the sound sleep experienced in said bed. This is about a morning ritual that started just over a year ago and continues to this day. 

It was September or October 2016. I was new to my community and still finding my groove in Peace Corps Swaziland. While perusing Reddit one day, I came across a thread with many folks offering life advice. A person affiliated with US military offered the seemingly simple advice: “make your bed everyday”. The person went on to explain that making your bed is a relatively easy way to start off your day with an accomplishment. The post reasoned that beginning the day with a success made it more likely to have a day marked with successes. It continued that even if the day wasn’t successful, you would return to a nicely made bed that evening. I figured I’d try it. In case you’re wondering, this was not a part of my morning routine prior to Swaziland. 

Now, it’s been more than a year of making my bed everyday. It’s one of the first things I do every morning. My bed gets made before my morning trip to the latrine and breakfast. I’ve found that the Reddit commenter was correct. It is nice to start the day off with a success. One of the unanticipated benefits is that I’m forced to actually start my day, as opposed to climbing back in bed. This has been huge for me. Not wanting to reverse the work I’ve done, I don’t jump back into bed for additional slumber. Instead I’m up. It’s the renewing of that social contract between the world and me that I’ll at least attempt productivity today. Making my bed signifies to the world (and me) that I’m officially joining the day that has started. Some days are more successful than others. But at the very least, I get to come back to a made bed at the day’s end. 

Be kind to yourself.