Morogoro- Wiki Sita

As I complete my final few days in Morogoro, I am reflecting on the significant moments in my language acquisition and time here. Two fascinating aspects of my language learning process have been the vocabulary the school’s book chooses to present and the slang I have been taught. The vocabulary the lessons focused on early on are indicative of Tanzanian culture. I have learned more Swahili words about farming than I thought I could explain in English, and through this process have also picked up different methods and processes of farming. As farming is one of the main sectors of Tanzania’s economy, this makes sense. Similarly, I have learned numerous words for different cooking techniques that I was unaware of—some that I think we may not have in the states. For example, Ugali is a very common Swahili dish and I have been informed of multiple words for different ways of stirring Ugali. Furthermore, I am intrigued by the numerous words in Swahili that all connote “to wash.” There are verbs for washing your body, washing your face or hands, washing your clothes, washing your hair, and then two broader words that signify cleaning and washing of many sorts. In almost every case, in English I would simply say precede the noun that is being washed with “to wash.”

What I have learned through this, more so than how to cook Ugali, is that language is highly representative of culture. Our culture is so information-based that we seem to have a vast array of descriptors that we use with more common verbs. However, Swahili has so many verbs and the verb depicts so much of the sentence. It seems to be expressive of the importance of action in Swahili culture, perhaps more so than abstract thoughts that have such significance in the U.S.

Learning slang phrases is something that has mostly just been fun! I am continually in awe every time I hear a new one because so often I have no clue how these phrases come about. Yet, I know I can’t complain because English indubitably has just as many, if not more, crazy phrases. I wanted to share a few though because they have been enjoyable to learn.

  • JIKO literally means “stove” or “kitchen,” but it is slang for “spouse”
  • KULA BATA literally means “to eat duck,” but it is slang for “to relax”
  • KUPIGA MSWAKI literally means “to brush teeth,” but it is slang for “to not be full”
  • FRESHIE is not really a Swahili word, but has become a slang response for when someone asks “how are you?”
  • KUWA BOMBA literally means “to be a pipe,” but is slang for “good” or “cool”

These have been my favorite phrases so far because they definitely seem to be the wackiest. It’s interesting to compare how I have picked some of them up or heard them used. I have one teacher who has explained the alternate slang meanings when I learn new vocabulary, but he always starts the sentence with “The youth also use this word to mean…” so I have gotten the impression that he doesn’t use these terms often. However, I heard the head of the language school respond “Freshie” the other day and was taken aback! Of the younger teachers, I’ve really only learned or heard slang terms from the male teachers. The female teachers laugh and explain the term if asked, but I also haven’t gotten the impression that they use these terms as much. Of course, this may have to do more with personal preferences of a few people than gender, but it’s interesting all the same!

Learning the vast cultural influences on language is one of the most daunting aspects of language acquisition. Picking up these nuances is such a long process, but crucial to really learning another language. It has been great having teachers that value sharing these through teaching about culture and the impact of it on Swahili. Yet, even though it is a bit overwhelming, it creates a far greater appreciation for the importance of language—particularly the value in learning other languages. As my six weeks in Morogoro are coming to a close, I am more aware of how extensive a process language acquisition is, but grateful for the progress I have made and excited to continue it. I am especially looking forward to having another month in Tanzania to practice Swahili, even though my time studying it in class is concluding.




Morogoro- Wiki Tano

My time in Morogoro has been lovely since I’ve last posted. I switched teachers this past week and have enjoyed the new rhythm. All the teachers work a little differently and, I think, it’s helpful to change the pace after a few weeks with one teacher. My teacher and I have been focusing a lot more on talking during class so I can just get practice conversing. This has been really helpful and it’s been exciting to discuss a variety of things in Swahili. One day, one of the questions in class asked why hospital workers and police officers wear uniforms. It was meant to be a simple question, asked because the vocabulary for the lesson was about clothes, including uniforms. However, we were able to have a really interesting conversation about the benefits and losses to wearing uniforms. It was something I never would have thought about, but ended up being enjoying to consider in Swahili. We’ve also been able to discuss a range of topics, like women’s rights and Tanzania’s economy, that have provided interesting cultural insight, while also helping me to build up my political vocabulary. I have been reading short stories in Swahili, which has proved intriguing, fun, and helpful. It is especially useful in grasping a better understanding of sentence construction and how verbs are used. Since the campus is a bit isolated, this has been great for getting another source of Swahili in practice.

There were two holidays last week so we had a little bit of class shortened on Wednesday and Thursday. Wednesday was Eid al-Fitr, the end of Ramadan. Though most of the teachers have Christian backgrounds, it was really interesting to learn more about. Morogoro has a fairly large Muslim population and there are a few mosques near the campus. Often I am able to hear the call to prayer in the morning or evening on campus, but before Eid during the Night of Power a car was driving around with a speaker praying. Then on Wednesday, we were able to hear a sermon throughout much of the morning. It’s been so interesting to hear these since I’ve never heard a call to prayer before. Eid al-Fitr was especially fascinating because even though the teachers weren’t Muslim, they were so excited it was Eid. It’s such an important and joyful holiday that it extended outside of the Muslim community to friends and family.

Thursday, July 7th, was Saba Saba a national holiday in Tanzania. Saba is seven in Swahili. Saba Saba celebrates farmers in Tanzania, but is also on the day that the political party, the Tanganyika African National Union, was formed in 1954. As this was Tanzania’s party during single-party rule, some opposition parties disliked Farmer’s day being on Saba Saba and now celebrate it on Nane Nane (8/8). However, Saba Saba is still a national holiday and seems to be celebrating Farmer’s Day. It was interesting because many people seemed to be excited about the holiday, but weren’t sure of the difference between Saba Saba and Nane Nane. I think it was determined that it was now a day for businessmen and Nane Nane is for farmers. It was intriguing to hear this uncertainty, but exciting to once again have teachers enthusiastic about their country, economy, and people!


Said Goodbye to some Friends from the School last week!

Said Goodbye to some Friends from the School last week!


Tactics in avoiding mosquitoes

Tactics in avoiding mosquitoes

Morogoro- Wiki Nne

This week has been full of Swahili studying! As I’ve delved deeper into grammar concepts, I’m grappling to understand the concepts at the speed we move. It has been difficult, but also exciting to conceptually—I’m not yet there in conversation—have reached a point where I can’t equate what I’m learning to anything I’ve learned before. What has been the most trying for me is verb construction. The Swahili verb can contain far more within in it than an English verb does. Besides the tense, the subject and object of the sentence, relative particles, and a prefix indicating “when” can all be denoted within the verb. The root verb can be changed in prepositional, causative, passive, reciprocal, and stative forms depending upon the suffix. I find this concept really logical, but it also makes keeping up with vocabulary difficult when a verb has a negative subject prefix and is in prepositional-passive form! It has been great to work through these concepts, but I think I am going to focus more on conversation practice with my teacher the next two weeks.

This weekend has been a pleasant, and needed, break from verb constructions! On Saturday I traveled into town again with some of the other students. We restaurant-hopped a bit, first finding a coffee shop before grabbing lunch. I don’t drink coffee, but everyone else was thrilled to have non-instant coffee. It was relaxing to sit and read at the coffee shop for a while. Then we made our way to a great restaurant at the New Acropol Hotel. The hotel is owned by a British woman and has a definite colonial feel. That sounds like an odd description, but many tourist spots in Kenya and Tanzania that were opened during colonial times are decorated in similar manners. This gave the restaurant a particular ambience, and I loved looking at the different artwork throughout the building. The food was delicious and I enjoyed a pizza after hardly eating cheese for the last month!


New Acropol Hotel

New Acropol Hotel


This morning, I went to mass with another student. We walked about twenty minutes to the Church, arriving at 8:50 for the 9:00 service. When we arrived, the 7:00 service was still going on! Everyone at the Church was wonderful, answering questions and welcoming us. Mass was difficult to understand, especially with noise from the generator that went on throughout the service since the power had gone out. One of the really wonderful things about the Catholic mass, though, is its universality. I was able to follow and pray along with the parishioners because I knew where we were in the mass, even though I didn’t know what exactly was being said. If I’d had a little more foresight, I also could’ve looked up the readings for the day. It’s a pretty special feeling of community to know that during mass, for the most part, all Catholics around the world are saying the same prayers and sharing in the same service. I think attending church in another language can be discouraging in less structured environments, and know I was a bit discouraged from attending the Lutheran Swahili service on campus, because of the language barrier. However, that disappears a lot when you have this universal structure. I had never really appreciated that before about Catholicism. However, earlier I said “for the most part” because the Swahili service definitely had its differences from masses I attend at home. I knew that it would be longer, but I had guessed that the homily would be much longer. In fact, the homily was typical to the length of a homily in the states. There was a lot more singing and a few different moments of shared prayer. Following mass, the other student who is Korean and I discussed the service while comparing it to ours at home. Stella’s church in Korea seemed to be much more similar to mass in the states and the points the Swahili mass diverged were similar for us. I think this has been my favorite cultural experience since I’ve been in Morogoro.


The Church of the Body and Blood of Christ

The Church of the Body and Blood of Christ


Morogoro- Wiki Tatu

I’m posting this about a week late, but connecting to Internet and, further, uploading pictures can be a bit tricky here:

I am continuing to become comfortable with the routine here and I have really enjoyed my time so far. It’s exciting to focus so deeply on one topic. While I am learning a lot in class, I also feel that I’m constantly learning from the other students, and as I process my surroundings. This has been the first week in Swahili that I am learning that have proven difficult to me particularly because the concepts cannot be correlated to another English concept. Of course, there are a lot of different parts of Swahili that are this way, but this week sentence structures that have especially challenged me to move past translating back and forth from English as I seek to grasp the concept.

This week has been exciting and new in a lot of other ways, as well! Getting to know the other students and being surrounded by so many different cultures, has allowed for many opportunities to hear different perspectives. The U.S. election is always a point of interest. Unsurprisingly everyone is averse to Trump, and eager to hear an American opinion on the election. What has been fascinating is that the interest delves further than intrigue at the array of unique candidates, but contains consideration for how it will affect the international scene. I hadn’t quite grasped the global importance of this election prior to this exposure. When the shooting in Orlando occurred, I was able to talk with a woman here from Dunblane, Scotland. Dunblane is a small town where a mass shooting at a school occurred in 1996. As a direct result, stricter gun laws were introduced in the UK. From her remarks, these laws were quite popular and have proven successful. This perspective was powerful, particularly from someone who coped with the effects of a mass shooting in her hometown. It also has been intriguing to hear about Brexit from citizens of the UK. Leading up to the referendum, the vote was incredibly important to them and a big point of discussion. There was a bit of disbelief at the result and continued conversation of how it would all proceed. Hearing unfamiliar perspectives about an array of issues has been compelling and allowed me to reflect on these matters through new angles.

Over the weekend, I went into town with a few other students, studied, and did laundry. In town we got a bite to eat and ran some errands. Navigating Morogoro with other unfamiliar faces was really helpful in grasping the town. I finished the afternoon with a fair understanding of how to get around. It was also enjoyable to get a nice meal and pick up some groceries. One of my favorite parts was finding a bookstore with a great selection of Swahili and English books. I will definitely be revisiting to pick up a short novel in Swahili. It was a great way to spend Saturday, especially after a few days without power during the week. I spent Sunday studying and doing laundry. Washing my clothes has proved one of the most difficult tasks since I’ve been in Tanzania. I had previously been using the wrong kind of detergent, so Sunday was my first day of successful washing and drying, but it’s exhausting rinsing and ringing out your clothes. My forearms were sore Monday! I have new respect for people who always wash their clothes by hand. While doing laundry isn’t exactly fun, it’s been a lesson in humility and simplicity. These past few weeks I have been able to consider value in time-efficient items like a washing machine or dishwasher, but I have also reflected on the implications of goods and activities we consider everyday. Principally, that they use vast amounts of energy. I hope this can be a chance for me to learn how to better balance these, seemingly, divergent forms of efficiency.


Pattern kitenge bedding

Patterned kitenge bedding


Fun little scorpion in my room!

Fun little scorpion in my room!

Morogoro Wiki 2

Last Saturday was one of my favorite days thus far in Tanzania. Another student, Alex, myself, and our teacher, Elly (Eliamini), planned to hike to a popular peak in the Uluguru Mountains called Morningside. We planned to leave around 8:30 and walk to the base of the hike, but as things go didn’t head out until closer to 9. One of the delays in a morning was an unwelcome spider that scurried into my room. It sounds a bit silly writing that a spider delayed our departure, but I was quite shocked when this spider that resembled a tarantula, but was far larger than any tarantula—or spider at all—I’ve ever seen. I’m a bit ashamed to admit that I’m apprehensive when I open my door to exit my room that another will be waiting to enter. I’ve comforted myself though that it is wholly paranoia because I encountered another far-too-large spider in my bathroom doorway one night. That one I managed to kill on my own though!

Creepy crawly things aside, we began our day walking through the campuses corn fields and taking a side road off the highway to a junction outside of town. From this junction we caught a daladala into town and then walked from town to the base of the hike. I would’ve been content if that was all we did for the day, getting to see different areas of Morogoro. I enjoyed getting to see homes and little shops along the road, the junction with produce stands, and the nice restaurants and hotels on the road that led to the base. I particularly enjoyed the fields of sunflowers on one side and the mountains on the other. I did underestimate the effects of walking an hour to the base in hot temperatures with no shade, and was a bit more tired than I would have liked to be at the start of the hike.


The hike was lovely, but difficult. It was about two and a half hours to the peak where we ate lunch and then climbed about two hours back down to the base. It was beautiful the entire way! We got a range of views outward toward other mountains and the city and surrounding area of Morogoro. It was a clear day and we stopped at a look out where we could see past the Uluguru range to a mountain range in Dodoma too. I think because I only see mountains under special circumstances, I find myself quite happy to be surrounded by them and am constantly taking in the views. This was definitely true on the hike, but also something I get to enjoy each day here. Gazing out and seeing mountains far into the distance has been my favorite view so far, though. The mountains are incredibly green and lush. I’m not sure if it is considered a rainforest, but it looks similar to one with a diverse range of plants, everything bright and in bloom.

After exerting about all the energy I have, we made it to Morningside. There is a rundown house at the peak that was originally a German military site, then passed to British control, and now considered a historical site. We ate lunch here, enjoying the view and the chance to sit down. The way back down was far easier and I had a chance to enjoy the views more, learn a little about the education system in Tanzania, the language school, and see some of the people that lived along the trail farming. There was an area as we headed down on a path different from our hike up that was one of the steepest paths I’ve encountered. To add to the steepness, it was on an edge and the ground was covered in straw from farming, making it very slippery. Alex and I slowly struggled down this ridge, while Elly jogged down a bit, waited then did it again. This exemplifies the entire hike: it was strenuous for Alex and I, but a casual stroll for Elly. Overall, it was a beautiful day and hike; and I rested well when we returned!




Old German Military Site


Morogoro- Wiki Moja


As I reflect on my first ten days in Morogoro, Tanzania, I am content and excited. Morogoro is a beautiful area surrounded by the Uluguru Mountains. Tanzanians share the cultural values of community and the person that have stuck with me during previous time in Kenya. I feel blessed to be surrounded by the mountains and Tanzanians as I learn Swahili this summer.

The ELCT Language School is an excellent setting to learn, to immerse, and just to be. I have been a bit exhausted this week as I adjust to working one-on-one with my teacher for five hours each day. Yet, while this is tiring and I’m swamped with new grammar topics, I can’t quite believe how much I have learned in the last week. It’s exciting to work at such an intensive level. The school facilitates this learning with chai and meal times shared with other Swahili students and your Swahili teachers. While the campus is a bit isolated from the city, most students and many teachers live on the campus so there are constant opportunities to practice speaking or listening to Swahili—and in a comfortable environment. Chai times in the morning and afternoon also provides a nice, and needed, break between classes!

All else aside, the ELCT Language School has the most beautiful campus. I find myself constantly in awe as I sit in class with the part of the mountain range in view. Or as I walk to meals and pass multiple baobab trees (the tree of life, or mbuyu miti in Kiswahili). I have been jogging around the soccer field which gets lots of “mzungu” (foreigner) calls from the children playing, but coming from Indianapolis I much prefer jogging with this scenery! The campus is full of other trees and plants: acacias, palm trees, and one that resembles a pine tree. And all the green is wonderfully contrasted with the red clay of the ground. It’s a bonus I greatly enjoy, learning in such a beautiful setting. I’m hoping to hike the mountain this or the following weekend with my teacher and some other students.


View from Class

View from Class

Tree of life

Tree of life

Baobab tree- Mbuyu

Baobab tree- Mbuyu

The teachers at the school are excellent, offering to take us to town or on hikes. This really facilitates an introduction into the community that may be intimidating without their assistance. Last week, I traveled into the city twice with another student and one of the teachers. The city is bustling and was exciting to experience. I was surprised by how Swahili seems to be almost the sole form of communication. This is very different from Kenya where English and ethnic languages are spoken in great conjunction with Swahili. I knew that Swahili was much more used in Tanzania, but I didn’t understand the extent until visiting Morogoro. We took a daladala to get there which is one of the most common forms of public transportation in Tanzania. Essentially, it is a van that squeezes lots and lots of passengers in and provides cheap transportation. The saying is that a daladala is never full! It was exciting taking this because I attempted to use Swahili when paying fare and experienced a staple mode of transportation. I’m looking forward to visiting town more to get a better understanding of restaurants, shops, and the area as a whole!