I realized today that I have said very little about my language school what I actually do for the bulk of my days. Each morning the day starts with breakfast at 7:00, devotions at 7:45, class at 8:00 until tea time at 10:00. At 10:30 we have lessons again until noon. After lunch at noon we can rest or whatever until 2:30. When I was sick I was in town during that early afternoon time and realized that many places of business also close for those couple of hours (not restaurants, of course). We have class again from 2:30 to 4 when we have tea time again and then we are free for the rest of the day with dinner served at 6:00. During class time we are out in the gardens of the language school grounds in small groups or just one on one depending on the student’s level. In the garden are several bandas; these are made of cement foundations with iron poles that support a thatched roof. This way we can be shaded from the sun or rain depending on the weather.
Each week our teachers rotate around to different students or maybe it’s the students that rotate. This week I have Moreto. It’s my second time to get this soft-spoken, clear-skinned young man as a teacher. Moreto is Maasai. In this part of Tanzania many Maasai have settled into villages and build permanent bomas (dung and stick homes) but still raise cattle for a living. Moreto is the seventh born of his mother’s eight children. But his mother is the first of eight wives. So Moreto has something like 50 brothers and sisters. Moreto is 20 years old and has a good education through secondary school. He is working towards going to college in Dar es Salaam.
Today we marveled at a metallic purple and green bug that wondered into our banda. That prompted Moreto to comment on the birds in the bushes on both sides of us. He explained to me in Swahili that these birds were talking to each other and one was saying to the other, “Come over here.” The other was answering back that these people were in the way. I thought this a funny explanation but eventually one bird flew off down the hedge of bushes and then met its mate on the path outside the hedge. Moreto then pointed out that they were not looking for food as they hopped along the ground.
When I chuckled again at the narration Moreto told me that he really likes bird and he understands what animals are saying. I must have looked incredulous because he insisted and started to tell me a story to illustrate. Mind you this was all in Swahili. But he is so careful to speak slowly so I can catch every word:
One day when he was out with his cattle letting them graze, the cattle had become full and were just resting. Moreto fell asleep too, under the tree he was leaning against. He told me that after a while some birds woke him up. One bird was on the ground on his right and the other was up in a branch on his left. They chirped loudly and when they woke him, he said they looked at a snake in the tree directly above him to cause him to look in that direction and see it too. When he realized the danger he snuck away from under the tree and the birds ‘ran’ away.
I was completely mesmerized by the story. So he added that birds don’t like snakes because they steal their eggs and they hope that humans will kill the snake. I got more bits and pieces about how to kill a snake. And even how Moreto can be frightened by a small rabbit if he is without his ‘tools’ but isn’t at all afraid of a lion or snake or elephant if he had his knife, stick (club), bow and arrow with him. It’s so hard to imagine this mild-mannered young man dressed in Maasai wraps and carrying a club and knife in his belt. It must be much harder for you to picture.
I wondered if Dr Dolittle might be real and comes from Maasai blood.