Everyday during language learning we spend the afternoon at a local market called Toy Market that has no toys at all (we are learning that names in English very often DO NOT correlate with what the store actually has, ie. we heard about a place called the Leather Shop that is supposed to have outdoor toys for kids, now there are plenty of leather shops in Boy’s Town, Chicago and although I have not been in them I am quite sure they do not carry kid’s toys).
I digress; Toy Market is a open air market packed with used clothes’ and shoes, fresh fruit and veggies, fish, and an assortment of bootleg merchandise (35 Disney movies for 200 shillings or around 3 dollars!). Our language helpers walk with us as we fumble through our phrases with the merchants and other shoppers. I actually have 2 language helpers, both named Mercy because there was one extra helper based on our number of learners. So either I am the slow student or the gifted one depending on how you chose to look at it (me, I know it is because I am so advanced in Kiswhili- NOT!). Mercy and Mercy are so great and encouraging as it is really hard to learn a language. Jason’s language helper is a really nice guy named Oscar.
At the market the people are so gracious and respond with smiles when we speak Kiswahili (however flawed). In learning language the key word for me is vulnerability. It is a challenge to view this as a strength coming from a culture where it is valued to know a lot, be prepared, and attain skills before stepping into a situation. I am praying I have the attitude of a learner and embrace my weakness as a strength. I also need a sense of humor becuase I sound dumb…..a lot.
Each day our goal is to build relationships and speak our phrases with at least 15-20 people. Concentrating so hard on phrases is exhausting but is also so rewarding because the overwhelming majority of people are willing to talk with us and are excited that we are learning to speak their language. The added bonus of having our practice at the market is that I got to do some shopping and bargain a bit (I LOVE bargaining for a good price)! Since we were not prepared for the cold weather here in Kenya I wanted to get a pair of pants (I can wear pants in Nairobi-yeah!). I actually found a pair of jeans that was not only long enough but actually fits well (how is it that I can never find these in Chicago but I can in a used clothes’ market in Kenya!). It was a hilarious experience as 3 different guys are hurling jeans at me for consideration. Some of them obviously way to small….how do you say “big bootay Kiswahili?” It took about 20 minutes of bargaining to negotiate the price but in the end I got a pretty good deal (thanks for the fun money Mom!) and a pretty sweet pair of jeans. I also got a couple more long skirts to wear in Tanzania and a sweatshirt for Jason. Here is to many more days of language learning ahead.