Sunday, February 27, 2011

South Africa!

I had a fantastic vacation to South Africa from February 12-26. I went for the U2 concerts but was awed by the amazing cheap food and amenities such as potable tap water. To relate the vacation to my time in Rwanda, I figure a list of everything I ate in South Africa should convey just what I’ve been deprived of after a year in Rwanda. Although it probably won’t be as exciting to the average blog reader!
sushi x3, haagen dazs x3, other ice cream/gelato x3, falafel & hummus x2, fruit (grapes, nectarines, peaches, pears, plums, cantaloupe, raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, kiwi), cheese (haloumi, parmesan, brie, blue, feta, cheddar), a disappointing bagel & smoked salmon, pizza x4 (with great cheese!), greek, cheeseburger, burger with brie, big mac, pickles, tons of braai (bbq) meat (beef, chicken, pork, sausage, lamb, ostrich), doritos and chips and spicy cornnuts, tons of salads with goodies like cheese and olives and bacon in them, sandwich with mozerella and artichokes and other delights not found in Rwanda, heavenly chocolate mousse from the grocery store.

 It was exciting to see the Rwandan flag scroll across the giant 360 screen with other African flags during the U2 concerts!
 Bye U2! See you in 2015?
 South Africa is truly the land of opportunity: Ice for Africa and Pizza from a vending machine!

Me at a very windy Cape of Good Hope!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Dusiga! Dusiga! My unlicensed backyard nail salon

Ever since my family visited, bringing with them a selection of colorful nail polish, I have been greeted by most of the village children with cries of “dusiga, dusiga”: “let’s paint, let’s paint." Sometimes I do their nails as they squeeze their hands through holes in my fence. Both girls and boys: equal opportunity nail painting. If I have time and they're a small group, I invite them to sit in my backyard on a straw mat, giving them play-dough or crayons along with a manicure.

It's taken a few play-dough sessions, with me suggesting they make things like cabbage, chappati, donuts, and modeling my haphazard cow and sandal and tea-cup making skills, but they've finally gotten creative: a person in a chair, trees, spoons and forks in addition to a variety of soaps, carrots, candies, gums, and other common items they stack up to "sell." Score one for imagination!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Superbowl, Rwanda style

"Two out of the three German guys watching the Superbowl with us at a restaurant owned by a British-Rwnadan are wearing Steelers jerseys which they bought in the market here in Gisenyi, Rwanda, earlier today. I love globalization." - my facebook post, kickoff at 1:37am local time

(The homemade nachos were the best nachos I've ever had...and complete with the only sour cream I've eaten in a year!)

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Soccer Saturdays

Back in November or December, I organized the first Soccer Saturday: girls only. I had a hard time explaining to the boys, over and over again, why they couldn’t play (a literal translation: “if boys play you will only play with other boys and the girls need to learn”). Eventually, we had a highly successful girls-only game, with perhaps 50 spectators (mostly small children and jealous boys). Afterwards, the boys begged for the ball in the dwindling daylight, and the girls asked to do it again the next week.

We’ve now had four or five soccer Saturdays: some with only a few girls, where I was compelled to include the boys and then reclaim the ball and kick the boys out as timid girls crept up to the sideline to watch. On this latest Soccer Saturday, I allowed one boy to play on each team (so that they couldn’t pass exclusively between each other), as well as the goal keeper. The girls ranged in age from 6 to 23, and even the youngest participated fully in the game.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Why Kinyarwanda is hard: noun classes

Kinyarwanda is hard for many reasons, but one that continues to dog every Kinyarwanda learner is noun classes.

The noun class is a feature of Bantu languages that has no equivalent in English. It may be compared to the masculine and feminine nouns in French or Spanish, which must be matched to the correct form of an adjective (e.g. a tio gordo and tia gorda, or femme blanche and homme blanc). Still, even German, with its masculine, feminine and neuter, only has 6 permutations when you include singular and plural.

Kinyarwanda has 16 noun classes, marked by prefixes to the noun root. Although some line up with singular and plural (noun class 2 is the plural of noun class 1: umuntu person becomes abantu people, 4 is the plural of 3: imidugudu villages from umudugudu village, etc), there are plenty of irregulars (some class 9 nouns are pluralized with class 10, others class 6).

Sound complicated? That’s not even the hard part! In Kinyarwanda, each noun class not only must be matched by a distinct adjective prefix, but also by a verbal prefix, e.g. Impga nini irya. Additionally each noun class has its own prefix for possessives (impga yanjye, impga zanjye), demonstratives (iki kintu, ibi bintu), direct and indirect objects (which are employed as “infixes” within the verb, between the prefix for the subject and the root).

Confused? Me too.

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