Monday, September 28, 2015

The Sino-American Relations of Not-So-Devolved Bystanders

In front of a downtown hotel in the dusty highway town of Mbeya on Tanzania's far western borderlands with Zambia and Malawi, "the China World" shop still overflows with imported electronic goods coming through distant ports.  Among the goods that arrived via possibly two days of rough slow ride on trucks from the far eastern coast are supposedly the latest cellphones from China.  Advertised on big colorful banners as "high-resolution videos and crystal-clear sounds," the possibly exaggerated descriptions of shockingly inexpensive devices begged first-hand demonstrations as proof.  The permanently emotionless Chinese shop-owner has no qualms about turning on some music videos on these devices for his curious Tanzanian clients.  Out came the sounds and dances of the latest American hip-hop hits, something that the middle-aged shop-owner with little English skills could care any less about.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

the Colonial Vestiges of Personal Names

The more one learns a language, the more one starts to notice the unique subtleties that are idiosyncratic, but can at the same time by conflicting.  The author's recent journey in mastering the Swahili language sees plenty of previously foreign pieces of linguistic rules being understood as things that are inherently local.  For instance, local Swahili words does not allow (just simply don't have) the ending of any consonants.  Foreign loanwords, for instance, generally end with the letter "i" to ensure consonants does not finish any word when pronounced.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

A Surprising Phenomenon of Linguistic Protectionism

As part of his new work at Tanzania, the author is attending weekly one-on-one classes to master the local lingua franca that is Swahili.  Despite English being the working business language as well as the main language of instruction in local schools secondary and above, to work with people with less than adequate amount of formal education (i.e. the farmers, the organization's main clientele), being able to communicate and comprehend at least some of Swahili (as well as the local tribal language of Kihehe) is almost a requirement to succeed.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

The Pessimism from Empty Promises

Near Iringa's dusty airstrip that sees one flight a day to Dar es Salaam, the villages of Nduli ward remains ironically isolated from the reminder of an otherwise NGO-saturated town.  Speaking to village officials, the author discovered that Nduli, despite being the gateway where practically every single NGO professional in Iringa launched their local careers, have not seen any NGO activity since a full year ago.  And even that one instance one year ago was a small-time trial that never became something significant before its abrupt end.