11 September 2013

Learning the Lingo!

If you’ve been reading our updates you’ll be familiar with the change of plan that Steve and I experienced when we arrived in Tanzania 2 months ago today.  After a month in Kenya we are now back in Tanzania and getting stuck into language learning. More about that later….

During my episode of ill health and on-going recovery we’ve received many messages from friends and family, full of encouraging words.  Many have referred to this change of plan and God’s purpose behind it all.  I’ve recently been reflecting on one ‘silver lining’ that has become apparent to me since our return to Tanzania.
But first, let me take you back to autumn 2010.  It was then that Steve spent 3 weeks in Tanzania, in the line of duty, visiting missionaries from his ‘patch’ in the UK.  I travelled out to join him at the end of that time for some holiday.  We stayed for a few days with Tony & Cath Swanson in Morogoro.  Tanzania, and Morogoro, was completely new to me, unfamiliar and somewhat intimidating.  I remember saying to myself whilst walking down the main street in town, ‘I could never live here!’
Jump forward to today - here we are living in Morogoro!  But we’ve recently spent almost a month in Nairobi – a busy, bustling city with chaotic traffic, rubbish-strewn streets and asthma-inducing pollution.  By comparison Morogoro seems to be a pleasant place to live, the streets are clean-ish and the traffic is almost tame!  On our return to Tanzania my immediate impression was that Morogoro is not a bad place to live!  Praise God for silver linings!
With regard to the DVT, I’m feeling fine, taking daily medication and having to wear a very unglamorous compression stocking for the next few months!  I’ll have another check up with the doctor in Nairobi in December. 

Our banda among the trees (the one on the left)
Sasa tunajifunza Kiswahili (now we are learning Swahili)For the next couple of months our home is River Valley campsite, Iringa, whilst we undertake our initial language studies.  We’re now in week 3 – and our brains are feeling somewhat battered!  Various people have commented to us that Swahili is one of the easier languages to learn, it being phonetic and fairly logical in grammar.  But last week’s lesson on telling the time was a shock when we learned that time in Tanzania is based on the biblical system and everything is 6 hours out!  When it’s 11am the Tanzanians say that it’s 5am!  What’s logical about that!  So in addition to learning the actual words for saying the time, we have to do mental arithmetic to make sure we’re saying the right numbers!  Argh!
Iringa is a town of about 100,000 people, 4 hours’ drive west of Morogoro.  The town was built during the 1890s by the German army and its name means ‘fort’.  It’s up at around 5000ft and is noticeably cooler than Morogoro.  On the plus side, there are very few mosquitos here!  River Valley campsite is 6 miles from Iringa in a very rural setting.  All around us is bush and the odd hamlet.  It’s an ideal stopping place for tourists who are travelling between national parks.  It’s owned by a Liverpudlian woman who has lived in Tanzania for 10 years – and each day’s menu has a somewhat British flavour, to the bemusement of the American students here! 
The language school based at the campsite has a very good reputation and is used by many mission organisations.  At the moment our fellow students represent New Tribes Mission, SIL, Soma Bibilia and a German medical mission.  There are about 14 of us here, plus kids.  Because we’re all at different levels we study in small groups in various banda classrooms dotted about the site.  It’s not unusual to see guineafowl wander past, lizards run up the walls and firefinches flit about as we study.  In fact, some of our fellow students take binoculars into their lessons! 

You might be wondering why we’re in Iringa and not studying in Morogoro.  Well, we decided that it would be good for us to come away so that we can concentrate on language fully, rather than be distracted by setting up home and being drawn into work.  We are certainly reaping the benefits so far as we can spend around 7 hours studying each day.  Lessons run from 8.30am-1.30pm Monday-Friday and the afternoons and weekends are free for us to self-study.  When we need to take a break there are riverside paths to explore, birds to spot and the odd competitive game of volleyball to throw ourselves into.   It’s a wonderful environment in which to learn - but the head still feels battered with grammar, verbs and vocab!
Steve grappling with verbs in his
open-air classroom
Thanks, as always, for your prayers and support for us.  We’d love to hear from you – our email addresses are opposite. 

And to those who pray, we’d value prayer for the following:

• Please pray that our language learning will continue to progress and that we’ll be able to remember all we’re being taught.  Steve is finding the going tough - and at this rate doesn't feel he'll be preaching in Kiswahili until 2020!
• Pray that we will be a witness to our language teachers, many of whom are Muslims – Tunku, Mosi, Kiobya and Ishmael.
• Pray for our health – for strong stomachs and good sleep!  We are doing well, apart from Ruth having inflamed tendons gained from playing too much volleyball!


Steve & Ruth
The dining room

Ruth's classroom