Swahili Culture & Unit House

Last evening we were without electricity (an increasingly frequent challenge for residents of Dar es Salaam) and therefore we could not post to the blog. So here are two days worth of updates for the price of one!

Yesterday the group attended a lecture at the University entitled “Indian Ocean Trade & Swahili Culture,” by Dr. Emmanuel Kessy of the Archaeology department.  Dr. Kessy impressed us with the long and varied history of global trade routes that have been documented, connecting Tanzania with Greece and Rome dating back to 40 A.D.   As early as the 1st century A.D., there exists evidence of large cities, such as Rhapta, where indigenous communities had a thriving trade even before the influence of Arabic traders.

The coastal regions of Tanzania (including parts of Dar es Salaam, Zanzibar, and Bagamoyo) still harbor a rich and varied mix of traditions from Arabic influences dating back to the 7th century.  In fact, the language of Kiswahili was invented to allow various ethnic groups to communicate in order to carry out trade, and contains a mix of Bantu and Arabic words.  Students have enjoyed their exposure to Islam, through conversations with members in their host family, visiting a Mosque (as one student did), or through the daily rhythms of the prayer calls.

Today after Swhaili class, the group came to our house again for “group.”  We enjoyed sharing our highlights and/or triumphs of the last week, of which here are a smattering:

“I love singing with my family, sometimes every night…”

“Several local men have been teaching me wood-carving, which has been very rewarding.”

“Although communicating in Swahili is sometimes difficult, this week I found playing soccer with the local community an excellent way of connecting.”

“This week I was proud that I navigated to a new place, using two different daladala’s with no problem!”

“I love when my host brother gives me a big hug every time I come home.”

“I am beginning to feel useful to my host family, that feels really good.”

“It’s all coming together… I was walking home the other day, realizing I was really doing this, living in Africa and feeling a part of it.”

We enjoyed singing a few hymns, playing a game or two, and devouring fresh fruit and sandwiches.  The highlight of the meeting was celebrating two recent birthdays for Josh Miller and Donna Shenk Sensenig!  In fact, Donna’s B-Day is TODAY, send her a greeting!   We enjoyed a rare treat of cake and ice cream to celebrate.

We continue to be so impressed with this group of students.  A few of them volunteered to watch Isaac and Mara for us so we could go out for dinner to celebrate.

(Today I have attached a number of student photos in order to give a better idea of life in host families, a tradition which we’ll continue as students provide us with pictures.  Thanks Anna Ruth!)