The premier event of Monday, July 8, was the NIU students introducing themselves in Kiswahili to the assembled students of Nyegina Secondary School. This was courageous, since they only had a week of Kiswahili language training! But they did a fine job. Of course, they had the students howling with laughter, beginning with Brandi’s bio when she mentioned that she had a pet dog with (linguistically anyhow) the same status as her sisters and brothers…and the dog even had a name. This is the most insane idea to a Tanzanian, so they were laughing a lot…especially each time another student would also mention a dog or cat in the same breath as a sister or brother.
It is a great example of a huge cultural difference between Tanzania and the US. Many families don’t have enough food for healthy children in Tanzania, so the thought of a pet dog is crazy to most people here. Still, I am very proud of the students. Each did a fine job. This was an important exercise to break down language barriers between the NIU students and the Nyegina students; the high school students will now feel at ease about trying to speak English—even poorly—because the NIU students were willing to risk embarrassment to speak Kiswahili to them. That’s the building block of cross-cultural engagement—taking risks and building trust to learn more about the other person.
Video by Mark Biernacki