Tag Archives: how are you

Kenyan Conversationalism

Personal encounters that lead to conversations are a bit different in Kenya compared to those in America, or at least those in America I have ever partaken in.

Oftentimes an American greeting includes an acknowledgement of the person relevant to the time of day, “Good morning,” followed by an inquisitive into the nature of the person, “How are you?” Other more common phrases might be, “Afternoon, how you doing?” and variations on this theme. They may also include slang, such as the popular, “What’s up?” which is not often preceded by temporal-based initiator, but instead stands on its on.  Also, there is usually an accompanied physical motion, such as a hug, or kiss or handshake. With greetings concluded, it is on to the meat of the conversation. 

Greetings are most probably the largest area of difference between the two cultures regarding conversation. Kenyans take their greetings much more seriously. First there is an acknowledgement, such as “Jambo,” or in my case, “Mambo,” which is then followed by several inquisitives. “Habari yako?” “Habari za leo?” “Habari za nyumba?” “Habari za jamaa?” These are the formal inquisitives, asking simply (and in literal translation), “Your news?” “News of the Day?” “News of the house?” “New of the family?” Not all are used every time, but it is very common to hear more than one in a single greeting and each one requires a response. Continue reading



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Arrrgh, ther be Pirates!

Everyone knows about all the pirate attacks that are happening near the Gulf of Aden, and generally along the coast of the Horn of Africa, suspiciously near the coast of Somalia. If you haven’t heard about them, then I am afraid to speculate you’ve been living in a cave, on mars, with fingers stuck in your ears, holding your eyes tightly shut. As a result of the proximity, I have been getting all sorts of questions about pirates: Are there pirates where you live? Is mombasa filled with pirates? Do pirates attack nightly? How many times has your house been pillaged? Are you a pirate? I hear you are a pirate, really?

Up until a couple days ago however, I would have been absolutely confident in claiming that pirates have zero impact on my daily life. The local papers rarely mention them, nobody talks about them, and the only proof I have of their existence is reliant upon my trust that the BBC is not lying, and I do in fact live in the age of modern pirates; pirates equipped with rocket launchers, something which only in my wildest childhood fantasies of trying to discover how a pirate could beat a ninja could I have dreamt.

Of course, this all changed a couple days ago. I was walking down the path, coming back to the NYS compound, getting the usual barrage of “How are you?” from the kids, when out of nowhere a kid walks up, looks at me and says, “Ahoy!” I stop dead in my tracks, literally turn around and in Kiswahili say, “What, no ‘how are you?’ Do you think I am a pirate?” His repsonse: “yes.” So there you have it. The pirates have in fact landed in Mombasa, and I’m one of them. Terrorist sleep-cells got nothing on me, I’m a pirate sleeper-cell and I didn’t even know it!

In other news, I finally fixed my bike. It got two flat tires in the week I have owned it. I don’t know how. Well, the first one had a huge gash in the tube, but the second one didn’t seem to have any problems. I think they were just low quality tubes. But this time, instead of paying the fundi (tradesman) a ridiculous price to fix my bike with an inferior tube, i paid even more money and bought my own tools and a new, high quality tube and fixed it myself. Wooo for self-reliance! It’s worth it in the long run.

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