For All I Know…


For all I know, the sign says “please don’t take pictures of this sign.” I hate being functionally illiterate.

Yesterday, this ticked in as a message on my cell phone:

Ijoro ry’ibarura ryo kuya 15 rishyira 16/08/2012:Wibuke imyirondoro y’abaraye iwawe n’iy’abataharaye bahasanzwe n’iy’abashyitsi. Ibaruze kuko uri uw’ingenzi.

Really? I won a million dollars in the Rwandan state lottery, they just want my account number for the transfer? No, actually it turned out to be a heads up about the national census, which is being carried out in Rwanda today. 

Lisa has an amazing ear for languages and will probably speak Kinyarwanda fluently before we head home. The kids couldn’t care less about learning a foreign language (viz: their dismal French skills in spite of years of toil by talented teachers), and my early onset child-induced Alzheimer’s has me suffering enough with English and Danish as it is. So, alas, I’m not even going to pretend to “get” Kinyarwanda. I can do “thanks” and “good morning” but that’s about it. Pathetic. 

it is an incredible language, tonal, long-winded, and with absolutely no resemblance to any other language outside the region (no, pole sana, it’s not like Swahili at all, which is of course why Swahili could be so damn useful in this neck of the woods as a lingua franca; unfortunately, even that’s not widely spoken, so it’s either charades and body language, or a mix of French and English to the rescue), and you’re really groping around in the dark for comprehension. After a few weeks, I’m starting to pick up the occasional familiar phrase when I hear people talk — the word “umva” is invariably yelled a lot into cell phones by agitated communicators, and means “listen”, as in: “yo, shut up for a sec, will ya, and hear my side of the story…”