October 28, 2010

Zam Gram

Being in a new culture almost always means a new language. Unless that culture change is leaving the Mid West and moving to the Big Apple...I did that once...we spoke the same language...English...but when it came to understanding what the hell they were saying I had not a clue. But that is another story. Right now I am talking about living in the Eastern Province of Zambia in Chewa Nation. Chewa or Nyanja (cimodzi modzi, if you keep reading you will soon understand the nonsense you just read!) is the language that is spoken here. There are a few selected words from this language and culture that are so stuck in my brain that the English equivalent no longer comes out of my mouth. This makes talking to people from America a little difficult. So I am taking this moment to update you all on some words that will hopefully be with me for the rest of my life.

DISCLAIMER: The Chewa part of these words will not probably be spelled correctly in Chewa...sad to say but I don't care enough to go through and look them all up, so if you are an Eastern Volunteer reading this...deal with it!

Atate: Father, or sir
Amai: Mother, aunt, it is a respectful way to refer to any woman older than yourself.
Iwe: Pronounced E-WAY this is the impolite way to say you. Most often it is the word that is yelled at the kids and myself by all of the adults in the entire country...not just Eastern. I have finally gotten brave enough to say this to the kids when I am mad at them for doing something..."Iwe....choka" "You, Stop" As it turns out saying iwe stops all children dead in their tracks as well as just about any PCV. It is a fun word. In PCZ when we as PCVs refer to "our kids" we say my iwe because if you came into the village knowing nothing about the language you would think that the word for child was iwe.
Chabe: Used to say only or just. For example...you are supposed to eat with your right hand chabe. Usually used at the end of a sentence for emphasis. It is an Eastern PCV favorite. I like it in my Village when asking for help..."I need you to do this...CHABE" So that the ladies won't get too carried away with their helpfulness which is something that Zambians in general have a tendency to do.
Pita: Go! Pitani is the polite way to say this...but this phrase often comes out of my mouth when I want the iwe to go away.
Tiyenda: Pronounced Tee-yen-duh It means lets go. Or Tien for short.
Sweetie: This is what they call candy in this country. A phrase I hear everyday in the village without fail is "Ndifuna ma sweetie" "I want a sweetie." PCV use sweeties as bargaining material with the iwe to get things done...like having one of them go and get your water for you on that particular day. It is payment. And after the sweetie is gone they will suck on the plastic that it came in to get every last bit of sugar from their beloved sweetie.
Madzi: Water. Used in a sentence it would go something like this. "Mufuna kutapa madzi? Ndipatsa ma sweetie pamene mubwera? Do you want to get water? I will give you a sweetie when you come back."
Bwanji: Means how. Often used as a general means of greeting. Sort of like hows it going? Muli Bwanji if you have never met before or it is a more formal event means "How Are You?"
N'gombe: Cow
Nyumba: House or in my case Hut
Boza: Lie or liar. One of my favorite Chewa words to throw around. The villagers love it. When I don't believe what they are telling me I just yell BOZA!
Manjae Manjae: Pronounced Mon-jay. It means soon soon. "Ndibwera manjae manjae" I will come soon soon. Never said just soon. Always double.
Samba: Bath or bathing
Muzungu: Most generally this means white person...but could be extended to rich person and you can even say it to your boss. I hear this yelled at me often...just incase I forgot that I was white.
Ndalama: Money.
Kulibe: Ku-Lee-Bay. Means there is nothing or to be without. Often said while taking one arm and putting it between chest and waist level, cupping your hand and moving it back and forth as if you have dice in your hand to signify nothing.
Cimodzi-modzi: Pronounced Chi-modzi modzi. It means the same...to be the same. What is the difference between that and that? Cimodzi-modzi.

Of course these are just a few. But I thought it might fun to let you all know what I am talking about sometimes. Because the longer times goes on here the more these words are going to leak into my spoken and written word vocab.

"Words should be used as tools for communication not a subsitiute for action. -Unknown"

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