Posts Tagged With: Swahili

The Wire, in Swahili!

Last night mom and I were watching the second season of The Wire (yeah, I know we’re a bit late to this show, but don’t blame me, I wasn’t even born when this episode aired) before bed and were both shocked to hear Swahili!  I made mom rewind and watch again, and sure enough, there’s a guy speaking Swahili!

See for yourself:

The Wire, Season 2, Episode 3



Fanya kazi

Fanya kazi











Now, if you’ve watched the youtube link I posted above, you probably noticed a few things (or maybe not, I might just be more sensitive since I’ve spent the majority of my life in a Swahili-speaking country).

  1. Hooray for HBO and The Wire for using Swahili.  There were words and phrases that I could pick out so at least some of it is accurate.  However, maybe this guy is from Kenya or maybe he’s just an actor learning lines, but his Swahili accent certainly doesn’t sound like anyone I know from Tanzania.
  2. How is it at all plausible that a man from East Africa is employed on a boat that has docked in both Baltimore and Philadelphia and he doesn’t speak a word of English?  Even more crazy is that the boat is supposedly filled with lots of other workers.  How the heck do they communicate in order to get anything done?  I seriously doubt that a native Swahili speaker would ever be hired for a position without speaking ANY English, I mean, English is an official language of Tanzania (although you’d barely know it since so few people speak it well).
  3. The way that the detective responds to the Swahili-speaking man is just downright absurd.  Talk about cultural insensitivity (and I actually really LIKE this show).  The detective literally says, “Yabba dabba dobba doo”.  ARE YOU KIDDING ME?  This is a black man making fun of another black man using words from the Flintstones.  Need I say more?
  4. Lastly, while I don’t appreciate the delivery of the sentiment from the detective, he does have a point.  How WOULD someone travel half-way around the world and not speak a word of English?

Now that’s quite enough of my ranting for one day.  Just had to stick up for all my East African, Swahili-speaking buddies out there!  Now, back to The Wire…

Ni wakati wa kuangalia The Wire

Ni wakati wa kuangalia The Wire

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Security Update

Following on mom’s harrowing mugging experience, we’ve continued to take security at our house even more seriously.  Mom lives in constant fear, which is really hard for me to watch since I love her so much.  It’s funny, here in Tanzania, people are more afraid of me than they are of her.  I mean, I suppose I do have big teeth and four feet with claws, but COME ON people.  Mom weighs like 54kg and I weigh like 8kg.  But, whatever works when it comes to security, right?

So, my friend Colin came to visit last week and he brought us some signs to put on the gate.  I’m pretty proud of these signs because they officially make me a guard of the house!  Look and see what I mean:
















We’ve got them in English and Swahili and there’s also a picture of me looking really mean just in case the burglar can’t read (Side Note: only about 60% of people in Mwanza can read so this was really smart of Colin to include a picture).

It was a team effort making this Security Improvement.  Colin and the Maasai guard worked together to complete the task:

Colin hanging the Swahili sign

Colin hanging the Swahili sign

The Maasai hanging the English sign

The Maasai hanging the English sign





















I practiced showing my teeth while the humans hung my signs.  I look really scary, huh?

TEETH (and tongue)

TEETH (and tongue)

So to all you loiterers, thieves, burglars, and other bad guys take a second, look at our signs, and STAY AWAY!

Bad Guys Beware

Bad Guys Beware

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Everyone always assumes that Swahili is a difficult language.  For example, mom’s French teacher in high school used to make jokes about Swahili all the time saying that French was easy compared with the East African Bantu language.  Now, I can’t say that I know a single thing about French, but I do know a fair bit of Swahili after living in Tanzania for a year.

This is where people speak Swahili

This is where people speak Swahili

A French Swahili book

A French Swahili book



















One simple rule to live by: when in doubt add ‘i’ to the end of any English word and chances are you’ll not be far off from the Swahili.  I’ve put together a list of some Swahili words here that are either: a) useful; b) easy; c) from the Lion King; or d) some mangled form of English and Swahili, ie. Swanglish.  You’ll all be speaking Swahili before you know it!


Swahili lessons in Tanzania

Swahili lessons in Tanzania

So let’s begin!  Also, every language teacher knows that it’s easier to remember vocabulary when paired with a picture so I’ll be “illustrating” this Swanglish lesson as we go.

First, some useful terms that everyone should know:

  • Karibu: Welcome
  • MamboWhat’s up?
  • PoaCool (also the answer to Mambo)
  • ShikamooSay this when addressing an older or superior person
  • MarahabaThe response to Shikamoo
  • Habari …..How is… (insert whatever here, such as morning (za asubuhi), work (za kazi), etc.)
  • NzuriGood (also the answer to any habari question)
  • Jambo: A grammatically incorrect way to greet someone and ask how things are going


Jambo on Store Signs

Jambo on Store Signs

Jambo on a plastic chair!

Jambo on a plastic chair!













Now for some easy words that are more or less the same as English (remember the ‘i’ rule.  Also, Tanzanians are not big on spelling so go ahead and butcher words!  For example, mom’s name is spelled either Sarah, Sara, Sala, Sera, or Salah and as far as Tanzanians go, they’re all correct):

  • Krismasi: Christmas
  • Keki: Cake
  • Wiki: Week
  • Tunachagi Simu: We charge phones (sim cards)  
  • Polisi: Police


Twiga eating keki

Twiga eating keki

Krismasi in Tanzania

Krismasi in Tanzania




  • Bia: Beer
  • Intaneti: Internet
  • Mimi: Me
  • Treni: Train  
  • Sukari: Sugar
Twiga checks out the intaneti

Twiga checks out the intaneti

There's bia in my yard

There’s bia in my yard



  • Ofisi: Office
  • Hospitali: Hospital
  • Benki: Bank
  • Namba: Number
  • Rula: Ruler
My mom works at a rural hospitali

My mom works at a rural hospitali


There's an ofisi near my house

There’s an ofisi near my house



  • Penseli: Pencil
  • Baiskeli: Bicycle
  • Friji: Refrigerator
  • Vocha: Voucher 
We have a friji in our house

We have a friji in our house


Baiskeli on the road

Baiskeli on the road













I know you all remember the movie ‘The Lion King‘.  Well, I bet you didn’t realize you were learning Swahili while you watched!  Here’s some words you might have heard in the movie (and also some other animal-related words too):

  • Simba: Lion
  • Rafiki: Friend
  • Hakuna Matata: No worries/problem
  • Asante SanaThank you very much
  • Pumbaa: Careless
  • Sarabi: Mirage
  • Shenzi: Barbarous
  • Mbwa: Dog (most important word EVER)
  • Twiga: Giraffe (second most important word)
  • Safari: Trip 
Twiga looks like a twiga and he's also my rafiki

Twiga looks like a twiga and he’s also my rafiki

I'm a cool mbwa!

I’m a cool mbwa!




















And lastly, a list of miscellaneous Swahili and Swanglish words:

  • Jift: Gift
  • Baridi: Cold (always good to know when ordering a bia!)
  • Mzungu: White person
  • Kwanza: January or First
  • Sista: Sister (or a general term for any woman/girl) 


Mwanza Kwanza Electronics, it must be the FIRST electronics store!

Mwanza Kwanza Electronics, it must be the FIRST electronics store!

Have a Coke baridi!

Have a Coke baridi!

Look!  I'm a jift!

Look! I’m a jift!

And there you have it.  Your first swahili vocabulary lesson!  Now don’t even ask me about grammar.  First of all, I hear Swahili grammar is super hard.  But also, I’ll remind you that my first language is Bark and there’s no grammar whatsoever, only intonation, which is also very important.  But maybe, just maybe, in a few months time I might be able to give ya’ll another lesson.


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My Mom Turns … OLD

On Saturday it was my mom’s 30th birthday.  As the title says, my mom is OLD!  If she was a dog she’d be 133!  However, when I’m 4 and one quarter years old, it will be like I’m 30 in human years so you might say that my mom is still young.  I think she’d prefer to think of herself as 4.25 rather than 133! (FYI, I got these stats from

Mom went out on the eve of her birthday to enjoy her last hours in her 20’s and when she got home she was disabled.  For Real!  She couldn’t walk and I didn’t know what to do.  Here’s what her ankle looked like:

Compared to her other ankle

Mom’s birthday ankle














My poor mom just had to keep her foot on a pillow all day on her actual birthday with a package of ice on it.  I didn’t particularly mind this arrangement since the ice bag tasted like food from the freezer so I sat and licked the bag while mom iced her foot.  I like to think that my healing energy was being passed from me to her while I licked that ice bag.

I’m very protective of my mom so after she was done icing, I guarded her injury the best way I know how: by laying on it!

Protecting my mom

You might wonder how my mom managed to hurt herself so badly.  Well, the way she tells it she was out with my crush, Miss Megan, Miss Miranda, and Jordan.  They were leaving Miss Megan’s house and getting into a taxi to go to a place called Tilapia.  Now, for all you folks who’ve never been to East Africa, I must describe the road situation for you to understand what happened next.  Most roads in Mwanza have giant ditches on either side for when the heavy rains come.  These ditches are really deep and obviously quite dangerous.  A lot of times there will be a small plank so you can cross and if you miss the plank, you fall into the ditch.  Here’s a photo of what the roads and ditches look like:

Dangerous Ditch!

Anyway, I’m sure you can guess what happened to my mom.  It was pitch dark out (once again an African phenomenon) and mom may have had a couple of Konyagi‘s when she went to get into the taxi she simply stepped off the road (accidentally of course) and toppled straight into the ditch.  In swahili we say, Pole Mama!

So next time you see my mom wish her a belated Happy Birthday (or Hongera wa Kuzaliwa) and ask her how her ankle is doing.


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Exciting news from the nyumbani (that means house in swahili, FYI), we’ve added a new member to our family.  It’s a kitty and we’ve named him Twiga.

See this photo of Twiga?

Introducing: Twiga

Well, this is exactly how I found him on Wednesday afternoon.  I went outside after mom got home and I saw this little thing.  Now, I knew it was a kitty since I had kitties back at home in Ithaca, however I hadn’t seen one in a long time.  Plus, this kitty was way different than the kitties I’m used to.  My kitty at home is big and fat and black, not like this kitty who was small and orange and super skinny, in fact they couldn’t be more opposite.

Anyway, I was confused about why this intruder kitty was sitting in MY yard so I started running circles around him and barking to alert mom.  She came out and saw the kitty and picked it up.  Next thing I knew, this intruder was in my house and mom and Aunt Amanda were giving it food.  Apparently they thought this emaciated little thing was cute.

Kitty gets to eat while I have to watch

This new kitty was not only hungry, but also very dirty so after he was done eating, Aunt Amanda took him into the shower for his first ever bath.  I’m sure he liked it just about as much as I do…

Twiga after his bath

Next up, mom and Aunt Amanda decided “intruder kitty” needed a name.  The kitty was so skinny and had long spindly legs, which reminded mom of a giraffe so they decided to name him Twiga, which is swahili for giraffe.  Twiga is actually a very cool name because there’s so many variations that can be used as nicknames, such as Twigs, Twiggles, and Mr. T to name a few.

Look at those spindly giraffe legs!

This cat, now known as Twiga, is ALWAYS hungry.  He walks around and cries and cries until he gets food.

Twiga, crying AGAIN

Twiga isn’t special like me, so he has to eat local food and not fancy American food.  Mom or Aunt Amanda or Agatha make him a mixture of milk, rice, carrots, and tiny fish called daga.  I find this mixture delicious, but mom says that I can’t have any because Twiga needs all the food he can get.

Agatha, Jonas, and Twiga

Every day, it seems that Twiga is getting a little healthier.  He’s even had 2 visits from the Tanzanian Veterinarian already to get vaccinations, plus de-worming and an antibiotic.

So, it seems that this kitty is around for the long haul.  Now, I wasn’t so sure about how I felt about Twiga when he first showed up, trespassing in my yard.


But as the days go by this little kitty is growing on me.  It would be nice to have another non-human around the house!  Plus, Twiga is just so darn friendly that I can’t help but fall in love with the little guy.

But I can be affectionate too

This little kitty sure is affectionate












What do you think?  Should I let this little kitty into my heart forever?

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Happy Nane Nane!

Yesterday was a holiday in Tanzania called “Nane Nane”.  First, a quick lesson in swahili.  Nane Nane is pronounced “Nah-Nay Nah-Nay” and it means “eight eight”.  Nane Nane is always held on August 8th (the 8th day of the 8th month, thus the name Nane Nane).  This day is meant to celebrate the farmers of Tanzania and their contribution to the Tanzanian economy.  There are festivals and fairs around the country, and also, more importantly, mom had the day off work.

Last year, mom and Aunt Amanda went to the Nane Nane festival, but they thought it would be too overwhelming for me, what with all the people, so instead, to celebrate Nane Nane, mom, Aunt Amanda, mom’s friend Sue, and I decided to take a nice long hike around Mwanza.  We met up with Sue around 5 in the afternoon and set off on our hike.

Off we go!

Most days mom and I do the same loop around Isamilo for our run, so our Nane Nane hike was super exciting for me because I got to see so many new neighborhoods, people, and animals.  For example, I got to see my most favorite animal: the cow!

Baby cow, woohoo!

There were tons of children who were excited to see me all along the hike.  Each one screamed, “doggie” or “mbwa” and ran after us to see how beautiful I was.  Sometimes, Sue would tell them I was a cat just to confuse them, which I thought was really funny since most people are already confused about me anyway.

We hiked up a big hill, followed by an entourage of children.  Once at the top, we had a fabulous view of Lake Victoria.  So of course, we decided to pose for some photos with the children.  Mom also let them touch me since most of the children are afraid of dogs and aren’t used to seeing a dog as clean as me.  Plus, I’ve got the most beautiful fur in the world!

Getting petted by all the children

Top of the hill, with a bunch of children












Side note:  Mom better bathe me when we get home because that’s a lot of dirty hands touching me!

Once we got over the top of the hill, it was time to make our way back down into the neighborhood of Bwiru.  But not before we got to see some of the magnificent rocks for which Mwanza is known.  Now I understand why Mwanza is known as Rock City!

Rock City, Represent!

By the end of our hike, it was starting to get dark so we were treated to some gorgeous views of the famous African sunset.

Nane Nane, until next year…


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Give Me Dog

Today, while out for our afternoon run, no less than five, FIVE, people yelled at mom, “Give Me Dog” or variations on that theme.  For the entire loop we were serenaded by, “Nipe mbwa” “Give me mbwa” or “Give me doggie”.  Come on people, if you want something, at least say please!  If one of those people even tried to touch me or mom, you know I would have bitten their dumb hand off!

I mean really, what was this guy:

Tanzanian guy

or this guy:


Other Tanzanian guy

gonna do with me?  You better believe he wouldn’t let me sleep on one of those mattresses (not that I would even want to since they’re the crappy TanFoam variety).  They’d probably make me sleep outside with all the local dogs and feed me ugali, DISGUSTING!  I’d say that most Tanzanians, except for Ellen of course, would have no clue how to take care of me.

Me and Ellen

So, I’ll be sticking with my mom, sleeping on her memory foam bed, eating my healthy and holistic American dog food, and drinking bottled water, thank you very much!

1st-world living in a 3rd-world world

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Mombasa to Nakuru

The third leg of our trip wasn’t nearly as exciting as the preceding four days, but we did get to stay in a neat place called Nakuru.

The drive was like all the others and by this time I was pretty bored with looking at cows from the window so I decided to rest for much of the drive.

Lucky me, Sleeping!

I did manage to wake up for a few exciting things along the way, like big, fat zebras along the side of the highway.


We also drove through a town named after me, perhaps they’ve been following my blog 🙂  The town was called Mtito Andei and mom made sure to get a photo of me with my sign.

It's my town: Mtito Andei!

We finally got to the town of Nakuru around 9pm, but then we had to enter a National Park called Lake Nakuru National Park.   Apparently, National Parks don’t allow dogs, which is confusing for me since there are wild animals everywhere.  Since we were so late, the National Park was already closed, but our hotel was inside, so this was a problem, or a matatizo, as we say in Swahili.  It took Mr. Marcel a lot of bargaining with the guard to even let the humans enter the park so late.  Mom had me all wrapped up in one of her scarves and so the guard asked about mom’s “rafiki ndogo“; he thought I was a human baby, I’d never been so flattered!

So eventually, the Park allowed us to enter and we drove around Lake Nakuru to the Sarova Lion Hill Lodge where we slept for the night.

Our drive from Mombasa to Nakuru

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Finding Berta

Last week when I was on my way to the fishing village I had to go pee-pee really bad so mom stopped the car and walked me for a bit.  We came upon a little  homestead and mom thought it would be fun to get a photo of me with the family that lived there.  I was excited because I saw a bunch of other animals there, but mom was a bit hesitant because she didn’t want to just barge in, but a woman saw us and yelled, “Karibu!” which means ‘Welcome’ in Swahili.  We walked over and everyone was super nice to us and we took a photo with them and promised to come back and give them a copy.

Mom likes to do these kind of things with me because it’s easy to forget the daily struggles of most Tanzanians when I live in a nice house, I have American dog food from a bag, I sleep in mom’s nice bed, and I have a ton of fancy toys.  Getting out in the village is good of us because it reminds us why we’re here!

Me and Mom with Berta's Family

During the week, mom managed to get the photo printed and framed for the family.  This morning, we got up early and went to the grocery store to get some things for the family.  Mom had so much fun picking out tons of food and other things the family might need, like soap and toothpaste.  Aunt Amanda decided to come along with us as well, and so with food in hand, we were off…

Here’s a video of what the wind does to my ears when I’m in the car:

Once again, on the way, I had to stop and do a potty.  I got to go number two right near my favorite animals!

Walking near some cows

After our brief stop, we were on our way again.  When we arrived at the family’s house, the only person around was an old grandmother who couldn’t speak English.  We showed her the photo and asked her where the woman in the back was.  She said the woman was in Magu and wouldn’t be back until tomorrow.  Soon, as usually happens when I’m with mom, a crowd of people showed up.  I guess I’m pretty interesting to Tanzanians with my short little legs and bright red halter.  I’ve actually never seen any other dogs wearing a leash here either!  Anyway, mom got into a discussion with the crowd about how to find the woman in the photo, who we learned was named Berta.  One man, who claimed to be her brother, said he could take us to her, so we piled into the car and headed for Magu.

Dowtown Magu

When we got to Magu, we asked around for Berta and showed people her photo.  Some women told us she was buying food at a shop, so again, we packed up and headed out to find her.

Aunt Amanda looking for Berta

We drove around Magu for a while asking people where she was and found out she had returned to the original place where we had asked about her in town.  We sped back so as not to miss her again.  When we arrived, mom hopped out of the car and Berta ran over to her and gave her a giant hug and had the biggest smile on her face.  I was so happy for mom!  We asked Berta to come in the car to her house so we could give her some food, and I honestly don’t think she imagined how much food we had actually brought for her.

We found her!

When we got to Berta’s house we began unloading the food: rice, powdered milk, sugar, tea, beef, eggs, bread, passion fruit juice, chocolate chip cookies, and much more!  I’m a dog, and even I could see the look of astonishment on her face.  As we left, I think I saw a little tear in her eyes and she told us to please come back and see them anytime.  What a great day for me, mom, and Aunt Amanda!

Mom, me, Berta, and Amanda. Mission Complete!

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