Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Hearing Hausa in My Head

I'm in my third week of Hausa class. Three mornings a week I catch a keke at 8:15am, and it takes about ten minutes to drive to the southern part of Jos where my class is held.
photo credit

There are two other students in my class. One is a Nigerian lady who primarily speaks English, but has some Hausa background. She is interested in learning the grammar and how to properly speak the language. The other is a missionary involved with another organization, and she will be assisting pastors in more rural areas of Nigeria to use the portions of the Bible that have been translated into those languages. (The Hausa Bible or Littafi Mai Tsarki was first translated in 1932, updated in 1979, and again in 2012. Many people in Northern Nigeria speak Hausa, but there are more than 521 languages spoken in Nigeria alone!)


We have two teachers that take turns leading our class. Mama (a term of respect) Bilhatu and Jummai are so patient with us, and they really know how to break down the language in a way that English speakers can relate to. For instance, they refer to the "yi" word that precedes "yi aiki," "yi wanke," or "yi adda'a" as a "helping verb" or something that takes a noun and turns it into a verb. 

I thought English pronouns were confusing! I, me, my, he, him, his, she, her, hers, you, your, they, them, their, we, our. Um... Hausa has different forms of you! There's a you word when you're talking to a female, there's a you word for when you're talking to a male, and there's a you word for addressing a group. Actually, that kind of makes sense since Texans differentiate between "you" and "y'all!"

We start Hausa class by 8:30 with someone leading a short devotion, then we review our homework from the lesson before. We take a break about 10:30 for tea, and sometimes we get to talking (in English) and laughing that it's nearly 11:30 before we get back into Hausa again! Our lessons are done by 12:30 (although sometimes I'm a bit envious of the primary school (elementary school) children that get out at noon in the school just behind where we meet), and then I take a keke back to my house.

I spend those three afternoons a week doing homework, cooking (that's a GREAT stress reliever!), sometimes going to the market, and sometimes dealing with whatever issue has arised that needs to be addressed. Last week I ended up making three trips to the market in one week as I forgot to refill my anti-malarial meds one time, then didn't have enough money with me to purchase an internet modem at the telecom shop, and another time I ran out of milk powder (no real milk here!).

Last night as I was doing laundry I was hearing "Zan je gida..." (I will go home...) or "Na dafa shinkafa da wake..." (I cooked rice and beans...) in my head. And I heard it in the haltingly British accent of my classmate. And then I heard Mama Bilhatu correctly pronounce the phrase. But I guess after hearing Hausa for 12 hours a week, it makes sense to hear it in my head!

So far, I can say things in the past and in the future tenses. The present tense is much more difficult, so we're saving that for last! My vocabulary is still quite small, as we are focusing more on grammar and sentence structure than memorizing word lists right now. Actually, I'm OK with that. I learn new words all the time from the keke driver who regularly drives me around, from the little girl who helps her mother out at the convenience store around the corner, and from Abba, the daytime guard at the compound gate. They're all excited for me to learn Hausa, but I keep having to tell them "Ki (or Ka) maimaita hankali hankali!"("You(f) or you(m) repeat slowly!")

Sunday, March 12, 2017

My new home!

I've been settling in this past week, going through orientation, and visiting places around Jos. I've also been unpacking and putting things away in my new home.

I'm living on one of the missionary compounds near downtown Jos, and right now I have just one neighbor. We look forward to having a few short term staff coming in later this spring/summer, but for now it's quiet. There are 10 one-bedroom units in this two-storey building, and we have a rotating group of guards that keep an eye on the place. I have a mango tree and an avocado tree outside my balcony, and in a few weeks they'll be ripe!

My kitchen--I'm loving all the counter space... and figuring out how to light a propane oven! That's my front door that leads to a covered walkway where we hang our clothes to dry. Thankfully, we have a washer, but many Nigerians do laundry by hand.

My room. Lots and lots of storage! Also the mosquito net to keep me malaria-free. My windows face East, so I get the African sunshine waking me up and not baking my apartment in the afternoon.

These butterflies are in my living room. The lovely colored pencil and calligraphy picture there was done by a kind friend of mine when we were going through missionary prep training together. After hearing my story and how God led me to SIM and to Nigeria, she felt that the phrase "The time is now" was appropriate. I couldn't agree more!

My kitchen table and eating area. The string and mini clothespins for hanging photos were already there, so I added all the photos of my friends and family to make it feel more homey!

Living room and back door. It leads out onto a balcony that connects the upstairs apartments on this side of the compound. I love having both the front and the back doors open to let the breeze come through!

Some of you may be wondering what things like electricity/water/internet/transportation are like here. First off, it really varies! As far as power (also called "nepa" by some. I think it stands for National Electric Power Authority), we prepay to load our meters. My compound has really wonderful power, and when it goes off, it's off less than an hour. We also have a battery system here to power a LED light in each room and provide 110V (USA power) to one outlet. Other compounds have much more inconsistent power, but have generators. I've been so grateful for the power so the fan in my bedroom can run all night (A/C is rare here, and even then it's just a window unit).

As far as water, everyone uses water filters to make sure the water is clean. Water supply is eventually linked to power, but our compound will likely always have running water since we have consistent power to pump from the bore hole (which also supplies the SIM headquarters building next door) up to rooftop tanks, so even when the power goes out we have gravity-fed water lines. I have lovely hot water for my nightly showers--provided I remember to flip the switch for the water heater a few minutes beforehand!

Internet here is provided through the telecom providers; the main three are Airtel, Etisalat, and MTN. Nigerian-made cell phones usually have 2 SIM card slots allowing the user to switch between carriers depending on how the coverage is that day. I brought my smartphone from the US with just one SIM card slot, so I'm using a single carrier for voice and data. As expected, my internet is slower than what I'd get in the US (usually E or H, both of which are slower than 3G), but it's much cheaper! It's about N500 (Nigeria's money is called Niara. N500 is about $1.50 USD) for 1GB of data. All phone plans are prepaid, and you can find young men waving stacks of phone cards at most intersections or roundabouts. The two guys on the corner outside my compound come up to me every time I leave the gate, and I almost always tell them, "Not today!"

Transportation is fun here. Really! Most of the missionaries have cars, as do many of the middle-class Nigerians. There are also TONS of three-wheeled taxis called "kekes" that people use for short distance transportation. SIM has a handful of drivers that they recommend and that are reliable. The keke driver I use most often is named Ibrahim. He's on speed dial and I can ask him to "pick me" (no one says "pick me up" here) at a specific time the next day and he shows up! Kekes will stop often to pick up additional passengers along their route, so it's not uncommon to share the bench seat (which comfortably seats 2) with three or four people--or to have an additional passenger sharing the small driver's bench. Pickpocketing does occur easily on kekes, so Ibrahim allows me to "charter" it and ride alone. It's about N200 for a one-way trip to the hospital where I'll be working.

...and the power just went out. Goodnight then!