Saturday, April 15, 2017

"Yaya keke?"

There are really two things you need to know in Hausa.

1) You always greet someone. And ask how their evening/day was. And ask how their work is. And ask how their family is. And ask how their wife/husband is. And ask how their children are. And then maybe ask again how their work is. All this takes 5 minutes or so, and that is OK. Unless you're passing someone on the street randomly, you don't just say "sannu" (hi) and walk on.

2)The answer to every question in Hausa is "lafiyah (lah fee yuh)," which means "fine." Even if you're not fine, the correct answer is "lafiyah." It just is!

Now that you know these two rules, let me tell you how a normal greeting goes between me and the guard that is at the compound gate:

"Sannu. Ina kwana?"                                           "Hello, how was your night?"
              "Lafiyah sannu. Yaya gajiya?"                            "Fine. Hello. How is the tiredness?"
"Ba gajiya."                                                         "There is no tiredness."
              "Yaya karatu?"                                                     "How is school?"
"Lafiya. Yaya aiki?                                              "Fine. How is work?"
              "Mun gode Allah. Yaya gida?"                             "We thank God. How is your 
                                                                                            family (literally, home)?"
"Lafiyah."                                                            "Fine."
              "Yaya 'weekend?'"                                                 "How was your weekend?"
"Lafiya kalau. Yaya Lahadi?"                              "Very good. How was your Sunday?"
              "Lafiya. Za ki makaranta?"                                    "Fine. Are you going to school?"
"Ee, ni ce."                                                          "Yes, I am."
              "To, sa an jima."                                                     "Ok. Goodbye."
"Sai an jima."                                                      "Goodbye."
Now imagine that the same conversation and standard greetings happens EVERY morning with EVERY person that you stop and talk to. I'm learning to embrace it... and leave a few minutes earlier than I would otherwise so that I have time for greetings.

So after I greeted A___ at the gate, I saw I___'s keke waiting for me. He had come a few minutes before and was just around the corner at a little roadside shop buying some kosai (fried cakes made from bean flour, a typical breakfast food). I exchanged greetings with him and with the young girl dipping kosai batter into the large wok of oil sitting over the charcoal fire, then I___ and I went back to the keke.

As we drove to my Hausa class this morning, I asked him something I'd never heard asked before: "Yaya keke?" He half-turned around on the driver's bench with a curious expression on his face and repeated my question back to me: "Ki ce 'yaya keke?'" "Ee," I replied with a bit of a smile. "The keke is lafiyah!" he answered.

Last week the keke's engine was not lafiyah. Actually, it hadn't had an oil change in the three years since he'd purchased it used. (It's quite normal to do that; I don't think scheduled vehicle maintenance is a thing here, and even if it were, many could not afford the maintenance and repair costs.) But after he took me home from school one day last week, I___ took the keke to a friend of his' repair shop. And for N30,000 (paid for in installments because of their friendship and I___'s character as a trustworthy man), the keke was repaired. It now purrs instead of clunk-clunking, and its top speed has been restored to the normal 35mph.

Yes indeed, the keke is lafiyah!

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