I pulled Google up on the laptop this morning, and this graphic is what I saw. For just a brief moment, I thought it was normal to be reading Swahili as I searched the internet. And then I realized it is not indeed normal to find Swahili on Google’s homepage.
The phrase given is a popular Swahili proverb, which (it seems) is claimed to have originated in Kenya, Uganda, or Tanzania — depending on the nationality of the person whom you ask. Considering the meaning of the proverb, it’s somewhat ironic that this is the case. ”Umoja ni nguvu, utengano ni udhaifu,” translated, reads “Unity is strength, division is weakness.”
The East African Community’s common market officially began today, July 1st. Because most of you would be bored to death with this issue — and because I know practically nothing about economics and the like — I’ll limit my thoughts on the subject to this paragraph. I’m concerned the highly-educated and skilled Kenyans are going to take a lot of jobs from the citizens of Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi; and those jobs are needed. It’s not like the states, where people complain about jobs being taken by illegal immigrants — knowing full well they’d not be willing to work those jobs being taken. No, I’m concerned that even many of the most skilled laborers here will be without work. I say all of this while openly admitting I know nothing of economies and/or money. But every man’s an expert on his own blog. On the bright side, I might be able to get my Rwandan coffee cheaper now….
image courtesy of photobucket.com
Unity and working together are important concepts here in Tanzania. I thought I’d share just a few other Swahili proverbs that speak to their significance:
A barber doesn’t shave himself. This one’s pretty self-explanatory. Though it’s kind of funny, because most of the haircuts here (at least those of the male gender) could easily be done by one’s self. I regularly cut my own hair. I’m guessing there are many versions of this exact proverb (methali in Swahili), but I’ll give just one more:
A witch doctor doesn’t cure himself. Or I think it could be translated, “A witch doctor doesn’t exorcise himself.” I may cut my own hair, but I don’t exorcise myself. Just so you know. I always leave that to a big group of my closest friends and family.
Kidole kimoja hakivunji chawa.
One finger doesn’t crush a louse. It’s true; it does take two fingers to do that, as gross as it is to discuss in public or type on a blog. Related is this methali:
Vidole vitano, kipi bora?
Five fingers, which is best? I’m guessing one could make a strong argument for the thumb, but the point is taken. And while we’re on the subject of fingers…
Mikono mingi, kazi haba.
Many hands, short work. We even say this one in English — not that I’m claiming to have never heard the one about crushing lice in English. My mom used to say it all the time growing up. And lastly:
Afadhali kuwa wawili kuliko mmoja; maana wapata ijara njema kwa kazi yao: Kwa maana wakianguka, mmoja wao atamwinua mwenzake; lakini ole wake aliye peke yake aangukapo, wala hana mwingine wa kumwinua!
“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!”
So that last one’s not a Swahili proverb. It’s from Ecclesiastes 4:9-10.
I suppose every people group in the world recognizes the need for mankind to live and participate in community. I mean, one of you is going to have to exorcise me.
* Did anyone actually count to see if there were 16 people in the photo? Be honest.