Enriched by Translation

When we stumble out of the car, stiff after the long journey, we hear singing and drums in the distance. We are not allowed to carry our luggage, and since the crossing is more wobbly than the Millennium Bridge in London it feels good although slightly awkward. There are crocodiles in the river, but we don’t know that. When coming to the other side, we see the musical children and we join them in the march towards our boma where we will spend the night. It is like coming to another country, another planet, and I have never felt more welcome in my whole life (Karibu!). I’m so happy that we included this stop in our Metafari!

We are asked to sit down, and the chairman makes a speech to us and all the other people gathering. Then it is Ruth’s turn. She speaks in sound and clear Swahili and the interpreter translates it into Masai. It is a long speech, and I realise that it is probably the most polite thing to do. Also, Ruth told us afterwards, it was an opportunity for her to imprint on the children how important education is. She used us an example, saying that although we were highly educated people, we still wanted to learn more and went to classes like the Metafari.

During her speech, Leif suddenly realises that he ought to say something as well. He makes a wonderful speech taking about one of his sons who works as a bodyguard for the government. He speaks English, Ruth translates it into Swahili, and the interpreter turns it into Masai. For each step, more words and gestures are added, but everybody makes the sounds of awe and joy at the right moments.

After inspecting the houses, we sit down to do an AI interview with parts of the council. The village chief is there, but also the elected chairman. The Christian priest is participating and so are several other men and women. We ask many questions. What is it like being a Masai? How do you organise your leadership? What are the mothers most proud of that their daughters learn at home and school? What do you envision for the future? And then we invite them to ask questions to us. They want to know how we deal with bad marriages, when we stop worrying about our children, if we have the same custom as they have of giving a baby to newly-wedded couples. Through the way they pose their questions I learn the importance of providing a context, because they always start with a story about how they do things as an introduction to the inquiry.

We go to sleep in the traditional huts, made by the women. The mosquito net is keeping away both the insects and the cow shit falling down from the not ready-made roof. The sky is velvet black and it’s easy to become star struck.

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