Africa: Baba-isms.

Fulgence, affectionately known as Baba (or “father” in Kiswahili) is the man who deals with us the most.  He reminds me very much of Silao, the man who ran my Peace Corps Training, and who I was lucky enough to collaborate with on a Fulbright grant a few summers ago.  Their similarities are many.

Patience.  Baba seems to have an unending supply.  He puts up with question after question and sometimes whine after whine.  He is always ready with a joke or a smile.  He has many stories to tell if you are willing to sit and listen and show some interest.

Teaching ability.  Baba is a trained teacher at many levels, including teaching teachers at a local university.  I could tell immediately from his instruction that he was a trained teacher.  You can just tell when someone has done this for a while.  He has been great in teaching us Kiswahili, and discussing many other things.  He has also taught Geography, political science and other courses.  The man knows his stuff.

Sense of humor.  Baba is not easily ruffled and laughs often.  Just as easily at himself as anyone else.

Baba, as most fathers do, has a few signature go to lines that we hear regularly.  They include:

  • That’s life!  This is applicable in almost any situation and is usually accompanied by a shoulder shrug.
  • This is Africa Baby! This sometimes gets shortened to TIAB!, and is also applicable in most situations, especially those for which Americans may need a little bit of patience or a reminder of the fact that they are in Africa.
  • Attack the plate from both sides.  This is in reference to how we often eat our meals (somehow we seem to be starving three times a day!), or if we really need to eat fast before heading somewhere, and Baba will tell us to attack accordingly.
  • We are all different but equal.  This one Baba doesn’t use as much, but any time comparisons are being made between America and Tanzania, this one certainly does come in handy.
  • “You get the message?”  Baba uses this one to clarify when he’s teaching us or telling a story, or even if he’s using indirect communication – just to make sure that we’re not totally lost.

What I do know, is that this man has a true gift with people, and that he has certainly made my experience and transition in Tanzania smoother than I could have ever imagined.  I will miss him very much when I leave in a week or so, but I have already told Baba that I will return.  His response was, “I will give you a big hug and say karibu!”

The pictures below are of Baba in action.

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