Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Tamasheq and Ramadan

Life for me has hit a point of no return. It will never be the same. I'm in this country for the long term, getting to know the people, and took a big step to integration. You see, this monday morning I started full time tutoring (aiming for 6 hours a day of private class/reading/listening to or speaking with people) in the Tamasheq language. Tuareg (or Tamasheq/Tamajaq/Tamahaq) is a Berber language or family of closely related languages spoken by the Tuareg, in many parts of Mali, Niger, Algeria, Libya and Burkina Faso and Chad. There are several major dialects, and we are learning the one that is in the lower Niger and Mali region. Tamasheq resembles Arabic to some extent if you want to have an idea of the sound. Someday I'll get a sound file to load so you can hear it!

The area where Tamasheq is one of the spoken tribal languages

So I have now had 7 hours of class and already feel my head is swimming. We have basically 5 words for boy,girl,man,woman and baby. They have 21!
Here are some of the main greetings I will use:

Ma dar tolad - How are you?
Ma ta xallakad? -How are you #2
Aytedam-nawan ma dar olan - How are your people?
Bararan-nam, ma dar ola? - How are the children?

Keep in mind, you go through at least 3 or 4 greetings in a row with everyone, and the answer is always the same - Alxer ras! (meaning only peace or happiness)
Well, enough about Tamasheq for now. Since I will be spending so much time in it for the next year I am sure this won't be the last blog about it!

Also, it is currently Ramadan is the muslim world. This is a time where the adherents fast from the time the sun rises to when it falls in the evening, and they don't even drink or swallow their own spit. For us this has been an interesting time, and one when people are quite open to talk about belief systems, religion and personal relationships with God. The people tend to be a little grumpier i think in general and i can't really blame them. Have you ever tried 45 degree weather with no food or WATER all day? I know I wouldn't be happy. The markets near sundown are just packed with people, the fruit stands sell out (previously never seen here!) and there is huge lines for bread. The people spend more than normal during Ramadan because it is also a holiday season and they celebrate with huge meals at the ends of the days and first thing in the morning. So really they actually eat more, just not for the hours the sun is up. So interesting to be here amongst many muslim friends and workers in this time and we have had lots of very interesting converstations. Last night our night guard had a good gathering of people at the new hut outside our door and there was a village chief there. What a joy to be able to give him the proper greetings in Tamasheq and then Paul stayed out there with the men talking for several hours.

A family near us left Niamey so we bought their guard hut. Now this sits outside our gate and gives shade to our guards and neighbors and visitors. Here is Paul moving it. Looks kind of funny like our truck grew a roof :)

Paul also began continued french studies with a Togolese teacher this week and is enjoying the structured aspect, but also being challenged in bringing his french to the next level. When he feels comfortable in french he will be joining me in Tamasheq studies. Our kids also had new beginnings this month so far. Last thursday was the first day of school for Bennett and Arielle began Monday. They both go to a french playschool that teaches french through art, dance, crafts and music. Its a great way for them to learn french, make friends, run around and play, and stay away while we study language at home! We are grateful we found such a great place for them. They are supposed to be in two seperate classes based on ages, but Arielle isn't comfortable to leave Bennett's side yet, so please pray for her and she settles in and feels safe and we slowly transition her. We are thankful for their understanding and patience of our special little girl. Thank you for continuing to pray for them too. Here is some fun photos of them!

Arielle still has a sprained ankle and complains when walking, so one morning we found Bennett took it upon himself to push her around the house in style!

Enjoying the late afternoon shade on the patio while playing a Madagascar tile game with daddy

Bennett at the gates for his first day of Playschool!

And for those of you who aren't on Facebook to see all my pictures there, here are a few recent ones from Niger i took. This first one is our tree (and now our hut too is there)This tree is more a part of our africa life than our house. We sit with people, tell stories, share tea or meals and greet people. Africa life is community based, and this is our central station!

And finally, a gorgeous sunset over the Niger river. The dust in the air and clouds made it a rich orange and was stunning. Come see for yourself!

1 comment :

Anonymous said...

Was thinking about u this a.m. on my way to work - how it's been nothing but studying for you for sooo long....and still it continues. I know that is all part of what it's all about...but whoa! WHen I feel overwhelmed - I'll think of you. Sending hugs and much prayer. heather