Per its abbreviated nature, this grammar does not seek to present an all-encompassing description of Rwandan’s rich inventory of forms and sounds. For instance, the great gap between highest high vowel and lowest low valley is left for later editions. Decentralization of sounds is also unaddressed; its heavy politics better explained by a native speaker. To glean a deeper understanding, the author encourages readers to explore for themselves, in-person. Indeed, this is the only way to truly understand Rwandan’s speakers. Immersed in authentic forms, in the pragmatic realities, the routine movements, the so-called norms–then one can know.
Until such travel is possible or later editions arrive, may this brief description suffice.
I am asking for help.
In writing my first novel, multiple dreams have converged. I dream of communities that do not need to depend so strongly on tourism to sustain themselves financially. I dream of a world that understands people and places whom I love in a way that goes deeper than headlines. I dream of setting a higher standard for outsiders (particularly white ones) who want to tell local (particularly non-white) stories. These dreams lay dormant in my mind until I committed to writing this novel. Then, they awoke. They began as feelings, evolved into questions, and are now possibilities.
This time last year, I moved in with a family in quiet Okahenge, Namibia. I arrived comically; dragging a set of rolling luggage meant for airports through half a foot of shifting sand. Snowshoes would have been more effective than my brown sandals which slid around and gave me the appearance of a newborn calf with unsure legs. I could only laugh at myself and trudge onward.
Most of my host family was inauspiciously absent at my arrival. But, Tatekulu–Grandfather–was found in the center of the homestead. In that structure, there were two plastic lawn chairs and a daybed. Tatekulu sat in one of the chairs and his radio sat in the other. I lowered to one knee as my language trainer had told me to do ahead of time. We clasped hands and I placed my left hand under my right elbow, bowing my head. He thanked me for nothing and everything, and he called me “my son.”
Just as the Kaskazi rains started to fall, my classmate’s longing to create peaked. As an artist, she missed having studio space back at Indiana University. Thus, our resident director made good on a promise to introduce her to Stonetown’s art community. Another classmate and I tagged along, and we were the ones who clicked with Philbart Banzie, a.k.a. Bart Michoro, a.k.a. Bart.
My first impression of Bart was that his mind was in eight different places at the same time. He spoke rapidly, and moved unpredictably. His eyes were youthful, but his hands were worn. Not unusual for a Zanzibari, he owned at least two mobile phones. And, he switched between them as seamlessly as his words switched between Swahili and English mid-sentence. Often, it is apparent that he is laughing at your expense, but somehow it is never insulting.