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 space has been for sharing stories.
Two years ago in my first Chicago winter I found myself warmed by the mornings spent teaching English to immigrants: parents, grandparents, refugees from war-torn places. They shared with me until I was overflowing with their stories. Soon, I realized that it might be valuable to give what I had received. I began writing brief stories here on this blog based on what others had shared with me.
Normally, sounds atop the roof of Chavda Hotel include squawking crows, rumbling motorbikes, and jangling church bells from Minara Miwili nextdoor. The wind also rattles silverware and rustles tablecloths on especially blustery days. Sitting at a rooftop table, we earned wi-fi with purchase of chipsi and chai. Waitstaff tolerated our lengthy visits because we made them laugh, and we said not Hello but Hamjambo. Proper greetings matter.
Proper goodbyes also matter. This is part of why hundreds of Muslim Zanzibaris gathered at a mosque near the market that day. They wished to pray together and feel a sense of community after a deadly disaster. They wished to say goodbye. Just two days before the beginning of Ramadhan, a massive ferry sank near Chumbe island. The international media reported “at least 68” dead. However, Mnazi Mmoja soccer field and Maisara became an impromptu morgue for suspiciously more than 68 bodies. Families nervously entered tents to look for missing loved ones. Anyone unable to make it to Mnazi Mmoja watched the local news, on which–quite shocking to view–video panned over drowned faces hourly. Wailing pierced the darkness that night.
A good friend of mine just returned stateside from South Sudan. There, she was working with the Carter Center to track and treat guinea worm. Guinea worm, if you haven’t heard of it, is a nasty parasite that tears up insides and forces its way out through skin when it has finished. The Carter Center has done unprecedented work to nearly eliminate it throughout northern Africa.
My friend lived atop a plateau in rural South Sudan, and she walked daily half-marathons to visit the communities she served. These communities were typically nomadic groups of Toposa people. My friend shared with me some interesting interactions she had with the Toposa.
This story comes from my sister, who is in the rotations phase of Medical School. Years ago, when she was in undergrad, she was focusing on politics, design, and peace studies . . . you know, the things that naturally lend themselves to Med. School.
Kidding aside, these things truly did contribute to the kind of doctor that my sister would be. Recently, she wrote about her Photography 101 course, and shared it with me.
This story took place a little over two years ago, but it has been on my mind today. Being good friends with the poet, Haji Gora Haji, my program’s resident director was invited by him to visit his hometown on the island of Tumbatu. Excited about the opportunity, she asked if we four students could also come along, and Mzee Haji Gora agreed. To understand the gravity of this invitation, I should explain that outsiders are typically never allowed on Tumbatu without having been invited and granted permission by a local sheha. I am sure that it is the most isolated place I have ever been. To my knowledge, there are no cars on the island; though, there is an inexplicable, yellow phone booth without any sort of phone in it. We didn’t know what we would see or do there, but if there is anyone better to travel Zanzibar with than Haji Gora, I am not sure who it would be. He speaks in riddles, recounts oral histories of ancient times, and commands more respect than a president.