Monday, 29 December 2014
Sunday, 28 December 2014
Friday, 12 December 2014
Monday, 8 December 2014
Sunday, 7 December 2014
|Photo credit: Lilian Nabora.|
|Host Dr. Pendo Maro, left, and the Tanzanian Ambassador in Belgium, Dr. Deodorus Kamala, at the Afrika Filmfestival. Photo credit: Lilian Nabora.|
|I, right, had the honour of presenting Imruh Bakari's Lifetime Achievement Award. Photo credit: Afrika Filmfestival.|
Friday, 28 November 2014
There is a Biblical passage about the tower of Babel (Genesis11: 1-9) which reports that humans once had a single language, and that we agreed to build a tower to reach heaven. The Almighty God was monitoring the scheme, and stepped in to intervene after deciding we had gone too far.
God created languages, making it impossible for those at the construction site to understand and cooperate with each other. Unable to continue, humans dispersed around the earth to indulge in other mischief.
In the scientific study of languages, experts group those languages with similar characteristics in groups. Genetic or typological characteristics are used for the classifications. Genetic classification, in lines similar to the story of Babel, looks for evidence of linkages to a common language, while typological classifications look for similarities in structure.
The study of language assumes that the groups of languages and the families they belong to are derived from a “parent” or “proto-“ language, the mother of all languages. Bantu is one such group from which most of the languages spoken in the eastern, central, and southern African region originate, while the Germanic subfamily is known to have spawned several European languages including English, German, Swedish, Dutch, and Norwegian.
Science has not and will not be able to determine whether all languages originated from one particular language because the available written records are not consistent across all languages and, even when they are available, cover only a fraction of the estimated thousands of years in which human speech has existed.
However, it is instructive to note that, in some languages, there seems to be some trace of the Biblical account on the tower of Babel.
I believe that Swahili and Italian speakers can make a strong religious claim to being one of the first two language offshoots from Babel, and a scientific claim for being two of the world’s earlier proto-languages.
Take the example of the Italian word giu’ whose pronunciation closely resembles that of the Swahili word juu. Giu’ means “down”, juu is “up.” Imagine the confusion created each time the Swahili speaking bricklayer asked the Italian stores clerk for additional bricks to be sent up.
Although these two words have opposite meanings, if you look at them as representing one of two extremes they are strongly connected on a scale of height, and would give some credence to the Biblical account of the Divine intervention to curtail the effectiveness of communication, at least between Italian and Swahili speakers.
To the northern Chinese ma can have three meanings depending on the intonation you use when pronouncing those two letters. On a flat tone it means “mother”, on a falling tone “to curse.” In Italian the same word means “but” and several other meanings associated with that word.
There are several examples of words that has one decent meaning in one language and a different and obscene unprintable meaning in another. Again, a few Italian words that can be used in normal conversation share the reputation of having obscene Swahili meanings.
While some religions preach that we shared a common language in the past, and scientific study points to a shared common origin of languages in language groups, there is a great likelihood that the advances in human knowledge existing today would have changed the story in the Bible.
I have had the chance to observe Chinese technicians working on a Tanzanian construction site. They could not speak a word of neither English nor Swahili. In comparison, the only Chinese word that their coordinator knew was the word for “beer”, which was of little help even if they were constructing a brewery.
In little time a communications system was developed and used. To order more nails, they showed a nail to the coordinator, and wrote down the size and quantity using the number system familiar to any literate Tanzanian. It worked well for most situations. Thanks to easier communication nowadays, when communication completely broke down, they would place a call to an interpreter in China to resolve the matter.
Human knowledge today would have probably changed the story of Babel. Construction would have continued until the tower would have collapsed from its own height, but while construction lasted, religion and science would have found common ground.
Monday, 24 November 2014
I have just come across what I consider to be the best misprint yet.
The Daily News (Tanzania) has a news report in which President Jakaya Kikwete has sent a message of condolence to Minister of Information, Youth, Culture, and Sports Fenella Mukangara following the death of two journalists: Innocent Munyuku and Baraka Karashani.
The minister was referred to as “the minter of information….” As far as misprints go, this one is a gem. Considering that the Daily News is a government newspaper and falling under the direct responsibility of the minister, one wonders whether it was a genuine mistake or whether it was a sick joke being perpetrated against Minister Mukangara.
|Screen shot of the Google News alert containing the initial error.|
Here’s the link to the story: JK mourns Munyuku, Baraka.
Saturday, 22 November 2014
My hosts informed me that the area is sometimes used as a setting for film production.
Wednesday, 19 November 2014
A few days ago I saw the monkey again and managed to photograph it.
It has side burns and has a thick fur and a long tail. I do not recall seeing this species anywhere except perhaps in the forest area on the slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro where a similar species is found.
Monday, 10 November 2014
Sunday, 9 November 2014
|Shuzenji Temple in autumn.|
|Sumptuous meals with local fresh catch|
|Shuzenji Temple in autumn.|
|The colours of autumn.|
Friday, 17 October 2014
Monday, 13 October 2014
There’s a maxim from Blogging 101 that says if you blog about anything and everything you will drive visitors away. If you read through some of my posts, you might notice the very opposite; I write on a wide range of topics, but a common – though not consistent – thread is that I conclude my posts with an opinion about some issue. And I would say that some of my favourite posts are those in which I have an opinion about some issue.
Since launching this blog in 2008 I have avoided describing (in the header) what this blog is about for a good reason: I had no idea where it was heading and did not want to limit myself to a description on which direction it should take.
Although I have followed advice, again from Blogging 101, of limiting the number of topics on this blog to a manageable number (I even launched a new blog dedicated to my Mt. Kilimanjaro climbing experiences), the tags I am using still leave latitude to explore the universe and its diversity although I might be stretching the boundaries rather wide if I promise that you will read a post on Europa here.
Perhaps the title of this blog says it all: From Butiama and Beyond. I am blogging from Butiama, but I also blog an whatever topic of interest that I encounter beyond Butiama.
Saturday, 11 October 2014
Thursday, 9 October 2014
It was interesting climb, as he carried along his guitar, and attracted considerable attention not only from other climbers but also from the hundreds of guides and porters who are on Mt. Kilimanjaro at any one time.
|Vitali Maembe takes a rest on the way to Shira Cave camp.|
Friday, 26 September 2014
Monday, 15 September 2014
And then someone mentioned that Works Minister Dr. John Pombe Magufuli was about to visit Butiama to inaugurate construction of the road that would provide access for residents of this part of Tanzania to travel on most of the distance between Mara region through the Serengeti National Park and to Arusha region on a tarmac road. Yes, I am referring to the infamous Serengeti "Highway".
Then I understood why that someone who nine years ago should have drawn the white stripe in the middle of the road had suddenly remembered to complete a task that, in normal conditions, would remain unfinished.
The minister was bound to pass on this road and raise more than a few questions. That was the reason why.
Wednesday, 27 August 2014
I clicked the link to the comment by Carola, hoping that it was the Carola (Carola Kinasha) who inspired Remmy Ongala to compose his Karola. But I guess it was expecting too much coincidences in one day.
Monday, 11 August 2014
Saturday, 26 July 2014
On the day a second person brought the meat, a fourth one the drinks and the fifth the music. There were no chairs.
When the drinks aroused those familiar reactions, most of those gathered began tapping their feet to the music. Before long a few jumped onto the dance floor and accentuated their presence.
In the photo it was Adam in the foreground, Kevin in the middle, and Thomas on the left walking away.
Wednesday, 16 July 2014
Sunday, 13 July 2014
Friday, 11 July 2014
I take great pride in my ability to speak Swahili, a language spoken by an estimated 140 million people. It's my mother tongue, so I should not claim to hold exceptional qualities. But I take every opportunity to speak Swahili and will use a foreign language only when I have to.
Recently while having breakfast in a hotel in Dar es Salaam I ordered toasted bread. My request was in Swahili except for the word "toast" which the English-Swahili dictionary published by the Institute of Kiswahili Research translates to "tosti." But I only found this out after I consulted the dictionary. Hitherto, I had never heard anyone mention tosti.
In response, the waiter asked me in English: "how many [slices]?" And I, perturbed by a Tanzanian adressing a fellow Tanzania in English, asked in Swahili: "Do you speak Swahili?"
He switched to Swahili and as I sat in my chair waiting for my tosti it suddenly dawned on me that I was the one who created the confusion in the first place by ordering "toast."
Friday, 20 June 2014
It just occurred to me that I could appear to others much older than I imagine.
I am at an airport lounge where I observe a couple with an infant in, I presume, the husband's arms. Besides them, a daughter aged around 7.
I was in that situation circa 28 years ago. The interesting part is that I look at the couple and I feel like they could almost pass for my age mates. It would be logical only if their children were much older.
That leads me to conclude that I should consider changing my bathroom mirror. And I should also visit my optician more often. Either mtu mirror or my eyes are defective.
But as I like to say to my detractors, old people don't climb Mt. Kilimanjaro. You are as old as you feel.