Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Jambo from Stone Town . . .

Beach near Old Town, Stone Town, Zanzibar
We began our sojourn to Africa with a four-day stay in Stone Town, Zanzibar. Somewhat jetlagged, the first words we heard on landing in Stone Town, Zanzibar, were "Jambo!" (hello), and "Jambo, Bwana," (hello, mister). We were blown away by outright, warm friendliness from everyone we met. We heard this tune everywhere --  "Jambo, Bwana," echoing down the streets, sung passionately by a young man climbing a coconut tree on a spice farm, and sung again most hauntingly by a woman at dusk, as we watched the sun fall into the sea. 

Written back in the 1980s by a group called Them Mushrooms, the song has become an anthem for Tanzania and Kenya. Here it is, in all its You-Tube glory:

We have our own "jambo" stories now.

I've always loved languages and thought perhaps Swahili might have feminine and masculine endings, for example, "Jambo" for males and "Jamba" for females. Everytime I asked if this were true, the folks around me burst into laughter. I learned later than "jamba" means fart.

So there we are, camping out in tents on the Serengheti. A young man comes around at 5:30 am with hot water, softly calling, "Jambo. Good morning." Allen reared up in his cot still asleep and called back quite clearly, "Jamba!"

Camping out like that meant we heard animals at night, sometimes the low cough of a lion or a mysterious large animal pawing the grasses outside the tent. So one morning, I won't say who was responsible, but a 'jamba' popped out into the morning. In the next tent, one of our friends said, "Did you hear that lion?"

Tune in tomorrow for more about Stone Town and the rare, nearly extinct Red Colobus Monkey.

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