Generation loopholes and red elephants

I was trying to play the cool aunt and…

Wait, the beginning. When I was little, I had lots of funky cousins around me. Ten years my senior, or thereabouts, all pretty and make-upped and omniscient. They knew everything. They had boys falling at their feet. They had funky clothes and gorgeous hair. And they were tight with my mum in a way I could never be.

I treasured their opinions, listened to their music, erranded to their boyfriends. I was crushed when one told me I couldn’t sing, though in all fairness, I can prove she wasn’t entiiiiiiirely right about that one. 😉 Apart from that incident, they were totally cool.

So when I found myself in a huge house with four teenage nieces, I tried to do the same. They’re all cute and frighteningly curvy. I don’t know if it’s GM foods or global warming, but I get very worried when my 10 to 13 year old nieces make men drool, and not the perverted kind either. Those children have more curves than me, and it bugs me when I see how guys look at them, coz I know something those guys don’t; I know that my nieces are still at the age where kissing is gross.

Anyway, I figured I’d score points for being the funky auntie with the jeans and the dreads and the pretty baby girl. But apparently, I am old. I have no idea what music they like. Half the songs they were gyrating too are filed in a MP3 folders as R for ridiculous.

I mean, they were doing routines to the Pussy Cat Dolls and Nicole Whatsername. Spice Girls I get, but PCD ?! Ati when I grow up. I have serious qualms about nubile beauties who say they want to grow up [si they’re like in their twenties already?] because they’ll have boobies.

I mean for one thing, they’re all C cups already, and for another, who calls them boobies? Really!! It’s worse than Gwen’s ‘if I was a rich girl’ when the woman has millions already !! At least Good Charlotte had the sense to counter ‘lifestyles’ once they made it – and with a great hit too!

Then some annoying song comes on, nauseating really. Chris Brown and some girl. I asked who the girl was, sounding all know-it-all. Never heard of her, even after they listed her hits. I think she sang some song called Energy. But at least I know Chris Brown, no?

Then we got onto the subject of fly men [first, they don’t know what fly is beyond an annoying flying insect] and we could not agree. I mean those children have NO taste. Seriously!! They like the boy on John Tucker must die. I am disturbed by their obsession with that flick.

And don’t even get me started on Bratz and High School Musical. We did agree that Peter and Mohinder [Heroes] are hot, and started a spirited argument about that.

The argument kept me firmly in the cool until I mentioned Mohinder was a better bet coz Peter is the dark broody type who underneath their depth are just moody jerks. I added that that Milo Ventimiglia [Peter] was way cuter in Gilmore, but he was also younger and shorter, though he was equally broody.

They have no idea who [or what] Gilmore girls is!! But they do know that the Cheerleader was in some idiot movie called Get it on [or sth like that] another of their passions. It’s a cheerleader movie with Beyonce’s kid sis, no plot, and killer choreography, especially the crumping. I get marks for knowing what crumping is, yes? As long as I don’t say I learnt about it via Get it on.

I saw Pierce Brosnan flash across the screen and sighed at how hot he is. [hot being an acceptable word for them but one I winced at using] The nieces stared at me, horrified and speechless. They have no idea who he is, and could not see the temperature I was swooning over. **sigh**.

Then I got all giggly about A fish called Wanda [Jaime-lee in all her glory] and Robin Hood Men in Tights, explaining some of the gags, like the house moving scene and the chastity belt. Of course since they haven’t watched [or read] the original Robin Hood, they totally missed the canned laughter.

Then they started watching Never ending story, and when I explained that I’d watched it when I was a kid, and it was made in, what, 1984, they gasped collectively and asked “Auntie! You were born!!” You’d think I’d said 500 BC the way they reacted!!

And the scene in Space Balls [a brilliant Star Wars spoof] where they get their light sabers from rings they found in cereal boxes, and a dwarf Darth Vader tells Skywalker ‘I am…your uncles cousin’s brother’s wife’s friend’s neighbour’s ex-roomate.’ My rotflo was met with blank stares and suspicious looks at the juice I was drinking. I am so old.

Nelly is off for the weekend, so I don’t plan to cook if I can help it. I bought some eggs, some loaves, and lots of milk [for cereal. I live and breathe weetabix and rock music]. Then I went to the ATM and got a stash for emergencies, since Nelly won’t be back for days.

The problem is that the ATM only issued red elephants…that’s the picture on the 10,000 tsh note. A loaf costs 700, and there’s no shopkeeper, however Tanzanian he is, that would give you change for 700 from 10,000.

//aes.iupui.edu/rwise/banknotes/tanzania/TanzaniaP39-10000Shillings-2003_f.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

Then princess decides to host her friends. I’m not a crowds person, so whenever she’s entertaining, I hide in the bedroom with headphones and a sheet – Dar is too warm for blankets.

I offered her friends some tea, but they refused to join the meal. But the second I hit my sheet, they started to nibble on the bread. I had no problem with that. Except these kids really like bread. At some point even princess got worried and came to report them to me.

Now let me explain something. I’m not very good at expressing myself in Swa. I can communicate, sure, I can read and write, I’ve even edited a text book in Swa which earned the author 19 million Tsh in royalties [that’s like a million Kenyan, or 20 thousand dollars.] I’m that good.

But speaking, that’s something else. I stutter, I dyslex [you know, like calling someone mvuvi –fisherman – instead of mvivu – lazy], and I miss all those subtle nuances of language.

In English, I can say ‘Please leave at your early convenience’ to my guests, and when it reaches 10 p.m., I can explain to the neighbours kids that their mothers must be worried, and that they should go home and come back tomorrow.

But in Swa, I say ‘Sasa ni usiku sana, imechelewa, nafikiri mama yako anakutafuta. Nawaomba mwende nyumabni, mtakuja kucheza kesho’. And then the poor babies think I don’t want them in my house and get so terrified that they avoid princess for days!

So when Princess reported the bread scenario, I told her to put the bread away. She then went and said ‘Mama yangu amesema msile’ and put the bread in the fridge. The children were clearly worried, so I asked her to let them have as much as they liked. I was sure they wouldn’t finish everything. Princess announces ‘Mama yangu amesema mkule mpaka mshibe’. Goodness!!

The week has been trying, since each time I casually enquire about someone, it’s taken as a summons. I see a wardrobe lying in the compound and ask whose it is. Next morning the landlord’s son shows up asking for me, and princess tells him I’m asleep, and gives him my phone number. Now first, I’m always asleep. I sleep for days at a time, I routinely wake up at 4 p.m. But telling my landlord’s son I can’t see him coz I’m asleep is…bad.

Second, she gave him the wrong phone number.

So I check on him, bounce, leave a message, he checks on me, bounces, leaves a message, and on and on and on. Eventually it turns out he wants to sell me the thing. All I did was ask why it was sitting there rain and shine for two weeks!

Now I have to politely say “I’m sorry, but that’s a bit beyond the reach of my pocket, so thanks, but no thanks” in Swa. I was aiming for ‘I can’t afford that’ and ended up with ‘Siwezi lipa hiyo’… It did not go down very well.

Then I casually ask if my landlord is home, coz I need to ask about some repairs. I’m told no. Then at 12 a.m when I am sitting in my skimpy pyjamas watching the Godfather, I hear a knock. It’s the landlord. At 12? He still looks unwell. We exchange greetings then stare blankly at each other until he grouchily says ‘You wanted me?’

Er…no…I just asked if you were home…hellooo!! Now I have to say that politely in swa, preferably without stuttering, and without thinking about my state of dress.

Five minutes later, princess declares she’s hungry, and of course I have no bread, and nothing but red elephants since I had scraped my last under-the-cushion coins to buy that last loaf. Sigh.

So I convinced princess that she was tired [which she was], cranky [totally], and not hungry at all, just very sleepy. She dozed off on the cushion before I could finish my pitch.

I just love being a mum!

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One Response

  1. In this age it is very difficult to be a master of more than one language, because of the different versions spoken in different places. Ever heard Congolese Swa? I think the Tanzanians would prefer yours.

    true, but the congolese have french…

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