Clinic Stories

Mount Kilimanjaro (Part IV)

Swahili

Swahili is the default language in Tanzania as 90% of the people speak it as their first or second language. Inevitably visitors pick up the everyday words:

Jambo Hello
Asantay Thank you
Karibu Welcome or You're welcome
Pole, pole Slowly, slowly

On the mountain people often answer “How are you?” with “Poa kichizi kama ndizi” which means “crazy cool like a banana.” Sometimes they will end with “Tango” instead of ndizi, meaning cool as a cucumber. Another response is “Googoo kama simba”, “strong like a lion”.

After climbing Mount Kilimanjaro we went to national parks on safari and stayed in lodges that were several hours away. When my roommate went to the bar the bar tender asked, in English, “How are you?”. He replied “Poa kichizi kama ndizi”. The bartender did not understand. My roommate went through the phrase word by word: “Poa means crazy?”, “Yeah”, “kichizi means cool?”, “Yeah”, and so on. “Yeah, but I never heard Poa kichizi kama ndizi” though he thought it was hilarious. He called over a coworker. He also had no familiarity with the term, so he Googled it. Sure enough, there it was as a Swahili phrase. So Tanzanians learned Swahili slang from an American. Poa.

There is a song that the mountain guides sing, many performances can be seen on You Tube under Kilimanjaro Song. It goes:

Jambo, Jambo Bwana Hello, Hello Sir,
Habari gani, Mzuri sana How are you? Very good.
Wageni, mwakaribishwa Welcome foreigners
Kilimanjaro, Hakuna matata Kilimanjaro, no problem

Yes, they really say Hakuna matata, just like in Lion King.

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