By Betty Levitov
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The ﬁrst daytime sight in Africa is a morning mob of vendors with armloads of batiks, woodcarvings, and jewelry. Somehow word spreads that sixteen wazungu checked into the Lutheran Center the night before. Every morning until we leave, the vendors greet us: “Jambo, hello. ” The batiks, with images of giraffes and elephants, held high for display, block the sellers’ faces. The second sight, in the northern sky, is the magniﬁcent Mount Meru, second highest mountain in Tanzania. Although its more famous neighbor, Mount Kilimanjaro, eclipses its reputation, Meru’s beautiful volcanic peak dominates the horizon.
I remember Gertrude Stein’s comments about deciding to write in English, even though she’d spent her entire adult life in France, because she knew the sounds and nuances of the language from birth. As infants and children we are prewired to learn language without instruction, instinctively, in the same manner as we learn to walk. Most of us experience the challenges of learning second languages for the ﬁrst time in junior high school, when it becomes obvious that we have gradually lost the instincts and must learn consciously by studying pronunciation and grammar.
The next day we arrange box lunches and take off with Zachariah and two other guides on a hike through Maasai villages along the mountainsides surrounding Arusha. It’s sunny and hot as we walk up and up and up. ” When we get closer, they shout, “How are you how are you how are you,” continuously, without expecting a reply. At offers for handshakes, they run away, either shy or afraid. Their houses are makuti style—mud brick huts with thatch roofs—and around each is a small garden of corn and greens.