“Tuli sitili”

I guess because we are off to flood-ravaged North Carolina for a wedding, I need to get another post added. And, maybe, the following is appropriate.
Unless you are used to deciphering local language usage, you have no idea what the title to this blog means. Nor did I at the beginning.

We lived ‘way out there beyond the seasonal swamps. As soon as the rains stopped and the water in the swamps receded enough, we always planned a trip to town to get supplies. After all, it had been at least 4 or 5 months since were last there!

The 4-wheel drive Land Rover got its workout on those days. Rough travel, especially through water which you couldn’t see through because it was the color of chocolate, made the vehicle bounce and twist and turn as it churned its way across. And, as always, there were always local Africans who wanted to go to town also and as long as I had room I took them. On the other hand, the more of them I could take provided insurance – hands to push if I got the vehicle stuck in the mud!

salroadsAfter a long bouncy ride across the last swampy stretch, I turned around in my seat to make sure my passengers were okay. I asked them how they had fared and one piped up and said, “Tuli sitili”. I assumed it was that all were well and continued on to town.

Later I had occasion to ask what was meant. “We were strong and held on (for dear life, I am sure!)”. “Tuli” means “we are”. “Sitili” is the Sukuma dialect’s pronunciation of the English word, “steel”. So what I was told was that all the passengers were strong as steel (sitili) and had come through the ordeal with no problem.

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