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It’s weird that grief makes Swahili seem easier

With my current lack of brain power, I expected my Swahili would take a hit, that the sluggishness I feel in English would mean remedial Swahili. Yet, the opposite has been true. I am unable to focus in English. (Posts like these ones which posted recently were written before Red Twin died.) But my brain works fine in Swahili.

Ask me how I feel in English and I will say numb, because I don’t know. There are emotions there but they are often beyond my articulation. But when I am speaking in Swahili it’s not about me. It’s the other person’s language. Even if I’m speaking about Red Twin or myself, it’s focused on the other person in a way unique to my Swahili brain. I’m consciously following conventions and inhabiting a more communal space, such that personal expression or processing takes a back seat.

Those conventions are useful to me. Here at least is a task, and one I know how to do. Meanwhile the gears of my English brain clunk, slowed down by processing in an unfamiliar world.

Maybe it’s a distraction too. I first got into aerobics when I had a terribly stressful job, and found that half an hour where all I could think about was breathing and where my feet were was a relief. Maybe because Swahili requires a similar concentration, but in a world disconnected from my emotional pain, it’s become similarly immersive.

Whatever the reason, Swahili has become a kind of a safe space for me right now, a refuge of sorts. I’ve been surprised by that.


Categories: Uncategorized Written by Tamie

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Tamie Davis

Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at

5 replies

  1. Thank you for continuing to share your journey of grief with us. I still think of you with prayers. Continue to share and we will always remember you in prayer. xxxx

  2. Hi Tamie, Interesting to read that Swahili is coming easily enough to you at the moment, despite brain fog. I’m thanking God for this ‘escape’ or distraction for you, in a time that is hard and will continue to be so. I’m thanking God that you are where you are, exactly where he wants you (with a move coming up); serving Him and being served by his people.  Thinking of 2 Cor 4:7 and onwards as I pray for you. Also 2 Cor 12:10. Sending love and hugs to you.  Love Sam xox 

    Sent from my Samsung Galaxy smartphone.

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