Friday, November 16, 2012

Don't Cry Over Spilled Water

Today at school we did another creative writing assignment.  Today’s prompt had to do with Malawian sayings.  I gave the English example of “don’t cry over spilled milk”.  They got all excited about that because they have a similar one, except it’s “don’t cry over spilled water.”  I have TOTALLY cried over spilled water.  At the time it was dark out but still hot and I hate carrying water and I tripped and dropped the bucket and the bucket broke.  Then I cried.  That water shit it is valuable!  You can’t water your crops with milk. You crazy?!

Anyway, I had them write their sayings first in the local language and then translate it to English and tell me what it meant.  I wanted to see if Malawian sayings rhymed or had a cadence like a lot of ours do.  A lot of the saying my students wrote are the same as our English ones.  A bunch of students wrote “birds of a feather flock together” and “early bird gets the worm”.  Makes me think a lot of these sayings came over with colonialists and missionaries.  A few of them wrote “make hay while the sun shines,” which would be a very appropriate saying for Malawi…if they grew hay.  Five bucks says they don’t know what hay is.  The “hay” they grow is not called hay, nor is what passes for hay here translated to hay.  They don’t grow hay.  Here it is “grass”.  Just grass.  Sometimes “glass”.  That saying is not Malawian.  But when I brought these issues up to them, they vehemently shot me down.  “No, no Madam!  These are Malawian sayings!” Alright! Alright! Sheesh.

Some of them, however, were more likely from their own language.  For example, “love is in the hands”, which means you show your true feelings through your actions.  There was also “what comes does not beat a drum”.  My students disagreed with what this one meant, but I think it’s something to do with how many things are unexpected.  No one could offer me good or comprehensible explanations for “it’s all fish that you catch in the net” and “even as the rain falls the smoke will not stop,” but they’re still cool.  One interesting one was “never let a handshake pass the elbow.” I think this has something to do with how we shake hands here with our left hand supporting our right elbow to show we aren’t hiding weapons.  There’s also “charity begins at home,” “latecomers always eat bones” (too true here), “an empty tin makes a lot of noise”, “once a thief, always a thief.”  And the more culture-specific obscure ones: “if your friend’s bed is burning, help him stop it” (sounds better in their language), “once you cry for the rain you will also accompany the mud” (be careful what you wish for, essentially), “prevention is better than cure”, “how beautiful is the fig but alas it is filled with ants.”  Finally, my favorite “all days are not Sunday.”

1 comment:

  1. My favorite....mas vale pajaro en mano que cien volando. A bird in the hand is worth more than 100 flying.