YALI Cohort 2 Chronicles: The French connection
When you are a Kenyan who speaks three languages –English, Kiswahili and Luhya (my mothertongue), it is not funny when providence thinks it apt to match you with a Burundian. That’s what happened when David Kamau,@TheRealKamauD, said we should pair up and introduce each other to the rest of the YALI clan.
I ended up with Njari Jean (read John, because I can’t figure out how to make it sound like John when it is written). Now Njari is a guy who heads Yowli (it actually rhymes with YALI) but it stands for Young Women Knowledge and Leadership Institute. And I had to speak the little French that I had learnt overnight from my roommate Freeman Luboya.
That is what YALI does to you… they throw you in some unfamiliar territory in front of 81 strangers – 162 eyeballs—and they expect you to dance on that stage flawlessly.
Let’s just say, I tried. Because after the exercise, Pascal walked up to me and spoke to me in French, then Lingala, and when he saw I was just staring, he actually checked my tag and profusely apologized.
“I thought you were Congolese,” he said.
Then Caroline, looked at me, and walked over to my table where Addis, Idriss and I were having some banter about politics, economics and law.
She asked: “Are you from Burundi?”
I said “No, I am Kenyan”.
Unbelievably, she doubted my citizenry and told me that I’d pass for a Burundian national. It seems there’s no escaping this French thing!
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