Kijabe One



I recently shared a shortened version of the following story on a Facebook thread (list of responses to a posted picture). I have decided that it is amusing enough for me to share in this forum as well. You are lucky though. Here, you get the expanded version.

Among the many improvements that have been made at Rift Valley Academy (RVA) since I graduated sixteen years ago is the ability to reach the outside world by telephone. The campus can now be reached by direct dial telephone and, of course, pretty much everyone carries a cell phone. They are SO spoiled. There was a time when one was required to go through the operator in order to place a call. You had to speak to the voice identified only as ‘Kijabe One’ or you weren’t calling anyone and the antiquated phones each had a hand crank that was utilized in order to notify the operator someone was desperate enough to try using the phones in order to reach an individual with whom they were certain needed their conversation at that moment.

Disclaimer: Allow me to mention that I, having grown up in Kenya, have never had difficulty communicating with any other Kenyan citizen in country or abroad in my life. The Kijabe One (K1) operator was the only exception and certainly a rare breed of individual to be sure.

An attempt to call the parental units from school ...

Beth: Cranks phone. Cranks phone again. Again. One more time. Nope, one more … and operator finally picks up (if lucky).

K1: "What city?" (This is the easy part.)
Beth: "Tigoni"

K1: "What number?" (Again, quite easy.)
Beth: Gives number which is now forgotten.

K1: "What name?" (This is where the fun begins.)
Beth: "Mr. Turner"

K1: "Eh?"
Beth: “Bwana Turner”

K1: “Eh?”
Beth: "Turner"
K1: "Eh?"

Beth: "TURNER!!!"
K1: "Sperr Preeeaase!"

Beth: "T-U-R-N-E-R"
K1: "Eh?"

Beth: “T”
K1: “T”

Beth: “U”
K1: “U”

Beth: “R”
K1: “Eh?”

Beth: “R”
K1: “R”

Beth: “N”
K1: “N”

Beth: “E”
K1: “E”

Beth: “R”
K1: “Eh?”

Beth: “R”
K1: “R”

Beth: “Bwana Turner”
K1: “Eh?”

Beth: “T-U-R-N-E-R”
K1: “Eh?”

Beth: "T-U-R ....!" (Oh hell!) "Tana ... as in TANA RIVER! You know Tana River? Unaelewa!?! TANA RIVER! Mr. Tana!”

K1: "Okay! No problem!"

[Tana River is the longest river in Kenya running 440 miles from the highlands to the Indian Ocean. “Unaelewa” is “you understand” – I think. I have already confessed how poor my Swahili is these days.]

“The more you explain it, the more I don’t understand it.” ~Mark Twain, American Writer


11 comments:

  1. LMAO LMAO LMAO
    Oh Beth you just made my day. You must have been speaking to a Kikuyu.

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  2. @ Candybox:You think?
    That was funny.... but I can so relate.

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  3. I highlight as the receptionist at my workplace an hour every week. You can only imagine my frustration when I have to talk to irate customers with hearing problems and have to convince them that they have actually reached someone in the US and not some third-world country. Enunciation becomes of paramount importance. That and patience.

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  4. @kk I say that cos it seems she couldn't get the 'R'. You know Kiuks and their R/L contraversies(sp)

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  5. Illuminating story that many international students and business professionals would benefit from reading. You also chose pithy, pitch-perfect quotes to open and close the story.
    Bravo!

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  6. cb ~ Was it the "L vs R" issue or the "Eh?" that gave it away? LOL!

    kk ~ I was a supervisor in a call center specializing in concierge work for high end credit card clientele. I hired native speakers for travel hot spots (i.e. France, Spain, Brazil, etc.) to handle the requests and *always* had to field complaint calls from customers who thought we were outsourcing when, in reality, we were in Richmond, VA so I know exactly how that feels.

    eric ~ Welcome! Interesting to get the views of an ESL teacher. Feel free to use the story if you like. I hope you will visit more.

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  7. Of course, at the time of this story I was between the ages of 12 and 17. Patience was not one of my virtues as a teenager.

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  8. Beth with the Kiuks 'R' is pronounced as an 'L' and vice versa

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  9. Yes ... I know. They also use "eh" a lot in general conversation.

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  10. eh
    Talk of blind spots in conversation.... I did not know that about my tribesmen... and I guess myself too:)

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  11. The Kikuyu & the Canadians ... eh!

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"Stranger, if you passing meet me and desire to speak to me, why should you not speak to me? And why should I not speak to you?" ~Walt Whitman

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