02-04-2021 di redazione
The allergy of Italians to foreign languages is well known.
When they go abroad, their ignorance is often backed up by very valid alibis ("the teacher hated me at school", "during a trip to England I caught chicken pox") and some venial lies ("I understand everything, but I have some difficulty with pronunciation", or "I speak seven languages fluently, but I often get them mixed up").
This explains the success of Malindi, a happy island for the glottological ignorance of our fellow citizens.
In fact, those 'semi-illiterate' locals have learned our language much faster than we have managed to do in thirty years with theirs and with the elementary notions of English that would suffice to make themselves understood down here.
From the day you set foot in Kenya, you realised that the official language is Kiswahili, the commercial language is English, but the one most used in Malindi is Italian.
In fact, while at the airport in Mombasa the first African you met greeted you with the classic "Jambo!", as soon as you arrived in Malindi, you were greeted festively with a "Ciao amico!" or a "Benvenuto, fratello!", if not also with polished expressions such as "Salve, I hope your stay will be to your liking", or a more direct "Allora, vecchia canaglia, come ti va?" that will make you feel at home, especially if you are from Frosinone or the Verona area.
Every now and then, however, the much touted ignorance of Africans comes to the surface.
You will notice, for example, that if you order in Italian at a restaurant, you will inexplicably be served something different from what you asked for. Yet you had made it clear to the waiter: 'I would like a grilled sirloin steak, not overcooked, and as a side dish a mixed salad with a little rocket, corn, finely chopped celery, green beans and balsamic vinegar'.
To avoid any inconvenience and to be able to move easily between shops, restaurants and businesses of all kinds, the advice is to recruit one of the many young people you met on the street or on the beach during the first few days of your holiday.
On the other hand, it was certainly their friendliness that made them your friends: among many tourists, they chose you because they understood that you are different from the others, more affable, available, ready to joke and not at all racist.
You really didn't think you would hear any bingo-bongo saying phrases like "red in the evening, good weather we hope" or listening to them singing "tutti al mare a showrar le chiappe chiare".
What fun! The best ones, if you tell them the city or the region they come from, will soon produce a dialect vocabulary that will make the salumiere in your neighbourhood in Italy blush.
Are you from Tuscany? Your new friend will come up with 'I want a hohahola hon la hannuccia horta'.
Are you from Naples? Here they are, walking around and chanting "Uè uagliò, facimm' ambress!".
What spirit, what intelligence! Unbelievable stuff (but they are not all like that, unfortunately...). Characters like these can be trusted. Thanks to them you will do great business, because they know all the local traders. You will pay five thousand shillings for a shell that seems to be handmade, but was actually found, just think, beyond the twelfth coral reef and could be 112 years old.
These young, black, flesh-and-blood dictionaries with reassuring names (Totti, Prezzemolo, Pepperoni, Zucchero, Capodanno) will become your factotums, your business advisors, and thanks to them you can deal with anyone, while continuing to ignore English.
In fact, they will give you lessons in Kiswahili, teaching you that habari is not moto a luogo in città pugliese, but How are you and that you must answer mzuri, which means well, even if they have just stolen your wallet.
However, your Kenyan multilingual friends should not be particularly attractive, so as not to run the risk of seeing them too often accompanying your wife or daughter, nor should they dress too well, so as not to give the impression that you are too rich and cannot pay less for everything.
So you will tend to prefer those who are a bit scruffy, rather dirty and quite slimy.
The best ones on the market are a little guy always dressed in football uniforms with whom you can talk about the Serie A appearances of goalkeeper Donnarumma in the 2016 season and all national and international sports.
Or a stoner with a limp (poor guy) twisted around a bigger stick than him who can get you everything from a lady-in-waiting to friggitelli, or a pirate DVD salesman, a clam pusher and a black-clad cambista who looks like Barry White.
Real characters like these, in Italy, you don't meet anymore.
The homeless man you used to pay for the "bianchino" is now an angry Albanian who asks you directly for ten euros or sells you coke, the village idiot is holed up at home and dispenses his pearls of wisdom from his Facebook page, then his megabytes turn and he stabs his parents.
No one will say hello to you unless they need something from you, let alone stop by for a chat.
So you have learned to do the same thing yourself and now you are surprised that everything is different here!
Everyone smiles, everyone remembers your name!
But most of all, what a beauty, they speak your language!
And the margin for cheating with these poor, jovial people is so small that it is worth socialising.
Especially as they will never laugh at you if you keep saying "I'll take a tutu to the marine park" or "I'll go to Watamu with the macaque", if you open a "Pio Box" or go on a safari in "Max Mara".
Because you don't know languages, but you are not stupid!
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