While Maiguida is the "Owner of Hausa" (meaning, he can speak in complete correct sentences and understands what Nigerien people are saying to him), I have been titled the "Owner of Talking" -- I'll leave that definition to your own imagination.
Apparently, when it comes to language learning, I have no qualms about jumping in head-first, letting my tongue lead the charge. Some say it's a good thing . . . not being afraid to make mistakes, trying to communicate despite a lack of perfection, learning by doing in a trail-and-error kind of way.
But surely there is some kind of folly in digging oneself into such a language ditch that she is halfway to China before she realizes no one in the room has any idea of what she is talking about . . . herself included.
We were in Hausa class the other day, listening to a short explanation on this period of azumi, fasting. The people of Niger are right in the middle of their Holy Month of Fasting -- a time where they do not eat or drink, for some that includes swallowing their own saliva, from 4:30 in the morning until 7 in the evening. They dedicate this time for spiritual growth as they seek to know God better and honor Him.
Our teacher asked if there was an azumi in Christianity.
We explained that for most Christians, fasting is more of a personal activity, except that in Catholic circles Lent is observed before Easter, during which a specific luxury is "fasted" for 40 days.
By this point in our studies we had established a certain rapport with our teacher, and he decided it was time that he ask us a cultural question: what is the difference between Catholics and Protestants?
Maiguida chose to go the safe and easy route: the role of the Pope.
As he explained the two sides of that equation to our Nigerien teacher, my mind began wandering to the some of the other differences between the theologies . . . such as the role of Mary and the Saints, the practice of confession and absolution, and the doctrine of transubstantiation.
As Maiguida concluded his clear and understood mini discourse on the papal position, I decided I would help him out by making things worse.
"Another difference is," I began confidently, "uh . . . um . . . I don't know how it is said in Hausa." I switched to French, "Communion."
Our teacher shrugged. Despite being an incredibly well educated man who speaks at least four languages fluently, three of which he teaches every day, he didn't know what I was referring to.
I gave it a quick thought and decided I would start at the beginning.
Looking back now, I see that I should have thought about it a little longer . . . and then abandoned the idea all together. But I didn't do that.
"A long time ago Moses was on top of the earth. God says to him talk to the king and tell him to you go. But king he say 'no'. Moses he will say to people God to me say put blood of boy sheep above and side of door. Pick up all stuff and pound bread that you are without time to get big. You wait. God sent angle--"
My teacher cut me off to correct my pronunciation: "ANGEL"
"ANAGEL" I tried again.
"ANGEL" he repeated.
"ANNAAGEEL" I continued to botch
"AN-GEL" he broke it down for me.
"That one, like you said, God sent him. He went over the house and ki--"
I knew I was going to pronounce it wrong, so I reverted back to sign language: I took my thumb and slid it across the front of my throat.
"Killed" my teacher patiently interjected.
"Yeah, he kill the first son of every family did not put blood. After this king say to Moses 'GO!' One day Jesus was on top of the earth. God say do Passover for not to forget that you people saved from Egypt king. Jesus He eat Passover with His friends. The bread He eat is one from three. It is middle and hides until they to look for it. He give them and say to them eat my body. Protestants they think this is sign, Catholics they think the big religious teacher it change to body. And He give them a thing-to-drink. This thing-to-drink called Thing-To-Drink of I-Don't-Know-The-Word."
"Grace?" my teacher asked.
"Maybe?" I said.
"Worship?" he suggested.
I pulled out my phone and used the Google Translate App to look up redemption in Hausa.
"Ah," my teacher understood . . . the word that I was looking for that is.
"Protestants they think Thing-To-Drink-Of-Redemption be a sign, Catholics think the big religious teacher Thing-To-Drink it change to blood of Jesus."
Our teacher stared at me.
I smiled at him, confident that something made sense.
He looked at Maiguida.
Maiguida looked at me.
It was in that moment that I realized perhaps I had bitten off more than I could chew.
WHAT WAS I THINKING?!?!?! TRANSUBSTANTIATION!?!?!? I can barely explain that in ENGLISH!!!
When will I learn?!?!?