On boxing day, I invited all my employees and their families to a party at my place, 25 people in all. Once I had welcomed everyone, and made sure they were all happily sitting down with a calabash of millet beer, I finally sat down myself. And as I did so I sighed, relieved to be able to take short rest from all the activity.

“Taamuuzi !” said the old lady next to me abruptly.

A new verb to me, but I understood what she meant straight away because of the context: “Don’t sigh!” The old lady went on to explain, “Kabiye people never sigh. It sounds as if you’re bored with your present company or fed up with life.”

This is going to be a difficult one to put into practice. Many times a day I am at a loss to know what is going on around me. I’m learning a foreign language which bears no relation to anything remotely English. I live in a tropical climate where it is often uncomfortably hot by 8am. I’m working on a PhD thesis that is stretching me well beyond my comfort zone. All these things sap my energy, and I am very conscious that I sigh many times a day, if not out of exhaustion then bewilderment.

But if I want to integrate socially here, from now on I need to keep more of a check on myself. And maybe someday I’ll manage to catch someone else out and have the satisfaction of integrating one more new verb into my repertoire, “Taamuuzi!”

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