One Word and a Huge Success

October 28th 2015:


My four-year-old brother Moussa loves to quiz me in Pularr. His favorite after dinner entertainment is to point to various body parts and say honnu o innete? (What is this called?). He always starts with his personal favorite, tinde (forehead). So I’ve got that  word down pat.


I learned pretty early on if I’m feeling tired just to turn the tables: “honnu o innete anglais?” (What is it called in English?) I’ll ask him, he’ll tighten up his face in concentration and squeak out “mi anda!” (I don’t know). It’s a good little revenge strategy considering the number of times I’ve had to say mi anda so far.


My goal in asking for the same word in English is, of course, more than revenge, its teaching. I quiz him back and teach him to sing “head, shoulders, knees, and toes, knees and toes”. Moussa loves to reach “knees and toes” so he can quickly tap back and forth between his knees and toes. Sometimes, at odd hours of the day he’ll just sing “knees and toes, knees and toes” over and over again. We’ve been working on touching the right body part while singing the right word. For a while, the eyes were the mouth.


Last night, I was the usual source of entertainment. Moussa rapidly tapped me, “Hey hey Safi! honnu o innnete?” and then pointed to his head. “Horay,” I reply, “honnu o innete anglais?”. Moussa squeezed his eyes shut, thinking hard, and suddenly shouted “head!”. “Moyi!” (That’s good!) I cheer back ecstatically. I was amazed, it had worked, all that singing and he had really learned.


This morning, Moussa burst into my hut holding the top of his head and sang out “Headdddd!”. “Shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes!” I sang back with a huge smile.


These are the Big Moments, The Grand Adventures.