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Updated 4mo ago
by
by Ibrahim Nyanda
🏆 Proverb Essay Contest
"Why is it that our village is not developed compared to other villages around us? Many young people our age from other villages have studied, and some have found their meaningful jobs in the city. Although there's a school in our village, we young people aren't doing well in school. When teachers are hired, they don’t stay long, they leave. What is there here in Bombambili?” These were the questions that the young man Akilimali asked his friend Manase while they were grazing the cattle. 

After this question, Manese seemed immersed in a great wave of thoughts ,and after considering for a while, he turned to his friend, looked at him deeply and asked him, “Do you believe in witchcraft?” Akilimali answered by nodding his head in agreement and said, “I believe, because I’ve often seen people going to witch doctors, and when they go through difficulties, they believe they've been bewitched. Don’t you remember the other day when we were told that Granny Andunje was found on the roof of old man Masanja stark naked, practicing witchcraft at night. So after that, how can I not believe, my friend?”

Manase looked at Akilimali carefully and then said to him “I want to tell you a secret that you won’t believe... Do you know your mother and your sister are witches?” Akilimali remained dumbfounded like a lizard caught in a door, and then, swelling with anger, he told Manase “Woah, hey kid, don’t start bringing me this nonsense, you stop calling my mom a witch or I’ll show you something you won’t believe with your eyes, ohoooo!!” 

Manase calmed his friend Akilimali, then told him “Wait for me to return the cows to the neighbor, then I’ll tell you the whole story. I know you’ll understand, you just chill out. “

As soon as he has returned the livestock, Manase began telling Akilimali, “My friend, I want to tell you a secret that I’ve kept for a long time. Everything you see here -- even the lack of development in the village -- it’s because of witchcraft. Every day I see your mom and your sister riding a hyaena. They pass by my mom's house, going to bewitch people...”  Manase paused a little, then continued

"You can’t believe it-- even I didn’t believe it until I was anointed with a special potion and saw them. I’ll give you this potion tonight. Apply it in your eyes and you’ll give me an answer tomorrow.”


After dinner, Akilimali was warming himself by the fire with his dad, outside their mud house thatched with grass, while his mom and sister were inside. He applied the potion as directed... and after ten minutes he saw his sister and his mom riding the hyena like a motorcycle, ready to embark on their voyage to bewitch people!


“Forgive me my friend, it was just anger.” Akilimali spoke these words choking back tears. 

“I knew it. Now you see our village is not developing and even your own mom and sister are involved. Every villager who wants to bring development ends up dead. One day they'll end up like Granny Andunje."

“I’m sure even your dad doesn’t know that your mom and sister are witches, and every day they go out to bewitch people and leave you two a magic trick to make you think they’re around. Go put that potion in your dad's eyes, then you’ll give me an answer” explained Manase. 


That evening, secretly, Akilimali explained to his dad that his sister and his mom were witches, a thing which his dad vehemently denied. 

“Mom, today Dad is watching us; look how he is staring at us,” Akilimali’s sister told their mom, riding the hyena as before, as their dad and brother were outside warming themselves as they usually did.

“I don’t think he sees us; turn the hyena so it looks like we’re heading towards them,” Akilimali’s mom said.

Akilimali says that was the last day he saw his father, because after seeing the hyena carrying his wife and daughter, he bolted like he was running the hundred-meter dash. Indeed, what you don’t know is like the darkness of the night, Akilimali was left in disbelief that all this time he lived with his mom and sister not knowing they were witches.
...
Sources

Citations:

Source: This is a Swahili proverb from the book “METHALI ZETU” (Our Proverbs, Oxford) which says, “USILOLIJUA NI KAMA USIKU WA GIZA” (What you don't know is like a dark night.)

About this Essay

This essay won second place 🥈 in Maktaba.org's Proverb Essay Contest 🏆 July 2023
Ibrahim Methusela Nyanda is from Tanzania 🇹🇿

Copyright 

Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY 4.0)
Essay by Ibrahim Nyanda 
Published by Maktaba.org
English translation by Brighid McCarthy
Image: CC BY Maktaba.org
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Updated 5mo ago
by
by Magreth Lazaro Mafie 🇹🇿
🏆 Proverb Essay Contest 
🥉 Third Place Winner
(English translation from Kiswahili)
How many times have you heard “Mchumia juani hulia kivulini” (One who works in the sun, eats in the shade). This is a Swahili (Bantu) proverb meant to encourage people in their everyday activities, to have faith that there will be a day when they will enjoy the fruits of their work.

This proverb gives people strength, diligence, heart, courage, hope and skill in working. The worker believes that hard work brings a good harvest that will allow him to relax in the shade as he eats the fruits of his labor. 

The following poem shows “One who works in the sun” in their daily responsibilities.
I fear neither sun nor rain, making my tomorrow
I fear neither injuries nor pain, because all are temporary
Scorching sun and work are my custom, so that happiness comes in life
The street vendor, the farmer, the [port boys] and their fisherman and the sun, in search of tomorrow
One who works in the sun, eats in the shade, I am still searching for shade.

It's noon, the sun overhead, in my head I have the harvest, sweat is dripping,
The sun has set now, the oar on the beach, exhausted in bed, nets in the sea,
At home on fourth street, captain of the family, may I pull happiness from hard labor
Now the sun is rising, walking the path to look for a bite,
One who works in the sun, eats in the shade, I am still searching for shade.

Once there was a farmer. He spent his whole life in agriculture. Thus his times for pleasure were few. People in his village called him a skilled farmer. He built a house by selling part of his crops, he educated his children through farming.

This farmer was a diligent man, he always learned the principles of being a good farmer, so as time went by, he harvested many crops from his fields. Many people were really amazed to see the big changes in his family. He made many investments in his village, the farms, houses, and shops, and many livestock came from his farm.

Many people came to take wisdom from the skilled farmer. He always told them "One who works in the sun, eats in the shade. The hoe has given me respect in the village, me and my family. My life now is going on a path of certainty, I am in the shade, enjoying the fruits of my labor in the sun. I, the son of that skilled farmer, am proud of my upbringing, and his responsibility, because work in the sun today has made us rest and eat in the shade. The true meaning of “he who works in the sun” can be seen in actions. Your diligence is your sun and the shade is the fruit of your diligence.

This story is complemented by the story of "Mabala the Farmer" by Richard S. Mabala (1989). Mabala was a port worker then he was demoted, so he chose to return to the village of Morogoro. Mabala was careless, drunk and obstinate. Mabala went to the farm with a gallon of booze, he drank it and went to sleep, when he woke up, he called out to his wife but there was no answer except the sound of the hoe tik-tok, tik-tok.

Mabala was obstinate, he watered the fields with sugar, thinking it was fertilizer, but in the end he changed to become a skilled farmer, becoming “one who works” in the sun so that his family could eat in the shade. Do you feel that Mabala is “one who works in the sun”? In the family or in the community, what’s your image of a skilled farmer?

In conclusion, this story on the proverb "Work in the sun, eat in the shade" shows us a good vision in everything we do in our daily lives. Also proverbs like "Subira yavuta kheri” (Patience brings blessings), "Mgaa na Upwa hali wali mkavu” (He who combs the beach at low tide doesn’t eat dry rice) all have similar themes; they exist to give the community strength and hope each task undertaken to pursue their goals.

...
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About this Essay

This essay won third place 🥉 in Maktaba.org's Proverb Essay Contest 🏆 July 2023
Magreth Lazaro Mafie is a student from Tanzania 🇹🇿  

Copyright 

Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY 4.0)
Essay by Magreth Lazaro Mafie
English translation by Brighid McCarthy
Published by Maktaba.org
Image: CC BY Maktaba.org
Image created from "Peasant with a Hoe" by Georges Seurat, c. 1882, Public Domain

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Translator's note:

Translating proverbs and poetry is not easy-- Please give feedback and suggest improvements in the comments!  

The original proverb in Swahili is “Mchumia juani hulia kivulini.” Let’s break it down piece by piece: 
M    -    chumia                   -                  jua   -   ni - hu   -    lia  - kivuli   -  ni
One who - earns/toils/labors/saves/economizes/works - the sun - in - usually - eats - the shade - in
Here are a few alternative translations:
He who earns his living in the sun, eats in the shade
The one who saves up in the sun eats in the shade
Work in the sun, eat in the shade
He/She who toils in the sun will eat in the shade
The laborer in the sun eats in the shade
The worker in the sun eats in the shade

Extra Image: The original essay included the following image from another source, which is not included in the Creative Commons license.
Image from: Honey Bee Arts - YouTube


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Updated 5mo ago
by
by Rose Mwanri 🇹🇿 
🏆 Proverb Essay Contest 
🥈 Second Place Winner
A proverb is a metaphorical expression used in a community. Words in proverbs have additional meanings and proverbs have two sides. The first side gives an idea and the second side completes the idea. Akiba haiozi (Savings do not decay) is one of the Swahili proverbs that is widely used in African communities and by Kiswahili speakers globally, with the aim of reminding people about the importance of saving.

The purpose of this proverb is to encourage us as members of the community to prepare well for today's life as well as tomorrow so we are ready to face the various challenges of life.

This proverb shows us that it is normal for a human being to experience various emergencies in everyday life. For example, an illness, accident, or even death. When you have the savings that you have set aside, it will help you when you are faced with a sudden challenge that you did not expect.

Another benefit of saving is improving life. First of all, I advise we all have a regular savings plan to be able to improve our lives in general. The more we save, the more that savings can help us improve our housing and infrastructure within our communities. A good example is parents whose savings enable them to pay for school fees, supplies and even other expenses that may arise at the same time.

This proverb also reminds us that the more we save, the more we grow our treasury. As with the proverb that says "Haba and haba hujaza kibaba" (little by little fills up the measure). If you analyze these proverbs, they have the same meaning, and you will find that it is a great reminder about building a good fate for our community, now and later. [These proverbs] encourage us to invest every penny we get. We grow our treasury, because what we save is there for us.

Take the opportunity to ask yourself, how many times have you faced challenges and your savings kept the ship afloat? How many issues have arisen without notice that you used your savings to put things right? I believe we should all save regardless of whether our income is big or small. For example, you can start saving little by little from what you earn and in time your savings will add up to be big.

Also, this proverb helps to develop knowledge for individuals and communities, especially where there has been a difference in savings from one generation to another. In the past we are told that people used to store their savings by digging underground, putting under the bed or even other places that they believed were safe. Today, people do not use traditional methods to save their savings. When it comes to money, there are banks with stable and safe systems for storing money. In terms of crop saving, there are also safe ways to store crops, even for a long time, without spoiling. In fact, savings do not decay.

In Swahili, we say “Akiba haizoi” ("Savings don't rot"), “Haba na haba hujaza kibaba” (“Little by little fills up the measure") meaning that the savings may seem small but the more they increase, the bigger they become. On the contrary, we are told “Chovya chovya humaliza buyu la asali” (“Dip [by] dip finishes the jar of honey”), “Bandu bandu humaliza gogo” (“Chop [by] chop finishes the log.”) If we take from our savings little by little without a good reason, the day will come when we’re infuriated to see all the savings are gone without anything meaningful getting done. Let's remember “mali bila daftari huisha bila habari” ("Wealth without a notebook disappears without notice"). Let's look at an example of this poem that stresses us about saving.

  Savings are truly a treasure, they never betray,
  For us it’s very important, they carries us through times
  When we really have nothing, they stand sincerely,
  Let's all save, savings is a savior.

Truly, it’s clear that we should take care of the good things and the resources we have by saving, so that we can save ourselves when we are faced with surprising challenges in our present and future lives.
...
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About this Essay

This essay won second place 🥈 in Maktaba.org's Proverb Essay Contest 🏆 July 2023
Rose Mwanri is a teacher from Tanzania 🇹🇿

Copyright 

Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY 4.0)
Essay by Rose Mwanri
Published by Maktaba.org
English translation by Brighid McCarthy
Image: CC BY Maktaba.org

Related on Maktaba.org 


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by Nankya Sauda 🇺🇬
🏆 Proverb Essay Contest 
🥇 First Place Winner

Still waters run deep

Ever taken time to wonder why the elderly will always live to be wiser than the young? Have you ever taken time to meditate on where your origin sprouts from? If not, it is high time you started looking for your origin because it is important for one to know their roots. 
 Over time, you take the burden to unveil the nature of famous geniuses and their personalities, you will come to realize that they are celebrated introverts.  It is important that one takes off some time their busy schedule and read about some of the top celebrated geniuses like Albert Einstein , the famous scientist from whom we derive one of the most educative quotes;
The monotony and solitude of a quiet life stimulates the creative mind.”

This highlights that time spent alone does not only provide one with space for self-reflection but also gives space to someone to use their mind creatively. Great talkers are great are great lawyers they say, and we have seen this happening during our daily routine where people make empty promises, make false declarations to please those around them but may never take time off to do something in a bid to realize their words. Because of that, many have ended up losing trust in these so called great talkers.
     On the other hand however, silent people have always blown our minds with their actions. Their moves are always calculated, their ambitions clear and their actions intentional. Romantic lovers in a relationship are always spicing up their relationships with new inventions to keep their love blooming. Those that have employed or stayed around introverts can justify that staying around these people has been one of the greatest achievements in their lives, for these have always worked  smarter, had critical thinking sessions in their alone time and eventually produced the best results and the biggest promotions.
     Literally, we can loosely define proverbs as traditional sayings that are particular to a particular country. They are short and wise sayings that usually offer advice as well as boost an idea in relation to the day to day life.  In fact, for one to have a clear and elaborate understanding of cultural norms and practices, it is wise that they always make a reference to proverbs since they can have an elaborate meaning beneath them.
     Historically, the proverb “STILL WATER RUNS DEEP” draws its origin from the ancient times in Latin. It became popular after Shakespeare used it in his play Henry vi in 1590. He said;
“Smooth runs the water where the brook is deep”

We realize that, in some instances the most dangerous people with the wickedest hearts have always calculated their moves and taken action at a time everyone least expects them to. That is why betrayals come from people we least expect them from. It is therefore crucial for someone to not only take what the eyes meet but also take caution especially from people who do not retaliate immediately after they have been provoked or confronted.
     Albert Einstein despite his introverted character, he his famously known for devising his theory of relativity which revolutionized our understanding of space, time, gravity and the universe.
     Conclusively, it is very important  not to draw conclusions just because looks are deceptive and there is always more to know and discover than the eyes can see.
...
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About this Essay

This essay won first place 🥇 in Maktaba.org's Proverb Essay Contest 🏆 July 2023
NANKYA SAUDA is from Uganda 🇺🇬 age 21 

Copyright 

Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY 4.0)
Essay by Nankya Sauda
Published by Maktaba.org
Image: CC BY Maktaba.org
Image created from "Weeping Willows by Akerselven" by Thorolf Holmboe, Public Domain 1907 

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Henry VI: Part II na William Shakespeare
Relativity: The Special and General Theory na Albert Einstein 
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Updated 5mo ago
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Once upon a time, there was a young man in search of his talent. One day, he was advised by his grandfather, "Everyone has a talent, seek yours." Therefore, he began his journey to find it.

On the road, he met his peers playing football. They welcomed him and he started playing with them. "Perhaps this is my talent!" he thought to himself hopefully. However, when the ball came near him, the young man was afraid and said, "I don't know how to kick the ball!" The others chased him away, laughing at him.

In the streets, he encountered a street vendor. "Maybe this is my talent." he thought. The vendor welcomed him and instructed, "Greet this customer." But when the customer approached him, the young man was afraid, "I don't know how to greet a customer!" he said. The vendor became angry, and the young man was chased away again.

As he continued to walk, he thought, "I regret leaving home today, I don't have any talent." When he reached the shore, he met a fisherman. The fisherman welcomed him and he boarded the boat. The fisherman gave him a rope and said, "Tie this." "I don't know how to tie a knot!" the young man said quickly. The fisherman answered, "If you don't know how to tie a knot, tie a lot."

After that day, the young man learned a lot from the fisherman, and he tied thousands of knots. Eventually, he became a skilled fisherman respected by the community.

Your talent is not only in your nature, but is formed by the effort you put forth. Accept to be taught by others, and do not fear trying new things. The first knot you tie might not be perfect. But the more ropes you tie, the more you will learn better techniques and strategies.

Those who say "I can't" deny themselves the opportunity to learn. If you don't know how to do something, learn by doing and practicing. If you don't know how to kick a ball, kick many balls. If you don't know how to greet customers, greet many. If you don't know how to tie a knot, tie a lot.
...
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Thank you to Jan M in Connecticut, USA for suggesting this proverb to us!
Story: CC BY (Originally written in Swahili)
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Once upon a time long ago, there was a beautiful, intelligent and kind young woman named Portia. Many men wanted to marry her and came to woo her. Portia’s father had died and left behind a will instructing that any suitor of Portia would have to choose among three caskets, one of gold, one of silver and one of lead. Only the suitor who chose correctly would be allowed to marry Portia and inherit all her father’s wealth. One day, the Prince of Morocco came to woo Portia.

The Merchant of Venice

Watch ▶️ on YouTube 

Portia: Go draw aside the curtains and discover
The several caskets to this noble prince.
Now make your choice.

Prince of Morocco: The first, of gold, who this inscription bears,
'Who chooseth me shall gain what many men desire;'
 The second, silver, which this promise carries,
 'Who chooseth me shall get as much as he deserves;'
 This third, dull lead, with warning all as blunt,
 'Who chooseth me must give and hazard all he hath.'
How shall I know if I do choose the right?

Portia: The one of them contains my picture, prince:
 If you choose that, then I am yours withal.

Prince of Morocco: Some god direct my judgment! Let me see;
 I will survey the inscriptions back again.
 What says this leaden casket?
 'Who chooseth me must give and hazard all he hath.'
 Must give: for what? for lead? hazard for lead?
 This casket threatens. Men that hazard all
 Do it in hope of fair advantages:
 A golden mind stoops not to shows of dross;
 I'll then nor give nor hazard aught for lead.
 What says the silver with her virgin hue?
 'Who chooseth me shall get as much as he deserves.'
 As much as he deserves! Pause there, Morocco,
 And weigh thy value with an even hand:
 If thou be'st rated by thy estimation,
 Thou dost deserve enough; and yet enough
 May not extend so far as to the lady:
 And yet to be afeard of my deserving
 Were but a weak disabling of myself.
 As much as I deserve! Why, that's the lady:
 I do in birth deserve her, and in fortunes,
 In graces and in qualities of breeding;
 But more than these, in love I do deserve.
 What if I stray'd no further, but chose here?
 Let's see once more this saying graved in gold
 'Who chooseth me shall gain what many men desire.'
 Why, that's the lady; all the world desires her;
 From the four corners of the earth they come,
 To kiss this shrine, this mortal-breathing saint:
 The Hyrcanian deserts and the vasty wilds
 Of wide Arabia are as thoroughfares now
 For princes to come view fair Portia:
 The watery kingdom, whose ambitious head
 Spits in the face of heaven, is no bar
 To stop the foreign spirits, but they come,
 As o'er a brook, to see fair Portia.
 One of these three contains her heavenly picture.
 Is't like that lead contains her? 'Twere damnation
 To think so base a thought: it were too gross
 To rib her cerecloth in the obscure grave.
 Or shall I think in silver she's immured,
 Being ten times undervalued to tried gold?
 O sinful thought! Never so rich a gem
 Was set in worse than gold. They have in England
 A coin that bears the figure of an angel
 Stamped in gold, but that's insculp'd upon;
 But here an angel in a golden bed
 Lies all within. Deliver me the key:
 Here do I choose, and thrive I as I may!

Portia: There, take it, prince; and if my form lie there,
 Then I am yours.

[He unlocks the golden casket]
Prince of Morocco: O hell! what have we here?
 A carrion Death, within whose empty eye
 There is a written scroll! I'll read the writing.
 [Reads]
All that glitters is not gold;
Often have you heard that told:
Many a man his life hath sold
But my outside to behold:
Gilded tombs do worms enfold.
Had you been as wise as bold,
Young in limbs, in judgment old,
Your answer had not been inscroll'd:
Fare you well; your suit is cold.
 Cold, indeed; and labour lost:
 Then, farewell, heat, and welcome, frost!
 Portia, adieu. I have too grieved a heart
 To take a tedious leave: thus losers part.
 [Exit with his train.

- From The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare, Act II Scene 7
...
Sources
Watch ▶️
The Merchant of Venice, Act II Scene 7 on YouTube
Ken Nwosu as the Prince of Morocco and Patsy Ferran as Portia, Directed by Polly Findlay, 2015 RSC
https://youtu.be/J9q7h9b-KWs?t=40m25s
Start time: 40m 25s
End time: 44m 37s

Old version:
Joan Plowright as Portia, Stephen Greif as the Prince of Morocco, Directed by Laurence Olivier, 1973
https://youtu.be/fJDg4ITyJIc?t=35m13s

Image: made with AI, CC-BY Maktaba.org 
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One day a renown businessman wanted to hire an assistant. He received many resumes, but only two candidates met his high standards: Alice and Bob. To help him decide, he called both, and they each agreed to come in for an interview the following morning. "9 AM. Look sharp and don't be late." The manager warned.

The next morning Alice woke up early, donned her best suit and got to the village bus station at 8:00am. "Better safe than sorry," she thought.  On the way to town, the front of the minibus began to smoke. The driver pulled over in the bush and told all the passengers to get out. Just then it started to rain. Alice tried to wave down each bus that passed, but they were all full, so she had to walk on foot. 9am came and went, but Alice was still miles from town and the rain was getting harder. "I must keep going." she thought, "Better late than never."

Meanwhile in town, Bob woke up in his apartment, and saw the sun was high in the sky. He sat up suddenly. "Oh no! Why did my alarm fail?" He looked at the clock on his wall: 9:00 am. "Forget it. Even if I leave right now, I'll still be late, and they'll never hire someone who is late." So Bob, feeling depressed, went back to sleep.

At 10:30, Alice finally made it to the office and knocked on the door, her neatly pressed suit now dripping and muddy. The businessman answered.
"I warned you to be on time, yet you are over an hour late, how can you expect me to give you this job?"
Then Alice explained all that had happened.
"I have learned a lot about you from this story, Alice. When you have a purpose in mind, you persist despite and obstacles and don't give up, even when it seems too late. In fact, you are the first to arrive today. The other candidate did not show up at all. The job is yours."

Great achievements and inventions often begin with a lot of failures, but in the long run, persistence and learning are rewarded.  People make a lot of mistakes (to err is human), but life is very patient with us, giving us lots of chances to learn from them and try again, as long as we don't give up.

Some say the proverb "Better late than never" comes from The Canterbury Tales, written by Chaucer around the 1390s.
Better than never is late -  The Canon's Yeoman's Tale  
Others trace the proverb to an even earlier origin, in Livy's History of Rome, written around 20 BC:
There was no end to it; tribunes of the commons and patricians could not subsist in the same state; either the one order or the other office must be abolished; and that a stop should be put to presumption and temerity rather late than never. - Livy, History of Rome, Book 4

A similar saying in English is "It's never too late." 
Here's a proverb that relates to the same principle in Hindi:
जब जाति तब सवेरे
Whenever you wake up, that’s your morning

And here's an English proverb that often means the opposite of this one:
Don't close the stable door after the horse has bolted

...
Details Imagine you woke up late for a job interview. What would you do? Would you scramble to get dressed and make it to the meeting as quickly as possible? Or would you think "Forget it, it's not worth going at all now"? Next time you think "It's too late" try telling yourself "Better late than never." For example, this Proverb of the Day was posted late, but at least you're reading it now - Thanks!
Sources
The Canterbury Tales, The Canon's Yeoman's Tale
History of Rome, Book 4

Better late than never (Wiktionary)
Close the stable door after the horse has bolted (Wiktionary)  
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Have you ever seen a blacksmith at work? Or maybe an artisan shaping hot glass? It's pretty incredible to watch, right? (If not, visit Shanga Foundation in Arusha or check out video links below)
In our everyday experience, glass is hard, brittle and breakable, but glass is actually made by melting sand and shaping it like liquid.

Some things in life seem unchangeable; they just will not bend. If we use all our strength, they only shatter in our hands and hurt us. But a skillful craftsman can make brittle things soft and malleable by preparing them appropriately, and taking decisive action at the right moment.

This proverb is often used to mean that you should take action quickly when an opportunity arises, so that you don't miss it. See also: There is a tide
 There is a tide in the affairs of men,
 Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
 Omitted, all the voyage of their life
 Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
- Brutus in Julius Caesar, Act 4, Scene 3 by William Shakespeare
However, it's worth noting that in the play, this advice has pretty bad consequences for Brutus, who didn't exactly sail on to fortune after this speech (read more...)

Many cultures and languages have a proverb that is very similar to "Strike while the iron is hot." It seems likely that the proverb has multiple independent origins.
Chinese: 趁熱打鐵
Thai: ตีเหล็กเมื่อแดง
Hindi: लोहा गरम हैं. मार दो हथौड़ा.
Irish: buail an t-iarann te
Swahili: Fua chuma wakati kingali moto

...
Details Image: Elimu Yetu teachers visit to Shanga Foundation, Arusha, Tanzania
Sources
Shanga website (Tanzania),  Glass making at Shanga Foundation (Maktaba Instagram), Glassblowing at Shanga on YouTube
Glass (Wikipedia)
Strike while the iron is hot  (Wiktionary
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People will notice potential through your behavior and abilities, but also through your clothes. If you aspire to be a manager, wear professional clothes so that co-workers can more easily visualize your potential. If you aspire to be an artist, dress like an artist.

Contrary to what people often think, this expression does not encourage conformity, but rather, it encourages people to live their life as they envision it in the future.
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“You have to dress for the job you want, not the job you have, and you have to start doing the work you want to be doing.”

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Compare this simple, humble basket of fruit with a bag of lollipops. The fruit is ripe, juicy, packed full of vitamins -- it just sells itself. The lollipops, on the other hand, scream for our attention with explosive slogans and neon colors. But underneath the shiny packaging, it's really just plain sugar with some food coloring and artificial flavors.

Like other primates, humans find fruit attractive because it gives us energy and nutrition. Candy gives us energy, but it doesn't give us real nutrition. It just does a very clever job pretending to be fruit. Don't fall for it!

A good thing doesn't need to advertise, because quality speaks for itself. As the economists would say, demand exceeds supply.  Many advertisements seems to promise us happiness, beauty, love, wealth or respect. But ask yourself, does the ad promise more than the product can really deliver? Coca-Cola isn't a love potion.

This proverb reminds us of the enduring value of true quality and competence over flashy appearances. It's often used to express skepticism about a person who brags or praises themselves excessively.

We should all strive to be more like the basket of fruit: simple, authentic and good. These qualities will draw other people to you — at least the kind of people who understand that “chema chajiuza, kibaya chajitembeza

Related proverbs:
Don't judge a book by its cover.
Appearances are deceiving.
All that glitters is not gold 
 高嶺の花  Hana yori dango - Dumplings over flowers

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Question: Have you learned more from you parents or from your experiences in the world? 


Today's proverb is often used in Swahili to describe a person who makes a mistake that could have been foreseen and suffers negative consequences... like the truck driver in this picture from Oxfordshire, UK. Regardless of what your parents taught you (or failed to teach you), you will eventually have to confront the harsh realities of life and learn from experience.
See also: If a child cries for a razor, give it to him (Mtoto akilia wembe, mpe)

He who is not taught by his parents is taught by the world. (Asofunzwa na wazazi, hufunzwa na ulimwengu)
Here's a poem by the poet Akilimali Snow-White about this proverb. (My translation from the original Swahili)

In the age they fooled me, my old folks in raising me,
I failed to learn the new movements of the world.
Today I please myself, to the people of the world, listen:
He who is not taught by his parents, is taught by the world.

I couldn’t have done any work without humbling myself before them,
Obeying to flatter them, then to serve them,
Even when I pleased them, they taught me with intention,
He who is not taught by his parents, is taught by the world.

Now I can speak European languages without difficulty,
like English and others too,
With effort I learn, and even they have raised me.
He who is not taught by his parents, is taught by the world.

I can converse without blemish,
And lead amidst evil, removing the blemish,
In the end the place pleases, one step towards harmony,
He who is not taught by his parents, is taught by the world.

There is nowhere I have overlooked, without investigation,
All sides examined, knowledge I have taken,
I even know how to sell products and buy,
He who is not taught by his parents, is taught by the world.

The amount which I have learned, not a little by fumbling,
I am pleasing where I come from, I employ good work
It’s hard to scorn, how it raises me,
He who is not taught by his parents, is taught by the world.

It’s not right to ignore what you don’t know
Try to investigate, and then analyze,
When your intention is tightened, you can’t fail to know a thing,
He who is not taught by his parents, is taught by the world.

The tasks I taught myself, my father didn’t know
He didn’t know English, or selling and buying,
but only praising oneself, that was when I, the child, knew,
He who is not taught by his parents, is taught by the world. 

I give more for you, you all who helped me,
All of you who’ve taught me, Lord give you health
God fill you all with happiness, and return goodness to you,
He who is not taught by his parents, is taught by the people of the world.
- Diwani ya Akilimali

What do you think about this poem? What does it mean? Can you improve the translation?

Fikeni E. M. K. Senkoro (1988) wrote of this poem (my translation):
[A] person can't experience everything in life from their parents: they must be ready to be taught by the world-- that is to learn from others beyond their father and mother.

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Sources
The illustration shows a real accident in Oxfordshire, England - BBC article (image from social media)

Poem from Diwani ya Akilimali

Quote at the end from "Ushairi - Nadharia na Tahakiki" by F.E.M.K. Senkoro, Chapter 7 (Dar Es Salaam University Press, 1988, ISBN 9976 60 0224)
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The winner of a competition or conflict receives the majority or entirety of the rewards, and possibly additional benefits beyond what was being fought over. 

In war, the spoils could refer to land, gained power or other sought after resources. In other pursuits the spoils typically refer to accolades, money or opportunities.

The proverb is typically used to explain unequal outcomes or to remind others that the stakes of many conflicts are winner take all, zero sum, or at the very least, disproportionately favorable to the few winners.

Check out the sources section for a description of the context and information about the US politician who was credited with the phrase (in the 1830s).
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Sources
https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/to_the_victor_go_the_spoils

William Marcy, a US senator in the 1830s said "To the victor belong the spoils of the enemy," during a speech defending Secretary of State Martin Van Buren from an attack by Senator Henry Clay.
During debate on Van Buren’s nomination as Minister to England
His statement contributed to him being known as an advocate of the "spoils system," which refers to appointing friends and political supporters to positions of power.

Marcy later became governor of New York (1833–39), Secretary of War (under President James K. Polk, 1845-1849) and Secretary of State under President Franklin Pierce (1853–57).

As Secretary of State Marcy helped purchase southern Arizona and southern New Mexico from Mexico in exchange for $10 million. Occurring on December 30, 1853, the deal is known in US history as the Gadsen purchase, or in Mexican history as the sale of the Mesilla Valley (or the Treaty of La Mesilla), which was a negotiated by US minister to Mexico James Gadsen following the conquest of northern Mexico by the United States in 1848. The dispute was encouraged by US advocates of a southern transcontinental railroad. Residents of the territory were to receive the same protections detailed in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo (1848) which offered US citizenship and civil rights to those living in the newly acquired territory.

18 February 1832, Frederick (MD) Town Herald, pg. 2: (source)
Mr. Marcy, a senator from New York, in the discussion on Mr. Van Buren's appointment as Ministor to England (by Andrew Jackson), plainly avowed the creed of his party.
"It may be that the politicians of the United States (a mistake in the print we presume for the state of New York) are not so fastidious as some gentlemen are, as to disclosing the principles on which they act. They boldly preach what they practice. When they are contending for victory, they avow the intention of enjoying the fruits of it. If they are defeated, they expect to retire from office -- IF THEY ARE SUCCESSFUL, THEY CLAIM, AS A MATTER OF RIGHT THE ADVANTAGES OF SUCCESS. THEY SEE NOTHING WRONG IN THE RULE, THAT TO THE VICTOR BELONGS THE SPOILS OF THE ENEMY.

Brown University has additional history of William Marcy who graduated from Brown in 1808.

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Our proverb today comes from Swahili.
Ukitaka uvunguni sharti uiname
If you want something underneath [the bed] you must bend down
This proverb is usually used to encourage hard work and dedication. We can't expect to find the things we are searching for unless we are willing to looking in places that aren't easy to reach.

Here's a story that illustrates the proverb. The story is about Mulla Nasreddin, a humorous character often seen in Sufi folklore.
Mulla [Nasreddin] had lost his ring in the living room. He searched for it for a while, but since he could not find it, he went out into the yard and began to look there. His wife, who saw what he was doing, asked: “Mulla, you lost your ring in the room, why are you looking for it in the yard?” Mulla stroked his beard and said: “The room is too dark and I can’t see very well. I came out to the courtyard to look for my ring because there is much more light out here.”
-  Retold by Houman Farzad, Translated from Persian by Diane L. Wilcox (1989)

In English, a similar story is often told with a drunkard looking for money (or keys). Here is a version from the Boston Herald (1924):
[A police officer encountered a man groping about on his hands and knees]
“I lost a $2 bill down on Atlantic avenue,” said the man. “What’s that?” asked the puzzled officer. “You lost a $2 bill on Atlantic avenue? Then why are you hunting around here in Copley square?” “Because,” said the man as he turned away and continued his hunt on his hands and knees, “the light’s better up here.”

This story has come to be known as the streetlight effect in science.

Thank you to one of our members for suggesting this proverb! 🙏
Do you have a proverb to suggest? Share it here!


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Note: 
An alternative form of the proverb is:
Mtaka cha mvunguni sharti ainame
One who wants something underneath [the bed] must stoop

Streetlight Effect (Wikipedia)
A short story (Insha) about the essay in Kiswahili - https://middemb.com/insha-ya-mtaka-cha-mvunguni-sharti-ainame/
Nasreddin (Wikipedia)
History of the Streetlight Principle story on Quote Investigator
1989, Classic Tales of Mulla Nasreddin, Retold by Houman Farzad, Translated from Persian by Diane L. Wilcox, Looking for the Missing Ring, Quote Page 26, Mazda Publishers, Costa Mesa, California. (Verified with scans by Quote Investigator; thanks to Stephen Goranson and Duke University library system) 

1924 May 24, Boston Herald, Whiting’s Column: Tammany Has Learned That This Is No Time for Political Bosses, Quote Page
2, Column 1, Boston, Massachusetts. 
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What one person throws away may be useful and valuable to someone else.

This saying is often used to describe either the diversity of human preferences or to express optimism that humans are quite creative when it comes to repurposing or recycling what other people throw away.

For example, entrepreneur Gibson Kiwago, founder of WAGA Tanzania, recycles old laptop batteries to power homes and businesses in Tanzanzia. Check out our E-Waste Reading List!

The notion that people subjectively assess quality has been around a long time. The saying derives from a 17th century proverb:
One man's meat is another man's poison.

Have you ever seen value in something that someone else threw away?
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Sources
E-Waste Recycling:
WAGA Tanzania 
E-Waste Reading List

"One man's meat is another man's poison" read more about it on stackexchange
"One man's trash is another man's treasure" - Wiktionary 
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Known as "the Law of Holes," this saying means that a person who is in a bad situation should stop making it worse. It is often used to talk about a situation that the person created themselves.

For example, if you are in a bad relationship, in debt, or have an addiction, you can't fix the problem with more of the same.

Often attributed to Will Rogers, Bill Brock or Denis Healy, a version of the adage appears in several earlier sources:

[A] wise man, seeing that he was in a hole [would not] go to work and blindly dig it deeper. (1911)

There are greater possibilities today than ever before, but the man who has dug a hole and refuses to get out of it, can expect only to dig himself into deeper darkness the longer he digs The answer to "Hard Times" is "if you are in a hole stop digging -- raise your head -- open your eyes -- think -- study -- climb. It's easy to climb and hard to dig, and the more climbing you do, the quicker you will find yourself in the land of greater profit and happiness. (1920)

Have you ever made a challenge worse by repeating the same mistake that got you into the situation?

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This Swahili proverb means that a person cannot avoid their destiny or fate. 
Siku ya kufa nyani miti yote huteleza
On the day of the monkey’s death, all the trees are slippery

Usage


In Swahili, this proverb is often used in times of war, or to refer to a powerful leader whose time has come to fall, like  Macbeth. See also: What goes around comes around

Application


Even if you spend a lot of time worrying or trying to avoid problems, they may still happen. Sometimes trying to avoid a problem can even cause it to happen or make it worse (like Oedipus). The monkey might choose a different branch to avoid slipping, but that branch might be just as slippery.

In Greek mythology, the fates were personified as three sisters: Clotho who weaves the thread (birth), Lachesis who draws out the thread (giving each person their alloted blessings and challenges in 
life), and Atropos who cuts the thread (death). 

This proverb encourages us to accept our limits and acknowledge that many important aspects of our life are outside of our control. 

Related sayings:


Swahili:
Ulichojaliwa hakipunguziki wala hawawezi kukuongezea
What has been destined for you cannot be reduced, nor can they increase it for you

Siku za mwizi ni arobaini
The days of a thief are forty (numbered)

Latin (Stoic)
Amor fati
Love [your] fate

Chinese (from Analects)
生死有命,富貴在天
Life and death are fated, riches and honour [come from] heaven. 
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Have you ever noticed that time seems to pass more slowly when you are waiting for something? On the other hand, if you distract yourself with other engaging activities, time goes by quickly.

For example, if you're in a waiting room for a doctor, the wait will seem shorter if you check your phone or read a magazine, rather than just waiting for your name being called.

This proverb was attributed by Benjamin Franklin to Poor Richard's Almanac, however it doesn't actually appear there. Instead, Franklin used it in an essay on animal magnetism in 1785.

I was very Hungry; it was so late; “a watched pot is slow to boil,” as Poor Richard says.

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That which draws our attention, gets more attention. 

A wheel that makes noise is more likely to receive oil than other wheels (that also might need oil). We have limited attention, and thus we give our attention to people, projects and problems that stand out. This proverb asserts that there is not necessarily a correlation between the things we give our attention to and the things that actually need our attention.

Another version of the proverb is "the squeaky wheel gets the grease," and though the origin is unknown, American humorist Josh Billings is commonly attributed through his poem "The Kicker" in 1870
I hate to be a kicker,

I always long for peace,

But the wheel that squeaks the loudest,

Is the one that gets the grease.
 
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As the appetite increases, food tastes better.

The proverb first appeared in Miguel de Cervantes' Don Quixote, published in 1615 (in Part II, Chapter V)

Parents often say this to their children when they are fussy eaters.
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Widespread economic prosperity typically reaches all citizens of a country or region. A country cannot benefit without all of its citizens somehow benefitting, in the same way that an incoming tide will lift all boats including both the behemoth cruise ships and the tiny canoes.

Occasionally, the adage also may be used when referring to entire groups benefitting from a change in circumstances, particularly an influx of resources that seemingly might reach only individuals. I have heard co-workers respond to their co-workers receiving large sales commissions by saying, "a rising tide lifts all boats," implying that the increase in business for the company will expand the total opportunities for the company (and thus all employees). In this use case, clearly it is understood that the "rising tide" does not lift all boats equally.

Critics of this proverb may dispute its veracity claiming the phrase is erroneously used to justify any type of deal or arrangement that seems to benefit the few, but typically the expression is used with optimism or as a form of mild celebration by leaders, or members of the group themselves.

The proverb is often attributed to John F. Kennedy after he used it in a 1963 speech disputing the claim that a dam construction project had too much pork (wasteful spending). Kennedy's speechwriter (Ted Sorensen) revealed that the New England Council originally used the phrase, which Kennedy borrowed regularly.

A similar phrase is "to grow the pie," which means to make the entire set of opportunities greater, presumably so that everyone can appreciate a larger piece of pie, even if their percentage of the pie does not change.

Do you share the sentiment that broad economic prosperity reaches all?
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Sources
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_rising_tide_lifts_all_boats

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Growing_the_pie

A somewhat similar Chinese phrase 水涨船高, which translates to "a thing grows as its foundation grows," has been used for centuries and first appeared in The Gallant Maid (兒女英雄傳), a novel by Wen Kang, a Manchu-born Qing dynasty author.
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A penny that stays in your pocket can be used for another purpose. It could be used to buy something else, or you could lend or invest it to yield more money in the future. In economics, this principle is called "opportunity cost". When we spend money or time on one thing, we also lose the opportunity to use it for something else.

This proverb is usually attributed to Benjamin Franklin, but he did not originate it, nor did he use the exact phrase. Similar versions of the proverb appear in earlier sources. For example:
A penny spar'd is twice got.
- Outlandish Proverbs by George Herbert (1640) 

In Poor Richard's Almanac (1736), Benjamin Franklin quotes the proverb and explains it well:
Necessary Hints to Those That Would Be Rich
The use of money is all the advantage there is in having money. For six pounds a year [interest] you may have the use of one hundred pounds [a loan], provided you are a man of known prudence and honesty.
He that spends a groat [4 pence] a day idly spends idly above six pounds a year, which is the price for the use of one hundred pounds.
He that wastes idly a groat's [4  pence] worth of his time per day, one day with another, wastes the privilege of using one hundred pounds each day.
He that idly loses five shillings' worth of time loses five shillings, and might as prudently throw five shillings into the sea.
He that loses five shillings not only loses that sum, but all the advantage that might be made by turning it in dealing, which by the time that a young man becomes old will amount to a considerable sum of money.
Again, he that sells upon credit asks a price for what he sells equivalent to the principal and interest of his money for the time he is to be kept out of it, therefore, he that buys upon credit pays interest for what he buys, and he that pays ready money might let that money out to use, so that he that possesses anything he has bought pays interest for the use of it.
Yet in buying goods it is best to pay ready money, because he that sells upon credit expects to lose five per cent by bad debts; therefore he charges on all he sells upon credit an advance that shall make up that deficiency. Those who pay for what they buy upon credit pay their share of this advance. He that pays ready money escapes, or may escape, that charge.
"A penny saved is twopence clear;
A pin a day's a groat a year."

So, next time you think about spending money or time on something, ask yourself what the opportunity cost might be. If you didn't spend it, could you lend it to someone else? Could you pay off your existing debts? Could you invest in something that might bring a larger profit in the future?

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Sources
Outlandish Proverbs by George Herbert (Explained and Translated to modern English)
Origin and meaning of the proverb (Snopes) (Grammarist) (Forbes) (Wiktionary)

You might enjoy Mark Twain's satirical criticism of Franklin:
[Benjamin Franklin]'s maxims were full of animosity toward boys [whose fathers had read Franklin’s pernicious autobiography]. Nowadays a boy cannot follow out a single natural instinct without tumbling over some of those everlasting aphorisms and hearing from Franklin, on the spot. If he buys two cents’ worth of peanuts, his father says, “Remember what Franklin has said, my son—‘A groat a day’s a penny a year,’” and the comfort is all gone out of those peanuts. If he wants to spin his top when he has done work, his father quotes, “Procrastination is the thief of time.” If he does a virtuous action, he never gets anything for it, because “Virtue is its own reward.” And that boy is hounded to death and robbed of his natural rest, because Franklin said once, in one of his inspired flights of malignity:
Early to bed and early to rise
Makes a man healthy and wealthy and wise.

As if it were any object to a boy to be healthy and wealthy and wise on such terms.

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Meaning 


In this proverb, the sword signifies force and violence, and the pen stands for words. While the sword can conquer with force, the pen can persuade, inspire, enlighten and motivate people. Not everyone has weapons to force other people to do what they want, but everyone has the power to influence the world through what they think, say and write with words.

Silaha za siku hizi ni kalamu na karatasi.
Today's weapons are pen and paper.
 - Swahili proverb

Part of the reason this proverb is true is that words often motivate and regulate how people use violence and force. For example, through law, the words of leaders, judges and juries have the power to jail people or even kill them. Making a fiery speech to an angry mob might cause a violent riot (see Julius Caesar). 

You furnish the pictures and I'll furnish the war.
- William Randolph Hearst

The proverb also reminds us of the power of nonviolent resistance to bring about lasting political change, a principle advocated and demonstrated by figures like Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and Nelson Mandela. (Check out Henry David Thoreau's classic Essay, "Civil Disobedience" and Sophocles famous play, "Antigone")

Origin


The phrase "the pen is mightier than the sword" became popular after Edward Bulwer-Lytton used it in his 1839 play "Richelieu: Or the Conspiracy" (page 47).  But the idea likely originated much earlier.

Some sources attribute the proverb to the Story of Ahikar (which is also the source of the proverb "A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush"). In this edition, the translator was unable to decipher the damaged manuscript and left the sentence unfinished. (Page 171/274
(FRAGMENTS)
Watch carefully over thy mouth ...... and make thy heart slow(?), for the word spoken is like a bird, and he who utters it is like a man without ...
... the craft of the mouth is mightier than the craft of ...... 
Could this be the original source of the proverb from over 2500 years ago? You be the judge...

A similar phrase also appears in the Old Testament: 
For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword.
Hebrews 4:12 (KJV)

And in Shakespeare:
 Many wearing rapiers are afraid of goosequills.
-William Shakespeare Hamlet Act 2, scene II (page 59)

Do you agree that the pen is mightier than the sword? Share your opinions below!

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Sources
The pen is mightier than the sword (Wikipedia)
Story of Ahikar (Page 171/274
Hebrews 4:12 (KJV)
William Shakespeare Hamlet Act 2, scene II (page 59)
Henry David Thoreau's Essay, "Civil Disobedience"
Sophocles' play, "Antigone"
Edward Bulwer-Lytton's 1839 play "Richelieu: Or the Conspiracy"
You furnish the pictures and I'll furnish the war. - William Randolph Hearst (Wikipedia: Yellow Journalism)
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Do you have a big dream?

A dream too big for you to ever accomplish on your own? Maybe even too big to be accomplished in one generation?

Some gothic cathedrals in Europe took over 600 years -- more than 20 generations -- to complete! Although the Great Pyramid of Giza seems to have been built much faster (in a single generation), it also took tens of thousands of people.

In Tanzania, the Great Mosque of Kilwa was built in the 11th-14th centuries, rebuilt after earthquake damage, and continued to be remodeled up to the 18th century. It was described in the 1300s by Ibn Battuta. (You can take a 3D virtual tour of Kilwa! Check out the link in sources.)

The wonders of the world, modern and ancient, began as big dreams, dreams that took many generations to fulfill. Each generation continued the work of the past and also contributed to revising the blueprints for the future.

So if you are trying to do something great -- something that will really change the world -- don't expect to do it in one day. And don't try to do it alone. 

Related proverbs:


 Swahili:
Ukitaka kwenda haraka, nenda peke yako, ukitaka kwenda mbali, nenda na wenzako
If you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, go together 

French:
Rome ne fu[t] pas faite toute en un jour
from Li Proverbe au Vilain, published around 1190
Modern French: Rome ne s'est pas faite en un jour
Rome wasn't built in a day

Chinese:
冰凍三尺,非一日之寒
Three feet of ice is not the result of one cold day

Scottish Gaelic
Chan ann leis a’ chiad bhuille a thuiteas a’ chraobh
It is not with the first strike that the tree will fall
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Details Image credit: Screenshot from 3D virtual tour of Kilwa Kisiwani created by Zamani Project
Sources
Great Mosque of Kilwa
Check out the amazing 3D virtual tour of Kilwa Kisiwani from Zamani Project!   

How Many Generations Does it Take to Build a Cathedral?
Cologne Cathedral in Germany
St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague

Rome wasn't built in a day (Wikipedia) (Wiktionary)
Scottish Gaelic Proverb (Wiktionary)
Chinese Proverb (Wiktionary)
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A big job becomes less burdensome when shared with many others through teamwork and cooperation.

Interestingly, this proverb contrasts with another English proverb "Too many cooks spoil the broth." As my dad pointed out, "It's 'many hands make light work'... not 'many hands make right work!'"

While the origins of the proverb are unclear, it appears in John Heywood's collection of English Proverbs (1546), where he attributes it to the didactic poem How the Good Wife Taught her Daughter (late 1300s), a didactic poem that reminds me of Utendi wa Mwana Kupona.  

Similar proverbs:

Kiswahili
Mikono mingi kazi haba
Many hands, small work

Chinese:
人多好辦事
Many people, fine work

Russian: 
берись дружно, не будет грузно
Take hold of it together, it won't be heavy




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Many people are afraid to ask questions because they don't want to be seen as stupid. But asking questions is the best way to learn from others.

Asking questions also helps others around you. Have you ever hesitated to ask a question because you thought others already understood... but later you realized they didn't either? 

This proverb is similar to the English saying, “There's no such thing as a stupid question.”
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Parts of this picture were created using AI. What do you think?
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