Thursday, March 29, 2007

What's in a name?

Swimming hole
Originally uploaded by mchughtie.
He planned for months, got the thousand requisite shots, had his flight rerouted due to a death on the plane, travelled the dusty road, crossed two ferries, lugged an enormous, bulging suitcase into the compound which got snatched up by my smiling other family, and the first thing my host father proudly said was, "We will call him Ebrima." It might as well have been the lion king, Mustapha (of which I know plenty, it's a popular name) holding a baby Simba (I know one of those too... weird) up over the mountain top, except this was my adoptive father naming my actual father and the moment was most entertaining to me with my foot in both worlds.
I didn't have time to tell Dad about the importance of names here, the way we respond to greeting with a person's last name, and, if possible, citing its historical praise. But here was my father, being called something he couldn't pronounce- Ebrima, Ibrahima, Abraham, a good choice for my confused and bearded dad. But Dad's name was relatively less strange than some...
Here are a few of my favorite names around the village:

Fayi (Throw him/her)
Musukeebaa (Old woman)
Manlafi (I don't want him/her)
Wontonding (Little Giraffe)
Sunkaribaa (Big month of fasting)
Bojang (leave this place)

There's a few I enjoy just for the sound of them: Dudu, Banka, Fanta, I know a woman named Fatou Fatty. And she's gorgeous. I love it.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007


Spider Man
Originally uploaded by mchughtie.
1. People dress in spectacular colors to compensate for their monochromatic surroundings. Just as brush fires sweep away the last of the verdure, we happen upon holidays featuring the obligatory fashion shows of one shiny chiffon outdoing another. High heels on dirt roads are the order of the day.
2. A person's exposition of their own culture is one of the least accurate descriptors, particularly when aimed at a party of a distinctly separate culture. Perhaps we come with far too many things we'd like to prove, or to dispell. The communication that occurs between two parties when they stop describing their respective cultures seems far more informative, but can only come when the novelty of being different has passed.
3. People adapt to nutrient poor diets by absorbing more from their food source. There's no other way for me to understand a bouncing, growing 5 year old living on rice and oil.
4. While people can be taught to learn at any age, they will, after sufficient exposure, continuously reject any teaching method (and quite possibly its associated environment) proven to be ineffective to them in the past. An 8th grader who has, as of yet, not been taught to read in a room ruled with desks, will only learn by stepping outside of the classroom, if not physically, then at least metaphorically.
5. The elements of your culture which you were conditioned to perceive as guilty pleasures, or the lowest form of idle time-wasting may never be of use to you due to this conditioning. However, in a place where these things (television, comic books, text messaging) are not taken for granted, they may become a powerful medium and impetus for learning and intellectual development.