Ice-cream and sushi. Mmm hmmm.
After a long-awaited and teary-eyed embrace in the driveway, mom announced that she needed to feed her Webkins, one of which (a puppy) is named after me. It had been 26 months since I saw my mother, and she hasn't changed a bit. I watched her log into the cartoon world of virtual pets and tried to get worried about the implications of such a habit, but came up with nothing particularly alarming. They are slightly cute, after all. And she gets to design their bedrooms.
Gambians, and I believe West Africans in general, have a practice of naming their children after someone else in the family or a well-known friend. This person becomes known as your "toma" or namesake. They often have the responsibilities of hooking you up with goods as a baby (a bit like a godparent) as well as checking on you from time to time. Wealthier members of the community are often at risk for having a lot of babies named after them, a stunt my own host mother pulled to guarentee some quality baby clothes. I can't say I blame her, the child (Sarjo) now has a beautiful plastic tub to be bathed in, a lot of nice outfits, and an adorable little baby mosquito net. The toma, adult Sarjo, stops by from time to time to admire the baby and maybe furnish a small gift, and when the time comes, she'll probably pay the child's school fees in order to keep up appearances, and let's face it, it's flattering to have someone named after you, even if it's an online pet.
So now I have a Webkin toma, for which my mother furnished an Africa-themed bedroom, complete with a virtual treadmill, so the puppy version of me can run around a burn up some energy, maybe take her mind off the fact that she's a virtual pet. I don't think I'll be throwing much of a baby-shower for her, but I can at least tolerate her existence since she is my namesake. Meanwhile, Colleen the original is going out to enjoy the finer points of a waning New England summer.
Oh, and I came home to find this in my local paper: