"I used to wonder why my parents gave me my name",  he says to me after he introduces himself.  "But you know, I do not think it is a bad name anymore.  There is a meaning behind it that is important, and that is a good thing."  He explains to me how in his culture, when a baby is born, it is given a name according to what is going on with the parents at that very space in time.  If your father has just died, you might name your son after him and his name might be Earnest.  Say your uncle just gave you some tools to build a house and you are grateful for it, you might name your daughter Thankful.  But there are other names which are not so easy to figure out, like my friend here having a chat with me.  It is a very sweet story, how he figures out the origin of his name.  "You see,"  he says "there was a lot going on for my parents when I was born, a lot of things were wrong, and they were figuring out how to cope..."  He is smiling softly as he stands in my kitchen relaying his story to me, and I sense that he has overcome his own trials in his young life.  "So, when they had me, it was such a gift you know?  And they were feeling so blessed."  His smile widens and he continues, "So they just said 'never mind' to all of the bad!  Look, we are blessed with a son!  So you see, it is a positive name!"  And I do see, he too has said "never mind" to the negative out there, and has embraced the power of his name.  

(Oh, and then he tells me a funny story of how to get back at your neighbor by naming your dog something that will upset them... And I see that a name is not just a name in Shangaan!) 


The cleansing rain

Today, there was rain.  The skies just opened up without warning, and the water pelted down onto the dry earth, soaking it to a dark brown and releasing all of nature's scents into the wind for me to smell.  I wish I could capture that smell here in words, or on film, it's like nothing you get in any city, or anywhere I've been before really.  It is mother earth.  I was sitting on the stoop with my tea and biscuits (a new addiction for me, I think I'll have to bring back 50 packets with me to the US), watching the rain pour down over the rocky, lush hills above, and decided I need to be in this rain.  I ran up stairs to put on my takkies (tennis shoes) and a cap, and hopped outside straight into the down pour, a bit surprised at how cold the drops were as they darted onto my body.  I contemplated running back to put on a sweatshirt but opted against it and kept walking towards the fence where the village met the bush.  Rain dripping off of my hat onto my face, my shirt quickly turning dark grey and becoming heavy with water.  It crossed my mind that the others in the village would think I was crazy for running out in the rain, but I didn't care, it had been outrageously hot and humid the past two days, and this was a welcomed reprieve that I was not about to miss.  I walked outside the gates, not caring that I was now on the animal's side.  I didn't go far, but it felt good to just be outside, in the open, on my own, in the lush rain... The trackers and I waved excitedly to each other as they all passed by on their way to pick up the rangers to go out for their evening game drive.  I wished I was going with them, but then again, I was happy to be spending this time on my the cleansing rain.