Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Language school-Day 8

Today was GREAT, by far the best day yet. Things are really clicking in many areas, and I'm slowly giving up my desire to understand the whys of every little thing. Ba Mwiinga continues to be patient with my "curiosity" and had this to say to me today:

Your problem is you want to know everything! All at once! It doesn't work that way!

He's right, obviously, and I'm starting to get why. Today I put together something from a song I sing with the aunties all the time. I'd never understood really what it meant and no one could explain it. And today, it naturally came out in one of our lessons, and I actually squealed! It's cool to see how this knowledge builds on itself until I'm able to construct meaning in certain places where I couldn't before. 

I'm also slowly surrendering the idea that this language should at all resemble English. Today Ba Mwiinga told me, "It's normal that you get frustrated. Every foreigner who has tried to write about our language got frustrated because they were looking for similarities and there are none." Ain't that the truth! And continually trying to fit the language into where I think it should go is pointless! It doesn't work that way, and the more I release it and let it be what it is, the more it oddly starts making its own kind of sense.  

And the coolest part is I'm learning so many new cultural lessons along the way. Yesterday Ba Mwiinga asked me what twins are called in America. "Uh, twins, I guess?" I replied, not really knowing what he meant. He was surprised to find out how meaningless our names tend to be in America, how they might honor someone, but rarely are people named a definition. But here, it's totally different. I've known this before because of all of our babies' names at the Haven, but he shed so much more light on it. The first twin here is always called Banji, meaning the first of many. The second twin to come out is called Mpimpa, meaning something that was folded in half and thus there are two now. The next child to be born in a family after a set of twins is called Nsanzya, meaning they've been washed of the twins. And twins were thought of such as blessing from God that the families of twins were never taxed! 

He also spoke of how most Tongas have five names. One from their mother's maternal side, one from their mother's paternal side, one from their father's maternal side, and one from their father's paternal side, and then their situational name, usually given by the midwife. That would be their names like "many", "trouble", "gift", etc. Apparently the name you actually go by is from the one who "owns" you, either father's side or mother's side depending on bride price and all. Such a different world! And it all comes back to language. 

Sorry for yammering on! Thanks for all of your prayers and encouragement! You guys are the best!


  1. That's so cool! So what song did you figure out?

  2. "...the more I release it and let it be what it is, the more it oddly starts making its own kind of sense." Sounds like your acceptance of Tonga's uniqueness is really allowing you to go deeper--exciting!!!. Really happy for you. (I've experienced deepening my relationships with people in a similar way.)

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