So I am going to try and crank out several blog posts in the next two days. I apologize for bombarding you with them. Feel free to read at your own pace and leisure.
Today's post is about a little lesson I learned in language and culture about widows.
When we moved into the village we met this lady, Kale (pronounced KAH-lay). She lives in the house right next door to my coworkers with her brother and his family because she is a widow.
|Kale or Kesi|
One day another lady came into our village all dressed in black with her head covered and the exposed parts of her skin smeared with mud. I asked another Hewa friend, "Who is that?"
She answered, "Kale." I just thought maybe these two women shared the same name because many people do in and around our villlage. It was only later when my coworker Susan told me that "Kale" just meant "widow" and when you become a widow then that is just what people call you. I later found out that my friend's actual name is Kesi. Go figure.
It is weird and a little morbid for me to say, "Hey, Widow", but that is the culture and they don't think anything about it. It is also a little helpful when other ladies come that are easily recognizable as widows because of their clothing and accessories (dark clothes, head covered, very specific shell necklace, and mud on the face- you can see on the pictures below) I can just call them "Kale" and don't have to be ask around to find out their names.
|visiting widow getting medicine for her sick daughter|
|Another visiting widow and her kids|
It is awkward to call someone "widow" but it gets much worse...
One day John Michael was working with some guys and they were calling out for a man named Luk. Except they didn't say, "Luk" they called him "Yuno Nz Wa".
"Who are you calling?" my husband asked. "Luk", they answered. Many people in our village have several names because people need options for what to call you. Like if your name is "Mary" and they have murdered a lady named "Mary" then they can't say that name anymore, so they need another option.
So, my husband wasn't surprised that he had another name, but the name they were saying was weird. It meant "tree" and "your wife".
"Why are you calling him that?" he asked.
"Because a tree fell on his wife and killed her." they replied.
"It is short way to say a tree fell on your wife and she died and now you are a widow."
"Oh, ok." answered my husband while his brain exploded.
He then asked several questions about other widows, and why they are just called widow. They told him that those people's spouses just died of sickness or something, so they are just called widow. But Luk is called "A Tree Fell On Your Wife" because a tree fell on his wife and she died and now he is a widow.
I think I'll just call him, "Luk", he answered.
|Luk or "A Tree Fell on Your Wife"|
"Ok", they said, and everyone just went on with their work like they hadn't just revealed something mind blowing to the rookie white guy.
It is just so different from our culture where we try to avoid past hurts, and do our best not to remind people of the bad things that happened to them. It is hard for me to know that just by saying someone's name I might be calling them by some sort of tragedy in their past. But it really shows me the benefit of the two name system. Since I have never murdered anyone, and wouldn't be uncomfortable using a name like that I couldn't truly appreciate the practice. Now though, since I am totally uncomfortable calling someone by they way their spouse died, I am thankful that I will always have another option.