africa

#AtoZChallenge: Keamogetswe

It’s another evening posting, after a long but fruitful day at work. Today’s letter for the A to Z Challenge is K, and I’ve chosen to write about:

Keamogetswe.

No, I didn’t string together a random slew of letters. This is my African name. In Setswana, it literally translates into “I am welcomed”.

When I stepped off the plane and onto African soil on a freezing cold July night (July=winter in the Southern Hemisphere), I had no idea what the next 2.5 years of my life would be like. I didn’t know where I would live, what language, I would learn to speak, or what I would actually do as a Peace Corps Volunteer. All I knew was that I was in Africa and that I was cold.

A week later, I was living in a home with a 72 year old Setswana woman and her two grandchildren. After a few days of living in their house, they decided to bless me with an African name. As a constant reminder that their home was my home, they named me Keamogetswe (Key-ah-mow-het-sway).

My Peace Corps host family.
My Peace Corps host family.

For the next two years, that was my name. Thought I moved to another village and lived with another host family, I kept my name. That became my identify. Children at school would dutifully call me “Mme Keamogetswe”. As I walked through my village I would occasionally hear my name shouted. And my host family shortened it to the nickname of “Keamo”. I wasn’t Jennifer, I was Keamogetswe.

I embraced it. I loved having a name that meant something special, and one that people in my village could pronounce. Keamogetswe sounds a lot better than “Jeh-nee-vah”. 😉 And losing that part of my identify when I returned to the states was difficult.

But I suppose there will always be a part of my heart that holds a special place for my African name. And in some way, it will always be part of my identity.

-Jen/Keamogetswe

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