Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Lost and found

I lost the keys to the office today. Actually, I should say that I discovered that I could not find my keys when I went to leave the house to go to the office. They must have been lost sometime between leaving the office yesterday and this morning. I was late leaving then because I had to turn the house upside down, all to no avail.

So, on the way to the hopelessly locked office, where I knew that Bahiti and Keene would be waiting for me to begin the day's work, I began to think of things that we could do instead, that didn't involve office space. I told them that we would have a field trip morning instead. There were some new Shiyeyi materials at Mrs. Musupukwa's place that Lydia had left there for me and I hadn't gotten around to picking them up; we would start there.

She wasn't there when we arrived but her daughter Pearl was. She welcomed us, we sat in the porch area. She brought out the new materials for me to take some. We ended up sitting and chatting for quite some time, switching back and forth between 3 languages the whole time; Setswana, Shiyeyi, and English. Bahiti shared about what we had been doing at the new office, told her how to find it. She had been meaning to visit but wasn't sure of the location.

After a bit, we left there and I asked if they would come with me to Sexaxa, where the Shiyeyi cultural village for tourists is. Bahiti said that it was not too far from where he lives and said that he could go with me; Keene came along as well. We drove out, just about 15 minutes outside of town.

To make a long story short, we spent an entire morning driving from kgotlas to basket shops to people's homes, looking for the contacts for the cultural village so I can arrange a visit when my intern moves here. Along the way, we talked to dozens of people. Each time, Bahiti shared about the Bible translation work and chatted a bit with whoever we found. The way that he introduced me to people was kind of fun; he said that I was a Muyeyi, that I speak Shiyeyi. And throughout the course of the morning, I did. Not streams of it, mind you; I can read and understand it far better than I can speak it, by a long shot. But in the moments where the appropriate response in Shiyeyi came to mind, I used it. People's responses when I do that are fun to watch. Shock usually features in. Laughter happens. And Bahiti smiles, like he's played a particularly clever trick on those who heard me. We had a good time.

Once we finally tracked down the contacts for the village, I dropped Bahiti at his place on my way home. We stopped for a moment to visit with his mother, who was visiting him there. Then, I headed back to town with Keene, to drop her at home also. Normally, she would grab a taxi from the office when we finish work but we could see a major storm coming and  nobody wanted her to get stuck in that. It actually hit when we were halfway to her place. Rained so hard that we had to pull over and wait for the roads to be less flooded and for visibility to return. Lightning was everywhere. Rob called me while we were parked on the side of the road and asked if I had seen the strike just then from where I was (on the other side of the river). I had. He told me it had struck immediately next to the house, close enough that he was actually shocked, while inside the house. How wild is that?

Eventually, we decided to creep back onto the road and go slowly with the hazard lights on as the rain showed no signs of stopping any time soon. As we crossed into the main part of town, we drove out of the storm. Just like that, we were in a totally dry place. The sand near the road was totally dry and people were walking about freely, no idea of the deluge that was happening just a few kilometers up the river. I dropped her at her ward and began the trek home.

I couldn't help but notice that the morning had been highly productive in ways that I hadn't planned on when I got up this morning. I may have found a place where I can learn to dance with the mawayawaya (the reed skirt) and to weave a basket (ku ruka shiteko). I got out there and practiced using my Shiyeyi-ears and my Setswana-ears with people other than my immediate circle of friends and co-workers. I got to startle a bunch of Wayeyi with my presence and amuse them with my "Shiyeyi tricks". People in Sexaxa have been told about the Wayeyi Bible Translation Project.

So, am I sorry that I lost my keys? No, I can't say that I am. But I sure wish I could find them. God, if you were trying to lead me somewhere with this inconvenience, I have gone; thank you for that. But can I have my keys back now?

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Akin to the whirlwind

So, I'm trying to get a handle on Shiyeyi kinship terms today. I've read Thomas Larson's "The Bayeyi of Ngamiland" (naturally) and his section on kinship terms, about 2 pages long. The challenge is that it's all in prose, making it difficult for me to visualize how everyone connects. For example, he writes:
"The wife of one's father's brother is moshemoze wakaza mokorana. A father's brother's child is a tate yo xene, while the father's sister's child is called moyokoranga. One's wife's brother's child is mono mokarako zanga. Father's sister's husband is moramo moqhana tate. The mother's brother's wife is called wamokaza moora ima…" (Larson 1992, p9)
Now, that's all very well and good for him to rattle it off in prose but it sure makes it difficult for me to pick up reference patterns from a paragraph. It's even harder to try to use this as a reference for studying how to refer to someone.

Then, I found a handy free app – SILKin – for creating kinship charts. I've spent all this afternoon so far creating the charts and entering kinship terms in:

And I'm not finished yet. But my head is spinning and my chart is getting larger and larger and larger…

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