Wednesday, November 23, 2011

They Call Me Stacy

-| Advice |-

"You know," Charles said, "we pray for you go back home safely.  But we also pray for you to finish your studies, get a very good job, find a wife and have beautiful children.  Your Mama Beatrice and I would be so happy to have grandchildren.  And for Mary Kay to meet her nieces and nephews.  You have a very big journey ahead of you, but as long as you never forget your name and your family, you can never go wrong."

The advice floated in front of Our Hero, flattered at the blessings of strangers he knew for only a couple of months.  But... His name?

-| Multiple IDs |-

Long before his travels, Our Hero had been called by many names:  Magno, Mango, Magneto, Jorgon, Joshaaay, Joshie, Jorsh, Magnus, J-mags, Shmangs, Shmags, Shmagno, Jagno, Shua, Shazaam, and Todd.  Although the more popular ones were variations of the one with which he was born, he had become accustomed to responding to most names using any combination of the "j" "sh" "m" and "g" sounds.  At least, that was how things had rolled in America.

Since traveling, he had collected a fair number of nicknames, coming from social status or even personal jokes. For instance, in India, he had been called Sir by the children at Samarthanam [students are to call all adults Sir or Miss], Joshua Guda by his bharathanatyam teacher [from wearing a towel similar to the sweating working class, guda so prevalent in HSR Layout], and even This Focka by his host [in the most loving way, of course, because of all the shenanigans he had managed to survive].  In Uganda, the Catholic priests had called him Josh, Josh, Josh [head shaking, disbelieving more shenanigans], the cultural dance leader called him omera [brother], the shopkeeper and her husband called him My Son, and her baby daughter - Mary Kay - called him Ankah! [uncle].

-| The Sisters |-

A pair of nuns had once asked Our Hero the meaning of his given name.

Great Lion-Hearted Messenger of God
Magno | Leon | Joshua

"That's one hell of a name to live up to.  Good luck." they muttered.

-| Acholi Culture |-

All Acholi people have two names: the Christian name [the first name] and the Acholi name [the surname, however it is not inherited from the father or mother, but given at birth].  When someone [a foreigner] is taken into an Acholi family, it is the mother and father's duty to give this family member an Acholi name.  Interestingly, if one is given an Acholi name and that person happens to live with someone older of the same Acholi name, it is the younger person's duty to buy a chicken as a gift of respect for the elder.

-| Surrogate Parents |-

"Joshua," Charles said, "your Mama and I have decided on a name for you.  Now, you must know that you are surrounded by so much love.  When you first arrived in her shop, your Mama lovingly invited you to our house.  And you lovingly accepted.  We've gotten to know you, and we pray so much for your safe travels during your studies, and for your safe return home to your real parents.  Mary Kay now sees you as an uncle.  You are loved in this family, and we know that you are loved back home.  You are capable of so much love."

His left eyebrow twitched.  Previous attempts at relationships in high school and college did not support that claim, but Our Hero decided not to mention that.

"So we have decided to name you with the Acholi word for love." Charles continued, and Beatrice's eyebrows furrowed in a way that suggested she was about to cry.  "Loving.  Full of love.  Being loved.  Surrounded by love.  All about love.  You, Joshua, are all about love."

Our Hero nodded at this, and upon hearing his Acholi name, proceeded to hug his Acholi parents, his little sister/niece, and finished his bottle of Coca Cola.  It was funny - he had expected a name that meant of the other land or first born or one who travels, something that he believed would be fitting for this year.  This name, however, was not the first one that would've come to mind.  If you had asked Our Hero before his travels, he would not have used this name to describe himself.  Time away from America had convinced him otherwise.

Our Hero left later that night [after watching The Jungle Book with Mary Kay], knowing this last week in Uganda would be painful, just as much as it was in India.  But he knew Charles was right - armed with the knowledge of his name and prayers of his family, everything was going to be fine.


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