Friday, September 23, 2011

New Family, New Name, New Perspective on Self-worth!

September 14th, 2011

Now that I am one week into my new site, I can say without a doubt that I have found a new home here in Swaziland.  My first site left me craving the comforts of my training host family; longing to feel apart of a family.  My new family has proven that I could feel at home again!

My host Make (mom) is so welcoming.  She lets me help her cook, while we swap stories of working in a coffee shops and talk about how the Mediterranean culture enjoys life so much.  They work hard and play hard.  She worked for a family from Cyprus for 14 years and was exposed to their culture.  She has an amazing worldview that I have yet to encounter in another Swazi and a desire to make herself, her family, and her community better!!  She takes me around and introduces me to everyone.  It’s a comfort; I know I am safe here because the community has embraced me as one of their own.  As a relative, a neighbor, a friend, and its only been a week.  The rapid pace in which I have become known here is surprising but I like it.  I walk down the path and I hear my name shouted across the field as neighbors wave at my passing.  I was walking with my counterpart today and everyone we came upon greeted me and he said, “Tengetile, you are very popular.”

Tengetile is my new Swazi name.   Tengetile: Ten-ge-tea-lay.  It means to add more girls to a family.  I have five host sisters and only one host brother.  My host mom said she is glad she was blessed with so many girls; she doesn’t know what to do with boys.   She is already joking that she wants to have me tekked.  Teka (taga) is the traditional way of getting engaged.  The woman is literally kidnapped in the middle of the night by the women of the boyfriend’s family.  She is stripped down naked and put into a kraal (a small structure built of sticks that usually holds animals, it is also the name of a gathering place) where she is to stay until she cries.  The women stand around and sing sad songs to inspire tears, and if she doesn’t cry they throw cold water on her.  It sounds awful, but women here are excited to do it.  They say they cry because they are so happy to be getting married.  In order to be teka'ed, a labola price needs to be agreed upon.  That is the amount of cows the girl’s family gets for her.  I asked my host mom how many cows I am worth.  She said 25!!  I said that was a lot and she said it is because I am educated and will be worth more to my husband.  She said she would put them on a boat and send them to my parents in America where they can sell them and become millionaires.  What do you think the city of Shoreview would do if they got a call saying the Leech’s have 25 cows in their backyard? One cow here is worth between 3,000-4,000 emalengeni.  That is $21,000-$28,000 per cow.  So that means I am worth $525,000 on the low end and $700,000 on the high end.  Not a bad deal at all!

It was all in good humor.  Don’t worry mom I am not getting teka'ed here.

Once a girl is teka'ed she is free to live as if married with her husband and starts a family.  The paying of the Labola can take years and years, and the traditional wedding wont take place until the Labola is paid.  My host mom and dad didn’t get their traditional wedding until 2005 after raising 6 children.

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