Yesterday I thought a would be helpful and clear the table after dinner. This was actually the first time I had ever eaten at a table for dinner here in Swaziland. So I picked up my and my Babe’s (host dad) plates to take into the kitchen and as I turned a plate went crashing to the floor. I froze, cringed, and braced myself for the wave of fury I was expecting from my host family. I had just broke one of their dishes after all because I wasn’t being careful. It was a nice plate that doesn’t come out everyday. I was so embarrassed and immediately scrambled to pick up the shards and sweep the mess away hoping it would erase the disaster. In my haste I suddenly realized I wasn’t in trouble. Everyone just sat there and as I humbly said my apologies they just looked at me and said “its good luck, Tengetile you have good luck today.”
In Swazi culture when you drop a dish and it breaks it means that evil was on its way to harm you, but the dish broke and chased it away. The harm that was to come to me would not because another force sent the dish crashing in order to scare it away. I was not scolded for not being carful or clumsy. I was not blamed for one less dish in the cabinet. Today I was lucky and no harm would get me.
My Make (host mom) seeing my reaction to the broken mess asked if it was not the same in American culture. I shook my head and said, “No broken dishes are not a good thing in America.” She smiled and said “sit, we will clean in the morning.”