MotherTongues: Wear Words, Celebrate Cultures

about words, languages, cultures, travel

A month in Zambia + insights from Mma Ramotswe October 19, 2010

Our family is living in Zambia for a month. If you need a map to find Zambia: Zambia borders Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe to the south, Malawi and Mozambique on the west, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the north, and Angola to the east.

We are enjoying the rhythms of African living – waking up with the birds singing outside (at 5.10 am), and our girls playing outside every day till the sun sets.

While the kids go to school in the mornings, and Jaco teaches at Justo Mwale Theological University College, I have a lot of time to read. I’ve read good books and bad books, fiction and non-fiction, travel books and a book about a Malawian “boy who harnessed the wind”. But my favorite books have been reading (again) the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series by Alexander McCall Smith. Mma Ramotswe, the first (and only) detective in Gabarone, Botswana, says so many things that are true about life, fun, applicable, thoughtful. Here are some of my favorites:

We are all children of Africa, and none of us is better or more important than the other. This is what Africa could say to the world: it could remind it what it is to be human.
– Tears of the giraffe

Stand on your toe. That is what one said in Setswana if one hoped that something would happen. It was the same as the expression which white people used: cross your fingers.
– Morality for beautiful girls

To lose your own language was like forgetting your mother, and as sad, in a way. We must not lose Setswana, she thought, even if we speak a great deal of English these days, because that would be like losing part of one’s soul.
– The full cupboard of life

They had no idea of botho, which meant respect or good manners. Botho set Botswana apart from other places; it is what made it a special place.
– The full cupboard of life

Life was far better, thought Mma Ramotswe, if we knew who we were.
– In the company of cheerful ladies

A life without stories would be no life at all. And stories bound us, did they not, one to another, the living to the dead, people to animals, people to the land?
– In the company of cheerful ladies

Warm blessings from warm Africa! Now off to go read some more…

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