Last week found us in the craft market with John’s parents, ambling among the rows of masks, carvings, bags, and jewelry. I suppose it’s one of my favorite places in Kampala, what with all the color and creativity and people.
Now that we’ve been here almost ten months, bartering has morphed from awkward to fun. So I have fun batting the price back and forth and exchanging a few jokes in between. Offering “Katonda kume”—may God provide for you—as a closing seems to genuinely connect with people, too, and even provide a springboard for conversations about faith. For the most part everyone speaks English. But using Luganda allows us to build a few relationships. It probably greases the wheels for a better price now and then, too.
Learning the tribal language has come a long way this year. But yesterday brought some fun developments: On three occasions, people asked me if I had been given a Luganda name yet. “Janel” doesn’t really translate well (“It’s like ‘Janet’, but with an ‘L’”). So some of the sellers yesterday said they wanted to give me a Luganda name. I was instantly curious, mentally cocking an eyebrow. What are they going to say here? “White Girl with Frizzy Head”? “Stands with a Fist of Cash”?
In reality, I was touched by their choice. “Sanyu,” they decided: “Happiness!”
Deal! I loved it.
So imagine my delight when later on, peering over some earrings, different shopkeepers asked if C. had a Luganda name yet. I was liking this, and somehow it felt like they were drawing us in as friends, regulars. So imagine my delight when the woman pronounced, “Mukisa! Blessing!” Blessed, indeed. C. grinned with obvious approval, hopping a little bit.
(Side, bad-missionary note: Speaking of names, as a missionary, I was slightly relieved as we left the market to know that W. decided to name his new stuffed rhinoceros “Tusky.” His alternative proposed choice, “Horny,” just didn’t sit quite right.)
Naming in the Bible seems associated with blessing, with a new vision or calling for someone. Somehow, even being “named” yesterday in a dusty urban craft market carried notes of just that.