A pastor of mine shared once the importance of someone’s name. He described a person’s name as the handle that will open the drawer to who that person is. Your name is a representation of all of who you are.
He, of course, used this image as we looked at praising the name of God- praising God for all of who He is. But I thought this same idea could be used to describe to some extent my integration into my Ivorian host family.
With that integration I have received a new name. Several, actually.
As I became a member of my new Ivorian host family, I became SORO Kachene. Or Kait, because Kaitlin is ridiculously hard for French speakers to pronounce. I am a part of the SORO family, one of six children. I have four sisters and a brother. I live in one of several houses sharing a large outdoor courtyard. Although we just moved the day before I left for a seminar week in Bouake at the dorm. We cook over an open fire and wash our dishes in buckets. We eat rice, sauce, fish, and sometimes other ethnic foods, often times “ensemble” (all together from one bowl with our hands). We share one living room all day, one bathroom and bucket for our bucket baths, and our three bedrooms. We are an Ivorian family and I am SORO Kachene.
As I work at my church’s preschool I am called la Matresse (literally the Mistress). In our little room I play games with the 34 children, ages 3-5. Our favorites are Ring Around the Rosie’s (Even though I sing in English and they have no idea what I am singing, they just love to fall. :)) and guessing what la Matresse is drawing on the chalk board. We also take almost an hour snack time to get everyone fed and several breaks to use the restroom (which is actually just the outdoors!). I am a preschool teacher. I am la Matresse.
As I walk throughout my quartier (neighborhood) I am known to respond to both la Blanche and Tanti. Before and after work I try to walk around and get to know more of my quartier. I usually get in an hour or two of exploring the red dirt roads, and by the end of that, I am no longer white. So I don’t understand how people can call me la Blanche. 😉 And I just plain prefer Tanti (Auntie) more. It seems much more endearing to me. 🙂 I am becoming a new member of the community. I am Tanti.
And thankfully, to give my identity and mind a little bit if a break from keeping up with all the new names, as I work on projects and meet with missionaries in and around Korhogo, I am known as just plain Kaitlin, a Journeyer. 🙂 I have been able to help clean a storeroom at the Torrogo Medical Center associated with World Venture and begin to sort and organize supplies for Sunday Schools. I have also had the chance to just meet up for errands and lunch with some of the missionaries. And each of these things I did in English. I probably enjoyed that part a little too much. 🙂 Even with all the new names, I am also still Kaitlin Buletti, thank goodness! 🙂
I’ve enjoyed stepping into my new names, and exploring the possibilities in them. And even though I have been in my host family for a month already, I still have only just cracked open the drawers these names are in front of. I can’t wait to see what more comes out of opening them further, and I am excited to get to share the new discoveries with you as they come!