Monday, March 12, 2012

The Journey home to Africa - Day 8 - 2nd Renaming Guinea Bissau

Thurs 2/23
Day 8
Naming Ceremonies for
Quidele Quindang and Tolakiteh
(Formerly known as Willie and Randii)

We were up early at 7am to meet for breakfast at Juan & Flavia's place.  They have a little house on the grounds of Casa E. This was to be our last day in Guinea Bissau as we were scheduled to catch a flight back to Senegal later that afternoon so we had to make sure our bags were packed and ready to go.

After a delicious breakfast (thank you Flavia) we made our way to the ELEC (English Language Learning & Examination Centre) where we were scheduled to speak to a class. But of course we were late.  About 45 minutes to be exact.  We have been notoriously late for just about every event since we arrived and our reputation precedes us. Rashida (who was the teacher) jokingly mentioned that we would "be late to our funerals". But in our defense, it really wasn't all our fault. After all we have not been driving any of the vehicles and It's really hard to get so many people packed, fed and out the door by 8:00am.

Anyway when we finally arrived to what was left of the class, they were all standing outside singing and cheering.  What a greeting! By now I was beginning to feel a little like a rock star and began thinking how things were going to be extremely different when I arrived back in the states and resumed my "old" life. But for now, I was happy to have the gratitude of so many.

We went into one of the classrooms where we were introduced.  We had 3 chairs in the front of the class and the students filled the the room and the doorway.  The majority of the attendees were Balanta and a few of my "Fula friends" in the back. The room was full with roughly 30 people, including a small musical group.

Today's ceremony was a little different from mine, partly because it is of the Balanta tradition and partly because they were not being named into a family, but the renaming was every bit as important! 

The students who gave them their names were present and said their names in native tongue.
Willie's new name is Quidele Quindang because: The name Daniel came up, on hearing about your birth - and the facts predating your coming; and those after are: Quidele Quindang - meaning great miracle - Quidele means miracle - and Quindang means great.

Who better to speak on how this special day felt, than the one who was the center of attention! Mr Willie
After 4 years of saving my money it was a miracle that I found the web site for African Ancestry and was able to have my DNA tested.  It was a miracle that three people who had never met were able to plan a trip to Guinea Bissau by emailing back and forth.  It was a miracle that we found people like Maritza and Freddy who were trustworthy enough to do what they said they would do.  We sent them money and they built the school as promised. 

    It was a miracle that out of the many, many villages in Guinea Bissau that could have been chosen, Djati was the one we chose. Even the Chief could not believe it!  But I believe that God knew that the descendants of those slaves boarding the slave ships would return to help their people as Leaders and witnesses to the power of God. 

    It was a miracle that we traveled to another part of the world, without being able to speak the language and returned not only safely but with new friends and tons of love. 

    I could not have dreamed this trip would begin and end as it did.  During the whole trip I felt as if God had his hand over us each step of the way.  We did not fear the food, water or people. 

    This trip was a Great Miracle and I was but a small part of it.

    I thank God for allowing me to be a witness to his many miracles and for using us to help so many.  That is truly a Great Miracle!
Willie received his loin cloth
"I am Balanta"
Randii received her new name as well. Here are her words
 It is an honor to receive the name Tolakiteh.  In Balanta it means, "One who left, returns."  The name chosen for me was deeply connected to the reason I went home to Guinea-Bissau - to reconnect to my African ancestors.  To complete the circle.

Rashida told me that the Fula were a bit upset that I had received a Balanta name.  They said "the Balanta have stolen our Fula!"  When I return to Guinea-Bissau, (I am told) I will receive a Fula last name.  Since the naming ceremony, I feel very complete.

It has been said that a people without their history, is like a tree without it's roots.  I feel that the roots of my family tree have been reconnected - from Alabama all the way back to Africa.  I know who my people are.  I have walked the land that my ancestors once walked.  I know where my homeland is, and what it looks like.  And now, I know what my name is.  I have an internal understanding of who I am, that reaches back thousands of years through my family's history, and it feels good.  I feel empowered, now that I have a name that comes from my own people.  And so the journey continues.  Who will I become, now that I know my name?
a baby carrier

We all received ceremony papers along with hand made gourds using the picture from this blog. The artist did a really good job on them. I was impressed!

Well Willie, I think we can all agree with you that today's ceremony was another "great miracle!"


Toni said...

Can you believe how welcomed home you all were?! It is amazing how strong the heart survive centuries of displacement and to still find that there is a home to return to! You all three are miracles indeed. You know where your strength comes from and where we all need to go from here.

Anonymous said...

Really neat story!!