Press Release: May 4, 2011

Joys of greeting

Here’s a preview excerpt from the next Messenger, which is scheduled for mailing on May 18. The full newsletter should be available in PDF format on our web site shortly after that.

JOYS OF GREETING by Eshinee Veith

Eshinee and Rob Veith are serving in Botswana among the Shiyeyi people. At the time of this writing, they were living in the village of Kang while searching for a home in Maun. Learning Setswana, one of the national languages of Botswana, will help Eshinee identify “borrowed” words in Shiyeyi — Setswana words being used by Shiyeyi speakers that are not truly a part of the Shiyeyi language.

How nice it is to take the walk to work in the early morning, greeting everyone that I meet! The first Setswana “lesson” that fellow missionary Richard Rudowske and I did was a review of Setswana greetings, so I am taking every opportunity to practice. While the basic beginning greeting is the same (“dumela” to one person or “dumelang” to more than one), there is a variety of things that can be said after that. The challenge is to recognize quickly which potential response has been used and react appropriately.

It’s easier if I greet first because, by starting the chain reaction, I get to choose what comes after the basic “dumela”. But that only works if I know what comes after the “dumela”. I can’t just say “dumela”; I have to indicate who the person is that I’m greeting. If I know that their name I can say it, but often I don’t know the people that I meet on the path in Kang. When I don’t know, I have to say “mma” to a woman, “rra” to a man, “bomma” to multiple women, “borra” to multiple men, ”mma le rra” to a woman with a man, “borra le mma” to a woman walking with two men, etc.

At any rate, it seems that I am one of few foreigners who greet around here because, while a smile usually accompanies the “dumela” response, surprise often does as well. The people en route to the Rudowskes’ home are beginning to expect me these days as my schedule is regular. This is not so much true in the center of the village. The looks there are often ones of confusion, as if they can’t reconcile my use of Setswana with my face. Still, the vast majority smile in a friendly fashion. I arrive at the Rudowskes’ for my Setswana lesson light-hearted and raring to go.

There is a saying here, “Madume ga a jewe” — greetings are not eaten. True, but they can be food for the soul.

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