No need to send out the cavalry, we are busy with training. There is much to catch you up on, but let’s start where we left off…
On June 25th, all of the LR-7 trainees and their families gathered at the training hall for the Peace Corps naming ceremony. This is an event where each volunteer has an African name bestowed upon them by their new parents. It is a time-honoured tradition for the Peace Corps, and so we were very excited to see what the day would bring. Preparations began several days before when we went to pick out lappa, a kind of African fabric worn during formal occasions. The fabric is purchased and then custom tailored into a design of your choosing. Since we are serving as a couple, we decided (or rather were told by our host Ma, who is quite persuasive) that we would need to wear matching lappa outfits for the event.
The idea behind the naming is that it provides another way for PCTs/PCVs to integrate into to our respective communities and Liberian culture. Our African names are more familiar and easier to pronounce to the people we encounter on a daily basis, and we can use them as a sign of respect for the country we now call home. Being given a name by the host family signifies one’s acceptance as part of the family- solidifying the relationship that often lasts much longer than the two years in country. We are no longer visitors or tourists; we have a home here, a family, and have been welcomed as equals.
On Sunday at 4pm, it was time for the ceremony to begin. All the trainees came dressed in their finest lappa clothes, some even matching their host parents. Everyone got seated, and then Peace Corps staff began calling the hosts up with their trainees, one by one. Most of the given names had meanings like “happiness,” “one who is loved,” or “second son.” After what seemed an eternity, finally we were called. We walked to the podium with our host mother, and she spoke briefly before announcing our names. She told all the other parents how proud she was of us, how hard we work around the house, and how we do our own laundry (even though we struggle.) Finally, we were named.
Amy is Moinee (MO-nee), which means “You are Mine.” Our Ma says that wherever Amy goes on this earth, she will always be her daughter and have a place in the family. I am Bloeyu (BLO-yew) which means “Son of the Soil”, or more loosely the “Chief”. It is a name of title and honour. As we were leaving, a Peace Corps staff member, a born Liberian, asked me to remind him of the name I’d been given. I told him Bloeyu, and he replied “Oh, so you the Chief then? So all of the trainees, all the volunteers, all of the staff? All underneath you?” I told him apparently so.
These names come from the Bassa language, which is spoken by a tribe in parts of Liberia and Sierra Leone. Our host family is originally from this tribe. Objectively speaking, we were definitely given the best two names at the ceremony.
It was a tremendous honour for us to receive these names, and we have already begun introducing ourselves to Liberians with them. It is a special experience to be living with a new family and be given new names, and if possible, it has made us feel more welcome here than we already had.
-Bloeyu (with small help from Moinee)
P.S. “Wha ya nee?” is the phonetic spelling of “What is your name?” in Liberian English. Say it fast (fast) and you’ll have it down.