In Botswana the names all mean something. Tebogo, the name of our host mother means “thanksgiving”. Her son, Maatla has a name that means “strength”. When you meet a Batswana, they are proud to tell you what their name means. I think it is a wonderful idea. Since the Peace Corps has been in Botswana, it has been the tradition for the host family to give volunteers their Setswana names. These names would be used by the volunteers throughout their service. Later that evening as we sat in Tebogo’s living room, she announced it was time to give us our Setswana names. She reminded us that the previous week when we arrived in Botswana, it had rained in record amounts. She said Botswana was lucky to have this rain as rain is precious in their dry country. For this reason she was naming Tish “Lesago”, and me “Rapula”. Lesago means “Lucky”, and Rapula means “Rain”. Gophamodino is our host mother’s family name, and ours for the next eight weeks.
On Sunday, Two days after she gave us our names, we attended our host mother’s Catholic church with her. We were the only white faces in the church that day and we stood out. During the service they announced there were some visitors and asked us to step forward. Tish and I were on the second row on the right hand side. We stood and had to pass Tebogo as we exited the row. Then we walked on the old wooden floor up to the front where we were handed a microphone. I said, “Good morning”. The crowd responded with a good morning. I continued, “I only know a little Setswana”, holding up my fingers to indicate a small amount, “but I can say, Ke bidiwa Rapula Gophamodino” (which means my name is Rapula Gophamodino). The congregation was noticeably surprised that I was speaking Setswana and applauded enthusiastically, and there were smiles all around.
I handed the microphone to Tish who said, “Dumela” (which means hello), the crowd responded, then she said, “Ke bidiwa Lesago Gophamodino” (which means my name is Lesago Gophamodino).
We are Rapula and Lesago.