Some languages have honorifics reserved for elders. Others have local slang dialects tossed around and worn with pride in certain neighborhoods. While they may be spoken by people of totally different ages, locales, and cultures, each string of words shares solidarity in what it represents. The individual phrases may have very different meanings, but underlying each of these thoughts is a unique history and heritage. The words may project values of reciprocity & respect dating back to Confucius. Others can evoke eras and events long forgotten, only preserved in speech not stone.
Here in Zimbabwe there is one everyday expression which says a lot about a cultural legacy that I’ve seen still alive and well today. “Damuka Kana Mamukaow.” I slept well if you did also.
It’s a simple response to a mundane question, but it embodies the values and the mindset of the people I have met so far. As these words tie one’s well-being to another’s, the Zimbabweans have a similar empathy for those around them and emphasis on community. Whether it’s passing an acquaintance on the street or entering a crowded room, those here go out of their way to greet everyone warmly with a handshake. When they ask how you are doing, it’s never a routine remark said in passing but rather a genuine interest in you. And a quick visit to someone’s apartment or “flat” can’t be complete without a kettle of freshly brewed tea accompanied by biscuits. So to all of you, I hope you sleep well tonight so I can enjoy a good night’s rest too.
Guest Post by Bryan Ko, Zimbabwe fellow
Bryan is currently volunteering with HOPE in Zimbabwe, where we began a savings program in 2011 in partnership with ANVZ and Central Baptist Church. The reflections above are reposted from his blog.