One of the things I have most enjoyed in my new job as “consultant administrative engineer” (I just made that up) of the The Stars International School of Pointe-Noire has been getting to know names of students who have attended the school throughout its 11 years of existence.
I spent one workweek and two weekends, eight hours a day in an office with 4,000 dusty student files. I sorted them alphabetically, then devised a system for storing them upright which I am still proud of. The weekends were quiet and sweet because there was absolute silence and you could hear the hundreds of birds chirping. I also had Tommy’s company. He would lay out on the balcony with his paws hanging and the minute he observed something happening in his kingdom that he had not previously authorized, he would growl, his ears would perk up and he would run downstairs to bark at it. He’s a pretty efficient guard.
During the week, I only had the radio and my imagination to keep me entertained while accomplishing my Herculean task. RFI, the French-speaking world’s equivalent to the BBC World Service and my beloved NPR, has some top-notch news coverage and the rest of their programming for Africa RFI is wonderful music and cultural shows about what is going on in all the African countries. Sometimes I would just turn the radio off and almost meditate, but it wouldn’t be long before I would see something that would get me smiling.
The names people give their children in Congo are absolutely wonderful.
A few children were named after French states (Ardèche, Oise) and a few were named for luck, including one with the slang word for luck which basically translates as “lucky bastard” in English (‘Veinard’). My favorites, by far, were English. Break-Through, Blood, Stallone, Bill Gates, Sydney Poitier and more. There was a Picasso, and a number of Rihannas and Beyoncés.
Speaking of Rihanna, I cannot even count the number of days when the first thing I hear early in the morning is “Oh na, na, what’s my name? Oh na, na…” The first time it happened, I was convinced I was having a “traffic on the 110 south and listening to KISS FM” flashback.