On the morning of Fily’s baby’s baptism, my host mom pulled me aside and revealed to me that Fily was naming her baby after me. I couldn’t stop smiling and felt so honored that she would name her firstborn child after me. Unfortunately, no one here can pronounce Marielle, so my host mom said they would like to use my mom’s name. Luckily, they can pronounce Margo and loved the name. The baby is now named Margo Aissata, but we all call her Margo. I call her “toxoma”, which means namesake in Malinke.
My family explained to me the importance of a namesake. This baby is going to be extremely close to me for the rest of our lives, and whenever I come back to the village in the future, I’ll always be connected to Margo. For now, being a namesake means I get to spoil Fily’s baby a lot!
Attending a baptism in Nafadji was such a different experience than the baptism I attended during training in Mbour. It was much more laid back and felt warmer to me. A group of women met at our compound and went out to the center of the village with Fily and the baby to perform some traditional rituals, such as dipping the baby’s head and toes in water. They had a mysterious mixture of leaves and other things in a bowl that they emptied on the ground, and then they stepped and broke the wooden bowl. They said many blessings and ritualistically dropped the razor behind Fily’s back through a cloth 3 times. After those steps were finished, we all headed over to another compound where a huge group of village women had congregated. We laid out a mat and a woman shaved the baby’s head as the women sang a song. They crushed up a kola nut and fed part of it to the baby.
The women at the ceremony were full of energy and joy, and they danced around me out of excitement that I had received a namesake. Everyone gave me blessings for my namesake, and Fily seemed so happy to finally be able to leave her room! It was a beautiful ceremony, and afterwards we headed home to have a delicious chicken lunch.
Having Fily name her baby after me made me feel so close to her and my family. Even when I leave my village at the end of my service, part of me will still be there. I feel so moved that Fily has given me this honor.
I told my mom that there is now a baby Margo in my family and she was touched. I can’t wait for the two to meet when my mom visits me next year! Every time they talk about baby Margo, I smile at how funny it is that I’m all the way in this tiny village in Africa and my mom’s name is now a part of my life here. It’s nice to have a little piece of home here.