Uncle Naph was my host father in Marapyane during training. He was certainly one of the most interesting people I have met. I am sure he is interesting even without being from a completely different culture. I am sure he is so interesting other South Africans think to themselves, "boy that Naph is an interesting fellow".
He was less of a host father and more of a roommate. I would try to say "Dumela" to him which is the respectful greeting and he would always say back "Eita" or "Howzit", the more slang greeting. Equivalent to saying "Hello" and receiving "Yo". He didn't try to treat me like a child, which I approved of and he never became overbearing. Unfortunately many other trainees had a family of this nature. It probably helped that I was a male and that it was just me and Uncle Naph. Things were quiet and everyone got along just great.
I would just like to go over a few things enjoyed the most about my stay with Uncle Naph.
These are phrases he would repeat in certain situations, as we all do I guess. His just had more flare and he tended to say things in a way I had never quite heard said before. He speaks very emphatically and loudly and sometimes rises up in intonation at the end. This, I would assume, just comes from the way he speaks Setswana but then again other native Setswana speakers didn't really talk the way he did. He had many but my top five would be:
1. You Must Be Free
He would say this pretty much all the time.
Me: Uncle Naph can I have some tea?
Naph: YOU MUST BE FREE!
Me:I will be home a little later than normal tonight Uncle Naph.
Naph: YOU MUST BE FREE!
On one occasion when I had some other trainees over for a little relaxing break he must have dropped his signature line at least a dozen times, an impressive feat. It never got old though and if anything set me at ease. I was indeed free.
2. Man for Himself
He would say this every night at dinner. He would finish cooking then proclaim "MAN FOR HIM-SELF" (I am trying my best to replicate the sounds on paper but it is just not going to happen). I got a good chuckle every time. He was just meaning to say that "I will serve myself and you serve yourself", but I was accustomed to hearing the phrase "Everyman for himself" being applied to situations where a mad scramble should take place. I'll admit it is half my own views on the phrase and half his application, and half the way he would say it. I myself would say it when I would cook but it never turned out quite the same way.
3. They must not talk they must fight!
Turns out Wrestling is very, very popular here in South Africa. You know the wrestling were they don't really wrestle. Well they play that here. Since there are only 4 or so free channels and it is on one of them, most people end up watching it.
So there we were one night. Both of us eating our pap, watching wrestling. As wrestlers often do, one was threatening they other in a most dramatic fashion and at the same time, trying his best to sound genuine. This went on for some time, eventually Uncle Naph has enough and demanded "They must not talk, the must FIGHT". It all seemed so simple. I almost inhaled my pap.
4. If you eat too much you die, if you don't eat you die
Another phrase associated with our daily meals. The best part was that he would say it back to back for emphasis.
Uncle Naph: If you eat to much you die, if you don't eat you die!
Me: Yes, that is true
Uncle Naph: If you eat to much you die, if you don't eat YOU DIE!
5. First Class
This is how he would describe his day. I particularly enjoyed it. It was just so cool. If I were cooler I would say this when describing my day. How was your day Noah? First Class man, first class.
Uncle Naph smoked a lot. Enough so that his laugh was raspy and his coughs were obviously dislodging great masses of phlegm within his chest. Nevertheless smoking makes one look pretty cool. Especially if you roll your own cigarettes. And it makes you extra hard core if you use newspaper for your papers. That's right inhale all that ink, it puts hair on your chest.
For the host family farewell, he wore a beret. Most men don't were berets here. Most men don't were berets anywhere for that matter. Yet, Uncle Naph pulled it off. It made me wonder why he didn't always were a beret, then I realized it wouldn't have as much impact if he did it all the time. I felt honored.
Slingshot/Chicken Trainer Extraordinaire
He had a lot of chickens. Even cooler than that was that he somehow trained them to climb up this scaffold to a tree at night to sleep. It was amazing to watch the chickens line up and one by one climb up into the tree. This was to prevent stray dogs from eating his chickens. Occasionally though he would have to defend his property with force. I never actually saw him hit anything with his slingshot but I assume it was working. He would carry it around like a necklace with the wooden handle in the front, newspaper cigarette dangling from his mouth.
I had a great time living at Uncle Naph's house. Like I said, he respected my privacy. He also recognized that I would do things his way but some things I just am accustomed and comfortable doing my way. I think we understood each other pretty well near the end. One final story, during one of the last weekends of training we drank a whole bunch of whiskey and cokes and watched Rambo First Blood Part II. Awesome.