New Mexican Problems in isiZulu

People acquainted with me before this South African Life, know that I am a proud New Mexican. Albuquerque will always be home for me, even if I choose to live somewhere else. I am always amused when people struggle to spell my city (I do not understand America’s irrational phobia of q or z). I am an incompetent speller without Mircosoft’s aid (I could not spell Tucson right until I lived there for 4 months…that is another story) but we had to spell Albuquerque right on spelling tests starting in 2nd grade. The Basque name basically uses the same k like sound for q’s like English (granted it has probably been Anglicized but all verbal Americans are capable of saying Albuquerque if they try).

It was a slow Thursday at work and I was hanging out in the soup kitchen with some of the carers. We were looking at the centre’s menagerie of children’s books to see if I could find a basic isiZulu book to read to our OVCs (Orphans and Vulnerable Children) that afternoon for isiZulu practice. I found a book with an illustrated cactus and tried to tell the carers that this plant was also at my home. The PCV that I visited here in the Berg back in 2013, was also a Burquena. I have fond memories of creating tortillas in the kitchen area per her suggestion, and now I am the unofficial homemade tortilla maker for SA 31 (Ngiyabonga Kristen)!

I love this photo…505 pride in SA back in 2013

I love this photo…505 pride in the Berg back in 2013

Anyways I mention Nobhle and how we came from the same town. Suddenly I became aware that there are two q’s in the name. While most Americans panic at the site of q in the middle of the word, it is a different ball game in isiZulu. See q is one of the three tongue clicks (c and x are the other ones…more in future posts), and I would argue it is the most involved. The other two letters involve the tongue vibrating across the teeth, but q is a firm click from the top of the mouth. It is taxing for this American to do multiple q clicks in a row. I can get by ordering eggs (amaqanda) but more than one makes my mouth tired. So I took a deep breath and tried to Zululize (as my teacher would say from PST) my city.

Carer: What is the name of your town?
Zama: Albuquerque no wait…Albu click, uer, click ue

The Carers and I laughed for 30 seconds straight. Eish y’all I tried.


10 things I will miss about the bush

10 things I will miss about the Bush

1. Photo shoots with cheerful babies

2. Family is never far away…introduce yourself as a Sibanyoni or a Mahlangu and chances area stranger turns out to be a distant cousin (for the record I am really sad to loose Sibanyoni as my last name)

3. Sunday dinner and visits with my 90 year old Gogo.

4. The toddler girl who lives across from the truck shop who would greet me every morning with the one English word she knows…Hi! Hi! Hi! Hi!

5. A slice of New Mexico at my bus stop.

I think they look like yuccas

I think they look like yuccas

6. Sunsets almost as good as New Mexico. Almost…

7. The relentless antics of goats

..eating Mam's mealie (corn) plants

..eating Mam’s mealie (corn) plants

8….and the parade of hilarious ihaha (which sounds exactly like the sound geese make).

9. Mam. She is an amazing woman who would laugh at my humanistic attempts of sarcasm.

10. All the children on my street screaming MUSA and racing up the street for a hug at the end of the day!



Ngiyabonga the Bush. I will sincerely miss you.
– Musa Sibanyoni (maybe I can hyphenate my last name).