KENYA: What’s in a Baby Name?

KENYA: What’s in a Baby Name?

There’s a lovely naming culture practiced by the Kikuyu tribe here in Kenya: the the first-born son is named after the paternal grandfather, the first-born daughter is named after her paternal grandmother, and so on. My husband is Kikuyu, and we decided to adopt this tradition for our girls’ middle names.

Photo watermarked with iWatermark for iOS.

Claire, our eldest child, was given Nyambura as her middle name, after my husband’s mother. Nyambura means “born during the rains.” Since Claire was born in the U.K., we think her name is beautifully befitting! The second-born daughter would traditionally be named after her maternal grandmother, but we really wanted both girls to have Kenyan middle names. When Heidi was born, we decided to give her the middle name Makena, which means “the happy one.” Her name also fits her perfectly.

There are over 40 tribes in Kenya, with very different cultures and traditions. After choosing to name our girls with traditional Kenyan middle names, I was curious about the naming traditions of other tribes. I reached out to the mothers in a local online parenting group here in Nairobi to ask about their own tribes’ naming traditions.

Several tribes follow the tradition of naming their children according to the time of day the child was born. A boy named Otieno was likely born at night. The name Chebet is for a girl who was born at midday when the sun is at its highest point. A boy with the name Kerotich may have been born in the early evening, when the cattle come back to the corral.

Kenyan Baby Names

Many tribes practice naming their children after events or circumstances surrounding the child’s birth. In this tradition, the name Okello is for the first baby boy born after twins. Cheruto is a girl’s name for a child born away from the family’s traditional homeland. The name Aoko signifies a child born outside. The name Nyanchera is for a child who was born on the way to hospital.

Several tribes also share the custom of naming babies after the seasons. The name Akeyo signifies a child born during the harvest. The name Kipkemei is for a child born during the dry season. Nanzala is a girls’ name for a child born when there is famine.

Several tribes choose to name babies after fierce animals to protect the infant and chase away death. A child named Wangari is named for the fierce leopard. A child with the name Mbiti evokes the cunning hyena. A boy called Njogu is named for the mighty elephant.

I loved learning about all these beautiful traditions for naming your baby!

I think it’s so wonderful that a name can tell a story, and can carry with it the memory of generations of ancestors. Some even believe that a baby’s name will have a strong influence on the child’s eventual personality.

I am so happy that both of our girls have beautiful, meaningful Kenyan names!

Tara W and Baby 2

What are the cultural practices for naming babies where you come from? Did you follow a cultural tradition when naming your own children?

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Tara Wambugu. Follow Tara and her family’s adventures on her blog, Mama Mgeni, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

Photo credits to the author.

Tara Wambugu

Tara Wambugu is a wife, a mother of two, and a Kenya-based lifestyle blogger covering parenting, family life, travel, and more. A former aid worker, Tara has worked in various countries in Europe, Central Asia, Africa, and Central America. She is now a stay-at-home mom living in Nairobi with her husband and their two sassy little girls. You can follow Tara and her family’s adventures on her blog, Mama Mgeni.

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INDONESIA: Kites as Pastime or Offering to the Gods?

INDONESIA: Kites as Pastime or Offering to the Gods?


WMB Bali Kite Flying 2

Dry season on the island of Bali brings along some really strong winds; the whistling, tree bending kind. It’s still extremely hot, but at least the afternoon winds are refreshing, making it the perfect conditions for kite flying season.

This year I promised the kiddos that I would get them a kite to fly in the park. I found a little shop close to the school that sold some inexpensive kites in the shapes of dragonflies. I bought a red, black and yellow one and took the kiddos to the Lapagnan Puputan Park after class. In fact, the lady that sold me the kite spoke to me in her native Indonesian and said the kite was 15 thousand rupiahs, but I understood 50 thousand. Thankfully, she was kind enough to chase after me with my change when I had already walked away with the kite. Expat life…

The winds were so strong that it really was not that easy. Unfortunately, our string wasn’t a full constant thread but had a knot tying two pieces together. It didn’t take long for it to break with the wind. Big Kiddo decided to run while holding the kite and he had a better time of it. On that note, next is a photo from a much more successful kite flying attempt he had with his father weeks prior by the ocean. Check out his airplane kite!

WMB Bali Kite Flying Child

We love seeing the kites everywhere, out the windows of our house and when we drive somewhere the kiddos always find new ones with beautiful colors and start counting how many owl shaped ones or how many fish ones they see on a trip somewhere.

Kite flying in Bali is not just a pastime for the kids; it is a cultural and religious phenomenon that takes over life itself for the entire dry season.

Between May and September, the sky is spotted with kites, of all sizes and colors; many are as far away as a kilometer it would seem (I’m sure it’s not that far up, but it feels like that).

Everywhere you look there are kids flying small kites, in parks and beaches there are groups of men flying giant kites, on the sidewalks kids making kites out of sticks and plastic bags.

There is no piece of sky untouched by a kite on a string. You may even trip on one if you aren’t paying attention. If the winds are good, the kids will tie their kite to a rock or tree and play ball while it flies.

Why are kites so important in Bali?

Kites are seen as an offering to the gods, a fun way to appease the demons, and good old competition. All with the hopes of having a successful harvest that year.

Apart from the kites for children, there are ceremonial kites that can be so big they need teams of 10 men to fly. They come in different combinations of red, black and white.

WMB Bali Kite Flying 3

Every August, the village of Sanur holds a kite flying competition on the beach. There are three different categories, the classic fish shape kite, kites with a tail that can be as long as a 100 meters, and “new creation” kites which are usually animals or other crazy constructions.

Every team of kite fliers has flyers, flag bearers, and Gamelan musicians to accompany the flying of the kites. The competition consists of points for best launch, height of flight, length of flight and amount of control. Kudos for the kites that don’t fall to the ground!

Made with very thin cloth sewn onto bamboo sticks, the traditional fish-shaped kite is the kind that the kids learn to make at school with pieces of plastic bags. Once the kites are ready to be taken somewhere to fly, be it for the competition or for practice, the flying teams pack up the kites together on a truck, stopping traffic for almost an hour. Whenever we run into one, the kiddos love seeing what kinds of kites are being packed on the truck.

Given my own attempts at kite flying, perhaps next time we’ll just enjoy watching the experts!

This is an original guest post to World Moms Blog by Orana Velarde of Bali, Indonesia. She can be found on her blog, Crazy Little Family Adventure

Photo credits to the author. 

World Moms Blog

World Moms Blog is an award winning website which writes from over 30 countries on the topics of motherhood, culture, human rights and social good. Over 70 international contributors share their stories from around the globe, bonded by the common thread of motherhood and wanting a better world for their children. World Moms Blog was listed by Forbes Woman as one of the "Best 100 Websites for Women 2012 & 2013" and also called a "must read" by the NY Times Motherlode in 2013. Our Senior Editor in India, Purnima Ramakrishnan, was awarded the BlogHer International Activist Award in 2013.

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BELGIUM: Pizza Night Therapy

BELGIUM: Pizza Night Therapy

10286773774_ea2c0e4ef5_zOn Wednesday the 3rd of September, our oven broke down in the middle of a pizza. We only have pizza about once a year, so the kids were looking forward to it like crazy. Italians, be warned, what comes next must be hard to digest. I warmed up the pizza in the microwave and then baked it in a regular frying pan. The idea was to get it warm and have at least the bottom a bit crunchy. The bottom turned out almost black and the entire thing looked inedible. The kids loved their very special pizza topped with extra cheese and ketchup to cover up the burnt taste.

On Thursday the 4th of September, our cooking range died on me in the middle of green beans and rice. I half expected it, since it was attached to the oven. I wanted to give up, but then my daughter came along. She secretly turned the oven on, thinking it a toy after it broke. For some reason, that reactivated the hot plate on top of it! Thanks to my mischievous five year old, we had a decent meal after all.

She told everyone she saved dinner that day, strutting around proud like a peacock.

On Friday the 5th of September, we asked my teen sister to babysit and went to my employer’s corporate party, all the while discussing how to rearrange our kitchen. We felt like we could handle our bad luck for a blissful twelve hours.

On Saturday the 6th of September, our car broke down in the middle of the road to my parent’s home. It stopped, just like that. We had to find another car and take my sister home, which made my husband late for work. His work being to clean up the party we went to the night before. Mere coincidence made me help dismantle my own employer’s party, to get things done in time. The kids had a great time, being allowed to help out dad and being at mommy’s party at the same time. They didn’t mind that they were the only ones singing and dancing in an empty tent.

On Sunday the 7th of September, I decided to bake some fine Belgian waffles. I had made a new school year’s resolution of baking cookies for the kids to take to school every week. Because the green me wants to lessen our piles of plastic waste, because the control freak in me wants to follow up on their sugar consumption, and because our daughter is just very picky when it comes to cookies (I’m not complaining). I wouldn’t let the broken oven break my resolution after just one week, so waffles it was. Broken crumbled pieces of waffles anyway. Not a single one came out in less than 23 pieces. The kids thought it extremely cool to have a little box full of waffle crumbs to take to school all week. They figured the tinier the pieces were, the more waffle could fill their snack box.

On Monday the 8th of September, I found almost all of our chickens gone. One was still there, without her head. I found her inside our completely closed den. No holes, no open door. The predator went in and out anyway. I told the kids a very cute little fox was probably very happy with his mommy’s endeavours. I also promised them I would get us a pig instead of those vulnerable little chickens. A very big one. We’ll call her Foxy.

On Tuesday the 9th of September, we bought ourselves a new car. The kind of family car I’d been wishing for, even before the previous one. Our son approved because the new car is close to his favorite colour, black. Our daughter approved even more because it had sliding doors in the back. No more accidents with neighbouring cars for her.

On Wednesday the 10th of September, I found a new kitchen when I came home from work. My husband had worked like crazy to surprise me. The oven and plates were not connected yet, but I was too overwhelmed to mind. We were getting used to cucumbers and cold salmon wraps for dinner anyway. It was a good exercise for the predicted power blackouts during winter as well.

On Thursday the 11th of September, I felt our luck was turning. We had been able to found benefits in all of our misfortunes. New car, new kitchen, new pet. Fate gave us Ethiopian New Year on that day. It’s liberating to state in the middle of 2014, that you’re heading for the year 2007.

It feels as if you can start all over.

That morning, our Ethiopian daughter went to school in her traditional white dress to show off. Our son wore his Ethiopian scarf for mere coolness. In the middle of my last science policy meeting of that day, I was already musing about our cozy evening to come, picking yellow flowers and having popcorn, as tradition prescribes in our daughter’s birth country.

That very moment, my husband called. I was to head for the hospital.

My little princess’s pristine white dress was covered in blood. She had had a nasty fall and an even nastier hole right between her eyes. They had waited for me to arrive before doing the stitching, because she desperately needed her mommy. I will never be able to wash away the image of that incredibly deep hole in her forehead. Nor of the terror in her eyes when the syringe for the local anaesthetics came by.

When it was all over, we promised her pizza. One from the local Italian, because the oven still didn’t work. Also because we were too exhausted to think of anything creative at 8 pm.

In the car back home, my daughter told me she couldn’t believe how lucky she was.

I thought I’d misunderstood.

I was having a very hard time staying composed. After this unbelievable week, my stress buffer was in shambles.

And my daughter, covered in deep stitches and steristrips, told me she felt so lucky?

“Of course,” she said. “We’ll have pizza night two weeks in a row!”

Do your kids also help you get past the most dreadful passages in your life? Can we learn from their ability to find innocent fun on every occasion, no matter how bad?

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by K10K from The Penguin and The Panther.

Photo credit: Live Italian. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.


If you ask her about her daytime job, Katinka will tell you all about the challenge of studying the fate of radioactive substances in the deep subsurface. Her most demanding and rewarding job however is raising four kids together with five other parents, each with their own quirks, wishes and (dis)abilities. As parenting and especially co-parenting involves a lot of letting go, she finds herself singing the theme song to Frozen over and over again, even when the kids are not even there...

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NETHERLANDS:  Where Do We Draw the Line?

NETHERLANDS: Where Do We Draw the Line?

5475648506_479729c93d_zAs a trainer in intercultural communication and mom to multilingual children, I am always taught to accept other cultures, various ways of thinking and perspectives of looking at the world.

I may of course have a lot to learn about tolerance but I like to think that I’m doing a decent job at understanding all the different viewpoints. But there is a place where my tolerance stops.

One thing I have no understanding for is woo and quackery. The argument, “but indigenous tribes in enter-remote-location-here have been using this plant for ages and it cured all diseases” is useless when scientific research shows that said plant doesn’t work at all or can even be poisonous.

Unfortunately many people believe this stuff and it can have dangerous consequences. And then it gets worse.

Advocates of female circumcision claim that it’s a part of their cultural heritage and without it women feel they are not “real” women. But any cultural tradition that is based on suffering and disfigurement of the human body should be gotten rid of very quickly and no amount of cultural appreciation will suffice for me to accept such a tradition.

Let’s also remember that culture, while it brings people together and helps them get along better and makes sense out of their environment, can also smash our individualism and make us unhappy.

But as dangerous and untrue these claims are, it gets worse. Women get killed, raped, disfigured and humiliated every day. They are afraid to go out on the streets in the evenings; they take great care in picking their clothes out of fear of being proclaimed “indecent”.

In many parts of the world, people kill each other over cultural, religious or political differences which are often minor. In some parts of the world, certain people are considered worse than other people.

Should we just accept it as it is, saying, “It’s another culture, we shouldn’t do anything about it, we should just appreciate our differences”? I agree that cultural diversity is great- and I myself benefit tremendously from it. But shouldn’t we be drawing a line somewhere? And if so, where should we draw it?

In her book, “Medaliony”, Polish writer Zofia Nałkowska tries to make sense of what happened during WWII in Poland. She could have put blame on the Germans, the way many Polish people did and still continue to do today. But she didn’t. Instead, she wrote, “People prepared this fate for people”, or in a better translation, “humans prepared this fate for humans.”

I guess that line should be drawn when it’s not about cultural differences anymore. When the action in question can’t be explained by traditions, cultural heritage or tolerance. In short when it’s about humans hurting or killing other humans.

A common criticism of the understanding cultures approach is that deep inside, we are all the same. Of course there are some things that are universal: we are all humans, we have hearts and brains and skins. We’re so afraid that if we start mentioning our differences, we will start comparing ourselves to others and consider some of us better.

I beg to differ. Of course we are all humans and some of the things we do are universal. But the truth is that we are an extremely varied species, on a wide spectrum of sizes, skin colours, temperaments and cultural and social backgrounds.

Saying we are all the same eradicates the wonderful differences in us and I think that’s a shame. We are all humans and all different, and if one human kills another human it’s a tragedy.

Sadly, such tragedies happen all the time. Recently, the three boys: Eyal Yifrcah, Gil-Ad Shaer, and Naftali Fraenkel disapeared and were later found dead. The #BringBackOurBoys campaign, while beautiful, did nothing to revive them. Then, the flight MH17 crushed in Ukraine. Expatica Manager Antoine van Veldhuizen was on that plane. He and other victims of the plane crash will be hugely missed and the Netherlands are in mourning.

We like to say that humans are great with making sense out of tragedies. They need to feel that they suffered for a reason. Again, I beg to differ. Suffering and pain don’t make sense. We can certainly make sense out of them but to do so means to accept that and this is something I’ll never ever do.

Humans killing humans doesn’t make sense. And no amount of cultural appreciation classes or tolerance will convince me otherwise. Before you see someone as a part of a certain culture or religion, you’d better see the individual human first.

Our differences shouldn’t divide us. They should bring us together.

But above all, being different is no excuse to kill other people.Because nothing ever is an excuse to kill, nor should it be.

Instead, killing other people should be considered the shocking and saddening tragedy that it is and nothing should ever change that.

This is an original post for World Moms Blog by Olga Mecking, The European Mama, from the Netherlands.

Photo credit: DIBP images. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.

Olga Mecking

Olga is a Polish woman living in the Netherlands with her German husband. She is a multilingual expat mom to three trilingual children (even though, theoretically, only one is trilingual since she's old enough to speak). She loves being an expat, exploring new cultures, learning languages, cooking and raising her children. Occasionally, Olga gives trainings in intercultural communication and works as a translator. Otherwise, you can find her sharing her experiences on her blog, The European Mama. Also take a while to visit her Facebook page .

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JAPAN: Celebrating the Girls

SN3S1195It’s hard being female.

I think that’s holds true wherever you might find yourself in the world, but perhaps it is especially true here in Japan, where women have to deal with a well-established patriarchy as well as facing pressure from the older women in their lives to stay home, stay quiet, stay under control.

Perhaps it is ironic and surprising to some, to find that in this corner of East Asia, where women are still not allowed into Sumo rings for fear of “contaminating” sacred ground, there is a day set aside to celebrate the girls.

On March 3rd, families rich and poor, pause to pray for the health and happiness of their female children. In Japanese, this day is called Hina Matsuri, which literally translates as “Princess Festival.” Most English sources refer to it as “Girls Day” or “Doll Festival.”

When a female child is born, during her first year the family will purchase an elaborate set of dolls representing the traditional imperial court. No expense is spared, as it is believed the dolls will take her place in the event of natural disaster and will help protect her from sickness. Many families take pride in procuring a seven-level set, complete with the Empress and Emperor in many-layered kimono, the Empress’s attendants, musicians, and various objects found in the royal court. For others, space is a factor, but not to worry! Three tier sets and one tier sets are also popular. (more…)

Melanie Oda (Japan)

If you ask Melanie Oda where she is from, she will answer "Georgia." (Unless you ask her in Japanese. Then she will say "America.") It sounds nice, and it's a one-word answer, which is what most people expect. The truth is more complex. She moved around several small towns in the south growing up. Such is life when your father is a Southern Baptist preacher of the hellfire and brimstone variety. She came to Japan in 2000 as an assistant language teacher, and has never managed to leave. She currently resides in Yokohama, on the outskirts of Tokyo (but please don't tell anyone she described it that way! Citizens of Yokohama have a lot of pride). No one is more surprised to find her here, married to a Japanese man and with two bilingual children (aged four and seven), than herself. And possibly her mother. You can read more about her misadventures in Asia on her blog, HamakkoMommy.

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