Friday, August 5, 2011

Is That You, Jesu?

I was walking by the bus rank the other day when a guy I passed by looked in my direction and said,

"Lekgoa, mpha madi" (White man, give me money).

To which I replied in my usual way, "Ke chonne. Ga ke na madi." (I am poor. I have no money).

Then the man switched to English. "Ah! You are lying. All white people have money."

(This, by the way is a fairly common belief, and is a big reason why I am asked for money at least every day). I smiled and pantomimed pulling the pockets out of my pants to show they were empty. I then again told him that I didn't have any money.

He stood there and stared at me a while. Then said something about me being a son of Jesu and needing to by charitable. (Jesu is what people here call Jesus. It is pronounced, JAY-soo). I didn't quite catch what he said and so I asked him to repeat it. He clarified by saying, "You are white. All white men are the sons of Jesu."

I was taken back a bit and didn't quite know how to respond. Religion is a thorny issue here to say the least. The people have taken to Christianity but still strongly cling to traditional beliefs. The result is a an interesting, yet confusing hodgepodge of belief and superstition. (Religion is so ingrained in the culture that when I meet a new person one of their first questions will be to inquire where I go to church.)

Not wanting to get into a theological debate and still trying my best to smile, and told him "We are all children of Jesu."

The man's eyes got wide and he simply said, "You are lying. Jesu was white."

I simply couldn't contain myself and chuckled. "Ah, my friend, here is where you are wrong. Jesu was not white. He was from the Middle East."

The man looked at me like I was an idiot, shook his head, and walked away.