Kenya: name-calling

[photo at left: me addressing the FACES staff crowd during my CME talk on “cough and shortness of breath” in HIV+ clients]

The staff at FACES love it that I have a Chinese name. During the first staff-meeting (when I met everyone) I told them a story about my Chinese name and how people constantly mispronounce it, so now a lot of the staff are making an effort to say my name properly. They do much better than my non-Chinese American colleagues, who mostly don’t bother to try. Often in the mornings I will be greeted at the clinic with a hearty handshake and a “Hello Sophy Shiahua, How was your morning?” The Luo staff do a particularly good job pronouncing my name. Apparently Luo also has a bunch of tones, so speaking with specific intonations come naturally to those who also speak Luo.

The nurses have given me a Kenyan name. The nurse mamas (older women) in Eldoret gave me the Luo name “Akinyi,” when I was last here in 2004, which means “she who was born in the morning.” They just guessed that I was born in the morning, which is correct. However, when the nurses here in Kisumu gave me the name “Achieng,” which means “she who was born in the daylight,” they said that it was more appropriate since I was born around 10 am (i think…) rather than in the dawn hours. I prefer either Akinyi or Achieng over the other nicknames I have been given here, like “Chinese Madam” and “Japan, Japan” and “Wing Chong Ching” which people call me all the time on the street.

Now my full name is (drum roll and deep breath, please)…

Sophia Sophy Shiahua Akinyi Achieng Pokey Resister Wong