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Officially The Tembas

Monday, December 29th, 2008

Can you tell where someone is from by their name? In America it helps us tell where people’s ancestors came from – Anderson, Andersen, O’Malley, Nguyen, Chang, Lee, Smith, Sanchez. Both Julius and I had names that don’t give away where we are from. My last name – Bloom – was bestowed onto my family when my great-grandfather came over from Norway and the clerk at Ellis Island felt that there were too many Andersons. Since he was from the village of Blom, the clerk changed his name to Bloom. Bloom is actually more common as a Jewish name.

Jacob is not technically Julius’ family name, it is the first name of his Grandfather. In Tanzania last names can be more fluid. Many people use their father or grandfather’s first name as a last name. However, it seems most also have a family name they can use. Julius’¬†family name is Temba. Just like Nguyen or O’Malley in the States, the name Temba lets Tanzanians know that Julius’ father is from the Chagga tribe. Even more impressive to me is that people who grew up in Kilimanjaro region (where the Chagga tribe is based) would know that his family is from the village of Kibosho, just by the last name. Does anyone know if this is true in other countries?

One Tanzanian we knew in America said that he made sure his children had their family name as a last name. He felt that it would give them that Tanzanian identity even though they lived in another country. We also thought this was a good idea. When Esther came along we gave her the last name Temba. I learned at my job that you can give your child any last name you want on their birth certificate – even one that is made up or one from a deadbeat dad who denied it was his kid (one thing I saw at my job).

This week Julius and I finally got around to legally changing our name to match hers. With a short visit to the county courts it was done. So, we are officially The Tembas! Julius is lucky in that his signature is illegible and he can keep using the same one. I will have to get used to Sara B Temba instead of Sara A Bloom.