Kurtuku and Goom-jigi!

Every once in a while I go through older things I’ve written, and today I came across this email I sent out about five years ago to family and friends. I had to share it, as it brought one of those ridiculously goofy smiles to my face. Shanti.

In my daily endeavors to teach acceptance, diversity and peace to my children I stumbled upon a children’s book called “Can you say Peace” by Karen Katz. It’s a book my children enjoyed from the first read. The pictures portray children of different Countries around the world and the many ways to say ‘Peace’ in their languages.
My daughter and her 5 year old memory took on a certain liking of the Peace words ‘Kurtuku’ – from the Warnman people of Austrailia and ‘Goom-jigi’ – from the Buli people of Ghana. For days it was ‘goom-jee-jee’ this and ‘kur-TU-ku’ that, with the random Japanese version, ‘Heiwa’ or ‘hey-wah’ and the Bolivian ‘Mojjsa kamana’ (moh-khash ka-mah-neeah). We took a few trips out that week. To the grocery store, my 5 year old greeted a confused child with ‘Kurtuku!’ and at Home Depot while I was searching for window locks, she made up a song ‘la la la laaa laaaa, kurtuku and goom-jigi, goom-jigi, goom-jigi, kurtuku! la la la la laaa laaaa laaaaaaaaaa…’. Needless to say, tho I loved the hidden meaning of her words, everyone around us had confused and almost sympathetic expressions on their faces. I could almost imagine what they were thinking, ‘That poor child, maybe she is autistic, such a happy yet, incoherent, girl…’ but I kept a smile on my face and answered my daughter with ‘Mir!’ (Russia’s take on Peace) and ‘He ping!’ (from China).
As we neared the self-checkout counter I began riffling thru my purchases and my daughter walked up to the teller who was on duty, and very clearly and loudly said to her ‘Goom-jigi!’ when the teller nervously smiled at her and glanced away, my daughter then added, ‘It means PEACE in Ghana, did you know that??’ The teller’s countenance went from a passive and indifferent look to one of suprise and interest. ‘No, I did not know that’, she said to my daughter and looked up at me with a sly smile. My smart little 5 year old continuted without pause, ‘And Kurtuku to you too! Do you know what that means?’ When the teller just smiled at her, I knew she was waiting for my daughter to explain, and she did…’it’s Austria’s way to say PEACE, Kurtuku!’ Without looking at her, but smiling, I gently corrected her and said ‘Australia, sweety, not Austria.’
As I finished with my items and bagged them, I kissed my son’s toes, who was sitting in the front of the shopping cart and told my daughter it was time to go. She was in such a happy mood, singing her made up song about Peace in two different languages. I smiled at the teller, said thanks and passed by her, then my daughter turned around and ran back to her and hugged her without permission. The teller was at first surprised, then quickly hugged her back and told her she was such a beautiful young girl and asked me what her name was so I told her.
My daughter beamed up at her with inner pride and said ‘Goom-jigi!’ to her. The teller, who looked refreshed and suddenly happy to be at work, bent down and said to her with a big smile, ‘Kurtuku, Rory’.