In Chichewa, that means "When were you born?" You answer, "Ndinabadwa pa 9 October 1940", for example. (That is the birthday of my favorite Beatle. Guess which one...)
When we learned this in Chichewa class back in June, I went home and asked my amayi (host mother) when everyone's birthdays were. She knew everyone's birthday except my middle brother Roddy. She knew he was born in August, but couldn't remember the day. That might sound strange to an American, but here in the village they do not celebrate birthdays. However, this seemed like a fun opportunity to share a little about my culture, so I made plans to do a little birthday celebration for Roddy.
On August 3rd I asked my abambo when Roddy's birthday was. He told me it was August 4th, the very next day! That meant I had only one day to prepare.
The next day I made Roddy a birthday card and grabbed a few strawberry candies I had brought from America. After dinner I presented him with the card and sang the Happy Birthday song to him. My amayi joined in at the end. Then I gave him the candies.
He gave one of the candies to abambo, one to amayi, and one to his older brother. My amayi split hers up, saving a piece for my little sister who had fallen asleep. A few minutes later a couple neighbor boys came over, and she gave them part of her candy to have as well.
It is amazing how communal this culture is. Sharing is not even a thought. It's almost automatic. Could you imagine sharing a small piece of hard candy with three other people?
After she finished the candy, my amayi mentioned that her birthday was the next day. I knew it wasn't though, as she had told me her actual birthday when I first asked, so I called "bodza" * on her. She laughed, and said sort of apologetically, "I like sweeties." **
*Bodza - translates to "lie", but it has a more playful connotation depending on the tone, so here it is more like "fib" or "I know you are joking"
**Sweeties - sort of a generic term for candy