It was a swelteringly hot day in East London yesterday. The School Communicator popped up on my computer screen at mid-day. An alarming red notice said that after-school sport was cancelled owing to the heat.

Thabisa’s mother phoned in the evening. Apparently it was unbearable in Mthatha and everyone was looking forward to the rain that would break the heatwave, but then ominous storm clouds gathered. “My mom said that it looked really bad,” Thabs reported. “They even had to go out and shout embo”.


Thabs takes a breath and explains. “When very bad weather threatens, everyone goes out of their houses and waves a plate at the sky and shouts EEEEMMMMMBBBOHHH. It means ‘go far away’. EEEEMMMMMBBBOHHH! apho kulalwa ngengubo enye. Go far away! to where people only sleep with one blanket.”

“Where’s that?” I ask.

“No-one knows.”

I clearly look sceptical.

“It works! It really does, Gail. The rain goes away. Or, if it was going to be bad, it is just a gentle rain.”

A moment’s reflection.

“But it doesn’t work for tornadoes. There is nothing you can do about a tornado.”

There. Now you know something you didn’t know yesterday.

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4 Responses to Embo!

  1. Heidi Andrews says:

    So funny! You write so well.
    Sent via my BlackBerry from Vodacom – let your email find you!

  2. zamanguni says:

    “EMBO” This reminds me of my chilhood…I remember the other one where all children have to go outside, girls lift up skirts and boys pull down their shorts to show out bums. This was done to call for rain or to chase it away…..I don’t clearly remember. Thanks Gail and Thabs

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