Thursday, August 25, 2005
How Wampi Got His Name

A lot of people have asked me lately about Wampi's name. It is pretty unusual!

Well, Wampi means "white beads" in Algonquin and it is also the name of a tropical fruit - Clausena lansium (Lour.) Skeels in the family Rutacease (the Orange family), but these are not the reasons I named him Wampi.

I named Wampi after a little Ecuadorian boy I met while doing research for my Ph.D. in Biology. I started doing research in Ecuador while I was an undergraduate and was fortunate enough to win a nice grant that paid for my trips to South America and my graduate tuition. Now, I'm still a grad student but finished with all the research (thanks to that grant!) ... and now just trying to take care of our daughter, Wampi, and write the final dissertation so I can actually be called a "Ph.D."

Back to the story.

The little boy I named Wampi after belongs to an indigenous group known as the Huaorani who live in the Ecuadorian Amazon. I lived in their village several times 4-6 weeks at a stretch learning from them and studying tropical plants. No electricity. No running water. No outside communications. Just palm-thatched huts, small meandering rivers, steep terrain and green jungle for as far as you can see. Very intense and definitely life-changing.

This little boy was such a sweetheart. When I first met him I was struck by how social he was. All the other Huaorani children were shy with me on my first visit (they don't even speak Spanish). But not Wampi. He was smiling and laughing and trying to climb up my leg. He was a little 3-year-old ham! I loved playing with him and as I got more familiar with their language, I could actually talk with him. The Huaorani speak an unclassified language and was difficult to learn. But after a few visits and dedication to learning the language, I got the hang of it.

So how are Wampi the boy and Wampi the cat connected?

This beautiful Maine Coon kitty was so loving right from the start (you now know how he came to live with me now). He would meow and meow at me on his very first day in my apartment ... he wanted me to pick him up. And ... if I didn't pick him up he would try to climb my leg! It was funny and remdinded me of that little boy. Still, I didn't think of naming him Wampi yet.

A few days later, I put some cat food on a plate and when he started eating it he made the funniest noise. It sounded like he was chirping! I had never ever heard of a cat chirping and I just listened in fascination.

"What was this?" I thought. At the time, I didn't know Maine Coon's are famous for this "chirping" sound that they usually do when they are really happy.

It was around this time that I just connected Wampi the boy and Wampi the cat. Both are incredibly social and loving, both tried to climb my leg and liked to ride on my shoulder, both have a unique way of speaking. Eureka!

And that's how Wampi got his name!


posted by Cam at 6:50:00 PM |


Blogger Stacy said...

That is really neat. I am so glad that you shared it with us. I hope that Wampi is improving daily. I try to check on him daily, but with my son home from Iraq, I have been busy visiting with him. We carried him to the airport today, so I am back to blogging. Hopefully I can keep my mind occupied.

Glad you shared with us about Wampi.

Thursday, August 25, 2005 8:21:00 PM  
Blogger drizzlenightsky said...

how sweet! Is chirping the Main Coon's version of purring in other breeds?

Friday, August 26, 2005 12:24:00 AM  
Blogger penelope said...

I bet "Wamp" was the sound he made when he hit the ground. Is that how he got the name?

Friday, August 26, 2005 12:42:00 AM  
Blogger Emerald said...

My sis has a Maine Coon, but he rarely comes out. I hope I get to hear him chirp sometime. Give Wampi hugs and kisses from Buster and me!! :)

Friday, August 26, 2005 6:16:00 AM  
Anonymous TomR said...

Both of my cats have chirped while watching birds at the bird feeder, I could not believe it the 1st time. Also, both of mine have been Maine Coon mixs.

Friday, August 26, 2005 12:21:00 PM  

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