Saturday, August 10, 2013

African Time

African Time
Rory Curtin

Quick Note: Due to various internet issues, travel interruptions, and a troublesome bout of stomach bacteria, it’s taken me far longer to post this than I could have possibly planned (hence the title, “African Time”). So sorry, more soon! 

As I write about Saturday’s adventure, I’m sitting on our front porch, the sun rising above the stone walls of our compound on my left, and can hear singing from a nearby church welcoming this Wednesday morning in Kenya. I’m sipping a pretty horrible cup of instant coffee that is just barely rectified by the fresh cow’s milk that is delivered in a 2 liter Fanta bottle every few days. So last Saturday we were invited to Edwin’s home to attend his father’s annual memorial service, meet his “Sweet Darling,” (as he calls his wife), and celebrate the 2nd birthday of his daughter Brittany (named after Brittany Spears). It’s sometimes overwhelming to comprehend the amount of such welcomes that we have received here and the honor it is to be a guest at such occasions, but this event was especially moving. 
After taking a public bus from the taxi stand in Mumias to Edwin’s home village, Musanda, some 20km and a very bumpy dirt road away, we arrived to find 5 tents, an entire crew of ugali and rice cookers, a choir dressed in hunter-orange robes, four ministers, and Edwin’s entire extended family dressed in everything from ball gowns to traditional Kenyan dresses. The air was filled with gospel singing and the shouts of children at they shimmied up the trunks of branchless trees. As we first reached this celebration, is wife enthusiastically greeted us wearing the grey Colorado College t-shirt we brought for her and ushered into his living room as guests of honor. Seated together along with several Ambassadors of Hope, we were treated to overflowing bowls of  deep fried donuts called “mandazi” and some sweet and milky Kenyan tea. After dunking countless mandazi, we were then brought outside for a series of sermons and speeches from various family members and the multiple ministers. And though these two hours passed with very little English translation, the banter between speakers and the audience was enough to keep us entertained. Plus, as we have found is the case in all Kenyan gatherings (meetings included), every so often the group would stand to join in a short song and dance to shake things up before sitting down again. 
The moment I loved most about all of this though came after the speeches and as the music began to play. With Edwin initially encouraging us, followed by the enthusiasm of other Ambassadors of Hope, we all joined the dancing in a congo line that wove throughout the other guests and invited them in as well. Leaning back, dropping low, being swung out of the precession and dancing with a grand-mother or our own Mama Gladys (our dear friend and adoptive mother), it felt like we were truly a part of the celebration. Rather than being mere guests of Edwin and his family, we were there to share in a home. 

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