We were walking to Mbaka Oromo today; not so much to see the schools as we were interested in seeing Sam's family. We spent practically the entire day with them! As we departed, I heard loud music approaching up the road. "Advertisement," was all that Job said. The music was right over my shoulder so as I turned I saw a big truck with "Good Bread" logos all over it. I also saw that it looked more like a float in a parade. In the flatbed in back were two girls dancing to the music. "Is that supposed to get people to buy Good Bread?" I asked. Job replied, "I don't know. They think thaht eef you eat the bread you khan hahve the gahls too," and laughed.
The walk to school took much longer than we expected because we continued to run into people (friends and strangers alike) I hadn't seen yet. It started as soon as we crossed the street at the matatu station. The piki-piki (motorcycle) drivers were insisting that we take some photos with them. This group is always changing. I took some pictures back in January and brought some copies for each of them. Slowly but surely we've been bumping into one of them at a time. We checked off another one today.
We walked a bit further and ran into one of the past Clinic Committee Members. He was headed to the main road and didn't have time to chat so we continued on our way. The road was quite busy with people bringing animals to market and piki-piki drivers transporting goods and people, as well as the usual walkers getting from here to there.
We passed men, women and children working in their farms or
performing daily chores like fetching water from the stream. Younger children were usually huddled together playing with anything they can get their hands on. In one case, a group of five were simply playing in the mud. Many of the younger ones, even if they're not alone, will stare at me inquisitively as I approach then run way in terror as I get too close. That's how you can always pick out the ones that will be in charge as they grown up. We came upon a group of four. As we got closer, one ran away, two stood frozen and the last one slowly approached with a stern look on her face as she extended her hand to greet me. Yup, she'll be the one in charge. It's like being able to see into the future. Once that first brave one shook my hand, the others followed suit. Works every time.
We arrived at Sammy's to find that one of the tents was still standing. There were about a dozen people still there... along with the guy trying to get rid of his remaining photos. The resin chairs had all been removed, and all that was remaining were a few benches. Sam's boys stopped what they were doing and brought out a table and some chairs. They brought out more chairs than we needed, but they were soon occupied by Sammy's sisters and brother. John Anguso was among them.
|Sammy's sons and grandson|
|Antoni and his daughter|
We did the customary greetings and moved about talking to each other. Job and I got up to see the boys. They were busy building their homes (for Sam's first born Alex, and Antoni). The houses were erected so they were doing the next step in the finishing process. Antoni was standing in about 2 feet of mud and dung. They were mixing it with water trying to get the right consistency before applying it to the rough walls. It's a messy job that's similar to using your feet to crush grapes. Once dry, the stuff is like concrete. Afterwards, they'll apply another coat of a thinner mixture and it's will be a little more smooth but still very hard. Ben approached from over my shoulder with a present. He wanted me to have a one of Sam's drumsticks for Kevin. Sam had about 5 of them, and I got the largest of the bunch. It fit well in my hand and it took me quite some time to finally let go of it. I thanked him and his brothers profusely.
We returned to our seats in the shade and began talking with the "grown ups." Dan was across from me, with his sisters to his right; John was on my right, Job on my left. They saw me holding the stick and smiled. I immediately began talking about Sam and how much he meant to my entire family. We talked about my first meeting, Katie's first meeting, Kevin's, Karen's and Ann's. I told them how his presence put people's minds at ease back home, because with Sam around, everyone knew I would be safe. The smiled and nodded with each tale. I had to stop a few times as tears appeared on my cheeks. The ladies would softly utter, "Eh," as if they were agreeing with the display. We talked about his legendary hugs, his deep booming voice, and his office where he grew enormous avocados, 8' high stalks of corn, and big juicy mangos. Sam would always try to get me to bring some fruit home to the girls, but the US Customs always stood in the way. They wanted to give me one of his drums, but they were all to big to pack. Even if I carried it (which I did consider), there's no way they'd let it in the country. I am always asked if I've been in contact with livestock. It's kind of hard to say "no" when pieces of livestock are stretched over a cross section of an oil drum. There's no questioning that there's cowhide stretched across... no question at all. There's also no doubt that this was not purchased at a store. I would be heartbroken when they took it from me.
We talked about the funeral and the burial service as they answered every single question. Some had to do with custom, others religion, but either way it was very informative. Take for instance Sam's burial plot. Sam and Caroline (his second wife) built the house together. Antoni and Alex had already erected homes opposite Sam's front door. With Sam's passing, a home would have to be constructed for his first wife, Olive. Because Sam had two wives, they would have to share him between themselves... therefore he would be buried between Caroline's home and Olive's future house. That is why he was buried behind his home.
We spoke of other traditions in the church, like why the men and women are always separated. I was told that, "Sometimes the Holy Spirit effects people in different ways. If a woman is touched and begins to dance, she could bump into a man and that might give people the wrong idea. This way, there is never any questioning."
I was also told why nobody in the Israel Church of Africa wears earnings or bangles or necklaces. "When Moses was on Mt. Sainai and the people were looking to make a false idol, they melted down all of their jewelry to make a golden calf. We do not wear jewelry out of respect for God."
The clouds were now beginning to pile up against the mountain behind the school (although Andrea says it's a hill) and we could hear the thunder starting to roll. The temperature dropped a bit and the wind picked up so that was the time we decided to retreat to Dan's home; just next to Sammy's. He had chairs and tables already set up for us. Dan's wife Rosalita had been cooking while we were next door. She slowly brought out rice, stewed chicken and a warm vegetable (that was a mixture of lettuce, carrots and kale). As the guest, it was customary for me to sit first even though I didn't have a choice of where to sit. Dan said, "You must be sandwiched between the locals!" and so I was. True to form, the ladies were at one end of the table, the men at the other.
We talked about governments and their similarities... we talked about corruption and wealth... and we continued to talk about custom. In Kenya, it's usually "self service" so the men dug in first, followed by the ladies. Dan and John had already begun to eat before the women had food on their plates. I said, "In the US, it is customary to wait until everyone is served before you begin to eat." Them men laughed, the women remained silent. They weren't so silent when I said, "Normally, the women would be served first." With that, they began to sputter amongst themselves. It was all in Doluo, but I could have guessed what they were saying.
John said, "If I saved up 50,000KSH (Kenyan Shillings), would that get me to America?" I told him he would need to quadruple that. Then I showed him a selfie I took while training for a marathon last year. We were on long runs on Saturday through the winter, and in this picture my eyebrows and eyelashes were frozen and crusted with snow. He looked at it with disbelief and said, "I think I will save my money." Everyone laughed at that one! Bananas were the last things to emerge from the kitchen. There are many kinds of bananas here in Kenya, and all of them are sweeter than their counterparts in the states. It seems to be that way with all the fruit here... except for watermelon (they call it pumpkin). The melons are smaller and not as sweet. I keep forgetting to bring seeds with me. John reminded me of that fact, again.
I learned that one of Sam's sisters was Catholic. Sabina grew up in the Isarael Church but converted when she married a Catholic man. John said, "I am a part-time Catholic," and pulled out the rosary that Andrea had given him. "Where did you get that?!" she exclaimed. John and I explained that it was a gift from my wife and that she and John often talk about Mary when we visit. She said, "Ooooooh... my rosary is in my bag," and smiled at us.
|Mickey's wife and son Caleb|
The clinic looks great. I can't believe how fast the trees are growing. We still had a small shed on the grounds with some materials that were going to waste. Termites were getting into the wood, while other materials were just sitting there being useless. I was concerned about thievery now that Sam wasn't around to keep an eye on them so I made a unilateral decision. I summoned the Sam's sons to come over. In front of the Clinic Committee chairman (John), the lead doctor (Dr. Pio) and Job, I told them how grateful I was for their hospitality, and how grateful I was for their father's friendship. I continued that it would be fitting that they take the remaining items rather than letting them go to waste. They were very grateful and will use the materials to build a home for Ben. Another of the many signs I get when working here. You see, Ben is the tallest of his brothers and looks the most like his father. Now we're helping him building a home. Perfect... he will probably be the first face we see over the cornstalks as we walk to school.
"Wewe" (pronounced "way-way" - "hey you!"). They stopped as I scurried down the hill. As I bent down to see beneath a ridiculously large collection of twigs, I could see Susan's smiling face. Emmah had to move the leaves that were cushioning the weight for me to see her face. Seeing these two lovely girls was the perfect ending to the evening. I informed them that I was coming to see them tomorrow.
I don't think the smile left my face as we drove home. I was quiet and contemplative about the day's events. Like I said in the beginning... what a wonderful day!