Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Boma or bust

The last time I went to the boma was exactly 1 year ago, 3 days before I found out I was pregnant. I haven't been able to go during pregnancy because I knew the drive would be too uncomfortable. It's a long journey, about 6.5 hours, with 2 hours on really bumpy roads and 30 minutes on 'paths' through the bush, but we made it without any major problems. Our caravan of 2 trucks and 6 people arrived at Hendeni, the town near Ibra's home, well into dark and we settled in for the night. After breakfast Mercedes, John, Jen, Ibra Naanyuni and I headed off to the maasai market for some shopping and a chance to dress my friend, John into his outfit for weekend.

I had the spontaneous idea that Naanyuni needed a cow, so I asked Babu ("grandfather"/Ibra's dad) to pick one out for her and gave him some money. For those interested, a young calf costs 150,000 Tsh, about 140 CAD. Babu selected an all-white calf and told Ibra he chose the most beautiful cow for a beautiful baby. I named it Chicken-Rad in honour of Bjorn and Susan. We paid someone to walk it to the village, a hike of about 3 hours.

We then ate a large leg of roasted beef. One of the men began carefully cutting off pieces and placing them in a communal bowl. I have never tasted such fresh and amazing meat! It's incredible how clean-tasting meat can be when it's not from a 'farm' but is free-grazing in the countryside. When we arrived at the boma, all the children came running. They know the car by now. Then the customary greetings began. Ibra is a type of elder so the children all walk up to him and he touches their heads, like a blessing of sorts. I have some more language skills than I did when I came a year ago, so I was much more comfortable conversing with the people as they approached. My Maasai name is Entapukai Nanana (delicate flower) a name bestowed on me by Ibra because of my sensitive skin (I'm sunburned a lot) and dislike for general rough-housing (I don't particularly enjoy wrestling with a huge maasai). His family took a liking to the name and use it jokingly when they greet me. After greetings we are invited to sit and drink tea. Babu then took the opportunity to hold his granddaughter for the first time. Men don't hold babies generally and it was so nice to see that exceptions were being made in this way. Uncle Karokia, still a warrior, also enjoyed holding her.

Our visit was a few hours, during which time Naanyuni had a chance to meet all her relatives. I was escorted into Ibra's hut for nursing (public breast-feeding is NOT allowed, even with a cover. I discovered this when I began to feed under a cover and was quickly ushered into a hut) and bathing the baby before dressing her in a new outfit she had been given and some traditional jewelry that was made for her by the other ladies. Naanyuni didn't care much for the cold bath.

The following day we returned in the morning and again drank tea. There was a brief session of singing followed by a presentation of cattle to Naanyuni. We approached the herd of calves and were shown that Chicken-Rad had arrived. Then, Babu pointed out another all-white calf from him and Ibra's mom, and first wife (Momma Zachariah) pointed out an additional white calf from her own herd. So, Naanyuni is the proud owner of 3 white cows and the offspring they produce. We all had a laugh about the cows matching my my very pale skin colour.
Then church began. This consists of people gathering in a circle and singing call-and-response songs of worship while dancing, swaying and, of course, jumping. There are times when only women go into the circle, only men and then all combinations of different kinds (according to the song's lyrics). It's amazing to hear the harmonies and voices blending together so effortlessly. One of the highlights was watching all the women sing and dance while hearing a distant low chant coming up the road and seeing that it was the warriors coming in a group to enter the 'service'.

We returned home again that day, rushing out because someone needed to be taken to the hospital. Ibra's sister developed an ear infection and was in mild discomfort the first day we arrived. By that second day she was basically immobile. We rushed her and her toddler, also suffering from an infection, to the nearby town and Ibra went with them to the hospital. They are both fine after receiving antibiotic injections. Infections move fast in this climate and, unfortunately, many people in remote places wait too long before taking the long hike into town to get help. It was a good thing we were there with a car when this happened.

Though our exit was swift, we were able to say some goodbyes to our friends and family. The women had made us each a beadwork cross with dangles (all maasai jewelry has silver dangly bits) and presented us with them. What a remarkable time. I'm looking forward to the paving of the roads, which is currently in process. Once the roads to Hendeni are paved (construction that is under way by the Chinese government for some unknown benefit they will receive...), Naanyuni and I will make that trip more often. It will shave about 1 hour off the worst part of the drive and make it so much more accessible for us.

I had intended to add photos to this blog but can't seem to get them to load. There are two albums on facebook to look at.

1 comment:

  1. I was wondering about Naanyuni's cows....where they were...if you took them back to the city? or ate them? But it sounds like you are saying they stay and basically as they multiply, she'll have a little herd? Very interesting.
    BTW, every time we have a family gathering with my family, Joash assumes you and "Nyuni" will be there ;)

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