Friday, December 9, 2011

A Traditional Giriama Naming Ceremony

Wednesday was the day….I became an official Giriama lady. It all started with the idea from the headmaster of the secondary school. He said I’ve been given a name, Kache, but I haven’t been named. So he got together with the Chief and started making arrangements. Honestly, I was surprised at how fast everything came together….Kenyans say they are going to do things and then they never happen, so I was a bit doubtful at first but humored them. The Chief then got with the village elders and went through what is required for the ceremony. The list….my family members, their home, a hondo (traditional Giriama clothes which is fabric laid on a string that you wear around your waist to enhance your booty….already had that covered, but gotta wear it to be official), a original Giriama glass (a coconut carved out with a stick through it that is used to ladle the water and then drank from), a goat, and traditional dancers and music.

Everyone contributed and all these things were acquired and prepared. The specially picked out my hondo color fabric and old mamas made it using the old techniques of washing and folding it a certain way. Then two lesos were bought, one my grandmother would wear a piece of and the other, my great uncle (one of the village elders) would wear. The brought everything together to my family’s home which is in one of the sub-villages of Jilore, called Sosoni . Here would be my birth home. My “father” or “Baba” is Karema who is the clerk at the dispensary. Upon my arrival, he gave me my Giriama name, thus I was adopted into my family.

The ceremony was set to begin at 9am and promptly began at 1pm. Oh Kenyan time….WAY worse than Jew time for those of you that know my Jew time schedule. We arrived at my family’s home and the men sat on one side of the tree and the women on the other. The ceremony was started with some word from the headmaster, my father Karema, and then a discussion of what I have accomplished here in Jilore. All this being said in KiGiriama, their mother tongue language. I was taken off to get dressed in the traditional wear.

I was brought out by a line of singing mamas and was presented to the crowd. Everyone was laughing and enjoying the show. It felt very happy. Then I sat in front of one of the mud houses and the ceremony began. Amos, my great uncle, said some blessing words and then my Grandmother, who I am named after, stands up and welcomes me to the family, gives me blessings, and then takes a drink out of the traditional cup and spits on herself three times and then takes another sip and spits the water on my chest three times as well. The rest of the water in the coconut cup is poured out in front of me and the celebrating starts.

We sat and watched the Giriama dancers dance and my Baba, is presented with some jugs of Mnzai, the locally brewed coconut wine. All the men partake in the drinking. Then my Baba presents me with a goat that is then slaughter for us all to eat. The goat he presented wasn’t the one that we ate due to time constraints. He gave me a big, male goat that was kinda freaking out. I was a little worried that he was going to run away and he was worried he was going to be eaten!

At this point, it starts raining heavily. This is seen as huge blessing to the village when rain comes with visitors or during ceremonies. It means that they will have a good harvest and continued good luck into the next one. As it looks, it’s still on track to keep raining and people have started to harvest. Yay!

So we waited out the rain which lasted about an hour and then we ate a tasty goat and ugali. After we ate I thanked everyone and left the men too keep drinking their palm wine and we started to walk home still wearing my hondo. Let’s just say I attracted some attention on the way home….more than normal.

It was truly an honor to be a part of something like this and to know that they put it together all themselves for just me. There was video taken which they want to have edited and have captions to translate it. They will be keeping a copy of it in the Resource Center library, so that future people can know the history of someone who influenced the construction of the Jilore Vijana Resource Center and helped the community in different ways.

My name is Monje Kache Karema Mulewa from the Mkare clan. Monje means a shelter where if one goes, they will be safe and protected. This name is only to be used by my future husband and my grandmother who named me. Kache is a young lady. This name is used by everyone else. Karema means the old or ancient people of the Giriamas. And Mulewa is my family name to tell which clan I come from. “Born” Dec. 7, 2011 in Jilore, Kenya.

A Pastor’s Family for the Jew in Jilore

David, Pauline, and Joshua Amukowa

My next featured people are Pastor David, Pauline, and Baby Joshua. They are some of my best friends and I seriously don’t know what I would do without them here in Jilore.

Pauline married the pastor in April 2010. She came to Jilore, where the pastor has been posted for his work, shortly after that in May. I arrived in Jilore in August 2010, so we were both very new to this Giriama village, but the pastor has been here for 3 years at that time. I first met the pastor and his wife when I came to their home one night because my phone was dead and they had lights on which meant they had electricity. They welcomed me with open arms and it was such a relief. They both speak fluent English and are educated and understand my humor (that one is difficult for some Kenyans). We spent the next several hours there talking and introducing ourselves to one another. The Pastor is Luhya and Pauline is Luo. Both these tribes come from Western Kenya and Nyanza Province. They were outsiders like me, which bonded us even more. Pauline is 28 years old and the Pastor is in his early 30’s. They met while they were both working in Mombasa.

From that night I was a regular at their house in the evenings to have dinner, charge my phone, and have great conversations. I heard stories from the pastor about how he found Jilore 3 years ago and how he encouraged the community to rebuild the church as it stands today. I was introduced to many people through the pastor and welcomed into the church. I started going just to see how this church was run, and also to support my new found friends. My appearances at church became a benefit to my work in the village because I was seen and people got to know me. Thank God (literally) that this wasn’t one of the crazy evangelistic churches where people are rolling around on the ground trying to get the devil out of them. Yes, those churches do exist here and have large followings. I enjoy going and listening to the kids sing and dance. I would make a point to go at least once a month and sometimes twice if I was in the village on a Sunday. The church congregation became very helpful in my projects and it brought me closer to some very important people who I work closely with.

The bond that we shared was founded on the fact that we were all outsiders to the Giriama community and tend to find most of their methods of living a bit crazy. I would go to the Pastor for advice when I was struggling to get through to people or how to work through an issue on a project. We had all the same experiences with these people, so we understood the challenges. They ranged from extreme donor syndrome, constantly thinking the white girl has money, lack of motivation and follow through, lack of education, language boundaries, etc. Just talking to him helped me out because at least I knew someone who has gone through the same challenges in just trying to help the people in Jilore. The pastor also gave me the full support of the church and would become a key partner in the construction of the Resource Center. Pauline and I would talk about the odd things we saw people doing and she would fill me in on all the church gossip. We laugh a lot together and I would spend entire days just sitting outside with her chatting. We both have the great talent of eye rolling and that to us said a thousand words to each other. Like when an entire homestead family brought a “mad” woman to the house to be prayed for one night. Most likely she was just drunk but people here think its witchcraft or something else because they don’t understand. Or when a suspected murder came to the house bleeding from his head after a mob justice style encounter at the burial of the woman he supposedly killed. He wanted to be prayed for and still claimed his innocence. Turns out he left the village days later never to been seen since then. After such things like this we just roll our eyes and laugh. She also was a great link to the church mamas and would pass on information to them about my projects or clarify to them that “no, the resource center is not mine and it is not my house in Jilore.” Ugh…..

Pauline is also a very strong and independent woman who has modern ideas. In Jilore, and most rural places in Kenya, the woman’s place is not to speak, listen to their husband, and produce many children. Pauline is different and worked and lived by herself in Mombasa for 5 years before she married. She is educated and voices her own opinions. She is the person I got to and vent about things with and we both have helped each other out in tough times. She is also an excellent wife and mother without giving up who she is as a person. She once saved me from a bat that was inside of my house. I was scared and running around screaming like a little girl, but she came over, took my leso, walked in smacked the bat off the ceiling and then swept it outside, handed me back the leso and said goodnight. She didn’t even flinch. My hero!

Then came the best thing and “my future husband” as I tell the other ladies, Baby Joshua. Joshua was born in March 2011 and I was so happy that I got to spend time with a baby that I could play with! Pauline went to Mombasa to deliver and also to avoid the crowd of mamas that wait during deliverers here. She brought back adorable little Joshua when he was just about a month old. Joshua became my stress reliever. At this time the resource center construction was beginning and my stress of dealing with money in Kenya was enough to ruin a weak person. I would take a time out and go over and see Joshua. I was his first muzungu (white person) he ever saw which was an honor and would help out with his understanding that not everyone in the world was black and will hopefully later prevent awkward staring at people of a different color. I would play with him, hold him, make him laugh and just that would change my whole day around and I would feel better. I still do it, and now Joshua is almost 9 months old and he is super interactive which makes it even more fun for me. He knows me now and gets excited when I come over. Since I like to do some therapy shopping at times, but don’t need anything for myself, I tend to help out Pauline and the Pastor with Joshua. I buy them things that they would struggle on their own to acquire. It makes me happy to be able to help them out and to see Joshua grow up healthy. We now say it’s like Christmas every time I come back from Malindi or Mombasa.

Me, Maggie, Pauline, Pastor, and Baby Joshua

Baby Joshua around 5 months old

Margaret, or Maggie as I like to call her, came to live with the Pastor’s family and got to school in Jilore. She is Pauline’s younger sister. Maggie is the second to last born in a family of 8 children. Pauline is the second born. Maggie is 12 years old and in Class 7 next term. She is bright and funny. She is another one of my little buddies and I enjoy spending time with her. I usually give her breaks from her school work and chores to go and walk around the village and get out of the house.
Without them I really would have struggled here. They are like my family here and people that I can trust completely. And if the Pastor could read this he would kill me for not referring to him as Reverend. LOL But I started with Pastor so it’s a hard habit to break!

Much Love from Kenya