our trip! stories from Kenya. Tuesday

Today was the main feature of our trip. We spent the whole day at Esther's house. By tradition, they can't kill the meat and start preparing the meal until the guests of honor (us) have arrived, so they wanted us to get there at 7 am. We were there by 8:30 or so.

I met several cousins, a few of my sisters-in-law, and my youngest brother-in-law (Jonathan) right away. The rest were yet to arrive.

They set up some chairs under a tree for us and brought tea and mahamri (sort of fried bread). We could have eaten breakfast at our hotel, but left too early. Rodgers' cousin Freddy (I think) sat with us. He's not afraid of speaking English, so we were able to have a conversation that I could be part of. Then, Rodgers' older brother Wilson walked out of his house into our midst. We didn't really expect him to be there. He was excited to meet Nate. Some of Rodgers' uncles also showed up about that time, and passed Nate back and forth.

The first scattered shower came through, so we moved our chairs into Wilson's sitting room. When the rain let up, the cousins would take Nate outside to play. When another shower started or he got fussy, they would bring him back.

Before slaughtering the goats, they had Nate and me (and Rodgers, but that pic didn't turn out well) come out to take a picture with the goats and the givers of the goats. Rodgers' dad's only living brother (in the maroon shirt) gave us one goat (which instigated the whole party) and Esther (in blue) gave us two. I don't know why the other people are in the picture.

As we sat in Wilson's sitting room, everyone who arrived would come in to greet us. The uncles would stay and talk for a few minutes. Rodgers asked one of his sisters to bring us some roasted corn. She picked it from the garden, roasted it, and sent it to us by way of one of the nieces or nephews. It was delicious. Then, she kept sending more and more and more. We gave those to Rodgers' uncles and whoever else happened to be there, until Rodgers told her, "No more!"

Eventually they brought us the goat livers, by tradition. Despite all the weird things I've eaten in foreign countries, I still can't quite stomach the thought of liver. Rodgers knows this, so he told Jonathan (who brought it to us) that I can't eat it and to give it to the uncles. There was a lot of it, so they also shared some with the kids who were hanging around.

Finally, it was time to start the ceremony. They set up a table and 2 chairs under the trees where we were before. Everyone gathered in a big circle around us.

Not everything was translated for me, so I don't know exactly what was going on. Freddy said some stuff, then another relative got up and led everyone in a song. I felt like they were celebrating the fact that we were there, and it was quite touching. I got a little misty eyed.

Rodgers' dad's cousin gave us some marriage advice. Is it bad that I don't remember what it was? It's on video, in English, so I will watch it soon and remember.

After this, different people also got up and talked. The family patriarch, Esther, Wilson, and Kadzo (a sister, the first-born), and Rodgers and I also had to say something. I almost cried again when Esther was talking. She called the song leader up for another song. She danced and sang and cheered before she said her piece. Rodgers almost cried when it was Wilson's turn because he gave Rodgers the biggest hug ever. Rodgers has never expected such affection from his brother.

Then, some of the kids and some of Rodgers' sisters sang a song while people brought money to put in a basket for Nate.

The whole time, there was a white box on the table in front of us. I thought it looked like a cake box, but who knows what Kenyan cakes come in? Turns out it was a cake. The frosting was odd, very sugary and food-coloring-flavored. The cake itself was more like banana bread. It was small and there were a lot of people, so everyone got one bite. We fed each other a bite, then took a plate of bite-sized pieces around the circle. We fed (together, with both of our hands on the fork) the elders in order of importance. We tried to get it on video, but the cameraman accidentally stopped filming in the middle of the cake cutting. We should have checked on him. We started with the #1 uncle (the one who gave the goat), then I think was Esther, then the other uncles/father- and mother- in-laws' male cousins, and also Wilson. Then the aunt who presented the cake cut more pieces and everyone else got to come get their bite.

Finally, it was time for lunch. I should have taken a picture of the food! It was lots of rice (we bought 50 kg dry) with goat meat, eaten with the hands. I would call it pilau, but I don't know if there are other requirements besides rice and meat that make a dish pilau. I really haven't mastered the art of eating with my hands, yet, but I tried. Rodgers had a sister bring a spoon for me, but I told them I need to practice eating with my fingers.

They put one or two heaping plates for each group of children. The adults got their own plates. The uncles cleaned their plates and ate ugali afterwards, but we couldn't eat that much.

We stayed for a few hours afterwards. Rodgers had a couple of meetings with his uncles. They said he needs to give his mom some money to build a storage building for her corn, which he has already done twice. Then she gives it to the uncles so they can make the arrangements, aaaaaaand nothing ever happens. So Rodgers told them if they want her to have a building they can cough up the cash themselves.

Eventually, we took some group shots, then left. We had dinner at our hotel - chicken fry and chips. Chicken fry is stir fried chicken in a tomato based sauce. Just before we left, the airport called and told us that they finally had my suitcase! We were supposed to stay with the in-laws until Thursday morning, but started making plans to return to Mombasa Wednesday.

Oops! I almost forgot. One more interesting thing. Rodgers' dad's sister sat down with Joyce (a friend of Rodgers) for a few minutes. Joyce speaks English well, so she interpreted for us. This aunt wanted to know how it could be that Rodgers and I got married without his parents/aunts/uncles going to talk to mine. I told her that's not the way we do things in the US. If people want to get married, they decide on their own, without their parents' involvement. She asked about the bride price. In their culture, the groom has to put together a dowry of sorts for the bride. He brings it to his future in-laws, and they inspect it. If they approve, the wedding proceeds. So I told her that we don't do that, but in our history, it was customary for the bride to provide the dowry. That totally blew her mind.


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