Mary’s confirmation-the good, the bad and the ugly and Happy Birthday Lohai and Grace!

5:39 a.m. . . . Did you know the roosters crow even in the rain?  It has been falling for about three hours and has cooled things down for us . . . beginning to worry a bit because today we are headed back up Mount Meru to attend a Christmas party for an orphanage in the village of Ndoombo.  Ester and Mary come from that area . . . and we’re going in the truck, you know, pick up, open back . . . in the rain?

Mary’s confirmation was wonderful and terribly sad . . . a typical combination in Africa.
We loaded the truck (and I mean loaded – pole Kal, he chose to stay back after seeing just how cramped things were going to be) imagine twelve of us PLUS a cake, speakers, a generator, fuel for the generator (no electricity in the village) three crates of soda, two boxes of water, foodstuffs, etc. in our little Toyota (thank you again Master Mechanic and UAP for all the parts!) climbing AND I MEAN CLIMBING, the mountain!  The journey consisted of us travelling 14 minutes west and 44 minutes north (as in UP!)  Peter, is a very capable driver, but when he made a sharp turn kushoto (left) I exclaimed that even he couldn’t get us up the vertical before us . . . Cindy laughed . . . she gets motion sick so needs the front seat . . . because from her vantage could see it was impossible, but I thought Peter might try.  From there on in it was on foot . . . straight up!
The path to Mary’s Bibi’s house where Mary has lived since her parents died almost ten years ago, meanders through a mix of banana trees and coffee plants.  We maneuvered our way up, decked out for church and hauled everything in the truck up with us.  Mary’s Bibi’s house (two mud structures on a flat bit of land about 18’ wide (think vertical now!)) is modest to say the least but we found Mary next door with her Mama Ndogo (little mama) who was preparing her for the service.  My photos do not do her justice – Cindy’s will come – but suffice it to say that our angel was absolutely beautiful . . . beautiful!  We had gone to town shopping for a tiara and veil, gloves and a pouch (clutch bag).  Mary had her hair done in a weave by two massai gentlemen who worked for about four hours to finish.  (We joke about finding the only women in this country with real hair – everyone else has extensions or weaves done – P.S.  Mama Mwajuma and Neema have their own hair – that’s two!)
Mary is one of those little girls who are not accustomed, nor comfortable, with being the center of attention.  Although she loved all of her big girl experiences, she was awkward with our praises of how lovely she looked . . . You can see in the photo how one delivers a young lady, dressed all in white, down a dusty mountain to the gari (car) to deliver her to her confirmation . . . piggy back style!
We arrived at the church and unfortunately that is where the trouble began.  Daniel, a gentleman I met last year when he asked me to help Ester was present and hauled me around for introductions to the pastors of the church.  I immediately sensed something was not right.  Daniel insisted that Mary’s Babu had a shida with the Bibi, that he would not attend Mary’s service if the problem was not corrected and that he needed our gari to make an official visit to the home to “straighten things out”.  Something smelled bad . . . it turned out that Daniel was hasira (angry) because I had made arrangements for the meal and the celebration with Mary’s aunt instead of him and he felt slighted.  His angered festered when, becoming frustrated, I snatched my arm from his clutch, telling him “basi” – “enough”, as he attempted to parade me around telling all who would listen that I was HIS mzungu!
You can imagine how well that went over!  The service was stalled for an hour because of the argument at which point I approached the pastors of the church and told them I felt I should leave . . . that somewhere along the way it had been forgotten whom the day was supposed to be for, and that we had all attended simply because we love Mary.  Pastor responded that yes, I was the subject of the problem but not the cause and to please stay, the ceremony would begin immediately.  Mary’s Aunt was crying, her uncles were angry, explaining to Pastor that Babu WAS indeed attending (more on HIM later).  Pastor then welcomed us into the church to a back room where they had prepared chai for us . . . Daniel pushed his way into the room and rambled on about his orphanage (he doesn’t have one), his mzungu friend from Canada (me, and he doesn’t have one there anymore either), etc., etc.
Imagine four pastors and nine of us patiently waiting until Daniel finally realized how ridiculous he sounded, at which point we were invited to introduce ourselves.  The guest book was signed, chai was served and then we were ushered into the church for the service!  I have explained how long the service is haven’t I? We arrived at Mary’s Bibi’s home at 9:00 a.m., got to the church just before ten, the service began just after eleven and we finished just before two!  The head pastor invited me to say a few words and I rose to greet the congregation.  Daniel scampered after me and grabbed a second microphone . . . now I won’t tell you my Kiswahili is good yet, but if I may be so bold, my greetings and congratulations to the members of the church, Mary and the other children being confirmed was done in Swahili and was not bad . . . yet, Daniel felt compelled to translate my Swahili into . . . Swahili? Sitaki Danieli, sitaki!  He fungued his ndomo (closed his mouth), I finished my greeting and we sat back down for the service.
Pastor talked about people who tell lies about others and how we shouldn’t let the lies of others hurt us because we know the truth (he looked right at me when he said it and Grace was good enough to translate verbatim) and the liar knows he’s lying . . . Daniel left the church then.  Pastor then went on to ask the families about how much they had spent on the dresses and suits and hair and parties for the confirmees and then asked how many of the children had received a bible?  His point?  The mamas and babas had prepared the children’s bodies and faces and homes for the event but had they prepared their hearts?  It was a poignant moment . . .
People bring gifts of thanks to the church and we had many half tied chickens wandering around the altar in their attempts at escape but all were herded up, retied and then taken outside and auctioned off to raise funds for the church.  We exited, took some photos, piled ourselves into the gari again and headed back to Mary’s home.  It had rained while we were in the church . . . a deluge actually, the noise of the pelting raindrops drowned out pastor’s words, and we feared we might have to swim back to the party but were pleasantly surprised, upon exiting, to discover the ground had absorbed every drop and the earth was dry!  Or, perhaps those at the bottom of the mountain were swimming for their lives!!!!!  In any event the party continued!
You will see in the photos that Mary was piggybacked back UP to her home, Peter and Lohai had set up the generator and the music (Asante D.J. Lohai) and our little guest of honor was seated.  An uncle (I think) then began a prayer, and spoke about how people choose, so often, to forget what the moment is “supposed” to be about (Mary) and instead conspire to achieve their own selfish goals.  Mary began to cry and I became more angry . . . it turns out that Babu is an alcoholic, was drunk, and was demanding we pay money in order to remain at his home.  He rambled on and then was escorted away by one of his sons . . . he would return later . . . still drunk but contrite at least, and we all did what we could to salvage Mary’s day!  The food was wonderful, we joked and played with her in our attempts to bring her smile back and eventually, succeeded!  Now ladies and gentlemen I must describe for you our amenities vis a vis the toilet.  Laci needed to go and so was presented at the door of a small “tent” with a roll of toilet tissue (we had brought it).  Upon her return she exclaimed, “Just how are you supposed to hit that hole anyway”?  The loo is simply a dug pit with sheeting around it for privacy!  Cindy refused it and gurgled her way home, over every bump on Mount Meru I fear, in order to wait for the western toilet in her room!
The day ended with full bellies, a bitter sweetness for Mary, my need to return to apologize to the Pastors of her church and a most beautiful illustration of just what a special young lady Mary is . . . we were unwrapping her gifts and counted up the fedha (money) she had received as a zawadi (we gave her a bible).  She had received 110,000 tsh. or about $75.00 which is an enormous amount of money.  It is customary for the confirmee to “gift” her parents (or in Mary’s case, her Bibi) with a portion of the windfall . . . I asked Mary to mpe hihi (put here) the portion she wished to give her Bibi . . . without a thought, Mary told me “zota kwa Bibi”, all for Bibi . . . it still makes me cry!
We returned home to enjoy cake and ice cream for Lohai’s (26th) and (pole Grace, I forgot!) Grace’s (Christmas day) birthdays.  Mary returns Tuesday to take communion as a newly confirmed Lutheran!
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