Friday, August 17, 2012

Chanting Masai, Crying in the Coffin, and Spitting Brew on Foreheads

Here is how my bible study ended last week with my girls: 

Me "Ok, what should I pray for today?"
Girl "My father"
Me "But your father died a month ago?"
Girl "Yes, pray for him"
Me "But he is gone, I can't pray for him"
Girl "Yes, you must pray his soul will rest in peace. He is still not at peace"
Me "Well once he died, he went somewhere immediately. It depends where he was with Jesus. That determines whether he is at peace or not."
Girl "He was crying in his coffin!"
Me "What!? Thats not possible"
Girl "Yes, he had tears down his face"
Me " OK, well I don't understand that. I know your culture has some spiritual things that are around that i don't fully understand but I do know that he is gone so I am not praying for him."
Girl "No, we dont know which heaven he is in so we have to pray"
Me "What do you mean which heaven? There is only one"
Girl "No, there are three levels of heaven"
Me "Ok, I am going to pray that we understand." 

I left there and talked to Kelvin about it on our way home. He understood where they were coming from as he is from the same tribe and understands all their traditional beliefs. Then I asked about the crying in the coffin and he laughed. He said it is simple science: if a body stays in a freezer for a while and then is taken out, it melts. Ha! I never even thought about that. Then another friend told me that most people don't embalm the dead because it is so expensive. I began to understand but it just showed me how we have a long way to go with these girls to start thinking and believing God's truths instead of what they hear out there. 

This wasn't the only crazy cultural thing I have encountered this week. 

Lately, we have been having this group of Masais gather just below our window in the evenings. Just before they head out to work (they are typically night guards) they come together to do their traditional chanting, head bobbing, and jumping. It's pretty cool. A lot of tourists pay money to watch them do their thing but we are privileged to watch it right outside our window. 

However, it's getting a little annoying. Last night a friend dropped by quickly and their chanting was so loud we couldn't hear each other talking. Plus, they tend to congregate outside in the early mornings as well and light a fire to cook a big pot of uji. I woke up at 5am this morning to the sounds of them howling and the smell of campfire lingering in our window.

Here they are this morning. One was cutting a tire probably making a shoe. The two pots looked like they were boiling blood which wouldn't be surprising since they are known for drinking animal blood. However, I think it is this medicinal concoction that they walk around with in jerry cans and sell to sick people. Kelvin has had it several times but I wouldn't try it if I was on my death bed. 

Finally, we are in wedding season. Kelvin and I have been busy busy busy doing all things wedding. We are actually heading out in about an hour for a wedding upcountry! We are on the 'wedding committee' for another wedding. It has been quite the learning experience for me. I am the official treasurer which means I collect all the money (which is fundraised) and I disperse it where it is suppose to go. On top of that, Kelvin and I are both apart of the planning, decision making, and organizing of the wedding. 

What has shocked me the most was how incredibly difficult the bride's family is. Kelvin told me it's normal for most girls. The bride's family is VERY demanding. There are so many different ceremonies, gifts, home visits, and conversations that have to happen before the wedding. So this week, being the week before the wedding, the groom must take the sanduku to the bride's home. This is a box which has the wedding gown, some clothes, shoes, make up, and other things. He must come to the house with some money and some friends or else he will not be allowed in. The bride's brothers and male family members will be at the door to hassle him. Once they satisfy the family, he drops the sanduku and leaves. 

Two days after that ceremony, he has to go to the kuhaswa. This also happens in the village very late at night. The groom goes to the brides home where he is welcomed by the family. He has to identify his wife to be who is covered by lessos along with other women who are covered. THe only thing he can see is the eyes. Once he choses the right girl, they sit and receive counsel from the women in the community. 

Sounds nice right? But get this: while the ladies are giving counsel, they take the local brew, called mnazi, swoosh it around in their mouths and then spit it on their foreheads! They are not allowed to wipe it off either! Ca-razy! Once this is finished, the groom is officially welcomed into the community. I like that part. 

Culture is cool. God is so creative in the ways he created all these different cultures with these traditions that have deep meanings. Unfortunately, we have distorted some of these traditions to be about money or greed or pride. For instance, I don't believe all the Masais are actually Masai. I think some are from other tribes but pretend to be Masai to make money from tourists. It's common in Mombasa. 

I got a little dose of Canadian culture today in the supermarket. I found whoppers and twizzlers there for first time! Plus, they had Bob the builder flushable wet wipes on sale. Ah, Canadian culture. 

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