Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Circle of Life

Written on Sunday, August 15, 2010

Time with my homestay family comes to an end in just over 24 hours. The experiences I have shared with them have definitely been filled with highs and lows.

Two important highs were the births of two little girls. Their mothers are two of my grown dadas, or sisters (actually they are technically cousins but everyone is considered either a dada or kaka, brother), who live on the family farm. One was born at the hospital in the next larger village. She spent about two days there so not much different than the U.S. I believe she went because it was her first baby. The other baby was born at a mid-wife's home in our village. I believe she did not go to the hospital because it was her fourth child. They were named Joyce and Glory....I was really hoping for a Jeska, but it was not meant to be :)

Sadly, a very memorable low came this past week with the death of Mama Eva's brother's 52-year-old son. Though it was not a family member I had met, the loss was a sad experience. He fell out of a coconut tree and died three hours later from related internal bleeding.

This happened on a Thursday morning and by that night people were already arriving from out of town. When I arrived home from training, Mama Eva and her sister sat me down to explain what had happened and what would happen. The room immediately outside my bedroom had been cleared of furniture and mats laid out for guests to sit.

Mama Eva had warned me when people mourn here it usually involves loud crying, but I was still not prepared for how eirily sad it was. At 2 a.m. people were still up mourning; and when I got up at 6 a.m., people were still there. So I suspect it went straight through the night.

Many female relatives and neighbors were busy cooking over the next three days as it is customary to serve food to people paying their respects. The first night I stayed in my room to keep out of the way. The second night I got to help form balls of dough to be rolled by another woman and then fried.

The burial was Saturday. I did not attend since he was Muslim and women are not allowed to go to their burials (at least that is the local custom).
There was not a guest registry but I would guess there was easily 200-300 people come through over the 3-day period. Like funerals in the States, it was a sad time but enjoyable to visit with the visiting relatives.

Back on positive note, there were even a few things I was able to teach my family during my stay. After several meals with greasy, fatty chicken, I politely asked if they ever cook without the skin. I explained we do in the U.S. because it is suppose to be healthier. Every since we have ate boiled, skinless chicken!

Seven children between 4-7-years-old live in Mama Eva's and her sisters' homes. We all eat supper together and for the first week these kids were too shy to talk to me. So one night before dinner, I taught them Patty Cake. After that they have followed me around wanting to play. To change it up, I also taught them If Happy and You Know It; Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes; and The Wheels on the Bus.

Also, the fist bump is a popular greeting especially among the younger folks. So I added a little American ghetto fabulousness by teaching the neighborhood kids to follow the fist bump with an exploding hand. Sometimes I even add sound affects!

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