Congratulations, It’s a Boy! Monkeys, Mayhem and Meetings

26 01 2013

Out for my morning run  I came across a young man painting corn on corn stalks.  Or at least that is what it looked like.  He had a crude straw brush and was dipping it in a 3 gallon bucket and then painting the substance on the corn itself, of course, still in the husk.  Harvest time is coming but is a few more weeks away.  The substance had no color.  Curious, I stopped and began the Tanzanian tradition of greetings.  We say the equivalent of good morning, how are you?  How was your waking up?  How is your family? These greetings are very important and there are hundreds of optional greetings you can learn.  And if you want to belong you must learn at least a few dozen.  I have finally mastered enough to make a tolerable showing for myself.

I asked the young man what he is doing and in my limited understanding, I understand he is painting on some substance to ward off some insect or creature. I get him to show me the contents of the bucket and find it is pili pili juice.  Or as we would say in America, Jalapeno peppers juice.  They are hot and tasty here and Mama James keeps some hidden behind the cardboard wall covering in her home.  At dinner she pulls one out of a hole in the wall and I cut it up and season whatever I like and then she hides it again.

I can’t quite figure out what in the world this young man is warding off. Later I learn it is monkeys.  They come down from the hill above and feast on the corn but do NOT like the pili pili.  We have to protect our corn here and it is not from the normal pest of insects and worms.  Just a month back some elephants got in the corn a few kilometers away and when a local farmer went to shoo them one of the elephants attacked and killed him by stepping on his chest.  Elephants are fierce creatures and fear no one.  They are a great danger when you confront one and it is best just to get out of the area.  Quick.  Monkeys, baboons, rats and mice, however, are mostly just thieves.  Once they find food someplace and have success securing it there is no end of their attempts to steal.  So you have to address the issue quickly.  Evidently addressing issues was the order of the day.

Today James was asked to come and summon me to meet with Babu.  This is a strange request.  Babu is the patriarchal leader of our shamba.  A shamba is a parcel of land that belongs to a family and is farmed.  It usually has between three and eight houses and the families in each house divide up the farming responsibilities.  They share life together and make decisions together.  If Babu chooses to he has final say on most decisions. I sensed something was up as I had never been summoned. I have been called to bring medicine, to greet a visitor or come to a meal.  But never summoned.  I sensed something was up in my spirit.  Upon arriving I found out that James, my translator and faithful brother had no idea what this was about.  I was handed a crudely written paper with the words lease on it.  This was a bit of a surprise as I have recently built a house on some land the family had given me and no mention of a lease was involved.

We were told to sit in one room and wait for Babu and then moved to a circle of chairs outside.  Evidently, there were going to be more people in the meeting.  It turns out that the meeting was held in anticipation of possible problems.  I was told I was now part of the family.  I was welcomed and was going to be treated as a son of Babu.  Babu had a brother that was causing some issue wanting to sell some land and Babu forbid it.  They anticipated some sort of action to be taken by the brother and wanted to make sure that I was protected so they were in effect adopting me legally.  Now legally here has several levels and meanings.  While there is a government and procedures for adoptions they don’t really consider that salient.  We are talking tribal issues. So a paper was drawn up “legally”  leasing me the land and declaring that the lease was for no sum of money.  But that I could live there as long as I choose with their blessings.  I was their friend and considered a son and had all the rights of a son.

Afterwards there was a bit of controversy as James was declared the host of the meeting.  Now remember James nor I knew anything of this meeting.  But because he translated for me he was responsible.  That is particularly funny since most of the meeting was in a tribal language that even James does not understand.  At the end of the meeting Babu suggested that James now serve them goat.  This was quite a shocker as first of all preparing a goat would take a day or twos planning, 80000 schillings and a goat!  Negotiations ensued.  As you might imagine James was a bit perplexed and perhaps upset.  I felt a little awkward as I am the only one that can financially fix this situation and even then I need a day or twos notice.

We are pulled aside and it is determined that since the family forgot that James would need time  (huh?) to pull this together he could just buy them a soda.  Yes that is what they decided.  So to me the meeting was hastily called due to the emergency nature of the crisis and they were offering James a cheap and easy way out while still covering decorum.  Then they decided that the sodas were not even necessary that he could just give the group 30,000 schillings and they would get their own sodas.  I am laughing and James is objecting.  We negotiated and finally gave them a sum much less than the one requested.

I am trying to learn about the culture and don’t pretend to have it all understood.  We were all avoiding problems and perhaps mayhem today.  Some with peppers, some with words scribbled on notebook paper.  But one thing is sure, we anticipate problems and we deal with them in a way unique to Africa.  At the end of the day, once again, God has shown His great love for me in a most unusual way.  I have a wonderful and loving family in America.  I have many great brothers and sister that are my family in Christ.  And now, I also have an African family, and I am the adopted son of Babu.  Perhaps I am becoming a child of Africa, I know I am a child of God.




2 responses

26 01 2013

So,when I see you next I can say…Hey what’s up,son of Babu?…or Yo’,son of Babu?…You do realize that the initials of your new title is S.O.B…I’m not saying they are funning on you,I know people have referred to you as a son of Babu on occasions before this,they just didn’t realize how they were foretelling your future….

26 01 2013

Well Babu is actually a tittle of respect given to older men. I am called that often. He has a name but I prefer to leave something’s online a little less detailed. There are only three people in the world who would make your observation. Not counting me of course. I do appreciate your unique insights. Some we share that only we understand. Love you brother!

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