Siku Kuu happenings…part 1…..
On the first morning of Siku Kuu we had our first hoodi just before 8am. It was one of my students in her new dress dropping by with “siku kuu yako” (‘your big day’ literally but means like your gift).
At around 8:30 one of my students came over and said “mama Annikah, unaitwa” (which means you are called) so I followed him to his mother’s house where several women from the neighborhood were all taking turns washing, peeling, boiling, and mashing vast quantities of potatoes. His mother was making kachori and urojo to sell at the festival that night and had over 50 kilos to peel and make into potato balls so everyone was expected to take turns and help out so they could get everything done before tonight and still have time to transport everything into town. After running back home to put Evy down for a nap I returned to take my shift. Hard work! But it was fun to be a part of the community and see the flurry of activity surrounding us as we worked; women boiling potatoes over a coal stove, kids running everywhere in new clothes, people swatting chickens and goats to keep them from eating the food, people going door to door with gifts for everyone. This level of activity had not been seen all month as during Ramadan here people generally relax and do not work that much. It is apparently a sin to say your are hungry during fasting but to talk about being exhausted is totally fine 🙂 That was totally gone now that everyone is eating. And by eating I mean LOTS of food. Lots of celebrating, community, and excitement. Even though peeling potatoes is definitely not a favorite task of mine I felt blessed to be included.
After a morning of non stop hoodi’s, peeling potatoes (I only lasted about 40 minutes), and kids in glammed up clothes seeking candy we got showered and dressed and headed to our Baba and Mama of the island’s home. They are the family we stayed with when we first arrived and have always watched out for us and helped us when needed. The Baba has diabetes and had to go to the mainland for treatment and then India for surgery to remove some of his toes due to the quick progression of his disease. He has been recovering in Dar for over a month but Jason got a call from him the day before siku kuu that he was coming to the island for just 2 days to celebrate with his family and that we must come over on the first day.
remember these cuties?
During our time there we caught up a bit, ate cakes and cookies and drank some strong coffee, and many other guests came and went while we hung out with everyone. Even a donkey decided to come to greet us for Eid and took the chance to enter when the gate was open (actually he was not so welcome and had to be chased away:).
Then after a quick nap for Evy we were off to a meal at Jason’s good friend’s mother’s house prepared by his new wife and his mom. When we first arrived we headed out to greet more people that lived nearby and had come to our home for pasaka (Easter). After visiting we headed back to eat and be together. Times like this are a reminder that just being with people is very important. Time spent is a way to share and show that you are dearly value friendships and people. This means lots of just sitting, talking, and being together. And we have gotten much more use to this. I think back to 2 years ago and sitting on mats, eating with our hands, and only picking out a few words from every conversation while sitting in insane heat was really difficult. Like sometimes I wanted to cry difficult (ok, all the time). While sometimes it still can be challenging mostly because of trying to keep the kids busy and …ya know… from falling in the hot coals or picking up the machetes or ever present watoto dangers everywhere I must say J and I are shocked at how much this has been less difficult, more normal, and more dear to us as well. There had been no power for almost 2 days because of all the extra people drawing power to celebrate but it did not phase them as they never have power at home. But for us Wazungus (in absence of a fan) they moved the mat to a place outside their home that got a better breeze; for which we were incredibly grateful.
After stuffing ourselves with spiced rice, home made hot sauce, fish, and fruit we all sat and talked while Anni roamed giving out candy to all the watoto around their neighborhood.
It was nearing dark so we said our kwaheri’s (goodbyes) and headed back home. Evy was wicked tired and one of Jason’s former computer students came to greet him so he decided to stay home and put Evy to bead early while I took Annikah to the festival that night. Of course Lusi and a few of the watoto from shule asked to accompany us and after packing in the car we started out only to pull out of our gate and see a man, passed out and bleeding from the head in the alley. It was obviously that he had too much to drink (ironic since Muslims are forbidden to ever drink alcohol)and had gotten in a fight of some sort. I was alone and not about to confront him but was also concerned for his health. After getting some male neighbors to help they dragged him out of the road and we were on our way (after making sure he was ok and did not require a trip to the hospital). As we drove by the neighbor’s house they asked if we were going to the Sikukuuni (the festival) and could they have a ride. I said sure and the result was a new record for how many people can fit in our 4 seater Escudo car- 14!! (last year’s record was 12). It was insane and completely ridiculous! While we were heading into town a dala dala full of people passed us and the conductor yelled super loud “Mshamba!” which literally means “person from the countryside” but has the connotation of “hillbilly” or “redneck”, at least the Waswahili version of that. Everyone in the dala dala and our car cracked up and our car is now dubbed “dala dala ya Mama Annikah” (my local transport bus) Hilarious!
The festival was crazy packed and so busy but after squeezing through something resembling a line and waiting a ton the kids got to play in one of the special kid playgrounds set up for the occasion.
After that it was already pretty late so we grabbed some local street food (from my neighbor of course who was there selling the food I had helped make that morning :).
After everyone had adequately stuffed themselves we made our way back through the stalls upon stalls of food, cheap imported toys, and masses of people to pile into our car and head home. Finally after dropping people off we got back at almost 9pm and still a guest was waiting! It was a CRAZY first day of Siku Kuu! Much celebrating has left us exhausted but also full of furaha (joy, happiness) that we are included in this important time!