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Honoring My Grandfather

Today was a full day. I cried, I laughed, and I experienced many different emotions and circumstances I never had before. This morning, I woke up to the sad news that my grandfather had passed away. Being thousands of miles from my family and friends only made the news that much harder. My grandfather loved to travel and experience new things. He had a passion for learning and teaching and was constantly challenging me to open my mind to new things. Therefore, I believe he was watching over me today as I experienced things I never had before.

As we embarked on our journey, we all excitedly awaited the moment of reuniting our Kenyan friends with Seratiani. Zura and her mother who had traveled from Nairobi took care of Seratiani for three months while in the hospital for her extreme case of elephantiasis. They cooked her food and helped her through the scariest times of her life, including the fourteen-hour surgery to save her life. Seratiani, who lives in the small Maasai village in Mnindi, never thought she would ever see them again.

Seratiani making the gourds

When we arrived, Seratiani was so excited to see them. She greeted them with big hugs and smiles. Mama Seratiani was also very happy to finally meet all the people who had helped give her daughter a chance for a healthy life. It was a beautiful moment to see all the people who had worked so hard to take care of this Maasai woman be reunited at her home in Mnindi and see her so happy and healthy.

beaded gourd

While visiting her home, we got a taste of the Maasai culture. All the women, which included three American, two Kenyans, three Maasai, and a Tanzanian, observed as Seratiani and her mother began making beaded gourds. In the Maasai culture, they use these gourds to store milk and keep it cool. However, Ashley was hoping to bring one home to use it for wine. Ashley, Terri, and I originally thought that we would be making our own gourds. However, we soon came to realize that this was too complicated of a task for three mzungus.

Ruth and me playing

As we watched them stitch the leather and decorate the gourds with their complex beadwork, I got to play with Seratiani’s beautiful daughter Ruth. Ruth is very shy and clings to her grandmother most of the time so I was very excited when she started to get comfortable enough with me to laugh and play with her toy animals. She has a beautiful smile and the cutest laugh so everyone was very excited to see her playful side come out.

Meanwhile the men had decided to cook everyone a meal to celebrate. Seratiani’s brother, had chosen one of his goats to slaughter and cook for us to eat. I walked over when they were butchering the animal. They made a fire and put the pieces of the animal on sticks to roast. It only took a half an hour before we were all chowing down on the freshest meat I had ever had. The men also brought us over safari’s to enjoy with our meal.

After hours of playing with Ruth, watching the woman make the gourds and finishing the goat meat, we painfully said goodbye to this beautiful family and headed back to Bagamoyo. Luckily, Ashley, Terri and I would be headed back there in a week so we only had to say baadaye (Later in Swahili).

Terri, Zura, Benard, and I at the wedding

When we returned to Bagamoyo in the evening, our day was still not over. Zura, Terri, Emma, Tuma, Students Empowering Students member Benard, and I all attended a Send Off, which is part of a wedding ceremony for one of Tuma and Emma’s friends. The send off is traditionally a party for the bride and her family. The whole ceremony is basically carried out without the groom. It was interesting because the bride was doing similar things that we do at our ceremonies in the USA, like cutting the cake and doing a toast however, it was all with one of her friends instead of her groom. She then had to choose her groom from the audience and give him a present. They also did not serve dinner until about 11:30 at night.

The wedding was also very interesting for me because after Terri left around 11, I was the only white person out of about 50 or so guests. I have never been in a situation like this before and it was very eye-opening for me. It was a great experience and I had a lot of fun with Zura and Tuma dancing to the African music.

After such an incredible day it was hard not to think my grandfather had something to do with this. From such a young age he always encouraged me to be independent and try new things. If it weren’t for his constant encouragement to step out of my comfort zone and take risks, I don’t think I would be in Africa right now hanging out in a Maasai village and dancing the night away at an African wedding. I will continue to live my life in a way that channels his love for traveling and yearning to always learn more.

RIP Grandpa Andy

February 1933 - July 2017

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