This year I spent my second thanksgiving in Kenya, away from my family. Second thanksgiving with Claire. Second thanksgiving watching Kenyan dancers. Second thanksgiving with a best-of-my-ability thanksgiving dinner. Most memorable thanksgiving ever!
I came to Claire’s on Wednesday evening, after seeing all of my students off at Nina. Ambalo drove me and my luggage to Ng’iya to catch a matatu destined for Luanda. He helped me secure two seats – one for myself, the other for my luggage – before saying goodbye. It was actually kind of emotional, leaving him with all that luggage, because it really resembled the ultimate farewell, which will eventually happen, where I take as much as I can in those same suitcases with America as my final destination.
Anyways, I reached Claire’s house in the evening. We spent the evening getting caught up and planning our Thanksgiving day festivities. The college where she stays – Eregi Teacher Training College – was having an end of term cultural festival, celebrating all tribes in Kenya and having a program packed with traditional dances, songs, narratives and displays. The first event on the agenda was bull fighting, a Luhya tradition, starting at 6:30am. We woke up and gulped some tea before meeting her “baba,” Father Lwangu. He escorted us to the stadium, where we waited anxiously for the bulls to arrive. Within the fifteen minutes, the first bull arrived, snorting and pawing, escorted by a crowd of men. The crowd grew and more bulls were escorted into the stadium by men chanting and shouting, ringing bells and blowing horns. Once 12 bulls arrived in the stadium, the fights began. I really can’t accurately depict the events that took place, but I will say it was not as horrific as I imagined. Pictures will be posted.
After the bull fighting, we came to Claire’s house to get ready for an afternoon of entertainment on the other side of the compound. Again, Father Lwangu came to escort us to the main event, where we were awarded with “Guest” badges and given special seats with the Guest of Honour – front and center, in the shade. The college students had prepared elaborate group dance performances based on their respective tribes. We cheered exceptionally loud for the Luhya (Claire’s), Luo (mine), and Masaai (gorgeous men). It was awesome to get a taste of so many cultures in one sitting. They had also organized showcases of tribal artifacts and traditions throughout the campus in the classrooms. Each tribe had a room filled with pictures and diagrams of the clothing, tools, compound arrangements and other artifacts, as well as a buffet of traditional foods typically found in their culture. It was a pretty awesome display.
After the performances, we came home to prepare our thanksgiving dinner, made possible by Grammy – Claire’s grandma. We had mashed potatoes, gravy and stuffing as well as a kale salad with dried cranberries, followed by Fiddler on the Roof. Even though it’s hard being away from home, especially during the holidays, this has been a thanksgiving I will never, ever forget.