Monday, April 5, 2010

Incredible Easter Experience

I have so much to say today, I may take up two or three days to say it! We had the most incredible Easter experience today that I'm not sure where to start! It started, I guess, last Sunday morning at church. I'm in the choir at church and we presented our Palm Sunday worship program. Because we sang throughout the service, we sat in the choir loft the entire service. Most of the time, our worship pastor lets us go down to sit with our families. I like to go down because I get distracted looking at the people out in the audience instead of listening to the pastor. Yes, I am looking at you, while you play with your i-phone, you grown-up! I see you!

Anyway, I tend to get distracted but I was really trying to pay attention to our pastor. He's really good so I didn't do too bad but occasionally, my mind would get to wondering. On one of those wonders, I saw a college student that my son really adores sitting on the front row. He does our multi-media things at church and had been taking photos during the program. I began to wonder where college kids go when they can't go home on short breaks. Do they get a home cooked meal for Easter dinner or is it spaghetti-o's?

Now, hopefully, you've gotten to know me over the last few months enough to know my mama gene runs deep and long. I used to laugh and tell people when my daughter was about two, I really, really wanted another baby but realized that my husband wasn't too keen on another child. He was already pushing thirty-five and felt that he really didn't want to be retired by the time we get them all out of college! Although my mama gene was on high, I knew another baby was out. I wasn't too excited about the whole baby phase either so I did the next best thing. I went back to teaching when she started preschool! Nothing like being the school mama to over a hundred high schoolers! Loved it and still take care of some of them.

After church, I contacted Tonya, who teaches the college and career class and asked her if she knew of anyone who wasn't going home for Easter. Tonya could only think of one young woman, Anne. Anne didn't go home at all, not Thanksgiving, not Christmas, and not Easter. You see, Anne is from Kenya and going home isn't an option. She had been invited to church members homes for Christmas and Thanksgiving but Tonya didn't think she had plans for Easter. Well, I just jumped at the chance to host her! I got her phone number and gave her a call. Explaining that Tonya had given her blessing, I invited her to share our meal. She graciously accepted and we made plans to meet after church on Sunday.

I went to Tonya on Sunday and asked if she would direct me to her after service and she said, 'oh, you'll see her as soon as we get in the loft. She's wearing her traditional Kenyan dress this morning for Easter.' Sure enough, as soon as we were in the loft, I spotted her in a beautiful red dress. She was a beautiful woman. I was so excited, I'm not sure what our pastor preached on, I was just wishing it was over so I could get down there before she got lost in the crowd!

She had explained where she lived to me on the phone because I wanted her to be able to change out of her Sunday best and get casual so my husband and son went to pick her up in the afternoon. It wasn't in the best part of town but only a few blocks from our church. She told us that when she first lived in our town, she rented a room in a cheap hotel so this move was a step up. She was quite proud of her house and said 'it is a nice clean house'.

I had told her to get ready to tell us everything about her homeland because we were interested in learning all about her. She was very eager to share. One thing she kept telling my daughter, mother-in-law and I was that we were very blessed to live in America. Women in her country are not valued for anything except hard-work. The busier a woman is, the more clever the others think she is and she is very popular. If a woman rests, she is lazy and people do not want to be around her. Woman, cook, clean, get water, tend the animals and basically everything else. She has three step-mothers and twenty-three siblings. They do not differentiate between step-brothers and sisters. She is very blessed, she said, because her father values education even in the girls and wanted her to come to America to study. Many families disown their daughters if they want to go to school.

Many families still circumcise the girls. If you do not know what this is, just google it. I'll not go into it here, it is quite gruesome. Anne said many young woman are beginning to not be circumcised and are choosing to go to school. She understands that education is the key to her peoples success. She said that her step-mothers didn't do much beadwork anymore because so many of the girls have gone away to school that they are needed to keep the household up and running.

Her family is Masai. They live in southern Kenya but her father has several houses in different areas so he can move his cattle around. They live in mud houses close together to many other family members. She told us girls, as we were cleaning up about being around when her grandmother died. It was very interesting because even though many of the traditions are different, many were very similar to our own traditions here in America.

Her family didn't have an outhouse until a few years ago. She could never understand why you needed a building to go in, you just wondered into the bush and did your business! She was amazed that every house in America had water and not just water, but two knobs, one that had ice cold water and one that had hot, hot water. Amazing! Especially since, we lived in the interior!

She is studying to be a nurse so she can help her people back home. AIDS is a very real disease and everyone knows many people who died and are dying from it. She doesn't think the disease should be able to kill people who don't understand it. She said that many people think it is only for town people and she tries to explain to them that village people sometimes go to town and get it and pass it on to the rest of them.

As I was taking Anne home in the afternoon, we were caught by a train. Now, in Claremore, this is a very common occurance. About every two hours, a train comes through Claremore on one of the two crossecting rail lines. I asked Anne if she had trains at home. She laughed and said, 'we don't have these things in such an interior place.' She wondered how the people of America worked so hard to get all the things we have. I told her that many immigrant hands helped push the railroad across our country. How those people understood that working hard would get them the dreams that caused them to come here in the first place. Anne told me that she understood that struggle and was proud to be in America where if you worked hard enough, you could achieve great things. As she was gushing over and over about my country, I began to get a saddness in my heart.

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