When school was out last November, Kevin, a son of Gladys’ sister, Mary, who had just finished his exams at the end of secondary school, visited us for a few days. He came for a purpose – he was escorting his two younger sisters, Imelda, 15, and Imali, 12, on the 10 mile motorcycle ride from their house to ours. Mary, quite prudently, would not let her daughters travel alone on the back of a motorcycle because of the threat of enticement or rape. The two sisters frequently come to our house during school vacations. They do not ask or tell us that they are coming — they just show up. We do not know why they come except that they want to. Perhaps it is the daily newspaper they can read, or the TV that they are allowed to watch at night, or perhaps it is the weeks long slumber party at our house as many school age relatives hang out at our house. They are not much of problem because they all pitch in with the household chores, which with no labor saving devices are many, but then many hands make short work.
They are not the only ones who showed up. Our grandsons, Eugene, 11, and Danny, 9, live with us so their aunt, Gloria, 10, the youngest daughter of Gladys’ sister, Josephine, who lives about two miles away, also comes. She brings along her 7 year old nephew, Devan, who is the oldest son of Josephine’s oldest son, Johnston, who is a police officer. Then Eunice’s (another sister) children are here – Lorene, 17, who has also just sat for her exams, and Patrick, 21, who has been living with us for the last couple of years. We are not the lenient grandparents as the guests have to behave or we will send them away, which we have done on occasion. They are allowed only a few hours of cartoons on the weekend. There is rarely any conflict because the older kids look after the younger ones and everyone is having a fun vacation.
This is all usual for us. What was unusual last year is that Imelda and Imali brought along – again with us not even knowing – Ninayo, their two year old niece. Image that, a two year old coming with her teenaged aunts to visit for six weeks with her great aunt and uncle. Where was the mother? Unfortunately the mother is, what they call here, “slow” and is incapable of taking care of the child by herself. So everyone else, from her grandmother to her aunts and uncles, take responsibility for her. Naturally when she first arrived, she was quite shy, particularly, with me as a white person, but by the time she left we were great buddies. The other kids all take care of her too and the only time Gladys really had to intercede in her care was when she got a fever and Gladys took her to the clinic.
If you have not been counting, this totals nine child relatives.
The first big occasion to take place during that vacation was the marriage of Gladys’ sister, Josephine. Marriages here in Kenya are quite expensive and so far only one of our many nieces and nephews has had a wedding. Rather most of the family weddings we attend are with older people in attendance with their children and grand-children. The usual reason for this late wedding is that the bride or groom wants to have an official position in church and, in all denominations that I know of, in order to hold a responsible position, one needs to be officially married in the church. Josephine is studying to become a pastor and, when she finishes her studies, will be assigned to one of the village meetings of Lumakanda Friends Church. Thus, she needed to have a church wedding. This occurred on a Saturday in the middle of December. Lumakanda Friends Church was filled to capacity. Gladys and I sat on the left side of the church reserved for the bride’s family. Eugene, Danny, and Devan were given the task of holding the candles at the beginning of the wedding procession and the girls were in the dancing group behind the boys. Eugene and Danny must have made a good impression because since then they have done the same thing in two other weddings which weren’t even at the Quaker church. The actual wedding was much like you would expect in the US – exchange of vows, putting on the rings, a sermon on a good marriage, and, here, lots of singing. At the end everyone gives a small present. Then everyone gets to eat. Although the cakes are many and big, everyone only gets a small piece since there are so many people.
On January 2, Gladys and I moved into our new house. It is only about two blocks from the old one and its main advantage is that the old house had no space for a garden while the new house sits on half an acre – so we had a barn built and have a milk cow plus space for lots of gardening. Someday I’ll give you a report on this. Let me just say that all those children were a great help in carrying the smaller items from the old house to the new one. Even little Ninayo would carry some little small cup.
On January 4, we had a house warming with about 70 people in attendance. There were the usual prayers and speeches – the most memorable one was by Glady’s 90-year-old father, David Okwemba, who became quite loquacious about Gladys as a child and young girl. They had put a ribbon in front of the door and we cut the ribbon – everyone who could squeezed into the living room and the pastor blessed the new house. Then everyone ate.
The kids were all still sleeping in the old house and the school vacation was near its end. So the next evening at dusk they all brought down their mattresses and clothes and said that they had to sleep in the new house before they went back to school.
This is family life here in rural Kenya.