Princess and the pea

Hi All,

Here are two pictures from our Academy Performance !

We were so pleased that 308 bibi's(grandmothers) and babus(grandfathers) came. The entire school came too. Our Community Hall (ukumbi) was crammed full. Children filled seats and then crowded down the aisles. The fire authorities in Canada would have freaked but here no one was leaving. We put the little Chicka Cheya kindergarteners along the front row at the feet of bibis and babus. I noticed frail hands reaching out to touch the heads and pat the shoulders of the little ones. There were lots of fond smiles at the children exposing missing teeth. They started arriving at 8:30 AM when they had been invited for 11:00AM ! We were still putting the stage props together and dressing children in their costumes. It was explained that they walk many kilometres up and down hills to get here. Most of the elderly people are illiterate and speak the local tribal language of Kihehe. Our play was in Swahili and English!!

There is still often a bride price extracted for parental matchmaking. The Princess and the Pea---and happily ever, after was a confusing concept! One very elderly Bibi asked the storyteller what was the aim of this story!! Yusto, our gifted librarian and local church elder of a congregation of 600 told us that marriage ceremony was very moral mentioning -- NO beating. Yet another tiny old lady with Kihehe tattoo marks on her face grabbed our hands and whispered "Asante, asante "(thank-you, thank-you). It turned out that Prince Jahari was her grandson. Jahari belongs to the Children Village (orphanage). He had been found with his brother living in the forest amongst the monkeys because both parents had died of Aids. Grandma was much too fragile to care for the boys.

After the performance the NGO served large plastic bowls of rice covered in spiced beans with chai tea. Here chai is served with lots of milk and sugar. We ran back and forth with trays from the outdoor kitchen. All three wood fired local stoves were blazing and huge suffrias boiled the rice.The Eucalyptus wood fuel had been chopped the day before. 308 were served. Wizened beaming faces showed much pleasure! Hands had been washed according to custom and the food was consumed with fingers. It was the first occasion that the babus and bibis had been invited together. Men sat on one side of the room and ladies on the other. Amongst themselves the most elderly were first served. The term mzee, elderly wise one was often heard. It was so rewarding for Anne and me with new impressions forming constantly. A truly memorable occasion! Imagine said one little girl," feeling a pea under twenty mattresses. How could anyone be so rich as to have 20 mattresses?"

Thinking of you all,

Ruth