Friday, June 8, 2018

Cape To Kapp: Underdressed At the Circumcision Celebration

Teresie Hommersand grew up near Stavanger, a city known as the oil capital of Norway. She remembers eating supper every evening off plates with the logo of the national oil and gas company on them. Somehow she became the "green sheep" of the family. She has lived in Uganda, Oregon, and Australia. Learn more about her 13,700 km ride going from South Africa to Norway and her charity crowdfunding campaign on her Facebook page and Instagram.
(This is her sixth journal entry for us. She's in Egypt now, but this entry is from January)

This is the beauty of bicycle touring.
The openess. Randomness.
Discovery. Spontaneity.
And love, actually.



So Much Generosity
I was actually a bit sad when I cycled the last 10 kilometers in Tanzania on my Soma Saga, approaching the border to Kenya. I stopped a few times. Turned around and looked behind me. Being all melancholy as I was leaving behind me the heartfelt, warm encounters I've had over the last ten days. Every day. So much love. So much care. So much curiosity. So much generosity.

Another New Country! Kenya!
After the form filling, stamping, mandatory picture at the boarder with me and the bike, I did my first kilometers on Kenyan soil! On this first day, I ended up paying way too much for a soda at a gas station and seeing a huge dead hyena right next to the road, gaping at me, and a dog eating off its bum.
As it drew near sunset I felt a bit uneasy not having found a place to stay for the night. Maybe it was just because I was in a new country. My standard procedure at the end of a day of cycling is to just find some random people, strangers, and ask if I can pitch my tent in their compound. I've gotten quite good at it. 100% success rate! That might tell you more about the hospitality in the countries I'm cycling through rathet than me, necessarily. Or maybe both;-)

Party Invitation
My first night in Kenya I ended up spending with Jeremiah and Florence! I just met Jeremiah on the road and he took me through bushes and over hills to his traditional Masaai home! Forget about concrete and bricks. Cow dung and gras is the ting! Maybe it was the chai, the fire, the maharagwe, the questions whether I liked cow blood, capitalism vs communism, or wanting to join the village's celebration of a boy's circumcision and passing of his exam that made me stay the next day. As I was falling asleep in my tent, I could hear voices from the houses on the opposite hill where food for next day's celebration was being prepared.

New friends... Jeremiah and Florence

The women were still cooking when we all went to join the festivities around noon the next day! I've never seen such big pots, so much food, so many goats being slaughtered. Even though a cyclist is always hungry, I found myself having to say 'no thank you' to some of the food that was offered. I was stuffed! All around me were beautifully dressed women, in their characteristic traditional Masaai wear. I had been admiring their 'look' for days, seeing Masaai women walking next to the road north in Tanzania. Their necklaces, earrings and bracelets, colourful and shiny, made them visible from miles away in the otherwise brown and grey landscape. A beautiful sight.


The Holy Grail
I was so underdressed. Rose, Jeremiah's grandmother, asked if I didn't have anything else to change into. I tried to explain that I didn't have anything nice to wear as it's not part of 'bicycle touring essentials'. One does not want to carry anything that is not strictly necessary, keeping the weight of the panniers as light as possible. After some discussions with her friend, which I didn't understand a word of, Rose said 'Come with me'. Then the two grannies lent me a dress and necklaces they had made - admitting me into the holy grail of the Masaai. 
I was so happy and felt so included, especially after desperately wanting to take a picture of the ladies next to the road for days, but not being able to without having to pay a stiff price. Many have learned to make money off the interest in their culture. When we returned to the celebrations, everyone was saying 'Wow, you look so nice!'.
The rest of the day, we all sat in the shade, listening to the speeches and singing over the terrible loudspeakers. Topics of dancing and not do drugs. I ended up snoozing with my head on one of the women's lap. I registered someone else put a blanket on me. In the evening when we sat around the fire with the immediate family and I returned the necklaces, I felt that something was missing around my neck. I said I felt empty. Then, completely unexpected, Florence found one of her necklaces in the neighbouring room and just gave it to me! Something to remember her by. As if needed, but so much appreciated! Rose had already given me one of her bracelets that I treasured dearly. It's the act, not the items that are so special to me. What they represent. They asked me if I didn't want to stay another day.

Farewell
In the morning, after having been served one cup of chai after the other, we said our goodbyes. It was hard to hold the tears back. I couldn't. Who knew that me, Florence, Rose, even Jeremiah, would be all teary eyed, not wanting to say goodbye just 36 hours earlier? I left with so many good wishes!! I doubt I will ever see them again. I will however always, always remember them and feel so incredibly lucky and grateful for having met them. So much that I can't see what I'm typing anymore. This is the beauty of bicycle touring. The openess. Randomness. Discovery. Spontaneity. And love, actually.


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