Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Mwaro, part two

Welcome to the home of our relatives in Mwaro!  This is the other reason Mwaro is a special place for Claude - it is where he was born, where he grew up till he was 8 and where many of his relatives still reside today.  We (and whoever we bring with us) are always greeted with such enthusiastic and genuine hospitality when we walk through the threshold of their rural compound.  They love to see Andre and Rose's son return home, and I think they are a bit fascinated by his white wife!  
One of their gestures of welcome is the sharing of food.  But first comes the traditional beer.  This is made by Claude's family, and when the bowl comes to the table it is still active with bubbling and foaming... still fermenting.  It is a very thick drink, my friend reported.  The long straws are offered to all, and it is a communal drink, as you can see Claude and his cousin wasting no time in enjoying this homemade beverage.  This was the first offering, but there was more to come.  My relatives brought out a lighter beverage, which I did try, called banana beer.
It was very sweet, and one sip was ample to satiate both my curiosity and my obligation to be a gracious guest.  Then came potatoes and beans, corn, other local root vegetables that Claude was eager to taste again, like favorite comfort foods from his childhood.  There was much laughter and generosity around the table, as about 15+ of us gathered round for the reunion.
These are some of our relatives.  We are family, and when we embrace you can feel the affection that surpasses words.  These women are so kind, so welcoming, so generous with what they have.  We laughed a lot together.  They let us hold their smallest baby, just 5 months old and gorgeous.  She is too young to have a name yet, so they call her bebe, rather straight forward. 
One of our uncles (I think, but a relative nonetheless) brought out well-worn photos.  We saw Claude at age 12 with his younger brother, we saw our Aunt Leonie when she was younger and sporting a stunning afro, we saw Claude's parents when they were in their 20's... and it felt like any family gathering anywhere!  You share pictures, you have a deep laugh, you embarrass the younger ones with the infamous 'naked photos' from their baby years... and have another round of laughter.  It was so beautiful being in their company again.  
This is my uncle (???) who welcomed us in his home.  He asked me to take a photo of him with his cattle, it meant something to him that I remember this about him.  He is a man who owns 4 (maybe more) cows and that is a sign of prosperity.  He was so generous to welcome us, along with our friends.  He was so kind to us.  I love that Claude brings me here each year.  We come from vastly different worlds, but we are family.  The connection here is strong and good. 

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