Hosted Amongst the Tribesmen: a Descriptive, if not Humorous, Anecdotal Recollection (Part Two)

– I didn’t think we were risking our lives bringing the seemingly unknown stranger atop our vehicle. There’s such a honor culture here that we knew he legitimately just wanted a lift. The people in East Africa are quite friendly and content it as a whole, and the tribal individuals in this area especially so. First, the circumstances:

– Riding back from afternoon outreach to the village, there wasn’t quite enough space. I gladly volunteered as one who rode on the top of one of the vehicles. It was a remarkably smooth ride, with a delightful view, as this particular 4×4 had good suspension. We passed two elderly tribal men on the side of the dusty, sandy, dirt road. They hailed us, and it became clear that one of them wanted a ride. We tried unsuccessfully to tell him where we were going, for I didn’t know how to communicate the words in the Rendille tongue for “we” or “are” or “going.” I only knew the name of the place we were headed, “Nabei,” which, unfortunately, is also the way you say “hello.” I would guess you can imagine the confusion; in effect, I kept telling him “hello” over and over, at which he probably thought, “Well, this is a white man, and that’s all he knows how to say in my language.” We settled in and I assume the man knew exactly what was going on, so my teammate Justice and our two African ministry school student friends didn’t mind having a stranger on the top of the vehicle with us. About five or 10 minutes into his ride with us, he said several times consistently, “To-ee-let!” I tapped on the driver side window below and got the vehicle to stop. The tribal man jumped off right quickly. I said to John Kombo, one of the African students, “Well, I thought he maybe needed to use the restroom. It sounded like he was saying, toilet, toilet!” At this, the Africans both roared with laughter.

– As a matter of fact, the people here were probably actually the kindest part of this land. On the other hand,

– The plants were merciless. Many of the trees only grew to be about 10 feet tall, and every foot of every branch was covered in inch long thorns that are as sharp as sewing needles. Their similarly insufferable counterparts grow on the ground. At one point, I stepped on a dead thorn on the ground which punctured the sole of my US-made hiking shoes. A needle-like pain shot through my toe, causing great alarm, though it was not punctured. I was astounded at the thorn’s penetrating capacity, and I was ever so lucky this was one of the smaller ones!

– Afternoon outreach, two hours before. We came upon the older men lounging in the sand under a spreading shade tree outside the village. They ranged from ages late 30s to old age. I felt like I was coming upon a lounging pride of male lions. Most awakened and some listened with big-eyed intent. Others were largely distracted. There is no scholastic tradition among these people, or even a sense of traditional public speaking roles. Typically people sit in a circle and don’t converse at once, so there was lots of side chatter going on during the talk. We gave several messages as a couple men competed in a intense game of mancala. It’s a game involving a wooden board with holes like circular indentations along its length, with two rows and around 15 columns. It looks like they had carved the board themselves, and marbles they had obtained through trade were used as the stones. After introductions, John Komba began giving his message. This charismatic young African was not lacking in passion or articulation. I can’t think about it without grinning, because he told me that his last name means squirrel in one of the African languages. Squirrel indeed; it would be extremely generous to call the guy 5’1″, but he more than makes up for his size with charisma. He was standing and using intense gesticulation, with impressive vocal range and diction. The tribal men stared somewhat blankly. I think it’s because he was standing and they were sitting; these local individuals prefer a more egalitarian mode of speaking, one of my teammates had noted. Observation: it doesn’t matter how well one is communicating if it’s not palatable to the audience. Still, they gave him his due, and a few responded to the message. Jesse and I were able to preach a bit as well. In the end, they were quite thankful we came.

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