Friday, December 3, 2010

The Baptism

The family and friends gathered around in the courtyard, in front of the house, in their finest attire like they could be going to a ballet, a presidents ball, a gangsters funeral, or an African baptism (the latter).  I show up almost 30min after my family told me to, on a hunch, and I am right on time.  Everyone eyes my flashy African attire (my host sister helped design and pick out the fabric) – it’s a hit. Without too much more adieu everyone shuffles over and attempts to cram into the few cars that people have brought out for the occasion.  I am in the front seat of a small beater Dotson like car with my host sister, and we try to make sure the fabric from neither one of our ‘completes’ gets stuck in the door as we suck-in-and-hold-on.  We don’t have to go too far, as the baptism is for Nanafuta’s older sister and is just a ways out of the village along a deeply rutted mud road.  (I feel sorry for the people that have to walk all the way here).  When we arrive the courtyard is already full of people paying their respects, and groups of men have started to gather in one area, and women in another.  I go into the house  -not really sure if I’m supposed to, but I figure I’m easy to spot so someone will tell me if I’m not supposed to.  A group of women are sitting and chatting in the front room, and 2 rather large griot women I recognize from before are here too, ready with their obnoxious megaphones ( note:  I already despise these griot ladies, they sing horribly, and they just come around uninvited to any party or event, sing in your face, and expect you to give them money - I never do.  Granted I appreciate the tradition, cultural significance, and skills of some griots, but these 2 really give the profession a bad image. Yes, I give them the take-your-mic-and-shove-it eye yet they still try to come over and sing to me.  )  I walk down the hallway and enter door number one: the master bedroom.  I see the familiar face of my host sister Terez sitting on the bed, so I decide I can enter, and happily get away from the fray in the other room.  Yaya, the mom who’s son is being baptized is here too, so i greet her with congratulations.  The son (who will get his name today) is sleeping in the midst of all this, and he’s pushing his lips out funny so all the ladies are putting their fingers in his mouth trying to make him look more respectable. Obviously no one’s worried about germs an infant might acquire.  Its 105degrees in the room so I wander outside again and sit with a group of ladies under the mango tree.  They really don’t do much other than sit and look at each other, so I politely get up and take some pictures of the crowd (my favorite being a group of raggedy neighbor kids who are climbing and perched upon a large tree stump, not officially invited but trying to get in on the action anyway).
       Then the music gets cut and people get ‘relatively’ quite as the Imam sings lines of prayers and benedictions over the Koran.  Three boys hold down a goat just in front.  The Imam announces the son’s name Mohamed Adrissa (in honor of the boy’s grandfather who is in Mecca now), and I see a red stream of blood flow down and color the earth.  The sacrifice and blessings have been witnessed and everyone is happy. The goat is hauled away to be cut up in the back and people go back to socializing.  Huge bowls of rice and sauce are brought out and deposited in various sections for people to share a meal.   Figuring there’s meat involved and not wanting to have the complication of explaining myself to a bunch of visitors here I don’t know, I stay clear of the eating circles, hop over the patch of blood on the ground, and go back into the house.  I’m in the master bedroom and a group of women dancing rowdily and wildly stomping feet and bending up and down, dance with Adrissa into the room.  I am surprised that no one seems worried by this either – I mean he’s only a couple weeks old.  He doesn’t cry though ( I hope his head’s not snapped) and then my host sister holds him and does a crazy dance with him too, as if to say, "Welcome to the world, baby !"

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