Sunday, November 18, 2007

Aggie's Footsteps

It was a hot, dusty day -- just one more in that long line of hot, dusty days. There had been no rain for at least a year, maybe more, it was hard to say. Harder still, Kina thought, to remember the feel of a soft, gentle rain when she turned her face to the sky.

Kina perched at the edge of the village, surveying the length of rough road that led out of the park to the long track through open land that eventually reached Isolo. She knew once there in the city, she could find her friend, Aggie. Aggie had left this very spot last spring, before she could be married or bartered off. Kina had stayed to watch the bright figure in blue disappear into the bush.

Aggie had said many times she wouldn’t be able to stand not choosing her own husband. She refused to wait for the old chiefs -- old goats she called them -- to make that choice for her.

The other girls were shocked to hear Aggie speak that way about the elders, but not Kina. Kina knew exactly what Aggie meant. Kina lived the no-choice every moment, but especially at night when she entered the small dung and hide-covered hut she shared with her husband.

“Tourists!” The call echoed through the village. The young men had waved in two white minivans full of tourists -- plump, white tourists -- of different ages.

Kina sighed and hurried to her hut. She wrapped a colorful striped cloth around her body and slipped on her grandmother’s heavy bead necklace. The rows of red and
white clay beads rubbed her neck. She quickly brushed back her hair and joined the line of women ready to perform the Welcome Dance.

The young men brought the guides to Kina. She was one of the few Samburu women who spoke English. She had been to school longer than the others in her age group. She would have stayed but for her marriage, her lack of choice.

“Americans. Canadians. Swedish,” said the guide.

Kina knew him, Peter. He often brought groups to their village. She knew the thing to say. “Ten dollars each one. Okay photos and a tour.”

Peter nodded. “I’ll be sure they buy things from the store. These people are okay.”

She watched Peter return to the vans. The white people pulled out bills and cameras. They approached the line of colorfully dressed village women, almost shyly. Then she heard the cameras and the foreigners talked excitedly among themselves.

Kina took a deep breath. This is the last group I dance for, she promised herself. Tonight, when my husband sleeps, I’ll be gone. Gone to find my friend Aggie.

She clapped her hands and turned her face to the sky. Her clear voice rang across the dusty scrubland. Weaverbirds in the acacias startled and rose above the parched landscape like a dark cloud. Kina called again, and the village women answered her with the welcome chant. They moved forward, stirring the dust with their feet.

Kina’s words soared over the line of women. Like a great fish eagle on the wing, her song of freedom flew north, following the rough track through the bush and beyond.

Author’s Note: Kenya, again. This time I took a photo from our visit to the Samburu National Reserve and turned it into a writing prompt. This is my favorite way of writing and finding out what I’m really thinking.

No comments: