I learned a new word today. Do you need to say “I am pulling out thorns”? Maa has a single word for that, aitaaiki. Who knew?
Given the large acacia thorn-tree (which has thorns 1-3 inches long) beside our house (not to mention the grass-thorns), I’ve had many occasions when the use of this word would have been appropriate. The last two times a big thorn has had to be removed from the foot of one of our girls, Zerachiah (4) snuggled up to comfort the sister in question (10 & 8, respectively), telling her that he had lots of braveness, and so he could give her some his.
(Aitaaiki is pronounced something like ah-ee-tah-icky, where the “ee” is as the “ey” in “key” and “ah-ee” is sort of a dipthong like “I” in parts of the American south, but faster, and the “tah” is like a 1/16th note while the other syllables are 1/32nd notes)
We no longer live in the bush, so we haven’t seen any elephants, baboons, and giraffes out of kitchen window here in Narok. (Narok is a “small town” with a population of around 100,000.) We’re on the edge of the river valley, and sometimes we’ve seen some zebras several kilometers away across the river. But there are some other wildlife roaming around our house. Hundreds of bird species (many brightly colored ones; the ibis and an eagle are the largest) nest in our trees. In one side of the yard, there are hundreds of baboon spiders (think hairy tarantulas) that live in underground (thankfully!) burrows. Only one of those has ever found its way into the house. (It died a quick and sudden death).
A mongoose couple seems to be taking up residence in our yard. The girls are very excited. We are pleased. Remember the story of Rikki-Tikki-Tavi ? Mongooses mean no snakes. (Yes, the correct plural of mongoose is “mongooses”, NOT “mongeese.” We double-checked in the dictionary.) The girls would like a PET mongoose (so would I, actually), but having a pair of wild ones living around the house is a close second. … I wonder, do mongooses eat big hairy spiders?
The monkeys have been waking us up very early lately. The juvenile monkeys have taken to dancing and scampering about on our tin roof. Houses in Kenya that aren’t way out in the bush usually have cast iron security grills (often quite decorative) over the windows. The monkey babies have been climbing on the grill of the second floor windows of the girls’ room, watching them play with their toys. We have to make sure that we leave the door to the balcony-veranda off of our bedroom CLOSED or they’ll come right in and steal things. This has happened to friends of ours. Gotta keep the downstairs doors closed as well. These monkeys like nothing better than to ransack a kitchen in search of people food. But they are quite cute.
grace and peace to you all,
joshua for all of us
December 24 update: Ah, well. I suppose it couldn’t last! A monkey finally got in and ransacked our kitchen a couple of weeks ago (Dec. 15) . Lost to the monkey: 2 pounds of tomatoes, 9 large bananas, maybe 4 passion fruit, 1 mango, 1 papaya, 1 pound of butter. Somehow, the two monkeys that are playing outside of my bedroom window in a Jacaranda tree right now just don’t look as cute as they used to look. Oh, by the way, they are vervet monkeys, for those of you who want to know.
We’ve learned a new phrase in the Maa language. Parmang’at is an adjective that describes that state of in-between-ness experienced by those in transition. It means being neither here nor there, but being somewhere in between, or perhaps being mostly here but still a little bit there. When you have shifted your cows because of drought (maybe walking 10 – 100 miles on foot), but have not yet built a new village, you are parmang’at, unsettled.
So we find that “Eton kira parmang’at” — we are still not settled. (For those of you who don’t know, we arrived back in Kenya just less than six weeks ago.) But since we are sojourners, “strangers and aliens” as Peter puts it, that’s not a bad place to be (even though uncomfortable). After all, our forefather Abraham was but a “wandering Aramean” (Deuteronomy 26.5). And the Lord whom we serve had “no place to lay his head” (Matthew 8.19-20; Luke 9.57-58).