tili bwino

January 28, 2007

This first full weekend has been spent surrendered to the skilled hands of women in the neighboring village. A new friend, named Blessed, has been hosting me in her hut while the women plait [braid] my hair. I have no idea what their plan is with my hair, but they clearly do; they are chattering contentedly and occasionally interjecting an English praise of how “Beautiful!” it will be. I have no doubt it will, judging from their own lovely plaits and striking beauty. I have been gazing at them in wonder, amazed by their multitasking hands and mesmerized by their stunning features.
What is also amazing to me is how quick they have all been to shower me with hospitality, freely sharing the precious little that they have. It is humbling to have only small trinkets to give them in return.
This weekend has included my first nshima meal for this time in Zambia; it brought back comforting memories of childhood meals, and tasted just as I remembered it. The experience held also an oddly spiritual dimension. Blessed’s instructions of “Wash,” “Take,” “Let us pray,” and “Let us eat” felt much like a communion supper. We ate quietly, taking bits of nshima from the shared bowl and eating each bite with a piece of chicken. It was good—very good.
And when we were “satisfied,” more women filtered back in to join in with the plaiting. In the process, babies were nursed, crying children tended to, and hungry toddlers fed bananas. “Muli basanji?” a passerby asks. “Tili bwino,” we reply. How are you? We are fine.
It is a sweet privilege to be welcomed into this community . . . fine. Yes, we are fine.

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