Dear Simiyu wa Okumu,
Greetings my lover, of thick thighs and strong arms and with big curious eyes like nakhamuna (squirrel). The descendant of Okumu the great warrior, whose skin spears could not pierce.
My undefeated bull, a wise woman does not go and talk to her husband when he is laughing with the elders, drinking and sipping busaa. She brings more straws and pours more busaa without question. And when the elders have had their fill and stagger away, she goes and whispers to her husband, “can we have a talk, omusecha wase?” then he will hold her hand and take her to his hut and let her speak out her heart. My husband, now that the elders have gone I want to talk to you.
It is said that when you see weaver birds making circles above the trees, termites are soon coming out. And we should make haste and bring out blankets or hides and build the tiny houses around the anthill. That we should run near kewa and pull out plantain leaves that are green and succulent and make a path using them, so that the termites slide into the holes for great harvest. Behold, Simiyu , behold my husband of many names, the bull that wins the wars, the tortoise that moves slowly but is wise, the big murongoro that sees the entire village, the great well that does not dry, I can sense termites almost coming out.
Many weeks have passed and I have not seen the moon. When a man and a woman have bonding in the darkest of the nights, when crickets are singing and the owls hoot from a distance, nobody whispers when the woman passes with a swollen belly many weeks later. For everyone knows what she did and it is to be praised. I am happy. I am very happy that you tilled this fertile land with all might and now our harvest will be bountiful. I am happy that even you will have a voice in the clan meetings. Because you are going to be a father! Nobody will talk behind your back, look, there goes Simiyu with thighs that are thick yet cannot press a woman down and make her pregnant. Look at Naswa’s husband, descendant of Okumu, whose blood was hot and roared at every woman, now he has many descendants, thanks to his impeccable strength and virility in bed. But this Simiyu did not inherit his hot blood. Women will not gossip about me, saying, imagine those big buttocks cannot arouse her husband. Nor will they say when I ask them to help me place the pot on head; don’t you have any children to help you fetch water?
Behold my husband; we are bringing forth our offspring! My left ear keeps itching already and I know it is a girl. She will be named Nasike after your mother. She will have big eyes, big ears and she will always be restless in search of new things, just like you. We must make haste and prepare for her arrival. You must book enough hides and skins from Wafula since he is having a feast for his great maternal uncle’s veneration. Please inform your mother, so that she excludes me from some activities. I cannot slice a chicken now, for it bad omen, neither can I use bridges because khasieno (an evil spirit) might see through my thighs and kill our unborn child. Ask your youngest brother Situma to travel far to seek papyrus for Nasike’s cot, for the ones near River Kuywa are not soft and tender, because many women have born children this season and harvested most of it.
I want you to know that it is not going to be an easy journey. Things are going to be different. I want you to listen well and understand…
That there are days that I will not eat, yet as your wife, I am expected to sit and dine with you. Poh! Ah baye! What shame! That a wife cannot join her husband at meals! What will happen when he chokes? I will lose my appetite because of hormonal changes in my body. I will feel worms dig into my stomach and make me nauseous. I will hate the smell of roasted meat, the smell of boiling pumpkins, the smell of dung… I will be very strange, my husband, great descendant of Okumu.
That I might wake up in the middle of the night with a crazy heart burn and stir all night. Things will not be the same because I will not be the calm woman who sleeps heavily in your arms. I will be restless and moody and irritable. I beg you my husband, that you will understand the struggle. And you will not think about running to Nakhayima’s hut. I beg you not to fall for her vile and black magic. Desist from crossing her path or shaking hands with her, for she is dangerous. You know what people whisper about her? That any man who sleeps with her, dies? Remember Nabiswa, Wafula and Waswa all died? My husband, I would rather lose you in the battlefield, than to a venomous woman.
That my body will be heavy, as if I have applied kamatosi (mud) on it. It will be thick and heavy. My breasts will be fuller and bigger than the big cooking pot I inherited from Kukhu Nambengele. And you might not like it. It might bother you. What can I do? It is something our great grandmothers went through, and all women go through. It is not unique. It is nothing special. It will come to pass and things will normalize. And it is a beautiful thing when the body transforms because it is life I am carrying. Life that you and I made. And Wele Khakaba cemented it.
That you have to work harder to feed her. She might turn out like my uncle Wiklif, the one who went to Uganda and was chased, because he eats too much. Do you remember how when he went to his in-laws, ate greedily and had an upset? The poor man had to run in the sugarcane plantation to ease and a chameleon crawled up his loins. He dashed from the plantation, yelling like a woman, feces all over his legs. Maybe, Nasike will have a big stomach like linani and will always be hungry. Be ready. You need work harder in the fields to feed her.
I want her to grow up knowing that there is more in life and more things await her, beyond these Cherang’anyi hills. That beyond the vast plains of Sirakaru, lies a greater life, greater experiences that she should not be afraid to try.
She should know that hard work pays, no matter what. And that shortcuts are never the solution. I want her not to be afraid of failing. Even namukhokhome (gecko) falls uncountable number of times, but still rises and lifts its head with pride. Failure is not something to be ashamed of, but a learning ground. Look at the great Chesoli, our founding father. Did he not get beaten in three wars before he became tough? And led us to victory? And now you hear children sing in his praise?
I want us to teach her that our culture is beautiful. That it is nothing to be ashamed of and discussed. It is part of who she is. That there is no shame in being Nasike, and not Taylor. That siriri is just as beautiful is a violin and that beyond the Cherang’anyi hills, lies other people who are just like us, but speak of a different tongue. They are not less people because they drink raw milk and add charcoal. It is their culture! That there are those people far away who mix potatoes and green grams and beans, but it does not mean they are less beings. Or those who, instead piercing their belly, pierce their earlobes, so that they are wide to the point of acting like a flute. She must learn that Were Khakaba created this land even beyond Sirakaru and we must live in peace. And we must take care of this environment otherwise; a great plague might befall us like the hostile community beyond Mt. Masaba who always have drought and famine because they cut all trees.
My husband, I have finished.
I know you want to go and check if all the heads have been tethered.
Naswa Nambengele wa Simiyu