Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Turkana Wedding and Ancient Pillars

As I said we would, we did end up going to a Turkana wedding last week. I was a little curious of how we would be received at this event, as subtlety is never something we as a group, are very good at when traveling. In simply driving around, it can be difficult to guess what peoples reactions may be. There are times when we are met with an intense curiosity. Other times, we seem to inspire an overwhelming excitement, or silliness, because people have on more than one ocasion collapsed in side splitting laughter upon seeing us. On still other and fortunately less frequent occasions, the Turkana seem to want absolutely nothing to do with us, shouting and shooing us away as we pass. Fortunately when we arrived at the wedding, a week long event making it fair to say that we arrived for only a very small portion of it, we were well received. The dances taking place here were considerably more elaborate than any we had previously seen. First, a group of ornately decorated and topless (unthinkable in the west, but here entirely unremarkable) women danced up to us, and welcomed us in their own way. From then on, although I am sure that there were other things happening related to the wedding itself, we danced. Some of us danced for only a short while while others, myself included, continued for the rest of our time there. It was a long process, involving a rhythmic stamping and continuing enactment of stories. The men would chant to a vague tune, as one would run around the circle blowing his whistle and another might mime the firing of a gun. Once or twice I tried my hand at jumping into the circle in a sort the mocking challenge they often did, much to the laughs and enjoyment of everyone else. Another move involved jumping out and startling the women who could be found encircling all the men. Before I knew it, it was time to leave, and I was a bit exhausted. These dances often go on for many hours at a time, with much sitting and standing back up to build the excitement and the hype. I was done, but the dance obviously wasn't and was certainly going to continue for a long time after we left.
On a less exhausting note, we finished our archaeology module, after having learned a great deal about human behavior, tool use and more. In the last week, we visited a number of Impressive burials containing massive stone pillars. These pillar sites were created by pastoral peoples as cemeteries, but as for the exact motivations and methods, archaeologists are stumped. They are nearly two thousand years older than Stonehenge and are therefor some of the earliest examples of megalithic architecture in the world. Our time here is coming to a close. More and more we are having to make preparations for our return and it is sometimes sad. Still, I still have a few more posts to do and I look forward to doing them.

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