EDWIN KIPTANUI CHIRCHIR email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org
photo credit: http://www.kenya-information-guide.com/embu-county.html
December 17th 2016 found me deep in Mbeere sub county(Embu County). I was glad because it granted me the opportunity to kill two birds with one stone. First I was able to say hi to my in laws and secondly, I got the opportunity to attend the wedding of a relative in law and by extension, to show them that I care. Nothing in this world surpasses the opportunity to impress your in laws. About the wedding? well the most interesting thing is where you have to send a delegation comprising of both men and women to go for your wife to be and I understand that money has to change hands, for your bride to be released by her parents and members of the extended her extended family.
We later converged at the grooms home for an extension of the party. It was at a place where if you stood at the right place at the right time, you would see the famed Mount Kenya where Ngai the god of the house of Mumbi resides. That however is besides the point. What is within the point is that celebrations in this region are never complete without 'muratina' (the local brew). This part of the celebration usually comes way past sunset.
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As the people prepare to overindulge, you can almost smell the excitement. This particular night the sky is clear (well, it almost always is). The moon is up and smiling, as if giving us the nod to begin the party. It is a bit confusing to me though because the moon seems to be appearing from the North and not East as it usually does, but I know it is because my brain is playing a few games with me.
I look around and see a few crates of soft drinks. From a distance, a woman is preparing tea. The availability of soft drinks and tea tells me that those of us who don't take 'Muratina' are safe. We are safe because we would not have to sit through the celebration on empty stomachs. I don't usually indulge in alcoholic beverages in whatever form, first as a matter of principle and secondly because, when interacting with important people like your in laws, you don't want to indulge in anything which can possibly 'murder' your reputation. You don't want to find yourself insulting your father in law or oggling at female in laws (a taboo) and having to pay the fine in the form of goats.
The 'Muratina' party is slowly catching fire and it is clear that people are having a good time even though I have no idea what they are talking about since they are speaking in 'Kimbeere' language, a language I am yet to learn. The only two words I understand in this language are 'Nehatia' and 'Nekwaro'.
I also noted that 'Muratina' is highly respected. It is a symbol of unity. It can be used to seal deals and make covenants. In fact, during such a party, you do not just arrive from no where and pour yourself a cup of muratina and start drinking. No, they take muratina, following a very special ritual which I am yet to see elsewhere. They always sit in a circular formation, facing one another.They leave some space in the middle where a woman sits on the floor, holding the container containing 'Muratina' while the container sits comfortably on her thighs. The container remains above the floor until it is emptied of its contents, then the next container takes it's place. I wonder whether that woman ever gets tired. Yes! it is always a woman (not a girl, I repeat not a girl). An elderly woman will first take a mouthful of muratina and blows some droplets towards the people gathered on the ground, as a sign of blessings, then she chants some words, thereafter the party begins. It is a spectacular sight to behold though I am yet to understand it's meaning and significance. May be next time I will muster enough courage to ask.
I must say though that I was happy to be there. I took lots of soft drinks in quick succession. (I wonder how they got along in my stomach). I met an old man who was also not into muratina. He told me that he was once an alcoholic but stopped when it almost made his children to drop out of school. We gossiped about Moi and Gideon Moi (Whoever said men don't gossip?). We talked about Raila, Uhuru and Ruto. We talked about Mau Mau and Koitalel Arap Samoei. We also seriously discussed about Euro bond and NYS scandal. Then he told me a thing about one guy who was drunk and making so much noise during the party. His left - or was it right? - arm was missing (That is what mixing hot tea, Coca-cola and Fanta does to you. It impairs your judgement). He told me that the poor chap once struggled with a crocodile while bathing somewhere along Tana river and lived to tell the story, but the crocodile left with his one arm as a trophy. Something to show the other crocodiles that he or she at least tried.
As we left the venue of the party (way past midnight, one o'clock to be precise) I walked alongside very happy people. Muratina seems to make people happy unlike chang'aa which links you up with nasty vocabulary from the devil's library, making you spew obscenities from you mouth. May be it has something to do with the differences in chemical compositions between the two types of alcohol. I was holding the hand of one of the elderly guys, who was telling me so many stories. The moon was still happy and smiling.