Friday, November 6, 2009

Circumcision and Drumming


So yesterday we had quite an interesting African Literature class.  First of all, I tried to skip class because we usually don’t do anything but Holly made me go :(  I’m glad I went though otherwise I would have missed out on an very interesting discussion.  After a seemingly pointless first half of the class our teacher surprised us by revealing that a visitor was coming.  He was very excited to share this news and he kept looking out the door to see if the visitor was coming.  He finally arrived.  Well it turns out that our visitor came to talk about circumcision.  A lot of tribes in Africa engage in this practice and he had undergone the ceremony himself so he was eager to talk about it.  It was hilarious because he pretended to be embarrassed but I think that was for our benefit.  He did not shy away from every detail.  He even drew a diagram on the board and used phrases like “as long as the room…” (if you don’t understand what I’m talking about then...good).  Anyway, I learned a lot.  The African circumcision ceremony is very different from the Jewish customs.  For Africans, circumcision takes place when a boy is between 14-18.  A lot of dancing takes place before and gifts are given to the boys who are about to undergo “the knife.”  The operation, traditionally, is done with usually no pain-killing medicine and it is considered shameful to flinch (and from what I hear it is pretty painful).  It usually is about a 30sec procedure, but if you try to chicken out at the last minute they hold you down and then it takes like 20 minutes.  If you chicken out you are treated like a coward and are shunned.  Harsh.  There are a lot of other details I left out but its just awkward (chuckle).  It was funny though, the presenter said that he would have even showed us pictures or taken us to a circumcision ceremony but time wouldn’t allow it.   


For one of my classes here we are required to have 30 hours of what is known as “Community engagement.”  This is to get us to become involved in the community around us.  People do different things like learning how to make things with local artisans or volunteering at a school or something.  For my project I decided to take my djembe that I bought and go drum in a local market.  The first time I went I was so nervous.  I was not sure how people would react to this white kid (yeah they call me white here which is funny…because I’m Mexican) just playing his drum in the middle of a busy market place.  I wasn’t sure if people would get angry or tell me to stop making noise, but I went anyway.  It actually turned out better than I expected.  Of course I got starred at a lot by everyone walking by but most people were very nice.  People would walk by and say “Good Job!”  A few people were surprised that I was there and would say “Muzungu what’s wrong?” (Muzungu=white person).  Others would ask if i was selling my drum (it’s a market after all).  I had to explain that I was just there to drum.  There were a few people who seemed angry but they never bothered me.  One lady came up and just watched me for awhile.  I said hi and asked her if she liked drumming.  She then took my drum from me and did this crazy beat on it.  I was like “cool can you teach me?”  She laughed and walked away (funny lady).  The next time I went was even better.  When I got there this big truck was blocking where I had sat the first time, so I went and sat on the edge of this stone bridge.  I was playing for a few minutes while people starred when this man came up to me.  I recognized him from last time and he gestured for me to follow him.  He said in a friendly manner, “you do not sit there, you sit here.”  He then took me to where I had been the first time.  I felt good because I now had a place and I had been accepted.  Today I went again (after missing a week for rural home stays) and it was amazing.  When I got there the people were happy to see me and said they missed me.  It was great.  I started drumming and a lot of people crowded around me to watch.  The lady I had seen before brought her kids and I met them.  Then what was really cool was that the lady who had played that really amazing beat the first time I went came out with shakers and started playing along with me.  It was a really great time and I even got this kid to teach me an African drum beat.  It was really complex so I told him he had to teach me more the next time I went back.  Hopefully the next time will be just as good.       


  1. That is so coooool Dean! It's so amazing all the things you are doing there. I'm sharing all your pictures with my students. Love you.

  2. Okay...the circumcision actual demo could have been really traumatizing. They just hold nothing back in Africa do they..kind of glad you didn't post any pics on that one.
    The drumming...I bet when you left for Africa you never would have guessed that you'd be drumming in the market place for entertainment. How fun! You should have someone take your picture. It would be great to see!
    Take care
    =) Holly's parents

  3. Wow! That's so cool! The drumming I mean, not the circumcision talk. You should definetly have someone take a picture. Your like Ananzi the Spider! Doin the hot shakin dance with your people and all :)

  4. Yeah dean youre Ananzi! thats freaking sweet man, playing the drums. in Africa! you really do need to have someone take your picture. slappin' da bass man!

  5. THats soo sick! I mean the drumming part of the entry is so sick. well and the circumcision portion is so sick. distinguish between the two uses of sick hear. cus I can't do it typing. haha. that's awesome though man. I wish I coulda been drumming with you! ahh. that is tight man!