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From Kangundo to American Prom

My wife's favorite Swahili proverb is, "hujafa hujaubika" meaning, "Before you die, you are not fully created." After witnessing Prom I can say, ?Before your children are fully grown in a culture that is different from the one you were raised in, you haven't absorbed cultural shocks."

Surviving three and a half hours of deafening music, without understanding a single word, frightening lights, and quite interesting youngsters confirmed what I have known all along. I have come very far since I left Kangundo, Kenya for Laramie, Wyoming?and why not. After I arrived, I visited a church and never went back because of an incident that I considered inappropriate in the house of the Lord.

Before the closing prayer, the preacher announced that a couple in the church wanted to commit their lives to God. He asked the couple to stand to be recognized and be blessed. As the preacher was welcoming them into the church family, the man massaged his wife's back...in the house of God. It was my first time; first Sunday in America and the last time I went to that church?how dare he do that in the Holy place?

In Kangundo, Kenya, men and women sat on separate sides in church. Culture, during church time, put asunder what God had put together. Besides, such emotional expression was culturally a no-no in any public place. I was not about to fellowship where, according to my understanding then, God's house was not honored.

With time I began to learn American culture?bless that couple! But being a chaperone for Prom was an eye opener as I experienced two cultures clashing. First, I thought of the ages of the participants; 16 through 19 for most. Reflecting back, I was 17 years when I wore my first pair of shoes. That was four years after my mother brought me my first underwear - which I thought was a social promotion. Some attendees were brought to the Prom by limousines. The sight of a limousine reminded me of 1964 when Kilevu, a family donkey, was a means of transportation.

At the action site I asked one of the teachers, an American born white male, the music?s message. He confided that he couldn't understand a word. Strange, but I felt consoled in that I was not the only one lost. The Kamba music of my time was produced by homemade guitars that were played by village heroes. Expenses were minimal for everyone to dance. You put ten cents in a tin can, and then asked for your favorite song. There were no parents, police or scheduled time for everyone to leave. Ours was a sunset to sunrise program with expected disruptions by drunken dancers.

During Prom, I killed time by keeping myself busy. Then a force of nature came to my aid. The wind started blowing threatening the equipment in the picture-taking tent that was set up next to the building with loud music. This gave me an excuse to get some fresh air. I was also able to hear what the person next to me was saying without his or her face reflecting different colors of light.

I guess it would be very UN-Prom if some clothing was not exotic. I did laugh. When we, the villagers dressed with some parts of our bodies showing, it was because of poverty. Tight clothes were worn when you out grew them before you received hand-me-downs.

The whole event ended without anything that would have made me star witness for a court trial. Eagle High is well disciplined. As parents, teachers and students were leaving the hall, they congratulated the organizers including Caroline, my daughter for a spectacular evening.

It was upon hearing Caroline being congratulated that I began to reflect on my own Prom experience and the difference in culture. My journey of unwinding the experience of Prom culture began. I was Tala High School dancing club chairman 22 years ago. It was nothing close to the prom culture of my children, but we have to learn each other's culture.

After the Prom experience, I could gladly say that the man who put his arm around his wife in church could be a saint in comparison?his actions weren?t so unholy after all.

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