The thing about life here is that things tend to snowball. Once people get excited about an idea they tend to run with it. This is how the first Rosh Hashanah occurred.
I hadn’t really realized it was Rosh Hashanah until that morning when I logged on to face book and someone sent me “Shana Tova” which is the greeting used on this holiday fyi.
This news of course upset me a bit because it made me think of what I must be missing at home- day of at school, a party the night before, some delicious Jewish food at my grandmother’s, and so I was kind of moping around when I arrived at Mama Michelle’s for tea.
Because Mama Michelle is highly tuned to my emotions and takes wonderful care of me she instantly asked me what was bothering me. I explained to her that it was the Jewish New Year in which case she immediately demanded we make the dinner. I told her the food I needed trying to explain how it was impossible but before I knew it she was off to Narok to buy the needed food.
I went to the father’s house to have a cigarette and called my friend Wilson. I explained the holiday to him and being the guy he is he first asked me why I hadn’t told him earlier so we could have stayed in Nairobi to go to the synagogue near the campus or so he could of stayed in Mulot with me so he could come celebrate and then decided he would celebrate the holiday with me the best he could by calling me at sunset and using the 3 Hebrew words I had taught him, meaning the only three I know, as much as possible through out the day.
After I hung up Moses, one of the seminarians found me outside and asked me if it was in fact a holiday. When I told him yes he asked if there was a meal. When I answered I was going to try he declared he would not eat lunch so he would have room for the food at dinner because of how much he loves Jewish food- this is because I made Latkes once.
This is when the panic set in.
Now I never came from a very religious family and I have certainly never put together any sort of Jewish dinner so I pretty much had no idea what to do when I realized it was suddenly up to me to make the dinner as well as create the ceremony that goes along with it. After pushing down the anxiety and hyperventilation I did what anyone else would do in my situation.
I hit the internet.
I wrote out some of the prayers- do things right and such- and set off for the rectory to make latkes. (Yes I know Rosh Hashanah is the apples one but Moses LOVES latkes.)
At first it made me feel kind of lonely to be making this meal. Nothing says I’m a lonely Jew like peeling and grating potatoes by yourself. I thought about home and everyone I was missing and just how out of place I was here. Well I mixed in the flour I realized there were some fundamental differences between me and the people here that no matter what I did we would never get over.
I sighed and left to go make a phone call and give my wrists a break from the peeling.
I called Wilson, (incase you guys haven’t put two and two together I call him a lot. We are kind of more then friends) and before I could say anything he was wishing me a happy new year and asking when I was going to recreate this meal for him. He was anxious for the next Jewish holiday to arrive so we could be together during it.
After I hung up with Wilson I walked back into the kitchen to find Mike, the house boy who is in all likelihood certifiably insane, and Angelia, another teacher, making the Latkes. Mike had figured out how to scoop them out and fry them- even if they were a bit thick- and had decided to take over latke making. I cut the carrots and celery to mix in with the boiling Nyama (that’s goat. Usually it’s fried but for once I put my foot down. It was awesome) well Mike tried to ask me how I learned to make Latkes. I tried because before I could even begin to answer he had already interrupted with another question. Mama Michelle walked into the house with bags of the food I had told her I would need. She stayed in the kitchen to munch on Mike’s thick Latkes and watch me peel carrots.
Angela set the table well I cut apples and honey.
Eventually it was time to sit down around the candles I had lit 18 minutes before sundown and placed on a white napkin- as we didn’t have a white table cloth- and I did my best to say the Hebrew prayers.
The meal was devoured within minutes. Pretty soon we all felt like we wouldn’t be able to leave the table from being “cabesa sheba” (completely full) which is how any Jewish meal should end.
“So” Moses said perking up “will you make Latkes for my birthday?”
“Sure Moses” I moaned from under the table as I had slumped down in pain.
“And next year in Chicago?” Moses said reaching for another Latke
“No next year in Israel”
Moses was quiet for a second.
“No, next year in Chicago, everyone should be together”
So I guess we all aren’t really so different.
I’m glad I have started the New Year here. It is the beginning of forever.
Miss you guys! Shana Tova!