We leave Olavi, heading northeast across a wide bay. You sleep most of the way to make up for staying up all of last night. We stay in three more coastal towns, two in the grassland and one in the subtropical forest. Each time we sleep under the stars like most of the Tukanarans do. Then we venture inland, navigating the caravan roads that run through the Kamasi Forest. This far north it’s temperate rather than subtropical. We stay with a different caravan each night before returning to the grassland.
Tonight we gather around the fire, so I can tell you another story about the Tukanarans.
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Amri held her newborn child in her arms. Her mother and the three eldest women in the caravan had helped her birth him less than an hour ago. The women had bathed him and wrapped him in a blanket her mother had woven just for him. He was sleeping now, and Amri wished she could do the same. She was exhausted but happy to finally hold her baby in her arms. He was her first child, and tonight, they would celebrate his birth, and he would get to see his father.
As the sun set, the women took the child from Amri and painted him white for the ceremony. The child cried, unhappy with having his body covered in paint. Amri shushed him and held him close until it was time for the ceremony.
The drum beats indicated the moons were now rising. It was time for the ceremony. The women helped Amri get up while her mother took the child. The rest of the caravan was gathered in a circle around a dim fire. Their faces were painted white, and some played drums or held other instruments. Amri saw her husband, and the women helped her get settled beside him.
Amri’s mother held the baby while the drum beats continued. She sang a song that introduced him to Heya and Lela, their moons, and the rest of the caravan. Her voice was melodic, and the infant appeared mesmerized by her voice. The song carried on for several minutes until Amri’s mother bestowed the child with the name Amri and her husband had chosen: Nathimel.
The drum beats crescendoed and sped up as Amri’s mother handed Nathimel to her. Then they ceased. Amri and her husband each kissed Nathimel on the head. Nathimel snuggled closer to his mother.
Now the less formal festivities could begin. Those with instruments struck up a lively tune, while a few people stoked the fire, encouraging it to grow into a larger blaze. The caravan members danced in the moonlight, celebrating the addition to their community.
Amri watched the festivities for a while, but she had trouble keeping her eyes open. She could vaguely feel her husband taking Nathimel from her and encouraging her to lie down beside him. She dreamed of white-painted dancers blessing her child with kisses as the moons and stars watched over them.