Sunday, June 29, 2014

29 Jun - My amazing wedding adventure!

I recently had one of the biggest "this is why I joined Peace Corps" adventures of my service.  A few weeks ago, my "mama" (the mother in my concession where I stay) started telling me about a wedding that was coming up.  In my area, weddings are a lot different from what we're used to in the states.  The ceremony is brief, between the men of the families getting married, and the bride and groom aren't really involved.  The biggest part of the wedding is when the groom's family goes to the bride's house, during the night, and collects her to bring to her new house, along with her dowry.  The dowry, a huge collection of household items such as pots and mats and bowls and fabric, is then divided up between the members of the groom's family the next day.  In the case of this wedding, the groom was from my family.  So the morning of the wedding, the courtyard in front of my house was already busy with women making big pots of food for the guests (mainly extended family members) who would be around during the day.  

I've been to several weddings in my village, and usually they've been between two families who live relatively closeby.  One time I attended one (as a member of the groom's party) that was in a village 3k away, we walked there under the stars and then returned each carrying part of the dowry on our head.  I carried a huge stack of calabashes, very light-weight but I was still proud.  And because I carried part of the dowry I was given a bowl when it was divided up the next day.  That really made me feel part of things.

This wedding was different, however.  Far from being nearby, I was told that the bride lived past Nikki - a large town about an hour away by the main dirt road.  I had no idea where her village was, but agreed to go with the members of our family who went to collect her.  We left by motorcycles, and I quickly realized that what I expected would be a pretty standard trip to Nikki, a town I've been to many times before, was going to be much more adventurous.  After just half an hour we'd left anything that could be remotely considered a road and were driving along thin paths not even wide enough for two people to walk side by side.  Deeper, and deeper, and deeper into the bush, passing only small collections of thatched mud huts. We stopped frequently to fix one of the motorcycles, which were always breaking down, or to greet people the family knew.  People often expressed surprise when we told them where we were going, and kept mentioning something about the water.  And I soon found out why, when we pulled up to the side of a muddy river.  We had to ford it, me and Nafisa (my 10-year old friend) walking across with our bags on our shoulders so nothing got wet.  The water came up to my hips!  Then the men carried the motorcycles across one by one. 

 All in all, the trip took over three hours.  And we were taking the shortcut!  It was amazing driving so far into the middle of nowhere, and realizing how far off the beaten track I was.  My village is already an hour from the nearest paved road, already somewhere that few Americans would ever find themselves.  Now I was three hours further off the beaten track, making Peonga look like a bustling, centrally-located metropolis in comparison.

When we finally arrived at the bride's house, we greeted everyone there and settled in on a mat to eat some rice and wait for nightfall.  Everyone there knew my name, since they have connections to Peonga, and they really appreciated me being there.  It was nice, sitting on a mat under a tree with Nafisa, watching all the activity and listening to dozens of bright yellow birds who were busy building nests nearby. 
The bride's household

As it got dark, a car arrived with more members of the groom's party.  They'd taken the "long route" to the bride's house, on roads that were at least sort of passable by car.  We loaded the dowry up into the car, and then they collected the bride, singing outside her door until she came out crying.  Crying is considered necessary in a wedding here, although it does make it hard to know how the bride really feels about things.  We then all squeezed into the car - my mama had told me and Nafisa to take the car back since the motorcycles wouldn't be safe enough after dark - and then left for the long, long trip back home.  The car broke down on the way, of course, and our adventure ended after 1:00 am when we got home.  A long day, but one that really made me feel part of my family here in village. 

The bride's dowry, after being unloaded from the car in my concession

1 comment:

  1. Great adventure! and love the photos. thanks for the post. Hope to see one more before you leave your village!