Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Adventures With Mark

The last three weekends have been a little on the short side as we had first Visitation Day at the school, then a burial and an introduction on the third weekend. Yes, the first two are self explanatory, but a ‘kwangala’ (or ‘introduction’… held months or weeks before the wedding) I am guessing is a new event to many of you. The lovely picture of me in a dress is actually called a ‘kanzu’ and is part of the tradition. In a nut shell, if any of you have a daughter in the marrying age it would be a good idea to move to Uganda soon.
The day begins with the groom-to-be organizing at a central meeting place with the group of people he is allowed to bring to meet his bride-to-be’s parents. Most grooms would be allowed to bring about 25 people or so. Yes men, imagine inviting only 25 people to attend this event and that would include your family too. At the gathering point everyone gets ready with the men putting on their kanzus and the ladies their ‘gomazes’ (equally surprising to the North American eye). Once everyone is ready the entire group is given a specific time in which they are supposed to arrive at the bride’s home and being late usually will mean a fine for the groom. Vehicles are loaded with gifts to be brought to the event in hope of pleasing the possible in-laws.
Fortunately for me, this particular introduction is a little on the shorter side. Usually the party would have to proceed to the village or area where the girl’s parents reside. In this case we had a short 10 minute trip from our house and we were there. Forming a line for the men and one for the ladies we were greeted, a flowery thing pinned on our jackets and we entered. We were ushered to a tent on one side with the opposing tent having the relatives and friends of the lady’s side. There is another tent on the side between the two to seat more guests. The front rows have couches for the important guests.
Both sides hire professional speakers to speak on their behalf. As guests we are greeted and checked to make sure we do not have more guests than we are allowed or another fine will be issued. The groom is ‘hiding’ in the middle as one of the guests. After much conversation it is clear that we are here to find a young lady, but they need to know who is asking. Different aunties, brothers and friends come out and dance to see if one of them is who we are looking for. Then a special auntie comes out with a few others and proceeds to ‘find’ the groom. This is all done very ceremoniously with plenty of banter and lots of dancing. Our groom-to-be is found and brought to the front row with his best man. The bride-to-be is then brought with many other girls and they all do some more dancing (clearly this function is my favorite type of thing as you all know). Once it is clear that we have the correct groom and bride we are on to the next phase. The groom then needs to make sure he will be allowed to take his new bride and his entourage leaves in order to bring in the many gifts he has purchased for the bride’s family. A live chicken, live cow, live goat, couches, many crates of soda, cooking oil, sacks of rice, posho, beans, a side of beef, vegetables, pineapples etc. The list goes on and on as the ladies bring things in on their heads in baskets and the men bring in the heavier things. (By the way many couples never marry because they can’t afford this whole whoop-dee-do. It’s extremely important to impress the in-laws and ‘earn’ the girl.)
After what can seem a long time the groom is taken into the house and asked some serious questions by the bride’s family that are apparently not appropriate to ask in front of everyone. Once he passes the test he returns where the procession is allowed to continue. She gives him a ring and a cake is cut to be shared with everyone. Yes, you guessed it the event is followed by a huge meal prepared by the bride’s family. The groom is allowed to bring some of his close people into the house for an inner meal. I was fortunate enough to attend as one of the ten going inside on this occasion. The food was great and more than enough to last a few days. Once finished we went back outside for some closing remarks. Yes, this is a ‘kwangala’, but for traditional purposes would be considered the wedding. This would constitute a wedding as papers were issued, but for those people who are born again a wedding (very much like the kind we have) will take place. Yes, stay tuned next month as I take myself through my first Ugandan wedding as a groomsman.
As I arrived home I found myself tired but happy for my friend, Ivan, and his new wife-to-be, Sarah. They are happy and both excited about the wedding next week. Yes, I was excited to see my Sarah when I got home and know that Seth was safe and sleeping soundly. A long day from 1:00 pm until 9:00 pm, but a day well spent for Ivan and Sarah

Adventures With Sarah

There’s a notice posted outside our gate. In short it states that this is the last warning… overdue taxes must be paid by the property owner or Kampala City Council will bring in ‘legal machinery’. It states the owners have only 7 days to comply. This was posted last Friday. In my more flimsy moments I’ve envisioned myself with Seth in one arm standing in front of our house (which I rather like) facing off with a man driving the big wrecking ball truck. And it really is not much comfort that most things in Africa take three times longer than they should to transpire. I’m afraid with this sort of thing, all may go very smoothly and come off on time without a hitch! Sadly the property owner lives in the UK and her delinquent son who used to live right outside our bedroom window in his own little place, has traveled there to continue his studies. Up until now I haven’t missed him at all. I honestly have no idea how this will play out but I have revised my intervention plan. My new plan places Seth safely in the swing under the tree with lunch and suitcases nearby. From my post in front of the house I will be able to see all three of our passports sticking out of the lunch basket. If the wrecking ball starts to swing I will step aside, have lunch, pick up Seth and my bags and tell Mark to meet me at the airport. Anybody got a couch where we could land for a few weeks? Aw well. Africa has taught me to laugh and relax. If something bad is really going to happen worrying about it just ruins a whole bunch of extra time.
Other than possible homelessness, we are doing well. I’m nearly 7 months pregnant and still feel good. Remember I asked you to pray for me as I was feeling kind of useless here? God gave me an opportunity to offer homemade soy milk to my neighbor lady whose baby seemed to be crying a lot. When I inquired with our guard about the crying he said the mother was working and they were feeding the three month old full cream cow’s milk. After making some soy milk in my blender we asked the mother if she wanted the try it and I offered to provide it for her until I leave in Aug. They did try it but it seemed to give the baby diarrhea (opposite of the nasty constipation she had been having on the cow’s milk). I suggested she mix them and evidently she did but still seemed to prefer to give the baby cow’s milk. She was very grateful for my offer, though and it was fun meeting her and her two daughters. When she came over to say it wasn’t working for the baby I held the baby and visited with the mother for a while. The baby looks very healthy and isn’t crying much at all now. I don’t think I actually helped but it has been a blessing to meet this lady and know that if I could have helped I would have! I am continuing to pray that God keeps me willing to act when I see a need that’s right in front of me. It seems obvious that I would but sometimes as I explained before, it’s not that simple. Thank you for the prayers! Keep them coming! Love you all. Sarah

Adventures With Seth

This time I really don’t have time for writing. I need to sleep because I played ball with dad for an hour before supper and I fell down and cut my lip but that did not stop me and I even have a little diaper rash and I cut my toe and after my bath and cereal I can’t keep my eyes open. Good night! Seth