Wednesday, December 18, 2013

An African Wedding

This weekend I attended the wedding of one of the Holy Cross Sister’s brother; it was the first African wedding I have been to and I was impressed by the experience. Despite not ever meeting Norbert or his fiancé the wedding invitation was addressed to the Sisters of the Holy Cross Kyarusozi community, and the Sisters insisted that included me. Unlike in America where one must RSVP weeks in advance for the event I decided the day before the wedding that I would attend. The ceremony was scheduled to start at noon so Sister Angel, Cissy, and I left early in the morning to allow enough time to purchase a gift along the way and then make it in time for the wedding. Well, I constantly have to remind myself that this is Africa, and nothing goes quiet as planned. While we were driving we received a call from Sister Beth asking us to pick up the bride’s parents at their home. Keep in mind we have never been to their house, our car is not decorated like the tradition is here for bringing the family, and there is now less then an hour left until the wedding is supposed to start. We left Sister Beth hanging on the phone as the three of us discussed what to do. We were reluctant to take on that responsibility as we were pressed for time, and did not want to get roped into other things along the way. As we arrived at the grocery store to get our gift it was coming to noon. At this point I was sure hoping the wedding would start on African time (about an hour late,) otherwise we would miss it. Sister Beth and Cissy did not seem to be too concerned about the time so I figured we must still be okay on time.
After wrapping the gift we stopped at the Sisters house and found Sister Beth was still there and not yet dressed for the wedding. I was surprised to find her there as both her parents have passed away so she is the family of Norbert. Wasn’t she supposed to be with him at this time I thought? Beth looked stressed, and she said she still had much to do before the wedding (including picking out an outfit,) which keep in mind was supposed to have begun fifteen minutes ago. She said the bride’s parents still needed a ride so we decided to go back and pick up the bride’s parents. Twenty minutes later we arrived at their house and found it empty. Apparently they had left already so now we decided to head to the church. We arrived at Virika Cathedral at about 1:15pm and the mass had just started. The bishop presided over the ceremony and ten priests assisted him. The church was packed with well over 100 people and the bride sat at the front in a separate pew from her fiancé. The ceremony was similar to those in the US, except for the fact that photographers and anyone with a camera stood about a foot from those in the wedding party and took pictures of them- so much for being discreet. As the bridal party took center stage a circle of photographers and guests with cameras stood in the middle aisle cameras poised like paparazzi to get a shot of the bride. The procession of gifts was also very lively as the bridge and groom led the way of about ten choir members and guests as the danced down the aisle.
Procession of the bridal party at the reception
After mass we all piled in cars to go to the reception at St. Paul’s seminary. The grounds were beautiful and well kept, and the place felt very peaceful and serene as the sun was shining down upon us. Five tents were set up with white plastic chairs underneath for people to sit (everyone picks there own seat- no name cards required.) Although there was no grand piano, mood lighting, wooden dance floors, tables, or fine china like is the custom in the US the green and yellow ribbons and bows adorning the tents were beautiful. A DJ was playing and there were traditional dancers with bells on their legs and straw skirts around their waists to entertain us while the bridal party took pictures at the grounds. Oh yes, and how could I forget there was also a man on stilts walking around, you know like the kind you find in a parade or circus. Angel decided to go pick up some medications while we waited for the ceremony to begin, and it is a good thing she did because after an hour and a half of waiting she had returned, the ceremony was just beginning, and food was about to be served. The time waiting went by fast though as Cissy, Sister Rose, and I had fun catching up. Cissy and I were hungry by this point and we kept talking about we could not wait to get home and eat Irene (our cook/cleaner) chapattis. Chapati is one of the staple foods here and is similar to a flat bread. Irene makes the best chapattis I have had in Uganda, but she does not cook them frequently so having them is always a treat. Cissy and I discussed how we were going to eat three or four chapattis each when we returned home. Now many of you know I am a bit of a picky eater, and I love bread. Although French bread and bagels are pretty much impossible to find here, chapattis are a pretty tasty second option, and something I will definitely miss when I return back to the U.S. At the wedding
Sister Angel, Cissy, and I
the food was served on plastic lunchroom trays and consisted of a buffet of two different kinds of rice, cabbage, gnut (peanut) sauce, ferrinda (mashed bean sauce,) meat, pineapple, watermelon, small pieces of chapatti (nowhere near close to Irene’s,) matoke, pumpkin, some greens, and cake of course. By the time we finished dinner it was getting dark and we had about an hours drive home. Speeches were just starting, and would likely continue for another hour or two so we decided to leave prior to the cutting of the cake, presentation of the gifts, and the dancing. All in all it was a festive day and really interesting to see what an African wedding was like. Oh, and by the way, Cissy and I did have 3 chappatis each when we returned home.

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