Thursday, January 10, 2013

A Wedding Tale

I attended my very first Senegalese wedding this week and I must say it was one of the more interesting events that I have attended thus far. Amadou, my work partner, was very passionate that I come to his house and spend the entire day with his family to witness all of the different events that go along with a wedding; similar to in the states we have the ceremony, reception, opening of gifts, ect. And what wedding would you say that I was attending? Not Amadous, he already has two wives, it was his brother Ouseman to his second wife.
I arrived to their house on Sunday late morning sometime. The number of people at their house was more than usual as expected; there are at least four different families that live in his compound in which I can only piece together Amadous family and his brothers family, everyone else is somehow related but I have not figured exactly how yet. Everyone was either relaxing making tea, the men, cooking, the women, or watching tv and playing, the kids. I usually do a mix of the three things depending on who I want to sit and watch considering after the first five minutes my language skills are unbelievably more elementary than the first five.
Amadou and I went over to the brides house to see her all dressed up upon returning from the salon. Apparently day one of the events the bride has a majority of the festivities at her house before the men from the grooms side go to fetch her to bring her to the grooms house. She was very beautiful, in Senegalese standards, but was a little overdone in America standards. Nonetheless I admired how dressed up she was. She shed a few tears once she saw her family because her mom passed away when she was young and she wanted her to be here for her wedding day, understandable though that was explained to me later while originally I thought she was crying because she was marring a man twice her age. Oops.
We arrived back to Amadous house where the rest of the day was filled with eating and some more sitting, which is expected at this point for any Senegalese gathering. Wilma and Jordan arrived just in time to say hi, make an appearance, and be the perfect excuse for me to leave to go grab a beer. While I thought this was the end of the festivities for the day I was informed otherwise and promised to return after “grabbing dinner”, our code for beers, with the girls.
I got back and the dance was starting to get hip happenin’ and it was a great show to say the least. I definitely did not take part in the dancing only because their dancing is much, much, much different than what I am used to or know how to do. I have been known to bust a move in my day but I already draw enough attention to myself as it is by only being visible the last thing I wanted was to be even more in the spotlight, if that is even possible. I got some great video and was stopped from going home multiple times as Amadou promised that the bride was coming soon and I had to wait.
A couple of house later at least a dozen motorcycles came screeching down the street, by this time it was nearly 11pm. I ran into the middle of the road behind the wedding photographer to get a better shot but was quickly pushed to the side because Amadou was scared for my life. I didn’t actually think they were driving that fast considering they were a half of a mile away but as they drew closer I saw why Amadou was so concerned. Half of them were gaining so much speed it looked like they were going at max speed while others were doing doughnuts or something equally dangerous yet stunning.
The bride showed up in a small red car behind the cyclists and I was in awe. I was warned that she would be covered but they said in white so I pictured more of a translucent veil than a sheet like a ghost. Her head was down almost resembling someone in regret or sorrow. The car did a few circles as people jumped on it screaming in joy for her arrival.
An “Alham”, or a transportation van that is usually near the point of breaking down that carries about double in which it was intended for, arrived shortly after with her belongings and gifts from her family to the family of the groom. To make my life even more awkward, as she was led from the car to the house Amadou insisted that I take a picture with her as she is walking in with her closest family members. Not only is this girl in the middle of the biggest day of her life but she gets to share it with some white girl that she has never seen before, talk about new best friends (I cant wait to get a copy of the video to see just how much of a part of this strangers wedding I was, and its forever documented).
After ushering her in the house, everyone followed, the dancing continued, and her gifts were offered to the grooms mom. As far as I know she spent most of the rest of the night in someones room sitting on a bed with her friends and family, still fully covered, as people ate and danced in her honor. By this time it was almost midnight and I just had to go to sleep after being there for more than 12 hours. I vowed to return in the morning for more wedding rituals.
The elders were supposedly gathering around 10am to discuss family matters with the new member of the family and true to Senegalese fashion this did not happen until after lunch; you would think I would be used to this by now between here and Portagee time in Hawaii (love you Bird).
For the meeting with the elders it was a little more similar to wedding events that I am used to but still with a twist. The bride sat on a mat in the middle of the room on the floor still covered while others took a seat wherever there was room. I still can’t get used to the sight of the bride covered and I am sure I was staring more than one should but it’s just so strange that this is her normal for the next two days. As far as what was translated to me the elders, both men and women, spoke words of confidence and well wishes to the new bride as well as explaining the gifts that were brought from her family to her new husbands; items such as brooms to enable her to clean, cookware to feed her family, and you can just about imagine all of the other presents. Typical. One thing that surprised me with the whole more than one wife thing is equality of the wives. Men are only allowed to marry another women if they love her equally as the first, not more or less. This means if the husband buys his first wife a new outfit he must do the same for the second, if he gives money for food he must do the same for them both. Strange that there is equality amongst how the wives are treated but not how men and women are treated. Hmmm.
After the meeting I went home to shower and change, and any time I use this term it is very loose in the sense of showering and is referred to taking a bath with a bucket and cup. I took part in getting an outfit made of the same material as the women in Amadous compound but once I arrived I soon learned that it was the fabric of the event, dozens of women had the same material as I.
There was a band consisting of six or so different drummers, one of which was a man with fake dreds and Jordan and I were really nervous that they were going to fall out of his head but thank god they did not I could not even imagine how incredibly awkward that situation would have been. Women danced in a large circle while throwing cloths on each other, still not sure what that represents, while dozens sat around to watch the show. Since this was going on more than 24 hours of a party it ended fairly early, which I was not upset about.
This whole time the bride sat in a room, covered by a cloth, while others celebrated in her honor. Out of all of the brides that I have known back home I could not picture a one that would be ok with sitting on the sidelines as everyone else danced and had a good time. Though our cultures are very different, and I think I would prefer to be on the side of the American bride, I was more than grateful to be able to witness the events of the wedding. I will forever remember it and be grateful for how much work goes into planning one.

To: The Newlyweds

Good luck and may you have a thousand kids and an even longer happy life.

From: That one white girl at your wedding.


Kari Cinker said...

Love this blog Kelly! You are so lucky to have been a part of this. LOVE the picture as well. ha ha ha.


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