Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Rosemary weds Solomon

Last weekend, I traveled to Hoima (about four hours north by northwest of Mukono) to attend one of my student’s introduction and wedding, and to visit my friend, the Rev. Cindy Larsen.  Cindy’s been on my neck (as we say) to come upcountry, and Rosemary’s nuptials provided the perfect opportunity.

At the reception with Cindy Larsen, my gracious host. 

I’ve attended other introductions, but this is a different tribe, so I wasn’t quite sure how things would progress.  In the main, it worked as I expected:  the bride’s family and friends were seated, and then the groom’s family entourage arrived.  Different groupings of females (usually beginning with children and working up through teens to women) came out of the house, dancing, and then knelt on the mat for the groom to determine whether the bride was there.  Of course she’s not, but the girls were rewarded with small gifts.

The girls were so lovely in their gomesi (traditional dresses)!

Since Rosemary is ordained, one of the groups that came out was a set of Anglican priests!  It was just fabulous.  It was all the more fabulous because the one designated to give the ladies their gifts was a Muslim man.  Oh, the irony!  I was laughing too hard to take pictures at that point.

Each side has an emcee, and towards the end of the parade, the groom’s emcee implored the bride’s emcee to bring her, whether by car or by helicopter (accompanied by sound effects, because there’s always a DJ).  And so Rosemary emerged, accompanied by her maids, to much fanfare and cheering.  

Solomon then followed the procedure for “choosing” Rosemary, and then the groom’s entourage went to get the dowry.  The Western influence has caused there to be some consternation over the word dowry, so now I hear it being referred to as “gifts” rather than a dowry, though that is what it is.  The bride price had been negotiated previously, and had Solomon failed to bring the entire gift, there would have been serious repercussions. 

Then certificates were signed and exchanged, and Rosemary and Solomon were be considered to be culturally, or traditionally, married.  However, since they are Christians, they must be wedded in church.  To me, being married and being wed are synonymous, but in Africa, the distinction is critical.

Another joy was seeing several of my students, who are Rosemary’s classmates, as well as a couple graduates.  Denis, one of my students, saw me, and his eyes lit up.  When he came to greet me, he informed me that I made his day.  That, of course, blessed me tremendously. 

L to R:  Eriab, current student; Flossy, graduate; someone’s wife and daughter; Denis’ wife and daughter; Esther, current student.  Back:  James, current student; Denis, current student; Asaph, current student; a first year student.

We were blessed with a short rainstorm (because rain is always a blessing) while Rosemary and Solomon went from one side to another, being received and welcomed into each family.  While those of us in the tents scooted back to avoid getting wet, the maids had to stand in the rain and wait for Rosemary to finish.  I hope they get extra rewards in heaven for that!

The wedding the next day was lovely.  Rosemary has served the diocese faithfully for many years, and she is dearly loved.  The cathedral was completely full of people who came to see “their girl” wed.

Clearly, I took this when we arrived, but by the time the service started, the cathedral was packed.

The reception was a joyous extension of the service; the tents were labeled, which assisted greatly with seating.  

The emcees returned for the reception, providing a running commentary on the proceedings (“Rev. Jessica from UCU is being served the cake!”  I kid you not.).   Cakes here are not sliced individually, but are cut into bite-sized pieces, and the plate is passed around.

Notice how the cake is pre-cut, even for the bride and groom.  Traditionally, the bride kneels to feed the groom.

When it was time to bring the gifts, I joined the line to present the gift to Rosemary and Solomon, and the maids formed an assembly line to stack the gifts on the stage.  

The maid brigade was hard at work; I joined the line early.

The line is rather long here, and it had to have repeated itself at least twice.  Cindy and I were joking that they won’t ever need anything, because they’ve been given everything they need.

It was a lovely weekend of fellowship and rejoicing.  Please join me in praying for Rosemary and Solomon as they begin their new life together.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Noticing multiculturalism

While replying to an email from a Rwandan student, I noticed that the header from the last email I sent is in French. How cool!

So he's fluent in his local vernacular, French, English, and probably Swahili.  And that's just what I can think of off the top of my head.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Back to the real world

I'm just back from a weekend upcountry for a student's introduction and wedding (upcountry being anything outside Kampala and it's suburbs, like upstate New York is anything outside NYC).

It was a wonderful weekend of celebrations, visiting with my friend Cindy Larsen, and seeing students who also came, and I will be posting pictures tomorrow.  

First, I'd like to pass on some prayer requests.  I don't know whether you saw that the Ugandan authorities broke up an al-Shabaab cell this weekend; please join me in giving thanks for this breakthrough, and continue to pray for those who are working hard to fight terrorism, wherever they are.

Second, I know that I live in an idyllic nature bubble, and that dead animals happen.  However, Thursday, when I left, there was a dead frog on the verandah, and today, I came home to a dead bird in the hallway (I assume it got in the attic somehow, and there's no cover to the attic).  I find the timing of this a bit odd, especially how closely they happened.  

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Banner Day

Yesterday was quite the banner day:
1. No rain.  It has rained nearly every day since July.  It’s kept things cool, for which I’m grateful, but washed towels don’t dry when it’s raining.
2. I survived our faculty board without getting in trouble.  Getting in trouble was a distinct possibility.  Actually, I had to take the minutes, so there’s still a possibility of catching flack the next time we meet and review the minutes, but I warned them that they really didn’t want to entrust the minutes to me.
3. My supervisor has elected to let me begin my doctoral proposal rather than let me flounder in my non-conceptual thinking for an outline.  HALLELUJAH.

It’s still going to be quite an effort to complete an acceptable proposal by mid-January, but that’s the goal.  Please keep praying, friends!

Friday, September 5, 2014

This is Africa

So much of what happens here can only be filed as TIA:  This is Africa.  It's a comforting acronym, reassuring us that some aspects of life, thankfully, cannot be replicated anywhere else in the world.

In the TIA category, Kenya's president's car was stolen in Nairobi, and recovered in Kampala.  Yep.  This story lacks some of the humorous flavor of the Ugandan pieces, but really.  SO many questions!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Mzee Kitty

For the last couple days, this feline gentleman has been camped out on my verandah.  I was inside when I noticed him here, and then I moved out to take the picture.  Clearly, he's not the least bit impressed with my presence.

This guy looks like he's been around the block one or fifty times, so I've dubbed him Mzee (muh-ZAY; old man) Kitty.  Mzee doesn't act like a typical feral cat; this afternoon, he was meowing and winding himself around my ankles.  Cute as that was, it was also a bit disconcerting.

Any number of cats like to hang out on the verandah because it gets warm in the afternoon.  Well, that assumes that the sun is shining.  We saw the sun for about three hours today, and two hours yesterday, so perhaps the rainy season will end.  However, I think Mzee Kitty's going to be owning the verandah and the seat.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Kitenge shopping

On Friday, Mary Jane and I went on a hunt for kitenge (chi TEN gee), African fabric.  Actually, the plural is bitenge (bee TEN gee), but that’s neither here nor there.  One can occasionally find kitenge at a vendor in the market, but if you want variety, you have to go to town (Kampala).

Mary Jane was going to be in town anyhow since she took the kids to school, so I got a driver and met her at the school.  I knew that we would be doing some running around since we were also looking for a remote for a DVD player, and while Mary Jane knows Kampala quite well, driving downtown is incredibly stressful, and there’s no parking (think DC on steroids with no lines, signs, or apparent and/or enforced rules), so it’s much better to have a driver circle the block while you conquer your mission.

Fortunately, Mary Jane knew where we were going, so she led the charge down a side street that was so pockmarked, I’d never take a vehicle down it.  When we found where we thought the bitenge would be, we learned that they had shifted.  So a kind gentleman, most likely a broker, took us to where they were.

Our brokers; the one on the right is the one who brought us to the stall; the one on the left did most of the talking.  The woman in the shadow brought and brought and brought...

They were inside a building, down a flight of steps, in a crowded stall of a shop.  Of course, the power was off, so we really couldn’t see.  So the vendors started bringing the bitenge out to where we could see.

Bring they did!  At one point, we must have had 20 or 25 bitenge out.  I was dividing them into piles, yes, no, maybe, on a young woman’s sewing machine.  I felt badly that I was disrupting her work, but since power was off, she may not have been able to sew anyhow.  

A sewing machine is buried under all the bitenge.  I promise.

We did see this old Singer like my grandmother had; they are quite handy in a country where you can’t assume that you’ll have electricity, and they’re much easier to repair!

The Singer like my grandmother had; they work beautifully here.
So, I found what I wanted, and the negotiations began.  They asked a price that I expected.  I wanted to get them down 10,000 shillings ($4), though if I’d had a Ugandan with me, I may have been able to get them down 20,000 ($8). 

The bitenge kept coming.  I think I was just a bit overwhelmed at this point.

"Nedda (no), nedda, maybe, nedda, yaa (yes), nedda..."

When negotiating, I have no problem mentioning that I am a musumba (shepherd, interpreted as priest) to encourage merchants to not cheat me.  Later on I bought a chair for my desk at home, and the guy wouldn’t budge on the price.  I told him that I am a musumba, and he refused to make eye contact after, only looking at my driver!  He knew he was cheating me.  We found a middle ground as the rain began, but he got me for 5,000 ($2) than I wanted to pay.

So, the bitenge merchants laughed about my being a musumba, and then Mary Jane chipped in with her Luganda phrases.  I counted the bitenge in Luganda, and I think they somewhat took us as people who live here, not just tourists.  I did get them down the 10,000 I wanted, though it always takes some back and forth.  Bartering is part of building the relationship.  I don't love it, but when in Rome...

We then met some other missionaries that Mary Jane knows for lunch, and I took one of them part way home, and we all got caught in a delightful rainstorm, and it took a little over 3 hours to get home, but all in all, a good and successful day of making memories.

And I have the bitenge and the chair to help me remember.