Monday, October 10, 2011

Three Weddings and a Funeral

Since mid September I have been busy in my village being a part of talks about engagements, weddings and babies. Luckily, the conversation hasn't been directed at my personal life for once (my co-workers/neighbors still ask to this day how I can be an unmarried woman with no children at my age - crazy). Three of my good friends are either having their Introduction or wedding in the next two months and I have been able to be a part of their planning.

In Uganda the Introduction is the cultural wedding (also known as kwanjula in Luganda), which with a very far stretch is similar to an engagement in the U.S. The kwanjula is when the bride is introduced by her Aunties to the groom and his family. It essentially is the ceremony of giving away the woman to the man through the dowry. The groom presents the dowry for the bride's family and is granted permission to take the woman as his own/wife. Usually dowries include livestock, food items, traditional clothing for the bride's family as well as paying for the event. The Introduction is for the groom to plan for the bride. After the kwanjula is completed the new culturally married couple plans for their wedding. A wedding here is very similar to a wedding in the U.S. Their is a religious aspect to the ceremony followed by a reception that has great food, cake, sparklers and cars wrapped in ribbons. The bride usually wears a western style white dress and this is when the couple is recognized as legally married.

My good friend Moses, who is the head counselor for MUWRP Kayunga/Mukono, is finally having his Introduction with his partner of 10 years. They have a wonderful family together: twin girls who are approaching 8 years, a daughter who is 3 years old and a new born baby boy. His meetings are every Wednesday and are consumed with talks of completing his dowry requirements and how to get everyone he cares about from Kayunga to his soon to be bride's home of Masaka (the other side of Kampala). Moses has been working hard on transportation issues for the event: trying to figure out how to transfer safely a cow he bought for his wife's parents from northern Kayunga District to their home in Masaka. The meetings are pleasant and moving forward very well. I can tell that Moses and his wife are getting more and more excited as the days pass. I can't wait to go and help them celebrate their I'll be rocking a gomez or gomesi in Uganglish (a fashion must).

Probably my closest Ugandan male friend and co-worker here, Joshua, has been tentatively planning his Introduction to Susan since March. That is when he received his dowry list from Susan's parents who live in Aura (northwestern 'blue nile' region of Uganda on the boarder with the Congo). Astonishingly, the dowry is summing to around $2,000.00, which is out of control. Susan is beautiful and a clear catch for Josh, but his dowry is almost unmanageable. He has been doing an amazing job acquiring items and saving money. There is no doubt he will be successful. However, his elder brother is having his wedding this October and until he is married Josh won't start his Introduction meetings.

Joshua's brother, Ivan, is having his wedding this month in a suburb of Kampala. He has already had his Introduction so it is now time for him and his bride to be married in a church. Ivan has been having meetings to have his friends and family help plan his event, raise money and to get the community aware of his big day. Wedding funds are raised by the groom's and bride's families, but also by community donations. The meetings are held mostly to talk about money - what has been raised and what still needs to be raised to buy certain items. Right now in the meetings we have been focusing on food challenges. To not feed all your guest at your wedding is a social crime in the US as well as here in Uganda. Apparently caterers here will take some of the food aside to take home for their families before presenting the food to the guests. That is a huge fear of Ivan so we have been brainstorming how to avoid this problem. Myself and Joshua came up with the unoriginal idea of making a contract with the caterer and only giving them 75% of the money up front. Upon satisfactory completion of their job they will receive the last 25%. I'm happy that this issue got resolved, but this conversation lasted for 45 minutes while Joshua and I watched the members of the committee dance around in circles not able to comprehend an idea that could help them. To say the least it was a little frustrating because things that are common sense to me are not always the same when working in Uganda. I enjoy these meetings and I'm very happy for Ivan, but they are a true test in patience.

Last week I attended my first Ugandan funeral. One of my Youth Center staffs that works closely with the safe medical male circumcision project at Kayunga District Hospital lost his father. His father was a loved man in the community and was blessed to have 19 children. The burial was held at his family home and lasted for about four hours. Roughly 1,500 people attended his last rights which was an overwhelming number of people to see gathered in one small village lawn. There was much praying, singing and many people got up in front to speak about the man who passed. Not many people wore black like it is accustomed to do in the U.S. - all the women had on their bright gomez and the men were in normal attire. The members of the direct family tied thick black ribbons across their bodies like sashes over their clothing. At the end of the funeral right they took Isaac's father's casket to the back of the house to be buried in the family plot. It started to monsoon style rain during the burial, which sent many of the daughters into tears because they were forced to move from out of the rain. The men stayed outside and buried their father. The funeral overall was a beautiful event for Isaac's family, but an overwhelming event for me. However, I am very glad I was able to support him with the rest of the Youth Center staff through his difficult time.

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