Saturday, November 23, 2013

A Tanzanian Wedding

Well, it’s Saturday and it was REALLY nice to sleep in this morning!  I had two late nights and a busy week!  Want to know why?  Ok!  I’ll tell you!

A few months ago, shortly after I made it to Tanzania, I got a wedding invitation from Christina, one of the women who teaches at CAMS.  At the time, I barely knew her but was excited to get to experience a Tanzanian wedding.  In order to help pay for the wedding, guests are asked to make a contribution.  Maria, another teacher, and I went in together and we paid our way.  Then, the preparations began. 

In the beginning, Christina wasn’t planning on having all the parts of a Tanzanian wedding.  Generally, there are four parts to a wedding celebration.  There is a kitchen party, a send-off, the wedding, and a reception.  Christina began planning for only the wedding and reception, but ended up having a kitchen party as well.  This happened last weekend.

Christina and her family.

The closest thing to a kitchen party in the US is a bridal shower, and it is really similar with a couple of differences.  The party was planned by another teacher at the school who is really close to Christina. The guests contributed toward food and a gift.  We also had the option to buy a kanga Christina picked out.  Several people had dresses made from it, wore pieces of it, or dressed in colors to match. 


We gathered for the kitchen party at the other compound.  The entire compound emptied their houses of chairs and added to the tables.  They also helped out with food storage until things were served.  There was quite the spread of food!  We had a chapatti bar.  A chapatti is flat bread that is cooked in oil, kind of like a thick tortilla.  There were several toppings, including beans, rice, and ground beef.  There were vegetable and fruit salads as sides.  The spread included a beautifully decorated cake, wrapped in tulle and ribbons in true Tanzanian fashion. 
The tulle cracks me up.  It's how you wrap a cake!  It's great for keeping bugs off, that's for sure!

After enjoying the meal, there were speeches given by elders who know the bride.  They gave marriage advice on everything from compromising with her new husband, buying soap, keeping a clean house, personal hygiene, and being each other’s best friend.  Some of the advice was VERY personal and was verging on the side of uncomfortable, but it never crossed that line.  I was told later that at some non-Christian kitchen parties, the advice can get MUCH more personal.


After they were done, it was time for cake and gifts.  Christina received several things that will be helpful in a new home.  We all had a great time and left feeling very full and excited for the wedding on Friday.


As friends and family spent the week preparing for the wedding, I spent the week with yet another classroom change.  I said goodbye to my Standard 1’s and began with Standard 2.  Other CAMS teachers continued with testing and preparing to write end of term reports, which are due in a couple of weeks.  They also dropped fabric off at the fundi so that they could have a new dress for the wedding.  In a style that would make any procrastinator proud, I waited WAY too long to get my fabric in, so I ended up making my dress myself, staying up WAY past my bedtime to get it done the night before.   It wasn’t anything fancy, but it wasn’t bad considering I was using a borrowed machine, did not measure with anything that could have seen as conventional, and had absolutely no pattern to follow. 

The wedding was beautiful!  Being in the Anglican Cathedral, it was a familiar service.  It was done both in English and Swahili so that everyone there could understand, which was very nice.  The only part of the service that was new to me was that toward the beginning, they washed each other’s hands.  This was to symbolize that they were washing away the single lives they had been living so that they could make a stronger bond as a couple.  I really liked this symbolism!


The music team were all CAMS teachers!

After the wedding, guests left the church and greeted the bride and groom, along with the maid of honor and best man outside the church.  This began the first step on the wedding party’s photo tour of Dodoma.  Traditionally, newlyweds travel around Dodoma stopping in various locations for photo opportunities.  We chose not to follow them entirely, but instead stopped with them at the New Dodoma Hotel for a quick dinner, and happened to be there when they arrived!  We snapped a few pictures between ordering our meal and its arrival!





After we finished dinner, we went to the “African Dreams” hotel where the reception was planned.  It was great!  Our invitation said that it would start at 12:30, which is Tanzanian time for 6:30.  Tanzanian time starts when the sun rises, so it is 6 hours behind regular time.  We didn’t leave the Dodoma Hotel until after 7:30 and were still there about a half an hour before the bride, groom, wedding parties, and their families.  Gotta love Tanzania!! 

Extravagance fit for a wedding!

Dancing in...

...the electric slide is a global dance it turns out!

Christina and her family.  Her mom is the cute short woman with the great hat!  Both her and Alex's parents are there!

The reception was completely in Swahili, but I was able to at least follow what was happening, even if I didn’t understand what was being said.  There were speeches by family members and friends.  Each of the two families had a chance to dance to the music of their tribe, which was great fun.  My favorite part was when people presented their gifts. 


The weddings I’ve been to in the states generally have a table set up for people to place their wrapped gifts on display.  Sometimes they open them at the wedding, but not always.  This is not the case in Tanzania!  The Groom’s family gave their gifts from their table and presented each of them in a sort of formal way.  Everyone else presented their gifts to the bride and groom, beginning with family.  Pots, pans, plates, bed sheets, fabric, cards, and money danced around the room and to a table in the front, where two of the younger bride’s maids collected them and put them out of sight.  Then, each person shook hands with the maid of honor, best man, bride, and groom.  After friends and family presented general gifts, groups of people were invited up one at a time to present their’s.  I was confused when two men went to the front and untangled a length of rope.  The MC asked them, in Swahili, what they had given and they let the crowd know that they would be giving a goat, which could be tied up with the rope. 

The staff at CAMS presented our gifts as a group as well.  We stood out as the only non-swahili speakers in the room mixed with a few Tanzanians.  We each danced our gifts around the room and up to the front in a line, and were asked to stand behind the bride and groom for a photo op. 

The cake reminded me of Hogwarts.  Each cake was presented to a different group.  There was one for each family and one was given to the teachers and staff at CAMS.  The main cake was given to the people serving food to cut up and serve.  We each got one bite.
Yup, they even feed each other cake here, though this seems to be a tradition with any celebratory cake.  Remember my post about the birthday cake at the CAMS movie night?
Even the maid of honor and best man feed each other cake!

After gifts, there was cake, more people talking in Swahili, food, and dancing.  It was a LONG night.  I didn’t get home until after midnight!  I am glad that I got to witness the wedding.  As I found out quickly after receiving the invitation, Christina is a great person and I couldn’t be happier for her and Alex.

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