Monday, August 10, 2009 times...

(Pictured Here: Official Dowry Inspector and Comedian Extraordinaire)

The weddings were really cool. I would go into greater detail about them, but my feeble writing skills would not do them justice. HOWEVER, I would like to share a cool experience from each of the weddings.

I arrived 30 minutes late to the first wedding I attended, which was actually like two hours early! African time is much different then American time; so, I did a lot of waiting. (Don't worry, this isn't the cool story I wanted to share with you; just a side note.)

Hold on. Before I get further into my stories here, let me give you some background information about Rwandan weddings. The wedding begins at the house of the bride's parents. This first part of the wedding, the 'Dowry Ceremony,' comes before the Christian ceremony and is very traditional. During the Dowry Ceremony (bolding this term makes me feel like I'm writing a social studies book) the members of both sides of the family meet and discuss the terms of the wedding, which have been agreed upon before hand (so the discussions are pretty much for show). The main dialogue is between the father of the bride and the father of the groom, the heads of the two families.

The groom sits, waits, and watches as the parents and family members discuss. All the while, the bride is waiting in the house of her parents. Once all pleasantries have been exchanged, the father of the groom presents the father of the bride with the dowry. The dowry is generally a cow (though some families take money instead of livestock). If the dowry is accepted, then the bride can leave the house, be presented to the groom, and the marriage ceremony can officially begin.

At the first wedding I attended, a cow was the official dowry. Before the cow was presented, however, this random woman stood up, walked to the back of the house, and brought back some dried grass and banana leaves. She then started to burn them in a small pile next to where we were sitting. There was no flame; she was, obviously, trying to produce smoke only. The smoke began to rise, the crowd got silent, and the cow was led from its stable to the site of the dowry ceremony.

Once the cow arrived, an elderly man stood up and walked towards it. (When I say elderly, I mean ooooooold.) This guy was dressed traditionally (for his age), he moved with the support of a walking-stick, and walked a bit hunched over. He slowly moved up to the cow and began scrutinizing its appearance. He began inspecting the dowry gift to make sure it was an acceptable offering to the bride's family; the smoke had been produced to make the scene seem more mystical, so my sources tell me.

This guy was HILARIOUS. To be honest, I had no idea what he was saying. Ha! He spoke quickly and with a high, crackling, old-man voice, which totally added to the experience. He was cracking what I can only assume were jokes while he was inspecting the cow; he had everyone doubled over in laughter. Again, I really couldn't make out what he was saying, but laughter is I was laughin' it up right there with everyone.

So he finishes his inspection; he suddenly stands straight up and begins waving his hands and walking-stick in the air; speaking loudly and straining his voice. Everyone begins to laugh even harder and clap crazily. The dowry inspection was a success!

Now we flash forward one week...

...the second wedding followed the same format, except money was the dowry.

Instead of two hours early, however, I was like three hours would have thought that I learned my lesson, but that part of American culture (showing up at the time that an invitation requests you to arrive) has been hard for me to change.

Anyway, so we get to this wedding and it goes through the same motions as the first one. HOWEVER, after one of the longer conversations between the heads of the family, everyone sat and got quiet. Then the father of the groom stood up and made a few words...VERY passionately! He then clapped his hands once very loudly and began to dance...then EVERYONE on that side of the family started dancing. It was hilarious!

Everyone was dancing without music for like a minute, then the DJ put on some tunes. Apparently the dowry was the topic of the previous conversation...and it was approved. The scene was awesome, though. It was like something out of a Rodney Dangerfield movie...everyone just started dancing and music came on...seriously, if the DJ started playing Journey's 'Anyway You Want It,' I would not have been surprised.

Anyway, those are my wedding stories...kinda weak, I know, but that's all I got.

I just got back from In-Service Training (IST) at Kibuye, in West Province near Lake Kivu. I had a great time; it was awesome to see everyone. I posted some pics on facebook, of course. The only bad thing that happened was that I got a staff infection in my nose, so it got really big and red (that's what she said)...on top of that, my nose was sunburned! OUCH! I am recovering just fine, but for a little while I looked like I was transforming into 'Bozo'...I called the experience 'The Great Clowning!'


  1. I hope you were able to fix your bed as well as your nose! I enjoyed reading about the weddings and your journey on being or not being on time! Beautiful pictures too!

  2. Emmett! It is a divine sign..."The Great Clowning"! You are meant to do the comedy stages my are! If not to crack jokes, at least to make others laugh at your nose! lol jk

    Keep it up buddy!