Saturday, November 16, 2013

A Rwandan Wedding, Part One

 It's early Sunday morning (just after midnight), and when we went to bed last night, completely exhausted, I really thought this may be the first night we slept through since we left the states.  But, no.  Continuing jet lag, an over-full mind, and a very (I mean VERY) loud Rwandan night life outside are keeping us from it.  So, we're reading and blogging. And really, who needs sleep, anyway?
Yesterday was the wedding of Egide (eh-zhid) and his bride Cadette.  I really cannot begin to convey all that the day was.  We had had few expectations, only knowing it would be an entire day of ceremonies.  I suppose we pictured a handful of people, tribal dress, and lots of food.  Not exactly.   I will do my best to show the day, but know that it was so very full and there was just so much to take in, that this is just a piece of it.
We began the morning very early, as has been our custom for days since we can't sleep much at night.   I think anxiety for the day before us met with the strange time zone, and got us up around 3:00 am.  We read and got dressed and had a very peaceful buffet breakfast outdoors before our ride came by at 8:30.  And let me just say this- all those stories you've heard about African driving?  They're true. There are almost no rules on the streets.  You head into an intersection/roundabout, nudging and honking amidst dozens and dozens of pedestrians and vehicles.  And then you just gun it and wedge yourself in between the other cars, honking as you go.  But nobody gets mad.  It's just the way you drive.
There were to be five different ceremonies for the wedding, and our first stop was the home of Egide.  Our stomachs were in knots, as we awaited the very first meeting of the young man who had come to call us Dad and Mum.  Both Egide and his bride were left as orphans in the Rwandan genocide, and Compassion International (where my husband works) picked him up as a sponsored child and changed his life forever. As we bumped and bounced up into the unpaved hills toward his home, we anticipated the day.  And when we finally stopped and got out of the car, we had pits in our stomachs as we walked slowly up the stairs, passing many friends and relatives and neighbors, to meet our friend and son in the faith. The front room was small, and completely crowded with well-wishers, eating from plates piled high with delicious African cooking (though we were so nervous, we couldn't even think about putting anything in our mouths).  We looked around the room, for a face that matched the photo that has hung on our wall for so long. And after scanning 20 or 30 unfamiliar faces, there he came.  Words cannot describe.  At our home in Colorado, Egide was a picture hanging, with a name and case number underneath. A young man who was very smart, and wanted to go to 'University' but needed help. Someone we cared for but didn't really take up that much space in my heart.  But today, this young man was real.  He had a real voice and a real home and a real life and really had been left an orphan at age five, unable to speak for a long time from the trauma he lived through.  I loved him from the first glance.

After a very brief visit in this first phase of the day, it was time for the packed little living room to file out and go up to Cadette's home, where there would be 'introduction'. When we arrived outside her employer's home, where she lives, we just sat in the car. The driver, our new friend from Compassion, Moses, and Kenny and I.  We pulled up behind the other cars and just waited.  For almost an hour.  Because the women weren't ready for us yet, and not all the guests had arrived.  You've heard of other cultures shaming stressed out Americans by their relaxed ways?  Yes, it's true!
Finally we left the car, and being rainy season, we carefully ascended the long driveway to take our seats.  And sit we did.  For about two and a half hours.  It was amazing.  And surreal.  So many details, but I'll try to keep it short.  Basically, the bride has a side of guests as does the groom, and they are facing each other in rows.  A spokesman for each side has a microphone, and they spend a very long time talking, bantering, and quipping back and forth, telling a 'story' about a king(Egide) who wants a girl(Cadette).  The wedding party acts out the story as they enter their seating area at the correct time.  And there are rounds and rounds of non-alcoholic drinks served from one side to the other (In Rwanda, when you become a Christian, you don't drink alcohol anymore. Yeah.  My kind of people.) This is known as 'Introduction', because it's kind of like the girl is being introduced to the man's family for the first time.
Entering the grounds of the ceremony
Egide and Best Man in red ties, Groomsmen in yellow

The two
representatives, one for each side of the family.

Egide greeting Cadette's side

Bridesmaids walking in


Herdsmen in costume, singing and dancing and chanting the names of the cows to be given as dowry.  No, I am serious.

Another herdsman

The happy couple. They never really smiled until the end of the day.

Kenny meeting Egide's uncle.  This man raised Egide, and here each one is thanking the other.
The entire day was spoken in Kinyarwanda, the national language. And we were the only ones not from Africa (aka WHITE.) If it hadn't been for some new friends/interpreters from Compassion, and a common bond in the Lord, well these mizungu's (white people) would have been pretty lost.  Next blog post- the wedding at the church (or, 'wedding chuch', as we were told).

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