Monday, November 11, 2013

Weddings and Babies

The Bride and Groom prayed for by Rev. Dr. Chemengich, of ATS
On Saturday, I had the opportunity to be in the "line" for the wedding of the chaplain of the Africa Theological Seminary (ATS), Livingstone Matunda and his beautiful bride, Drusila Kemunto.  While I have witnessed a number of African weddings, this was my first opportunity to be a participant.  I was honored that they asked.  Matunda had lost his wife about two years ago and over the past year, he and I became friends as we shared about grief and loss.  I was so happy for him and his new-found love and happiness, as are his four daughters who encouraged him to find someone.

This is only PART of the wedding party - there were 40 of us in total!
The pre-wedding experience was interesting though as I was also able to experience that "from the inside."  Weddings are definitely a community experience rather than an individual experience.  The entire ATS team formed the committee for the wedding and worked on logistics and budgets every week after our team meeting.  It was very interesting to watch that procedure.  It was a big challenge to raise the budget for the wedding as people are not necessarily invited but rather "show up."

The children's line for the wedding party.
So there was an estimated attendance at the reception for 500-600 people - a lot of people to feed.  We came up with 17 cars to be in a convoy as most people do not have transportation and we had to ferry them from ATS to the church and then back to ATS again for the reception.  During one meeting as the budget was being addressed, I heard the sound of a chain saw, and then heard a tree fall, and then the chain saw again.  I didn't think too much of it as there are businesses around and a forest.  But then the ATS deputy principal announced that the firewood for cooking the dinner was being donated by ATS in the form of a trees.  My eyes widened...I thought for a moment of the poor tree that was just cut down for this...but then celebrated with the rest of them for this provision and practical problem-solving. 

Dancing at the reception
A little fun during the photo shoot with the groom!
The day of the wedding was fun, long, and also interesting.  Aside from the fact that I got my dress that morning (and that the tailor had NOT done what we had asked and did a rather poor job), the wedding was to start at 9 am.  I had been told to hold this loosely and to expect that it might not start until 11 am.  By 11:15 am, all cars were decorated and we loaded up.  Next stop though was not the church but to pick up the bride and best lady.  We all pulled up there and parked.  And then waited.  And waited.  And waited.  By 12:30 we were informed that the aunts were refusing to release the bride until the groom pay a "release price" of 37,000 KSH (about $435 US).  The groom countered with 10,000 KSH.  I don't know how it actually was resolved - all I know is that at 12:45 the bride came out and we all piled back in our cars and drove to the church.

The ceremony started at just after 1 pm (four hours late), amidst a downpour (in my mind, as it rains EVERY afternoon, a good argument to start earlier!).  After standing in the rain waiting, the wedding party danced down the aisle two by two; the maids (us) then get back up to dance out again to line the path for the bride; the maids then get back out to dance again during the songs throughout the church.  The service last a couple of hours with a very long passionate message (including some traditional views of gender roles, such as "men are helpless in the home" and the role of the wife is to "organize the husband's life").  Then dancing on the way out of the service and again upon entering the reception.  Lots of dancing - sore thighs!  But I had fun with it.  It was a good time.  They were surprised to see a "mzungu" (white person) in the line up and especially to see a white woman dancing!

The other fun thing that happened was that there is a new baby in Kenya named Renita!  There is a couple in Kakamega who are both in my business training.  The father is a teacher and also runs a motorcycle part supply shop; the mother runs a hair salon.  They apparently liked me and my name and named their baby after me!  I got a chance to meet her last Sunday and hold her.  She is delightful. 
Baby Renita, looking at Big Renita, looking oh-so-thoughtful.
As far as I know, she is the fifth baby to be given my name, across three countries!  I kind of feel bad for them, as it is not an easy name for people to get.  Many people in Kenya are calling me "Renny" which is an interesting nick-name that I had not been given before!
The happy family with their two year old daughter, Marvel.