Wednesday, December 12th
Now, I am on Dar time. Early this morning the household is focussed on organizing food. Their home is “central” for the last minute organizing of the “Send Off. This is a pre-wedding event hosted by the bride’s family. They are “sending off” their daughter Grace by introducing her to the groom’s family through several rituals. Of course, the groom’s family also has responsibilities this evening.
One dish being made has the following ingredients: cassava leaves, ground peanuts and coc0nut. Later I discover how delicious it’s — sweet, yet tart.
- Coconut being ground for the Cassava delicacy
Cassava leaves, garlic, peanuts and coconuts
While the food focus activity is underway my host, Pere (that is what he is called) took me to Barclays Bank as I wanted to use the Instant Cash machine. He was concerned that we might have to go downtown (which involves bumper to bumper traffic) but no, his wife, Winnie, knew of a location relatively nearby. I discovered Barclays takes many security precautions, one of which is a telephone booth-like structure attached to the exterior of the bank with a guard standing by. At first it seems rather intimidating but in I sauntered in, with Pere. I wanted advice about which Tanzanian schillings offered would provide the amount I wanted. That determined, I pressed the button and guess what, it worked! The schillings came out!
We then took off on an exploratory trip cruising around in his very sturdy car – most necessary to survive the bumpy roads. First stop was an accounting office which he and his youngest sister jointly own. When Pere retires from the Bank of Tanzania in three years and moves permanently back to Dar he will go full time with the company. Meantime he goes over the accounts etc in the evening in Arusha. This office looks very efficient with several employess all focussed on computers.
Then we bumped our way to his wife’s dress shop. She does tie–dying – great colors and wonderful designs. I am buying an outfit from her which has to be made. Communicating with Winnie is challenging. She does not speak English and I not Swahili. However, there are prototypes hanging on rack to choose from. Pere steps in and helps as I want some aspects different from what I am seeing. (While the clothing I brought to Tanzania is appropriate (long sleeves to avoid mosquitoes) it’s very western in look!. A man comes in and Winnie’s neice, Gloria, who is staffing the shop gives him attention. I discover Winnie has a second business running from her shop: selling AirTel coupons to update the internet access gizmo.
Pere and I then headed off to a road stand store where he introduced me to authentic hand-carved wood. It’s black and intricate. As you might expect there’s a lot of fake products on the market and he wanted me to see the difference. I found myself not attracted to that sort of art work but was amazed at the required dexterity. I did buy a coorful bracelet. As we were driving back to the apartment I realized I didn’t negotiate the deal. Oh well, I am learning.
By the time Pere and I returned home the place was crazy with six sisters busily wrapping gifts (soda, bananas, liquor, onions, tomatoes, etc) in banana leaves (to prove that the groom would have the means to feed etc the bride.) They used dried vines to contain these leaves.
- Some are finished!
And, there was a suitcase, a big, black suitcase, which I was told contained the brides wedding dress. It seems that the family of the groom is responsible for buying or making the wedding dress. This is delivered to the bride at the Send Off.
Many cousins began to arrive – the house was filled with people – young and old. Great excitement! It was lots of fun. Soon we had to change into clothes that were as close to white in color as possible. We women were given white nylon stoles to put on. Martin and his best man put on a Ugandan costume – the bride comes from Uganda.
Todo, Ann, and the bride groom, Martin in his Uganda ritual garment. Yes, I did have sandals to wear, just not yet!
A young cousin came in announcing that the grandmother, (87) who begat this huge family had arrived. The stairs are too much for her. She is waiting patiently in the car. Finally, it was time to go. Getting this group of about 30 into cars took at least half an hour. I took my assigned seat and watched with much amusement. Tanzanians love to argue! Who was going to go with whom, who wasn’t ready and should be? etc.
It’s dark as we head to the restaurant. Bouncing our way over gravel and dirt pot holes we stopped at a point which I thought was because the holes were huge. No, we had arrived. This narrow road (just wide enough for two cars) had buses booming by – never mind, it all worked. Our group, now numbering about 75 got organized. Some of the groom family members carrying the gifts wrapped in grape leaves on their head were practicing. They had a tiny pad protecting their head. It’s pitch dark save a few headlights from passing cars. You get the scene!
Sisters: Winnie, Rube, Hilda, with their adorable mother and Editha soon after we arrive.
An MC came out to see the state or our readiness. I guess he thought all was going well for soon he invited us to dance down a long road towards the bride’s parents.
Grace’s parents (2 sets) awaited us.
The groom’s family got into the dancing – a slow and very rhythmic step. Yes, I danced too when I wasn’t taking pictures. We followed the bride’s parents into the back of an outdoor basketball-sized room gaily decorated, primarily in orange – choice of Grace.
As we entered the space the right side, I saw, was the bride’s side. The carriers of the gifts presented them (except the black suitcase) to the bride’s parents.The rest of us danced to our tables on the opposite side of the dance floor leaving the groom and his best man at the back of the room.
After a period the bridesmaids, danced their way down the long road. Dressed in orange they made an elegant entrance stopping at an orange ribbon strung across their pathways.
The moment for the entry of the bride arrived. She and her attendant, danced the same slow step.
The bride, when reaching the orange ribbon was given scissors to cut it. (You must remember that I didn’t understand a word during the evening. The language of Tanzania is Swahili). I usually could figure it out or occasionally someone whispered what was happening.
Throne like chairs are set forth and then Grace’s father delivers his speech extolling the virtues of his daughter. I had to believe that everything he said must be true. She is such a beautiful young woman, with enormous calm and engaging smile and laugh. We had not met but I just felt so happy that Martin had picked her as his bride.
After a while we all got up and danced.
Finally the moment came when Martin and his best man could enter and take their places in the ceremony. There was much cheering as they dance their way into the staging area.
The bride, groom and attendants now greet the guests.
It would take ten pages to describe in detail what went on over the next three hours. I discovered it was a musical, dance and dialogue event between two families getting to know one another. Many tribe traditions were integrated including one woman on the bride’s side coming to bride’s family table and rolling on the ground. I learned later this is a tradition that comes from a Uganda tribe. Then came the moment when the bride and groom cut into the cakes.
- Wedding cakes
Near the end of the four hour ceremony, food was offered and dancing began, all in context of ritual. I got up and had good fun trying their steps. The evening came to a close after the black suitcase with the bride’s wedding dress was delivered.
This Send Off was unique, meaningful,most entertaining and full of color. A very capable MC with a warm personality along with a man on sound made it all happen. It was evident they were old pros at Send Offs: cued everything perfectly with music appropriate to the moment.
We bounced our way back to the apartment. I fell into bed, tucked in under my mosquito net, and at 1 am dropped into the arms of morpheus, a very happy camper.