Wednesday, May 16, 2007

A wedding of epic proportions

So last Sunday, May 6th was my sister's wedding. It was the most overwhelming day I've had yet in country and the closest I've gotten to a breakdown. It was horrible. Here it goes:

Saturday i spent the day helping roughly 15 women prepare couscous, and chop vegetables, make beignets, and shop for gifts, and paint peoples initials on bowls and pots with my nail polish and being ordered around to help with chores, and asked to dance, and take a million pictures of everyone. That was mostly fun except that being asked for the 20th time if I wanted a senegalese husband and having them all speak to me in wolof and ask why i wasn't learning wolof was starting to get old. So after putting in about 8 hours i left and spent the evening out with friends.

After spending a restless night's sleep saturday with lots of strangers in my house, (having come home at night to cow guts and skins, and organs everywhere around midnight with the reddish outside light on, and many young shirtless men chopping away at the leftovers, and asking me to marry them) we were woken up at 6am to start the chores. By roughly noon there were probably 100 people in my house. Mostly women, a zillion children, so many smells I can't even handle. We still were not dressed in our "bridesmaid" dresses. So we went searching for a salon so that my sisters could accompany hte bride and have their own makeup done.

The first one was so crowded that it would take forever, so we went to another one adn waited, though it was closed so after two hours of being dragged around in the sweltering heat we went back to the house. This is when I almost lost it. I was being spoken to in wolof the whole time because my sister's friends were around and they speak wolof, and we were carrying lots of crap and had no directoin and all i wanted to do was study for my exam on tuesday and spend some of my last hours with my friends.
So, we go home and by now there are women everywhere. we sit in my room and scarf some oily rice and then my sister's start ushering in women so that they can pray privately in my room. So im trying to study for a few brief hours despite the ridiculous noise.
OH! i totally forgot to mention that this ENTIRE TIME, huge speakers have been placed in my compound and BLARING all day long. literally. It's hard ot describe, but about the volume of an atrociously loud dance club.
Around 4 oclock we finally get dressed, my sisters have their makeup done (i refused, once i realized that senegalese makeup meant shaving my eyebrows and sharing the makeup at a salon that hundreds have used before me), and we trudge back to the house. there are now probably 150 women in my house. all speaking in wolof and all trying to get the toubab to dance for htem. so i take cover with my sisters, find a cute baby, and 2 of the other volunteers showed up to hang out and witness the event.
The bride finally comes back from the mosque where she and all the men have been. The husband never comes home, and only a few of the men show. some of the women meanwhile have taken all of the donuts and refreshments that they spent the whole prevoius day making over to the men and come back with them all gone.

She looked absolutely gorgeous and totally done up to the nines. The car was decorated and everything, but all she did was come in and spend 2 hours greeting every SINGLE person in the house and having pictures taken of her, was given water, and fanned.
By 7:30 i couldn't take it anymore, and then they started packing everyone INTO the house. that was just absurd. So I told my sister's that i had to leave and study, so i gave her my gift, changed my clothes and spent the night out and stayed at a friends house.

its hard to explain how overwhelming the whole thing was, and i dont think that i do it justice. when i have the time to upload the pictures i think that you will all have a better idea. I was just so tired of being bossed around, sweaty, it really didn't matter at all that i was there, i didn't understand a single thing that was going on, i was so hungry and anxoius about my exam.

The wonderful thing is though, that despite those two days of total insanity, the next evening when i came back, my family was so thrilled to see me and they spent a good half hour profusely thanking me for letting them use my room and spending the night out so that they could use my bed. They had cleaned it top to bottom and kept telling me what a good person i was and wanted me to make absolutely sure that nothing in my room was missing. it was so refreshing.

i learned that weddings universally, are stressful and overwhelming and I have decided that someday when i have my very own, i blatantly refuse ot let that happen. I came away with some great pictures, and a cultural learning experience that i will never forget. I now know that the next wedding i am invited too, i will go towards the very end, and pre-invent an excuse to leave if i need to.


Karen said...

well im glad u had a great time,

but u better belive that you WILL be comming, and STAYING my ENTIRE wedding.


love u.

miss u
your ausome cuzin

Wendy said...

It's all about the experience. And I agree with Karen...when you're in my wedding someday, we'll make a pact for it to not be stressful. Maybe your sister just needed a good drunken bachelorette party to loosen up before the fact. Maybe you can suggest that for the next one.
love you,