Introduction Ceremony

Trip Start Nov 01, 2005
Trip End Apr 14, 2006

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Flag of Uganda  ,
Thursday, March 2, 2006

I was rudely awoken on Friday morning by the radio, but was appeased by Chris making me fried eggs and fried bread. Healthy! Unfortunately, though, Karen (stupidly) turned her phone on, and got a text saying we should be at school- we think (now) that it was intended for the teachers, but at the time half the house was planning to ignore it, while half of us felt we really should go in given that we knew we were meant to. In the end, we compromised. Becca, Chris and I went in at about 10 until lunch- so only a couple of hours- and found that, as we thought, it was only the hostel kids there, who have nowhere else to go. (i.e. the sponsored children) all the children who have a home to go to didnt come in. We got all of P1,2, and 3 together (in total only about 45 kids) and played hangman, did dancing with them (including taking them on a conga around the school) and attempting to play British bulldog with them. They evidently didnt understand though, as they kept just running up to us when we had to try and catch them! We marched back to the classroom and sang songs with them until lunchtime. We may not have done much, but at least we went and played with them- I think they appreciated being given something to do- only 2 of the teacher could make it into school (since they'd all gone home to vote yesterday) so there werent any lessons. Afterwards I walked into Nansana to pick up our gomeses (the traditional dresses for tomorrow). I turned up an hour after they said they'd be ready- and surprise surprise, not ready yet 'come back in 40 minutes'. I did however, have an interesting conversation with the guy who works there- apparently he 'admires me' and I 'break his heart'! He insisted on having my telephone number. I'm not the only one though- both Liz and Esther have had to give out their email addresses in the internet cafe having been talked to, and Becca got a very sweet note with a marriage proposition on the way back from Palissa! Anyway I went to while the way the time in the bar (:-o) next to the internet cafe, and watched a bit of a Nigerian film- which was rubbish (as always). On the way back to the shop, a man stopped me- apparently I look like Joanna... I said I dont know any Joanna but by that time he had stopped to talk. Apparently he's a lawyer and went to Harvard university. Not so sure about that one, but I was very pleased to see Becca, Chris and Emily walking towards me- I said I had to meet them, and introduced them to my 'new friend'. We returned to the gomez shop and they still weren't finished! Dorcus turned up for some reason and offered to wait because she didnt want us going home in the dark- which was really nice of her- and she came to stay the night too (which was a bit unexpected!)

I'll finish writing this up soon- but at the moment i gotta go, because (apparently) the power will be going off in the next few minutes... Thats life in Africa I guess!

On Saturday we had our introduction party! It's like an engagement party, where the groom officially asks the parents if he can marry their daughter. Apparently we had been told to get to Beatrice's house to be ready to go, by 8am- mzungu time (as opposed to African time). That in itself would have been fine, but we know what these Africans are like, so I wasn't too fussed about getting there on time. Emily however, insisted that we were up having breakfast by 7, in order to get there for 8. As it happened, we didn't arrive until 8:20- but it didn't matter- we knew we'd have some waiting around when they got the chairs out. We didn't leave her house until 9:45- and then we walked right past our house at about 10am. We started thinking about the nice lie in we could have had, but there was nothing we could do. We then walked for a further 20 minutes to get to the groom's house, where, yet again we were offered seats (never a good sign) while we waited for the taxis to come. Turns out that the taxis were somewhat few and far between, being the election weekend, so we didn't actually leave until 12:40. Yup- 4 hours after we thought we were leaving- and the ceremony supposedly started at 1pm! While we were waiting though, we all got dressed up in our lovely gomeses- they're basically long loose dresses, with a square neck and triangle shaped shoulders- so it looks like your shoulders come up to your ears! I'll try and get a photo up next week. I'd be fine if we were just wearing that, but we had to wear really thick underskirts too- tablecloth thickness, and doubled over it got really hot! As part of the dowry for the bride, the groom was taking a cow to the ceremony. Question: How do you transport a cow to such a ceremony? Answer: Pick it up (with the help of several of your friends) and drop it in the back of a pickup truck, with it's legs tied together, of course. It wasn't very nice to see, but at least it was alive and kicking and again it made some good video footage :D We were also given a cup of chai, what the Ugandans call tea, but what is in fact like the milk steamers you can get in Reading railway station- its basically milk, with lots and lots of sugar, and a tiny bit of tea (that I couldn't even taste). It was really nice! But then again, I have a sweet tooth- some people hate it.

Anyway we left at about 12:45 and arrived at the introduction ceremony 2 hours later - but we needn't have worried about being late- the bride and groom didn't turn up until 4:40! So until then we sat around, I read my book, we were given a huge plate of rice matooke and not-so-bad meat, and we got pretty hot in our gomeses. Phiona had come too, and was wearing a nice lilac dress- with huge underskirts that made her look enormous!

When the groom and his family finally arrived, they all lined up, and walked through the white archway (typical wedding temporary type thing) having cut the ribbon that was at first tied across it. We had the best seats in the house to see all the action- we'd been moved to the seats that we had assumed were for the bride and groom- bang at the front of the entire marquee. Special guests, I suppose. It started off with 2 of the women coming forward and kneeling on the ground in front of the groom, before getting up and placing a wreath of feathers (?) around his neck. It helped us clarify who the groom was though, as we'd guessed wrong at first! Then someone brought in a crate of sodas (coke, sprite, mirinda- which is like vimto etc) and did some kind of ceremony opening them and pouring them into 2 glasses- one for each of the MCs. We don't really know what was said since the entire thing was in Lugandan, but we got the gist of most of it- and for some parts, Phiona translated (which resulted in a Chinese-whisper effect as we passed the translation down the line). Most of it consisted of 2 men talking between each other about the bride and groom, and doing all the traditional things I guess they are meant to do. Don't really know.

After this, all the men who knew the bride (including Chris) came forward in their kanzuus (the traditional outfit the men wear that look like white nighties) to greet the groom. Again, don't know what they said, but they stood there a couple of minutes speaking before they left. Chris looked somewhat nonplussed. Then it was the women's turn -and they all came in and kneeled (of course) in front of the groom. Esther, Liz and Karen went but the rest of us didn't really know what was going on, so we stayed seated. The greeting over, Annette (the bride) finally came in, looking lovely in her gomesi, and she knelt down to watch the presentation of the dowry. Wow- there was so much stuff! It must be great to see your worth in food produce. She had 2 huge bags of rice, loads of vegetables, bread, 3 crates of soda, a suitcase, sugar, lots of soap, a live cockerel (which we were worried they were going to kill- but they didn't) a huge leg of meat (which we thought was the cow we saw earlier- but it wasn't fortunately) and of course the cow. There was quite a lot more too! One of the MCs presented each of them to her, at one point comparing her beauty to that of a bottle of coke... Not sure that's a compliment. Disappointingly, the cow wasn't brought into the marquee- the bride and groom went out to see it. Apparently they were very happy with it (according to Phionah 'they're always happy with the cow'!)

After this they exchanged rings, and repeated after one of the MC some words- presumably like vows, and then cut the wedding cake. What's going to be left for the wedding, I wonder?! We were quite impressed that it was a proper cake- I was worried it was just one of those cardboard ones, but sure enough, they hacked it to bits (it wasn't really soft enough to slice like you would an English cake) and passed it round- it had icing and everything! Stefan shook up a sprite bottle and sprayed it everywhere like champagne too. It was really fun! After the ceremony had finished, I danced with some of the children, who were captivated (I'm noticing a pattern here), before getting ready to leave. One of the teenagers came up to me and asked 'Can I talk to you, please?' I asked her what she wanted to talk about, and she said 'Can you lend me some money?' I explained to her that I would in fact be giving it to her as I'd never see her again, and if I gave her money, it wouldn't be fair on everyone else. I think she understood. I also talked to Prosse, the mother of the baby we were playing with on the youth outing last month. She asked me if I was married! I told her I was a bit young, but asked her instead- and as it happens, she is married, and has four children- 5, 3, 2, and Timo (the baby). She's 24.

We crammed 21 into a taxi that says on the side 'licensed to hold 14 passengers'- and even that's a squeeze, but fortunately, being the tallest, I got to sit in the front where I at least wasn't squished between 3 people! When we finally got home we were exhausted and fell straight into bed. Zzzzz

Not much happened on Sunday, except at Church, Stephen decided to ask anyone who needed it to come up for prayer. You can tell it's a Pentecostal church- he put his hands on their neck, and shouted for the evil spirits of sickness to leave them, after which a few of them fell over. I think most of the church was just watching- including the children, who he didn't think to send out before he did this somewhat scary healing! I've also learnt that trying to run Sunday School for over 200 children in a very confined space even with 4 of you, is very difficult! I was standing at the back, and despite Karen shouting her loudest, I still couldn't hear. The main problem is that the shelter (that we're very grateful for, keeping us out of the midday sun) is right behind the church (with thin wooden walls) and when Stephen preaches, he really goes for it- so we can hear every single word he's shouting into the microphone. I've also managed to burn my scalp, because my braids are in, but I forgot to take a hat. So I walked to church with my Bible balanced on my head, and later in Sunday school I nicked one of the kids wooly hats they got in their shoebox for half an hour or so! I looked great, in my green and yellow florescent wooly hat. Also in the service, this little girl who I'd never seen before came up to me, perched on my lap, and promptly fell asleep on me! It was really sweet- and to be honest, I felt like doing the same thing. We were all so tired after last night we just lounged around the entire afternoon.

At breaktime on Monday, a boy came to us with a gash in his leg- not sure how he did it, but I think he ran into something. It wasn't bleeding much, but it didn't look to good, and since the school don't even have any plasters on site, let alone a first aid kit, I went home to get mine. I think we're going to leave lots of stuff when we leave, because kids are always falling over and injuring themselves! I was quite a good nurse, I think- I got the sterile gauze out, and taped it over his cut (he limped off, looking sorry for himself) and sprayed my Savlon on this girls knee (at which I got cries of aii, aii) and plastered it up. Top Class werent really in a working mood this morning, so I didn't bother trying to teach them, and just sang songs, and made up a wonderful story, using the board to draw the pictures. Esther was laughing at me, but I think they enjoyed it more than drawing a bag or dress. That was all that really happened today, apart from the teachers getting a bit upset over some things that had been said by certain people. There was a bit of a misunderstanding about whether they were meant to be in school last Friday or not, and Stephen isn't pleased. I think (I hope) its all being sorted out now, as I don't like to see them unhappy since they work so hard at school.

Pancake Day!! Emily and Liz made Canadian buttermilk pancakes for breakfast (yummy small pancakes like Scotch pancakes) despite not having any buttermilk. Just as they were finishing them though, the gas ran out. Doh! Paraffin stoves from now on... They taste really good with golden syrup though... Mmmm. Emily and Esther's visas run out this week, so they went to the visa office with the others- I think based on the experiences of the others, they decided to apply just for a tourist visa, and mention nothing of the work they're doing here. A little underhand, perhaps, but the others first applied for their visa on the 20th October- and still havent heard anything. It's really bad. Thankfully though, Liz (who leaves in 2 weeks time) managed to get her passport back, plus a note that says she's been trying to get a visa, so she wont get fined. Therefore Becca and I were left at school, so we gave all our spare break and lunch to the teachers. I decided to stretch top class today, and gave them 3 pictures to draw. I also tried to teach them Incy Wincy Spider, but was somewhat hindered by the other teacher not really understanding what I was saying, and so repeating it wrong. Quite funny though. Liz and Emily spent hours this evening making pancakes on the parrafin stove (very slowly) and we had them rolled up with potatoes and veggies inside and then baked in the oven, which is apparently how Emily has them at home (but with cheese sauce, ham and peas- I think). They were very nice though, well worth the wait! Some people didn't approve of savory pancakes, so we had a sweet one afterwards too. And there was still mixture left!

I got up at 6:30am on Wednesday morning to make more pancakes on the electric hob (which never quite gets hot enough) so it was very slow- about 1 pancake every 10 minutes. I made a poster for most of the morning, but then at break there were some other mzungus visiting- very exciting! The children all crowded round, and I don't think they've ever paid us that much attention before, either- I felt like I was the visitor! Debbie, I think her name was, had lived in the Congo with her husband for 10 years, and has lived in Kampala with her family (4 kids now) for the last 10 years as well. Her parents had come over to visit, and since they sponsored a child here, they wanted to come and see her. They were given a tour of the school, and then about 15 children got dressed in their traditional African dancing gear, and sang some songs and did a couple of dances from around Uganda for us. They were SO good! I'm not surprised that they laugh when we try and do the kiganda if that's what its meant to look like! They shake so fast- and have skirts like pom-poms which probably make it look faster than it really is. There were 3 kids doing really good African drumming, and they were jumping all over the place- they all had so much energy I don't know how they do it! It was a really nice thing to watch them do it- apparently the school had hired someone for 3 months to teach them how to do it- it makes me feel better that it doesn't just come naturally! Becca and I lay on the trampoline in the sun for a bit this afternoon, but I kept sliding into the hole so I went home. We cooked early since we still had electricity, but it ended up being on all evening!

We had the day off school on Thursday since the local MPs were being elected today. Most of us in the house have decided to give up snacking between meals for lent. I don't normally give up anything, but I figured it would do me good! I do just end up eating loads at dinner though, but Karen says its better to eat loads and loads of rice than a couple of biscuits. Its really hard when there are sweets and biscuits lying around though! I'm getting quite hungry. I made a card for Phiona this morning- she's 26 tomorrow- and its quite creative! There's ribbon going around it, glued down on one side, so its like a pocket, and we've poured sequins in there. Becca made 3 flowers out of tissue paper which we stuck on the front along with some foam stars, and inside I made the words 'HAPPY BIRTHDAY' pop out when you open it. Emily asked if we were trying to see how much of the craft material we could use up, which is a fair question! I waited for the power to go off at home (and therefore on in Nansana- its either one or the other) and then walked down to go on the internet. Afterwards, Becca, Esther and I brought passionfruits, peppers and tomatoes from the local stalls- we didn't know how much we should be paying, so I think we were a little ripped off, but we still got 20 passionfruits, 5 peppers and 10 tomatoes for just over a pound. I think we'll manage. We went home and made some biscuits in preperation for Saturday- we're having a party for Phiona and Kirabo. We wrapped up Phionah's presents- we got her a book, 2 jumpers, and a mobile phone from all of us. I cant wait to see her face when we give them to her! I made jelly (for tomorrow) before I went to bed too.
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