…well, not my wedding, but the first I’ve attended here. Peace Corps found each of us a family in our site that we could celebrate holidays with, and mine is the family of a man named Mitikoo. (It’s my understanding that Mitikoo is a name given to a child born after another child dies, supposedly to keep the dead child’s spirit from inhabiting the new baby. It literally means “it’s not me.”)
Mitikoo’s son (or brother? I got some mixed information) got married today — and the whole town, it seems, came by to offer congratulations and eat some delicious food. My counterpart passed along the invitation yesterday (while escorting Kim and I to a clinic, which is another story for another post). I was supposed to meet up with my tutor today, but she said she was going to the wedding, too. And then I found out over buna that my landlord was going, and he would walk with me — illustrating just how small this big town can be.
Luckily, my landlord briefed me on the process before we got there: instead of bringing a present for the bride and groom, you offer some birr (10 or 20) as you walk in, and some helper dudes put your name in a little book so they know who gave what. After that’s taken care of, you wash your hands and grab some grub and a beverage. Today’s selection included two different kinds of delicious itoo foon (meat stew), a red one and a white one, and a drink made of honey and water. You sit down and tabaduu. A young woman from the regional finance office sat down next to me, and we made awkward conversation. She was very kind for putting up with my stilted Afaan Oromo, and even asked me a few questions (How is Ethiopian culture? — Great. How are weddings in the U.S. compared to this? — Pretty similar, actually).
There are a few differences, though. In Afaan Oromo, there are different words for men and women to indicate that they’re married — the male form is something like “he has taken a wife,” and they’re not kidding. Part of the ceremony is the groom going to the wife’s family, where they’re also partying, and bringing her back to his family. Coincidentally, I stumbled across one such caravan picking up a young woman on my way home last night. There was singing and clapping and all-around merriment; I sat with the neighborhood kids on a wall across the street, and we gaped together.
I also noticed that while I was at Mitikoo’s, there was no music, just chatting. I told my new buddy that there’s dancing at American weddings, so that was one difference, but she clarified that the dancing comes later. I’m a little tempted to go back (people come and go all day), but I can’t tell you how exhausting it is to chat in a different language with a few dozen strangers, all of whom are shocked at your mere presence. My foreignness isn’t something that can be hidden, so I feel like a distraction. It would be like if I showed up to an American wedding wearing a Halloween costume — most people would be confused as to why I was there, a few brave souls would want to talk to me to find out why, and I would surprise every new person I ran in to.
Overall, I felt like today was a success. I attended a cultural event. I made conversation. I saw (and remembered) several people I’ve met before, and they greeted me warmly. I made a new friend. Gobez, Joanna.