Sunday, December 16, 2012

Waiting for a Wedding in Mochudi

Today Scott and I ventured about an hour's drive outside of Gaborone to Mochudi (home village of Mma Ramotswe of the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series!) for our first Botswana wedding. That is, we attempted to go to the wedding - details below!

We were invited by Moses, a motor pool driver who I've driven with a few times and have become friendly with - he sings in his church choir and will sometimes serenade his passengers with a church hymn or two on the way to various meetings and events throughout the course of the day. Today was the second of two ceremonies held to celebrate Moses's wedding. The first ceremony yesterday consisted of a church ceremony and formal reception in Gaborone, and the Mochudi celebration was meant to be a more down home style event with a freshly slaughtered goat (slaughtered by Moses, might I add) as the central menu item.

The village and wedding set-up were mostly as I imagined they would be. Mochudi itself is very small, dusty and quiet, and the primary Sunday afternoon activity for most folks as far as I could tell was sitting in the shade and gossiping about anyone who might happen to pass by. As you can imagine, two sunglasses-wearing Americans in an SUV with diplomatic plates caused quite a stir! When we walked up to the wedding crowd I was reminded of all those awkward moments in China when I walked into a store or other enclosed space and knew that everyone there was talking about me. Except this time, I couldn't understand what they were saying (although I could take a pretty good guess if I had to, because isn't it the same everywhere? who are they?! they're so tall! why are they here?! they're so tall! where are they from? they're so TALL!).

Cheerfully waiting for the wedding to begin.
Anyway, once people recovered from the initial shock of seeing us walk into the courtyard outside Moses's house where the wedding tents, tables and chairs, and DJ were being set up, we settled in to wait for the wedding to begin.

Here was once again highlighted a key difference between African and American culture - our very, very different attitudes about time. I knew I should have been suspicious when I asked Moses what time the wedding would start, and he said I should be there "around 12:30." But, being the punctual Americans that we are, we showed up at a respectable 12:45. This was something we had discussed ahead of time - we didn't want to get there right at 12:30 because obviously it wouldn't start right on time. So we compromised, adapted ourselves to African time, and got there 15 minutes late. It took a major effort to arrive somewhere purposefully late, but we did it!

We soon found that our efforts to be late were in vain. Fifteen minutes would be far from sufficient. We were dealing with a whole new level of lateness!

As we arrived, the banquet area was still being set up. Women were slicing vegetables outside. We took our seats, looked around, and realized we were the only people sitting under the tent. Everyone else was seated outside under the trees, exchanging a few last comments about Scott and me. A few minutes later, Moses sauntered out in work clothes and thanked us for coming, and apologized that things were running "a little late." No problem, we said! We'll just sit here and wait!
The DJ spinning to an empty wedding tent.

Over the next hour, we sat at a table while various people came up to us to say hello. We met Moses's sister, his cousin, and his uncle. We stared at the DJ for a while as he mixed African wedding classics. We also met a nice young man who grilled us about how he could get a job at the Embassy and attempted to get our cell phone numbers so he could call us about said job. He also asked us if we had any cigarettes, and when we said no, inquired politely if we could give him two pula (25 cents) so he could go and buy some cigarettes. A nice lady brought us some fruit juice a little later, because we must've been starting to look a little desperate.

Finally, around 2:00, Moses and his friends came out of the house dressed in wedding attire. YES, we thought, FINALLY. But, alas, Moses told us they were going to drive somewhere to take wedding photos, and that it would take "about 45 minutes."

This time around, we knew better! We decided to cut our losses and head back to Gaborone (our dramatic exit, of course, caused much scandalized talking from the crowd under the shade trees! Where are they going?! Don't they know the wedding hasn't started yet?! They're so tall!!). Sadly, we did not get to see the actual wedding and for all I know it was early evening before the ceremony finally started!

To console ourselves, we got some KFC to eat in the car on the way home. I then spent the rest of the afternoon on the couch watching The Tudors DVD's.

And that was our first Botswana wedding!

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