April 10, 2014

Going to the Chapel and We're….

{almost} invited to a Tanzanian wedding.
Let me back up.

My friend and colleague, Holly, and I made a trip to the post office the other day.  I had a slip saying a package was here (YAY!) and she had some cards to post.  Our buddy Mike was working, as usual and we said our 'mambo's and 'poi's then he was off to get things taken care of.  Meanwhile Mr. Shine - the branch manager, and another pal of ours, walked by waving.
"OH!  You two, I have something special for you!  Take care of this then I will get it for you."
"Okay, we're finished," Holly replied.
Mr. Shine walks us over to the customs counter and hands us over two white envelopes.  Pulling out what appears to be a wedding invitation.
"Mike is getting married!" he says.
"AHhhhHHh! MIiiiikkkeeee!"  We exclaim, "Congratulations!!"
"When are you getting married?" we ask.
"May 31" he replies, sheepishly grinning.
"Here, these for you. Write your name here," Mr. Shine instructs us.  So Holly writes our names on the envelopes, then Mr. Shine copies them onto the actual invitation. Then he points out the location of the wedding, as listed on the invite and tells us we should come. "I'm the coordinator for the wedding," he says.
"Oh we will come! It will be so fun," we say.  We naive wazungus.

"Come, let us take a picture with you and Mike," Holly suggests.  So we gather 'round and snap a quick shot on my phone before we're bounding down the steps thrilled to have been {almost} invited to a Tanzanian wedding!
So I return to school (we were on our lunch break), and walk into history class where my other friend and colleague is sitting as the students work on their project.
"Francis!" I exclaim, "Holly and I just got invited to a wedding!"
"What…" he says, smiling, but skeptical.
"Yea, our friend at the post office is getting married and he gave us invitations, look!" I pull out the invite and hand it to him.  He looks over it, nods and smiles, "Nice." He replies. (typical guy response).
I recount the details of what happened at the post office, and we begin talking about wedding traditions in America versus in Tanzania (he's Kenyan).  I'm admiring the invitation and ask him what it says on the cover - 'Mchango wa Harusi'.  "Wedding," he replies.
"No, the whole thing, what does it say?"
"Contributions for the Wedding," he replies, cool and collected.
"WHAT??!" I exclaim.  "So this isn't actually an invitation?  It's an invitation to contribute to their wedding?"
"Yea," he replies, completely unfazed.
"Ugh.  Well, how much are we supposed to contribute?" I ask.
"Well, it depends.  If you want to actually go to the wedding, at least 30,000 shillings."
"30,000 shillings?!  A piece??!!" I'm shocked.  I was thinking like 10,000 or so.
"Yea," he replies, "It's very normal.  That's how weddings work here.  Many times people will give about 100,000.  You are supposed to give the money to the person that handed you this card, then they will give you the card that will let you into the wedding, if you gave a satisfactory amount."
I'm flabbergasted.  A little downhearted.  Psh.

After History class I walk down to Holly's room.
"Um.  Francis just told me we didn't actually get invited.  We only got invited to contribute to the wedding."
"What?!!" she says.
I explain the sad details and she too is flabbergasted, to say the least.  "I've already told loads of people I've been invited to a wedding!  Even my students!  One of them kept saying, 'No Miss Holly.  You didn't get invited.  You're not going.' but I thought she was just joking."
Apparently not.

So there you have it.  The story of how we {almost} got invited to a Tanzanian wedding.  We're still undecided as to if we will go.  We really want to because it will be an experience for sure, but we haven't quite decided yet.  Apparently there are occasions where they will still let you come if you don't give 'enough' because there are others that have given more than 'enough' essentially paying for extra 'seats' so they will give those away after speaking to the wedding committee.
Don't worry, if we go, I will surely be blogging about it :)