Having just gotten settled in to the orphanage within the past few days and already having several things occur worth blogging about (e.g. getting lost in the city and miraculously stumbling across the orphanage office by pure coincidence), I sort of expected a night to chill out, blog a little, and to get my things unpacked.
I should have learned by then that the expected is not what happens in Tanzania.
The thing that happened next was surely nothing other than African matrimony.
That’s right. I was invited to a friend’s wedding by the founder of the orphanage, Momma Asha, 5 minutes before the ceremony commenced. It happened like this: I was playing music for the kids in the dining room, it was evening, when Gifty, the youngest and most bubbly one, sprinted into the scene and said this: “Aren’t you going to the wedding?”
I was dumbfounded, without an answer. Why an orphan would be telling me about a wedding at 9 o’clock at night in Africa was beyond my realm of comprehension. “Aren’t you going to the wedding,” is truly the last thing that I ever expected to hear from anyone at any point in my gap year, but especially from little Gifty in Tanzania. I was speechless.
I eventually achieved the incredible feat of, “Huh?”
In good time, I was explained to like a child (by children) that a friend’s wedding was taking place a short ways away, and if I was going then I needed to hurry up and get dressed.
Being the opportunist that I am, I shouted, “Of course I’m going!” as soon as I managed to wrap my dizzy mind around what was being offered to me. Perhaps a bit too enthusiastically I ran off to put on the best clothes that I had.
Now, I’d like to think that I was a pretty sharp dresser back in the States, but I didn’t plan to have to be snazzy on my gap year. The best that I could coax out of my suitcase was a white button down and a pair of jeans. Boy, was I underdressed.
When we arrived, I was dazzled by the bounty of color being offered to my sight. It was like nothing I’ve ever seen before. Women were dressed head to toe in beautiful traditional shawls of every hue and pattern imaginable. The men wore flamboyant and elegant suits made of fine silk and leather. It was straight from a fairy tale.
I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Looking back now, I still can’t believe that it took place in my own life. Growing up in rural North Carolina, I wondered many times what the future held for me, but never once did I imagine that I would spend a night at a wedding in Africa. Knowing full well that you’re in the middle of a story that you will tell for the rest of your life is a weird thing.
I’ll save myself the embarrassment of attempting to describe the ceremony and traditions that took place under the stars that night, because I know that they carry a freight that of which I can’t understand, but I will say that what I witnessed was beautiful.
When I went up front to take pictures for this blog post I heard the word ‘mzungu’ amongst a Swahili discourse coming from the overhead speaker.
“Uh oh,” was my reaction.
You see, the word ‘mzungu’ means “white friend” in Swahili, and being the only person of my skin color at this particular event, I had a hunch that I was being referred to by this statement.
I was utterly correct.
I turned to find myself as a spectacle deserving laughter from every single person at the wedding. I gathered that whatever was said was hilarious, so I grinned in the spotlight, and laughed along, too. When the hilarity of the moment had passed, and the laughter died down, I ducked out of the spotlight and ran back to my seat beside my friend, Halima, embarrassed as all hell.
She told me that the Master of Ceremonies had made a joke about my hair. I couldn’t help but feeling like I had walked straight in to that one. Not to be vulgar, but after a day of work and without regular showers available, my hair was ascending to all new heights; stuck up with dirt, sweat, and grime. I looked like if an Anime character had joined Guns N’ Roses.
When it was all over, we came back home. I had the experience of a lifetime. I’m obligated to feel like the luckiest man alive. My conclusion is that the best things in life are taken opportunities. All that you have to do is just put yourself out here, and you’ll see. Within the first week here I’ve gotten lost and found in Arusha, hiked around Lake Duluti, taught the kids an original song, joined a reggae band, made tons of new friends, and attended an African wedding. Of course, I expected great things, but my expectations are being exceeded everyday by reality.
I’ve never been happier.
Original Publication Date: September 17, 2015
Original Publication Site: http://globalgap.unc.edu/2015/09/17/a-story-ill-tell-for-the-rest-of-my-life/