Sunday, August 1, 2010

Introduction to Rwanda: A Wedding!

At about noon the day before my 10am flight I received the following (paraphrased) email from Zack Scott, one of the Dartmouth alums currently working at WWHPS/CCHIPS:

Hey Eli – Have a safe flight tomorrow! Just so you know, we’ll be going to a wedding immediately after you arrive in Kigali, so you should pack something nice in your carryon. See you tomorrow! – Zack

Oh. Okay. If nothing else, at least this helped top off my summer of weddings. Armed with little more than the series of advice that I’ve gotten from past Rwandan travelers (“Absolutely do not wear flip flops.” “It is disrespectful for women to not wear skirts.” “I live in jeans and flip flops when I’m there.” “They love bright colors.”), I decided to just bring a simple black travel dress and black sandals. I changed in the Kigali Airport bathroom, and drew a crowd as I flossed my teeth. Too bad I didn’t have any hair elastics, because at this point it had been 26 hours since my last shower (aka…it looked like I had just stepped out of the shower), and it was HOT in Kigali.

On the drive over to the wedding, Zack mentioned that the wedding started at 1pm. Since I was in a complete daze and thought it was still Friday, he pointed out the importance of this comment by saying that it was already past 1pm, but since the wedding would likely last 2 hours, he didn’t feel bad being late.

So now I was going to a wedding in a foreign country for somebody I didn’t know, wearing probably an entirely inappropriate outfit, and late. Great introduction to Rwanda.

Turns out I didn’t have much to worry about. Except for maybe the blandness of my outfit.

When we first walked in, nobody took notice because the 60 person choir was booming…for about 10 minutes. Interestingly, the choir was larger than the congregation. The building itself made late entrances easy because it was essentially a huge pavilion with a few walls here and there. But there were openings EVERYWHERE…so no huge, loud, wooden door at the back of the church that everybody could hear open. And we were not alone. By the end of the services, the congregation was at least 3 times the size of the choir. Every time I turned around, 10 more people had filtered in. I’m not even sure they all knew the couple.

Because the service itself was in Kinyrwandan (or at least I’m telling myself it was: I was hoping it would be an opportunity for me to practice my French…but I did not understand a single word), I had ample time look around and observe. Some key take away points:
• It appears to be socially acceptable to bare one’s shoulders, and strapless dresses are all the rave.
• My boring sandals are just not going to cut it if I want to be stylish.
• Also in terms of style…the brighter, the better. The groom was wearing a gold ruffly shirt (is there a formal name for that?) under his tuxedo. I took a mental picture for my future husband.
• It’s entirely socially acceptable to get out of one’s seat, walk up to the altar, and take some pictures of the couple during their vows. (Which translated into “I understand” rather than “I do.”)
• Weddings are a joyous events: one should definitely cheer intermittently throughout the service.
• English or not, I am never going to a Catholic wedding again. Sorry…but that was LONG.

I was a little too scared at the end to introduce myself to Piscine, the groom, who I will be working with for the next year. But when I do meet him, I’ll be sure to point out that his wedding probably rocked more than Chelsea Clinton’s.


Jen said...

so now you really won't be my bridesmaid

Eli(zabeth) Mitchell said...

good to see you're reading...i was about to stop including your call-outs.

aww that's the first you've asked me to be a bridesmaid! remember that fight when you said you weren't sure who you would choose?! i'll still be one if you get your husband to wear a gold tux too...