Week Before the Wedding

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My family crammed into a photobooth while at the mall buying last items for the trip

On October 12th Othy and his friend helped me move my things into an Airbnb that I found for my family in Namulundu, Bwebajja and to go shopping to get some food basics. Then later that evening we went to the airport to meet my family who were finally arriving! It felt somewhat like a dream or a collision of worlds. There was my family in the flesh. In Uganda! We brought them back to the Airbnb and got settled before turning in. The next day we slept in considerably, went to the Forex and grocery store in Lubowa to exchange money and buy more groceries, and then went to the market in Kajjansi for fresh fruit and vegetables. It was fun to see things anew through my family’s eyes. That evening we cooked a bean stew with rice and played a game of Wizard that took fooorever because we kept being sidetracked by conversation!

The following day my parents went with Othy and I to the Baptist Central Church of Africa (BCCA) which is a sister church to Othy’s church in Beni and is primarily made up of Congolese people. We went to the Swahili service because Othy’s family was going to be there. It turned out to be a special children’s sunday. It was fun to see the kids direct the service, but unfortunately it went very long and was not over until 3pm! I was impatient because we were late for a meeting with the wedding planner and photographer at the wedding location. We finally made it there by early evening and didn’t leave until after the sun set! It was a long day!

Monday was the day of the traditional wedding when Othy’s family came by and met my family and presented the symbolic dowry which is an important part of Congolese culture. My family were real troopers because they spent all morning preparing a meal while Othy and I went to the Congolese embassy for a pre-marital consultation (it turned out to be a waste of time because we were supposed to bring our witnesses with us). My family prepared a tasty beef stew along with an appetizer of homemade tortilla chips with mango salsa and guacamoli. Yum! Othy’s family arrived at around 4pm. They came with about ten people who represented the wider family: Othy’s mom and uncle, his oldest brother and sister, an aunt, a cousin, and two friends. With a few people translating we had some conversation about the things we each do for a living and some aspects of Canadian and Congolese culture. Then they presented the symbolic dowry in the form of several gifts that included two goats, two woven baskets, a carved foldable wood table, two carved wood plaques, and some money for the value of 8 more goats (because in Nande culture ten goats are usually given). My family had also prepared some small gifts for Othy’s parents, siblings, and aunts and uncles. After eating we took some photos in the garden and then had some tea and chocolate before they headed out. Over all it was a positive experience and I was proud of my family for the openness in engaging in such a different tradition. They were not too pleased however about the goats because they didn’t know what to do with them. Thankfully Reuben, the caretaker at the Airbnb, was able to help feed them and bring them in and out everyday. Later on in the week Al jokingly asked dad what we should name the goats. Dad said, “Well one is black and one is white, so why not Othy and Lise?” I’m glad that we at least got a few good laughs from the experience. Eventually Reuben and Dad were able to find buyers for them.

On Tuesday we slept in again and I took my family to visit the craft market and a cafe near downtown while I went to a meeting with the wedding planner in Kololo. We took a matatu to the downtown and from there we took bodas to Watoto church which is near the Buganda market. We should have walked instead because the traffic was so bad that the ride was stop and go and not enjoyable at all, especially for my family’s first ever boda ride in Kampala! We lost each other in the traffic and I was thankful that we found each other again. I pointed the fam in the direction of the craft market and cafe, and an hour or so later came and found them. From there we took an Uber to the seamstress to try on the outfits that had been started and to give her some new outfits to make. Finally after the third try, my wedding dress was good to go and the bridesmaid dresses were looking good too. Mom also liked the dress that I had made for her that was a mix of Congolese and my own design ideas.

On Wednesday Al and Dad left early to go white water rafting on the nile near Jinja. The joke was that they were going to go down the Nile in a basket like baby Moses! While they were away I proposed to bring Mom and Jen to the Entebbe Botanical Gardens to explore for two hours while Othy and I had a meeting with Rev. Dr. David Kasali who would be officiating our wedding. I wish that I could have been in two places at once! After we picked them up again, I learned of some of the cool things that they saw like leaves that feel like sandpaper, tree roots that grow above ground, and some other majestic trees and plants. That evening Othy and I went to pick up Vikkie and Jeff from the airport. It was wonderful to be joined by these two good friends!

The following day I took everyone on a visit to EMI for lunch. To get there we took bodas from the main road and it was a much more enjoyable experience this time because it is a more rural area! Afterwards we went to the grocery store and market again, and then later in the evening we went to the Kasali’s place in Lubowa for a potluck dinner with other Congo Initiative staff who are in Kampala. In the evening I had planned to go and meet Ron and Ingrid at the airport, but Mom and Al offered to go instead because they could see how tired I was!

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The day before the wedding was a mix of emotions (as were other moments this week). I had done a lot of the planning for the wedding, and last minute changes kept coming which were out of my control and difficult for me to handle because I am a designer and perfectionist. One big change was that the religious wedding was moved to the BCCA church. The reason for this was because the church does not perform marriages outside of their building but informed us of this very last minute. My family took the morning slow and me and my sisters had some snuggle time. Later on we brought out the table cards that Jen had designed and mostly finished that just needed to be assembled together. They looked so beautiful! Othy and I then went back to the Congolese embassy for our second attempt at a pre-marital consultation and this time we brought our witnesses who were two of Othy’s friends and Vikkie and Jeff. We then discovered that our witnesses were supposed to be couples, but fortunately they let us put their names down and promise to have them there the next day! We also learned that the civil wedding would start an hour later. This brought me to tears because there was so much to fit in one day and it meant we would be lucky to arrive at Bwerenga just a bit before sunset. It was time to let the little details go and to focus on the fact that I was soon going to marry my best friend and mpenzi wangu (beloved). The day was finally here after A LOT of waiting! Vikkie treated Mom, Jen and I to a facial and then I went to bed early in an attempt at some beauty sleep after an emotional day!

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