Getting married in Uganda...

April 10, 2008 - Kampala, Uganda

Don't worry, I didn't get married myself ;-)

Although we’re becoming more and more Ugandan every week… 2 weeks ago, Allen (our supervisor from SchoolNet Uganda), took us to a traditional Ugandan event, called an ‘introduction’. Those introductions are organized for the families of the groom and bride to get acquainted with each other, before the official marriage takes place. And here in Uganda this just goes slightly different than that we’re used to… It’s not just a small meeting, having some coffee, chatting a bit.. No, it’s a BIG EVENT…

Allen was going to get us at 9.00 in the morning, but of course this became a bit later, although holding on to African time it was still quite on time ;-) And before getting into her car after she had arrived, we first had to redress ourselves… Cause at those introductions you need to wear the traditional clothing. So, imagine: 3 mzungus trying to look like the locals in real Ugandan ‘gomesi’ (traditional dresses). Hilarious. Of course it took a while before we finally got dressed (those dresses are not the easiest to put on…), but finally we left our place to start our journey to Nazigo, in the Kayunga district, a few hours out of Kampala. So there we went, into the country, with Allen’s 4-wheel-drive. First we had to go to the house of the groom, to collect the presents for the bride’s family. This was easier said than done, cause his house wasn’t quite located in the ‘civilized world’. We kind of got lost… To repeat Allen’s words: ‘yeah, sometimes it would be easier to have real addresses here in Africa, how are we ever gonna find the 5th big mango tree on the left…?!’ Haha, just love it. So in the end, we got a boda boda guy driving in front to guide us, easy.. For me this was the first time to really get into the country where no normal roads exis and of course it had been raining the night before and like I said before: African rain is serious rain.. So you can imagine it was quite of an adventure to find our way through the mud. Although Allen is a short woman, she’s definitely a tough one, not scared for speeding and rough driving :) So, we made it there without any trouble..

After collecting all the baskets with presents it was time to go the Introduction venue. At least, that’s what we thought… But, don’t forget, we’re still in Africa. So 500 meters later, we stopped again to wait for the rest of the family. In Holland, this would have taken 15 minutes maximum. Not in Uganda. I think we stood there for about an hour and a half. It was quite amusing though.. All the kids from the village noticed us and of course we became the main focus of attention in no-time. They all gathered around our car, staring and smiling at us… And when we gave them some of our cookies, the number of kids doubled in a split second, haha.

Anyway, some time later we could finally leave, on our way to the venue, I thought. Oh no, we’re still in Africa, forgot.. So, first we needed to go to a supermarket to get some food, cause Allen was expecting not to get food till about 3.00 in the afternoon. Alright, getting out of the car in those dresses wasn’t only challenging, it also caused hilarity all over the place… :) 1 mzungu is already quite a sight and then there’s suddenly 3 of them ánd all of them wearing their traditional dresses.. The whole supermarket staff couldn’t stop laughing and called the other staff to come and see this: 3 mzungus in gomesi! ‘Oh girls, you look so smart!’ is what we heard all the time. Although we felt anything but smart wearing those things, haha.

Some good laughing later, it was time to restart the journey again. It went well for a few kilometres, but of course we couldn’t continue before some more waiting was done. We’ve only been waiting for 2,5 hours now, come on, we need more! So, we stopped again. Vera and I really needed the toilet after all these hours, and you know peeing in Uganda is already an adventure without wearing a dress, so you understand we both became a bit nervous thinking about the toilets (read: holes) and our dresses. Anyway, we had no choice. A little restaurant helped us out, as they had a few small booths with holes in the ground. Help! How not to pee on the dress?! And how to avoid this horrible smell?! Quite a mission… It all worked out fine though and at least we brought some laughter to the people there ;-)

Half an hour later: back on the road… at least, for a while. Until the whole family of the groom had finally found each other. Of course the entire procedure needed to be discussed before actually getting there. So, we were told to kneel down whenever the rest was doing that too. The groom is from another tribe than the bride, lower in hierarchy or something, don’t know exactly how that works.. All I knew is that we had to kneel. Okay, why not.. During the meeting the women were constantly redressing us again, cause putting on the dress is one thing, but keeping them on like they’re supposed to be, is just something else. And when you add my level of clumsiness to that, you understand that after the long drive, my dress had almost turned itself completely and looked anything but charming…

Well, after another challenging visit of the ‘toilet’, it was finally time to go to the place to be! A truck with a cow and a goat (presents) drove in front, followed by all the cars of the family. So, about 5 hours later, we finally made it! The family of the bride had been there since 12.00, waiting for us (it was now 15.00), but well, that’s the way it is here. The place consisted of 3 big ‘party tents’, 2 for the bride’s family, 1 for the groom (of which we were part of now). After we were all seated, the show could begin… Two spokesmen (one for the groom, one for the bride) started this whole play about who wanted to marry who, why, where they came from, etc. etc. All in Luganda, the local language... Luckily, some people next to us explained some things every now and then, so at least we could understand the main idea. They also told us that every time they spoke about ‘the bushes’, they were talking about us, calling us ‘Bush his daughters’, thinking we were from the US… Hmm, interesting. So, even though my vocabulary didn’t go much further than: mzungu’s, the bushes and sebo (mister), it was a funny show to watch. The whole kneeling in the mud was also interesting, wearing those nice smart dresses, which in the end didn’t look that smart anymore. And after we had gotten some food (just for the groom’s side, by the way), my neighbour had thrown his chicken bones on the ground and of course they somehow managed to get to my ‘kneeling ground’. Kneeling in the mud is one thing, but kneeling on chicken bones as a strict vegetarian can’t really be called pleasant… Anyway, after the spokesmen had finally figured out who wanted to marry who, it was time for the presents… Which meant that we all had to get up to get the baskets we collected earlier. And of course, the baskets had to be carried on your head. They first gave me a basket with some huge watermelons, but when no one looked at me, I quickly changed this for a basket with some breads… :) I don’t know how those African women can wear so much on their heads, cause I had trouble to keep standing straight when having those watermelons on my head, haha. Thank god, we were allowed to hold the basket with our one hand… Then, with my other hand, I had to hold my dress up (of course it was too long) and then trying and hoping hard not to trip over my dress, the humps or just my own feet, while walking back to the place… But all went right :) About 50 baskets, a dead cow, a live cow, a goat and 2 chickens later, the ceremony was getting to its end. Which made us quite nervous as people had been telling us that they slaughter chickens sometimes. Aargh, no! When one of the guys grapped the chickens in a very animal-unfriendly way, I felt my face becoming whiter than white, especially when the poor things starting screaming… Vera, who had a VIP seat on the front row, also started looking at us with a pale face like: 'nooo, don’t kill them!' Well, you all know how serious I am in my vegetarianism, so you understand that I suddenly had the biggest interest in my flip-flops... Billie, who sat behind me, was glad she could hide herself behind my back. And maybe my internal prayers: ‘please don’t kill them, please don’t kill them’, helped, I don’t know. But at last they were taken inside, of course to be killed not so much later… The South-American chickens already inspired me for a ‘save-the-chickens-project’ one day, the African chickens make me seriously consider it now… ;-) Well, after these long and exciting minutes, it was finally time for the lunch (note: it was 20.00 at night…). Those African lunches are the best though.

The way back went much quicker, as Allen knows how to speed up :) Like she said herself: ‘I drive like a man, but at home I’m playing the woman, even though I’m a technical engineer… You know, I gotta give my husband the feeling that, at least he has sóme control in our household…’ Haha. And just when you think you’ve had everything, some police people told us to stop halfway, some kind of routine control, I don’t know.. But as soon as they saw us, they told us to open the windows… ‘Aargh, mzungu’s in gomesi!! Aaaah, you look so beautiful, so smart!’

And so it went… the story of the three mzungu’s in gomesi :)



Electricity guy climbing the transformer to fix it
Relaxing in the garden...
Laundry day
Chapati's eten...


April 10, 2008
Hola mzungu,
Mooi verhaal heb je er weer van gemaakt! Het was net alsof ik er zelf bij was...
x Bils
April 10, 2008
én leuke foto's! Wat ziet het er gezellig uit, en wat een heerlijke dingen staan er op tafel.
April 10, 2008
Hey Mzungu,

IT's not fair that u talk about u in Gomesi and u don't place a picture.....
I want to see how cute u look in such a dress... And I want one to give to my mom, I am sure she will like it.... So put that on your list of goodies to bring back... hehehehehe

Miss you and I travel through your words, you are a good teller, u should write a book.....
April 10, 2008
Zuss.. Ik heb me kostelijk vermaakt.. Wat een geweldig grappig verhaal!
And Cleber is right, cause the pictures of you in Gomesi are missing! :P

April 10, 2008
Don't need pictures..don't need a camera..You filmed the whole scene so beautifully with your eyes and words that I had to laugh from the beginning till the end..oh Mzungu...I am waiting for many more stories.

You certainly made my day!!!!

Big hug from Tineke.
April 11, 2008
haha geweldig! weer zo leuk beschreven!
Nu al weer benieuwd naar al je volgende avonturen!

Hug & kus!
April 11, 2008
I so agree with Tineke....
You look gorgeous on the gomesi and I can imagine all those kids running after you girls calling you cute....

I will defenetely want to meet one day with Allen, she seems to be some fun to be going around with....

U should keep a journal for yourself and turn it onto a book...You are going to be a hit....

Luv ya....
April 15, 2008
Wat een super leuk verhaal! Heb gewoon hardopgelachen!!! :)
En de foto's, ook echt geweldig!

Kus Sanne
April 18, 2008
Ola Marietie!

Wat een geweldige belevenissen! Je bent al helemaal geintegreerd :).
En die jurken, hahaha je hebt er helemaal het maatje voor.
Super leuk dat je dit avontuur ook weer aangegaan bent!

Xx Yoni
April 22, 2008
Hey Mariek! wat zie je er goed uit (laten we je 'attire' maar even buiten beschouwing laten), kan gewoon je gegiechel horen als ik die foto's bekijk.

liefs Nina
May 23, 2008
Hai Mariek,

Hoe is het daar?
Ik ben een weekendje weg dus ik wil je nu alvast feliciteren met je verjaardag. Lijkt me heel gek en ook wel bijzonder om daar je verjaardag te vieren. Ik wens je een hele leuke dag!
Veel plezier nog daar hè!

Liefs, Marg
June 22, 2009
My dear,you should someday comeback and get married here. There are a few good Ugandan men. I like your story telling Technic. But am sure the journey was so rewarding. Am in the business of finding families to host non Ugandan guests for a true Uganda feel when a guest is here, for a relatively less fee than it would cost in a hotel and soon the web site will be up and running, hopefully before the end of August of this year. If ever Allen is busy and you have friends coming over, just let me know so their visit is also rewarding to them as yours was. If you do not mind,could you please give my e-mail address to Allen so we can also get in touch.

Thanks love.

October 2, 2009
My sister, as I am researching the Proper wearing of the Gomesi for my demonstration speech for Public Speaking class, I ran across your email and Oh My God, if you didn't just describe everything I wrote in my paper tonight. 2006 December, I went back home to Uganda to attend, officiate & marry off my 1st born Ugandan son and I had to wear the Gomesi for the Introduction. My son & daughter thought it was fun to not explain what would happen at the Introduction. Again you have described everything, even down to going to the toilet w/ that dress on. But when I returned in 2008 June to attend, officiate & marry off another son & daughter, I didn't have to wear the Gomesi, my daughter was of a different tribe, we wore the Suuka's, much easier garment to wear. I had 2 Suukas made but only 1 Gomesi until I return this month, I will get another Gomesi made, I can just about dress myself, the 1st time, it took 4 sisters to get me prepared for church.

Thanks 4 sharing your story and reminding me of the great time I had

Lisa Sanyu
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