Sunday, December 09, 2007

I thought we could slip out unnoticed. That was my plan. We’d stay for the ceremony and then quietly get into our car and drive off. My plan went the usual way of all plans in Burkina: straight to hell. WAWA, as we say around here. West Africa Wins Again.
The invitation arrived weeks ago, tri-fold cardboard covered with gold script and drawings of rings, doves , bells, flowers, ribbons, and monogrammed flying saucers (as near as I could tell). There were also creepy disembodied hands and a very un-African looking couple in wedding finery occupying the central spot.
The marriage of Djakaridja and Banvin would take place at the City Hall at Bogodogo on December 8 at 4pm. This grand fête was to be presented by the Gnamou, Yao, Ganou, Tome, Lougue, Siripe, Sougue, Gnisse, Mien and Bitie, Damoue, Ivo, Ybia and Boudo families. Each was carefully listed, along with their respective villages of origin and residence. It made for about 20 lines of text. Reading a wedding invitation here requires serious time and commitment.
Frankly, I had other plans for Saturday. I didn’t even know these people. We got invited because JP knows Banvin through his work among the Winyé. But in the interest of marital harmony, I agreed to buy the gift, get dressed up and go to the wedding. I carefully avoided committing to the “lunch” that was being offered afterwards.
Getting ready to go was an epic saga. I had spent my day from 8am to 3pm at a jumble sale, melting in the heat, trying to unload outgrown clothes and toys so as to make room for incoming Xmas gifts. The second I got back home, I was set upon by various people needing money, medical help, or just stopping by to say “Bonjour”. The phone also rang for me constantly. All in all, it was pretty hard to get presentable in the short time allotted. At one point, I thought I was good to go, but JP sent me back, pronouncing my hair to be completely out of control: “en bataille” as they say in French. I finally got it subdued to his satisfaction and we jumped into the car, rushing to make it in time for the ceremony. A few minutes before four o’clock, we pulled up in front of the City Hall of …..Baskuy. Bogodogo is the other one, on the other side of town. Right. We turned around and headed east. We got there about 15 minutes late- far too late to get even a place to stand inside the tiny, crowded room where civil marriages are done. It’s a sad little room, hidden at the back of the building. Meant to hold about 50 persons seated, it invariably is stuffed with over 100, and the overflow crowds around outside the doors to peer inside. Marriages are, by definition, a big affair in Burkina Faso. Not to invite your entire village of origin is unthinkable. Of course, not everyone has the means to travel to Ouaga for a wedding, but it still makes for crowds far in excess of a few dozen people.
Anyway, we were late, too late to even get a good spot outside the door, so we sat in the shade out in the dirt parking lot, attending the wedding at some abstract level.

After the wedding were the photos. Many, many, many photos. A small garden area on the grounds provided the backdrop for every conceivable permutation of wedding picture. I even ended up in one. Next to me is my friend Delphine. She is a small, elegant person with a severe hat fetish. I have known her for about 15 years and over this period her headwear has steadily increased in size. If a strong wind caught one of them, it would snap her neck like a twig. Luckily, it was a calm day and the the picture session went well.
But the fun was only beginning. There was no escaping the “lunch”. JP had his heart set on joining the festivities, which were to be held at a nearby outdoor restaurant. But as we had no idea exactly where it was, we were obliged to be a part of the wedding cortege, a line of cars driving slowly along, lights flashing and horns blaring. We drove and drove and drove, blocking traffic for miles. We putted around for about 20 minutes, finally ending up at the restaurant – which turned out to be about two blocks away from where the marriage had been held.

The reception meal was astonishing and merits its own blog entry, which I hope to find time to write soon. Right now, I’m busy preparing for tonight’s Christmas program in church. Valentine and I are singing a duet and the other three kids are part of a dramatic re-enactment of the Rudolph saga. The twins are reindeer and Sev gets to be Santa. ( He does not, just so you know, have shifty eyes. I made that up.)

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