Tuesday, August 19, 2008
So, remember that movie Lost in Translation? I really hated it when I first saw it, but I’m feeling more and more like I’ll need to watch it again. This past weekend Baba and I went to his village, Boidié, so that I could meet his family, and we left married! I was really looking forward to meeting everyone and seeing where he grew up and was all mischievous as a child. So, after my mom and sister left we headed out there. The other back part of this story is that we had decided back in April/early May that we wanted to get married. So, social ceremonies are huge here in Mali and normally when two Malians want to get married the male’s family brings kola nuts to the female’s family to ask for her hand in marriage. Well, I don’t have a real family here so we improvised a little and just bypassed that step. He and I had thoroughly discussed this whole going to village and going the Kola Ceremony and I felt confident that it meant we were officially engaged – kind of like being proposed to. The closer it grew for us to go to village, it kept sounding more and more like we were getting married. Either way, we already decided we wanted to get married so it’s a non issue really. Plus, living in Africa, things/plans/definitions change about every 30 seconds so I’m constantly ready for change. So, this is how it went down: We arrived on Friday afternoon and spent the day greeting family members and I was introduced to everyone in the village and was aptly named buramuso by everyone. Buramuso is Bambara and is what women who are married to a family member are called. Well, here, everyone is your brother, sister, uncle, aunt and cousin so I’m buramuso to literally the entire village. It’s a name that will stick for life and if I’m called buramuso I can call the person who called me it my buramuso or burace in the case of males. Anyway, needless to say, buramuso is not a word I’ll soon be forgetting! After being asked if I know how to do housework and prepare meals by every woman I met throughout the course of the weekend, I finally got a chance to sit down and talk to Baba’s mom which was awesome. She’s this great lady who is aging but couldn’t stop to rest for a second if you paid her. She goes to markets all around her village to sell fabric and vegetables to other woman. She’s doing well for herself which is really great. So, like most social ceremonies in Mali, the Kola was underwhelming. Baba told me that on Sunday night the men would go to the mosque and pray and give benedictions/blessings and then they would return to the family’s house area and distribute the kola nuts and pay me my dowry and then we’d be married. 100 kola nuts were purchased and distributed and I received 3.750 CFA which is about $8.50. In the past, 3,750 CFA was a lot of money and it gave the woman an opportunity to buy something to start her life with her husband, whether that meant new clothes or a goat or sheep, it didn’t matter, but this money is meant to be used by the woman only and not spent on anyone else. Then benedictions were passed around and “Amen’s” were said and it was over. I’m not joking when I tell you that Baba was at the mosque for maybe 7 minutes, and that the whole thing was done in maybe 20! Underwhelming? Yeah, so I sat at home the whole time staring at the wall wondering how I was going to tell the people in my life that I was married and I hadn’t even found a solution by the time he returned. It was crazy!
So, a little on the wedding process here. Traditionally there are 3 weddings: religious, Mayor’s Office, and traditional fete. It’s not that different than in America, but in America, we do all three of these on the same day at the same time. Here, each group/family is different, but we did the religious ceremony and the Mayor’s Office and traditional will come later. Weddings here aren’t decided by the people getting married. If Baba’s father were alive he would have decided and made all of the arrangements, but instead his oldest brother, Bafi, organized everything. Before there were Mayor’s Offices in Mali, the religious ceremony was the ceremony to be married. So, Baba’s family is still very traditional and so they all consider us to be very married now and we can start our life together. In a couple of weeks, Bafi will call Baba and ask him when we want to have the traditional wedding/fete and together we will decide that. For us, it’ll probably happen next February or March, whenever we’ve saved up enough money, but before we come to America. That just leaves the Mayor’s Office and the only reason that this is so important for us is for visa purposes for Baba to come to America. On this day, which will likely happen here in Sevaré, I will actually have a dress – hand made by my tailor – and we will have a small party after with friends and family here in Sevaré/Mopti, but it’ll be nothing like this big fete in his village next year. Now, I say all of this like I know, but in all reality I have no idea! I also have to prepare myself for these two weddings to be underwhelming or else I’ll get my hopes up and will be let down on the day of. So, let’s just say I will update very frequently about the status of these social ceremonies.
So, the last question is what does this mean for me? Well, I’m 24 and married which is daunting but really exciting. My new name is Sara Berthé (like bear-tey), but that won’t be official for awhile. And I’m ridiculously happy. I know that in America we date and then get engaged and then get married and the whole process can take from 2 to 5 years to longer, all depending, and I also know that a lot of people are going to say, “From meeting to married in a year? What is she thinking?” but when you know you’ve met the person who will care for you and about you for the rest of your life and you’ll do the same, you can’t let that pass you by. In my “ideal sketch” of life, I probably wouldn’t have started looking for a husband until 27ish, but anyone who thinks they can plan their lives to a T is ridiculous and you have to be ready for surprises.
But, I’m definitively going to have an awesome wedding/ceremony in America because it’s not the same getting married in a different country with different customs. I love it here and I understand and respect it, but I want celebrate with my friends and family in America and get married the way I know. So cliché, I know, but whatever, I’m allowed to be cliché sometimes!