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Saturday, November 12, 2011

2 Day Wedding

Weddings are always exciting but even more exciting when you get to experience it in a different culture.  Long time friend, Alfred, who has worked in the deck department both on the Anastasis and the Africa Mercy was getting married to Edwina from Sierra Leone who was working on board as a day worker with us.  Here you have to do a lot of planning because just going to do a single task can take all day to travel there and back to complete a task.

Events started on the Thursday night where we were invited to the "formal" part of the marriage.  We filled 3 landrovers and drove to the family house of Edwina.  Initially we weren't allowed to enter the building so the upstairs landlord gave us shelter from the sun rays.  Meanwhile, Alfred left to "hide".  Now you're probably thinking what is going on, well, yes, so did we, but this is Africa and we went with the flow.
After all the relevant people had arrived the ceremony began.  I say arrived, because again, this is Africa and so you just wait until everybody is ready.  If somebody is on the other side of town, you know you're going to be waiting at least another hour.  It's just normal here, time is a guide not really a definate.

First came a knock at the door.  The host asked who was there and the response was "visitors".  "Are you good or bad visitors?"......."good visitors".....and so we went through this sort of drama/comedy play for a bit which had us in stitches with their quick quips.  (Click play to see the video's).

Fiinally they let the visitors in and after introductions they had a seat.  The leader then brought greetings to prove that they were REALLY good visitors.  He passed envelopes with greetings and money gifts for the father of the house, the sisters, aunts, brothers, landlord, village chief....you name it, it was in there.  May I add, there was still no Alfred at this time!
Then the real question came.  The visitors had really come for a flower.  Now the host met them with confusion because he was a pastor, not a gardener, he has no flowers.  So they clarified it, a "special" flower.  So they suggested that he must have a garderner in the house that looks after these special flowers.
  Eventually a lady came who acted as the gardener and so she shuffled away to look for that special flower.  Finally she came with a little flower with a veil over her head.  The visitor looked and decided that the flower was too young and he would come back for her in 5 years.
The next flower was to skinny and tall and again didn't fit the special, perfect flower he was after.
Finally they found the right flower and Edwina came in covered in a veil.  More jokes followed and the visitors presented a calabash bowl and asked for her hand in marriage on behalf of the groom.  They take the bowl away to examine the goods before accepting his offer.  It seems the calabash was good because they accepted their offer.  The bowl included a ring which was placed on Edwina's finger and a bible which she showed to everybody.  Big cheers!

Then it was food time.  Each of us got given a plate of fish and chips which tasted wonderful.  May I add.....still no Alfred.  I was a bit concerned as it had been 2 hours he had been outside and he got to miss the good food too.
Finally after the ceremony had finished, Alfred came in so we could congratulate them together.  Normally they would now take the bride to the groom's house and they would live together as man and wife, but because this is a christian wedding they will wait until after the church ceremony a couple of days later. 
It was fun to be a part of this special occasion.

So Saturday arrives and we all head up to the church in our nice african outfits to support Alfred and Edwina in the big day.  The trouble with living here is that it's not worth spending too much time getting dolled up as you will be a sweaty mess by the time you get there.

The service was about 2 1/2 hours and the church was full by the time it ended as people continued to arrive through out the ceremony.  We enjoyed a good dance to "O Happy Day" whilst the register was being signed, 3 offerings for various things and different groups came and sang songs for the couple with plenty of African dancing.
(The grooms party (left) & brides attendants (right))
(Here comes the Bride)
(The vows) 
(Nathanael not coping very well with the hot temperatures) 
(The kiss)
(Sharon and Nathanael dancing to O Happy Day)
(Dancing at the church)

After the service we drove to the other side of town for the reception that was being held at the Mercy Ships team house that usually houses our off ships programs staff.  The sun was shining with a light breeze in a lovely grassed area, ideal for a wedding party.  The top table was set up on a platform along with the cake and the guests sat below.
(The Cake)
(Tim was asked to bless the cake)
(The brides attendants having a rest)
(The happy couple)

All in all it was great to be a part of a Sierra Leoneon wedding and something we wanted to share with you.  Please pray for Alfred and Edwina as they begin their lives together as a married couple.  Edwina will be joining us as crew so we will be getting to enjoy them for a while longer.

Congratulations Alfred and Edwina and thank you for letting us enjoy your day (s).

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