The last two weeks have definitely been a challenge for me but even more so for my friend Chenai. The reason why? Secret preparations for a certain Zimbabwean boy’s 32nd birthday.
Saturday was Lawrence’s birthday and for the past couple of weeks, Chenai, Richard and I have been scheming, plotting, running around and organizing a surprise birthday party. Keeping it all a secret from the guest of honor, who is notorious for being suspicious. Keeping his nose out of his car’s trunk when it was full of groceries and supplies for his surprise party was no easy task. Explaining why Chenai and I needed to spend time together with out him even more
Talk about difficult! At least I didn’t have to live with him like Chenai does. Unfortunately, Mr. Cranky Pants did give her a hard time during the past week which caused me to have to give him a serious lecture on his birthday once we had surprised him. But in the end it was all worth while to organize a very special birthday celebration for someone who deserved it and has never even had a birthday cake before, let alone a party.
The secret was almost out several times during the week leading up to the big event. But somehow he didn’t clue in until Saturday morning that something was afoot. And the fault for that lies with no one else but me!
It turns out that a white chick getting off of a bus in Mochudi and walking along the main road stands out just a little…who would have figured?
And it was just my luck that as I was walking along the road after exiting the bus from Gaborone that a certain someone drove right by me! Talk about small communities! I really need to learn how to disguise myself better. Even when I wear African clothing, I still am like the Sesame Street song “One of things just doesn’t belong here”. I should have realized that it would be more difficult to sneak into Mochudi than I thought.
Richard had been given the difficult task of whisking the birthday boy away from his house so that Chenai, Sheila and I could prepare the salads, decorate and prepare for the surprise party. I still don’t know the full story that he and Chenai spun about why I was seen walking down the Mochudi road. And Lawrence confessed later in the day that he knew then that we are doing something for his birthday, he just didn’t know that it was a whole big party with as many of his friends there that we could round up.
So while Richard kept the birthday boy away from the house, we started with the preparations and decorating.
I was in charge of the decorating so once the salads were prepared it was to time to blow up balloons and make sure the house looked festive.
Now all we needed were for the guests to arrive so Richard could finally bring the birthday boy home…….
Saturday was a fantastic and memorable day for me for several reasons. The first is that I got to spend the entire day and evening simply hanging out and having fun with my best buddy Lawrence.
Lawrence is now renting a house for him and his little brother in Mochudi which is about 35 kms from Gaborone. He has wanted to move out of Gaborone for a while now and this house was perfect for him. He just moved into it last weekend (Easter weekend) and has already become well established in the community…there will be more about that in a minute.
Normally you need to take a combi to travel back and forth between Gaborone and Mochudi, however, Lawrence always thinks of everything when it comes to me. He arranged for me to get a drive to Mochudi with his friend Richard, also from Zimbabwe. So after a very pleasant drive to Mochudi with Richard we pulled up to Lawrence’s gate which needed to be opened for us to drive through. Of course I was fully prepared to jump out and open the gate while Richard drove through….these Zimbabwe men are such pains as they are “mostly” gentlemen.
Richard was both shocked and appalled that I would even consider getting out to open the gate for him. So like a good girl I quietly (yes, I said quietly) sat there and didn’t protest. By this time Lawrence had heard our approach and came out on to his front porch. He had noted that it was Richard, not me, who had opened and closed the gate. That made him smile! But don’t worry, when we left the yard later on, he let me open and close the gate…small accomplishments for equality!
What can I say about Lawrence’s new home, other than it is perfect right down to the chickens running around in the yard. There are four houses located in the same yard. The view is fantastic and the house is truly a home. For someone who just moved in a week before it appeared like they had been living there for some time. He even has it beautifully decorated….I think that there is some metro-sexual in that boy! But that is to be expected of someone who can strut and preen with the best of them 😉
There was a full slate of activities for the day, but none of which could come before feeding me. Lawrence had his little brother slaving over a hot stove in the morning preparing lunch for Richard and I. It was tasty and delicious. Following lunch we all piled into Lawrence’s car. Picture one white chick and three Zimbabwe men cruising through the town of Mochudi sight seeing with the music turned up loud. From my vantage point in the back seat I began to feel a bit like the Queen waving at people as we passed. I am sure that the residents of Mochudi had never experienced such a sight. But I am happy to say that we left a trail of smiles and laughter every where we went.
After some sight seeing and exploration of Mochudi we were then off to attend the wedding of Mmoniemang & Keneilwe . Here in Botswana there is no such thing as one simple wedding ceremony. In fact, there can be up to four different ceremonies for a couple! The first is civil ceremony held at the District Commissioner’s office which is the legal ceremony. The next is the church ceremony followed by celebrations a week or so apart with first the Groom’s family and neighbors and then with the Bride’s. The celebration we attended was the final one held at the Bride’s home.
Our invitation to attend came curtsy of one of the bridesmaids who in just a week had become completely smitten with Lawrence, and really, how couldn’t she? As for me, never a real fan of weddings I was eager to participate in one here in Botswana as I was told it is truly special. I have also never attended a wedding with three handsome dates before either – just another first for me 🙂
We arrived just as the wedding party was kicking of their heels in a dance down the red carpet runner laid out in front of the banqueting tents. The joy, laughter and sense of celebration was immediately evident! While we congregated under a large tree for shade to watch the festivities, a woman came and lead us to seats under the canopy with a great view of the celebration. Every special event here has specific colours associated with it, such as black & gold, blue and white, or yellow and green. The colours for Saturday were yellow & green. The bridesmaids were in yellow and green, the tents were festooned with yellow & green draping, etc.
Once seated with my three handsome escorts, I unrolled the yellow programme tied up with a yellow & green ribbon so that I could have an idea of what to expect. Here is the programme content:
Master of Cermonies
Welcoming Speech – MC
Opening Prayer – Bishop
Introduction of Families by Uncles
Music item x 2
Music item x 2
Groom and Bride Speeches
Music item x 2
Counselling of the Bride
I got slightly panicky when I saw that lunch was being served as I had just eaten not that long ago at Lawrence’s and knew that there was no way I could work my way through a big plate of traditional food. However, I was reassured that it would take hours before we actually got to the food. Assured, I sat back in my chair to enjoy the celebration. And by the way, the ribbons that my programme was tied in got braided into a bracelet for me to wear because I had noted to my companions that I wasn’t wearing either yellow or green! Problem solved thanks to quick thinking by Lawrence.
Unfortunately almost of the speeches and prayers were in Setswana so I could not understand everything but between my companions and seat mate quick translations were done to keep me up to speed. The introduction of the families was a spirited interlude where all family present was recognized and introduced to the crowd. All too quickly plates were being gathered up and heaped with food. Once again panic set in as I am truly not a big eater and I didn’t want to offend anyone. However, I had nothing to worry about.
The food was delicious! In fact, the best traditional food that I have had so far. Even though my plate was heaped high with food that I couldn’t possible eat, the culture here is to share with others so what I couldn’t consume got quickly passed around the table and did not go to waste. Following the food were very romantic and poignant speeches by the Groom and Bride.
I, of course was holding out for the Counselling of the Bride listed on the programme. However a very smart and efficient Lawrence saw fit to remove me from the proceedings so that I would not be tempted to provide counselling of my own to the blushing bride 😉 Truthfully, he knows that I can only behave myself for so long and we had been there a couple of hours. So I was swept away for more sight seeing and meeting more handsome Zimbabwe gentlemen. A woman can never be surrounded by too many handsome men!
The rendezvous site was a local bar. Once again, I was the only light skinned person who was now accompanied by five men! To say that we attracted a little attention would be putting it mildly but as Lawrence has learned, accompanying me makes him far more appealing to women so my companions didn’t suffer. My only challenge came when I made a trip to the ladies room. Having left my purse in the trunk of the car I was ill prepared.
First of all as I learned during my first trip to Africa twenty five years ago it is always best to carry your own toilet paper just in case. With no purse, I had no tissues, oops!! Hoping for the best I entered the toilets. The other factor about women’s toilets in this part of Africa, users commonly do not close the door. I have not yet perfected the true nonchalance required to stand outside of the wide open cubicles will the users calmly go about their business. There really is nothing else that you can do but graze adoringly at the floor hoping it will open up and swallow you. However, all was not so bad as the first lady to exit graciously shared her wad of toilet paper with me. I can tell you that I happily closed the door so that I could pee in private.
Following our interlude at the bar and my traumatic toilet break we returned to the wedding celebration for the dancing. As I noted earlier, my companions enjoy music as much…if not more than I do so we had been driving around all day with great music. Pulling up to the Bride’s home Lawrence’s MP3 began playing a song that seemed to send all of the male inhabitants of the vehicle into fits of soleful and dramatic singing along. No sooner than the car halted then they all spilled out and began singing and dancing to the song.
For once I sat firmly ensconced in the back seat laughing….you see the scene was very similar to one that I had participated in just a couple of weeks ago. When the outside dance party that I was attending with my friends Erin and Sheila got hit by rain, we only made it as far as Erin’s car where we then promptly danced to her stereo for about twenty minutes in the pouring rain. It seems that this behavior is not restricted to foolish women. My companions noted that I hadn’t joined them and there was no choice but to come out and join the insanity.
The rest of the evening was spent in singing and dancing until everyone piled back into Lawrence’s car so he could safely return me to Peter’s Place and the relative quiet of my apartment. After two nights out dancing I was finally ready to go home and chill out! But only after plans were made for a return trip to Mochudi!
POST SCRIPT: Please note that it was a guy taking the pictures so that is why I do not have one really good one of the bride! Oh well, Lawrence did takes lots of great pictures of one particular bridesmaid 😉