Monday, January 16, 2012

Here comes the bride, here comes the judge

Friday, we were invited to attend the civil marriage of two of our PEF students. We have mentioned Pepithio before. He is a great young man. He is the "model" for the PEF applicants and students. He is going to school to become a software engineer. He also works at the American Embassy on their "help desk." His fiancee is a beautiful young women who is also a PEF student. We felt fortunate to be invited as it was pretty much family only. This is one of three ceremonies they will have. The law requires that they be married by a judge civilly before they can go to the Temple to be married. So the sequence for them is 1) the civil marriage by a judge, 2) The traditional marriage which will include a ceremony by their bishop and an all night party, and 3) in February the will go to Johannesburg to be sealed in the Temple. They explained that we are invited to the traditional ceremony, but since it starts at 8 pm and goes till sunup, and is in a rougher part of town, we would not be safe in attending. So, we settled for the civil marriage.
THE HAPPY COUPLE IN FRONT OF THE CONGOLESE FLAG As we arrived, the families recognized us (the only white people within 20 miles) and, as they always do, made us feel very much at home. Now, there are a couple of things to discuss before continuing the story. 1. Wherever we go as invited guests in the Congo, we are treated like royalty. We are always given places of honor and watched after. It is a very special gift of the Congolese people. Sometimes we are a little embarrassed by their kindness, but it would be impolite to refuse. So, the father of the bride took us under his wing for the ceremony. 2. To find you a place to sit and something to sit on is very important to them. The common seat is the "blue plastic chair." See the next blog for an array of blue plastic chairs. 3. The room in which the marriage took place would have a sign on it in the U.S. that said "maximum occupancy 50 persons." But no such sign exists here. So the room for 50 was occupied by about 200 with people outside looking in through the barred windows. 4. The city hall (an overstatement) is also the local jail. So it can become interesting. 5. Nothing in the Congo is ever on time. One can expect up to a two hour wait for people to arrive and the occasion to start. This was no exception So, on with the story. The father of the bride, rounded up a couple of blue chairs for us, went to the person guarding the door into the marriage room and had a word with him, then returned, took the two blue chairs and set us in the very front of the room next to the judges table. It was a very sunny hot day. Inside the room it was like 2000 degrees. As we sat there, couple dressed in their marrying best started to arrive. About a dozen of them. We learned from our host that our wedding couple was en-route in a public transport, and did not know how soon they would arrive. (Had we thought about it, we would have asked if we could pick the bride and groom up and bring them in an air conditioned car and not in the non-air conditioned really awful transport). But, they finally arrived - before the judge who was to conduct the ceremony arrived. //" />
Unfortunately, the window light and the bright sunlight does not bode well for taking these pictures. But, the judge was a little man wearing a white uniform with the blue, red, and yellow sash of the Congolese government.
The judge was very friendly, and liked having his picture taken. Before he performed the ceremony, he pontificated on marriage for about 1/2 hour.
Other brides and grooms.
Crowds and chaos marked the day.
City hall from the outside. People waiting for their loved ones to come out. Even though the room could have crowded more people into it, if you had a crowbar, many remained outside, the "bouncer" closed the doors and would not let anyone else inside. The judge's armed guard (a soldier with an automatic weapon - nothing says wedding like camos and an AK47) closed the windows for some reason, and the temperature rose some more. In the end, we were sweat soaked and exhausted. I wore a new tie I had purchased in South Africa - it now has sweat stains half way down the tie - very attractive. Everyone had a plastic whistle and blew them a lot.
The happy family celebrates. In the end, it was an honor to be there. And, a really fun afternoon. Post Script: After the ceremony, we offered to take the newlyweds wherever they were going, but Thierry Mutomba, one of the great men of the Congo, our friend, the 1st counselor in their stake presidency, and an assistant to the mission president, had his van there and waiting to take them. So, no awful transport for the happy couple.

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