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Archive for February, 2009

clerkint-1-with-captionLiving with a host family has been one of the more interesting parts of my time here in Uganda, and the best way to fully experience Ugandan culture. There is no better way to fully understand a different culture than getting to know local people on the deep level that you do when you live with another family for two months. Not only do you have the opportunity to eat white ants and other local dishes, but also you get to experience the culture and all the traditions, such as women kneeling as a sign of respect and the importance of greetings.

I have had the privilege of not only getting to know and learning from my own host family, but also the host family of another FSD intern, Daniel, as well. His family, the Kintu family, was gracious enough to invite Daniel as well as myself to an introduction ceremony. An introduction ceremony, one of three Ugandan wedding ceremonies, is an important Ugandan tradition where a woman introduces her fiancée formally to her family and is given away to the groom. The Kintus were introducing a nephew to his fiancée’s family.

The day of the introduction, Daniel and I dressed in the traditional Ugandan garb. The Kintu family lent us some of their clothing to wear to the ceremony. Men wear a long white robe called a Kanzu with a suit jacket over. Women wear a dress called a Gomesi. The dress is a wrap around dress that buttons on the top and is tied with a thick sash. The dresses vary greatly in fabric, pattern, and color. My dress was a pale pink with a pattern of flowers and animal prints. My sash was a brighter pink with a gold design. I felt extremely foolish in the large dress, especially with the pointy sleeves coming up to my ears!

When we arrived at the home, I was amazed at all the commotion and splendor. Outside the bride’s home the groom’s family was assembling to process into the ceremony together. Nearby, several trucks and cars were overflowing with gifts for the bride’s family and more were still driving up the road. I had been told the groom’s family brings gifts for the bride’s family, but I had no idea the amount was so large. There were baskets upon baskets full of fruit, huge sacks of sugar, wrapped gifts, crates of soda and beer, couches and even a large chicken! The yard in front of the house was transformed to the party area with three huge white tents decorated with lights and flowers. In the middle a smaller tent was set up and several mats laid out on the ground. The children in the neighborhood were all crowding around to see what was happening and to admire the beautiful Gomesi’s.

clerkint-2-with-captionOnce all the family members arrived, the men and the women lined up in their respective lines and we were all given bows with chocolates attached to pin to our clothing. I think this was a token of hospitality from the bride’s family, but I am not sure. Either way, the chocolate tasted very good. We entered the yard of the bride’s home and sat down in the designated tent for the groom’s family. After that, the ceremony began. The families sang two anthems from the two areas of Uganda, Buganda and Busoga.

Soon after, the groom’s family presented the gifts. The entire clan left the yard and began carrying in the gifts. Women carried baskets on their heads—those are hard to balance!—and knelt down to present them to the family. Men carried in the heavier items, and Daniel carried in the large chicken to be given to the bride’s brother. It seemed like a never ending procession of women dancing slightly with baskets on their head or gifts in hand, intermingled with men carrying huge crates of gifts. Once all the gifts were given, the groom’s family returned to our seats.

Then began the long series of greetings and introductions. Various members of the bride’s family took turns greeting the groom’s family. The aunts and the bachelorettes of the bride’s family performed dances and a series of greetings to the groom’s family. Eventually the bride came out and was dancing with her aunts. Her bridal aunt presented her to the groom’s family who accepts her into their family.

After all the ceremony, the families feast on a huge array of traditional foods. Everyone relaxes, listens to music, and dines on the delicious food. My favorite was chicken cooked inside a banana leaf, a Buganda dish called Luwombo. After the meal, the groom’s family leaves, taking the bride with them.

clerkint-4-with-captionExperiencing the introduction ceremony has been one of the most interesting parts of my time in Uganda. Daniel and I got to see first hand the importance of tradition in family life, especially concerning weddings. Both families were so happy to be meeting with each other to celebrate the union of the bride and groom and celebrate their love. Despite the differences in Western wedding traditions and those of Uganda, the joy at the celebrations of either culture is overpowering.

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