Marry a foreigner? Leave my cozy Holland? Go to Africa? I was young and innocent when fate offered me these thrillingly risky opportunities. Since I was yearning for adventure the answer was: Sure, why not? I didn’t even check with a fortune teller to see if it was a good idea.
So, what happened? Well, many of you know: I did marry the foreigner, and ever since I’ve led a roaming life with him, living in a number of foreign countries. So here’s the tale of how it all began: My bizarre African wedding (a shorter, edited retelling of an earlier post).
What was I thinking?!
“If you don’t go, you’ll never know,” my mother says. It’s the perfect answer to the question I’ve been struggling with: Should I get on a plane and go to Africa to be with the man I’ve only known for a short time? He’s an American Peace Corps volunteer now in Kenya, East Africa, and I’m a Dutch girl, in love, and dreaming of adventure. But we haven’t seen each other for six months and is he really the one? This is risky business, I’m sure you agree. Maybe I should just stay in Holland and marry a dentist and have a safe and unadventurous life in a nice, clean Dutch suburb.
But, no, I get on a plane to Kenya. Kenya is not Holland and I find it all a great adventure. And I’m in love with my Peace Corps hero. A couple of months after my arrival we decide to get married and purchase two 9-karat gold rings, the cheapest we can find because we are poor.
On a sunny tropical morn, my hero and I walk to the District Commissioner’s office in the town of Nyeri for the joyous event, at least we’re expecting it to be joyous. It turns out to be rather bizarre but we don’t know that yet.
Our wedding party of twelve strong awaits us at the door, a hippie lot consisting of one Swede, one Brit, a couple of Kenyans and several American Peace Corps volunteers, all dressed up in their finest jeans and cleanest shirts.
We squeeze ourselves into the small office, a humorless space devoid of festive adornments and full of stale air. Behind the desk stands the District Commissioner, a Kenyan man of solid build and serious demeanor. Also present are two mystery maidens, pretty Kikuyu girls in neatly pressed frocks. We do not know who they are, but soon discover they’re here to serve as our witnesses in case we don’t have any. We do, but the girls do not leave because (I assume) seeing wazungu (white people) getting hitched in this town is not a daily occurrence.
It may well be a very rare occurrence because the DC, wearing a suit and tie as is befitting his status, is sweating bullets. Not only from the heat, because along with the sweating he is also trembling and displaying a nervous tick.
After various solemn greetings, the ceremony commences. The DC directs himself to my man, ignoring me.
“Do you understand,” he asks, his cheek twitching, “that this is a civil ceremony and not a tribal one?”
My husband-to-be says yes, he does. So do I (this is, after all, Africa), but my understanding is of no importance apparently. I am not amused.
“And that under civil law, you can only have one wife?”
My man says, yes, he understands.
The DC’s hand trembles so much he drops his pen. “And do you understand that if you want another wife under civil law, you must first divorce the first one?”
Ye gods. Is this an omen? Am I making a terrible mistake? They are talking about getting rid of me before I’m even married. How cool is that? I’m standing here in all my bridal glory, miniskirt and all, and the DC is talking to my man as if I am not even here. I’m overwhelmed with emotion at this sacred matrimonial moment. I’m sure, dear reader, you can identify.
My not-yet husband says he understands about divorce. (He hails, after all, from America.)
I’m aquiver with nerves. Should I get out of here, rush back to Holland? Marry a dentist instead? What was I thinking, traveling to Africa, marrying a foreigner?
“However,” the DC continues, cheek twitching some more, “in the event you want a second wife but don’t want to divorce your civil-law wife, you’ll be allowed to marry a second one under tribal law.”
This is good news! My man won’t have to get rid of me if he wants another wife! I’m overcome with emotion. (This is, after all, my wedding day.)
After some more of this scintillating discourse, we finally get to the one single question I have the privilege to respond to:
“Do you take this man . . . . ”
I say yes, I do.
Years have passed. So far no second wife, tribal or otherwise. No second husband either. We both still wear our 9-karat gold ring. The only diamond I have is my man. (Oh, wow, my fingers just typed that line all by themselves!)
NOTE: This wedding was not a recent event, and I’m sure that the ceremony I have described has been changed and modernized. So if you want one just like it, you are out of luck.
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Have you ever looked back at your life and wondered how you got to where you are now? Have you ever experienced an unexpected bizarre event? Scroll down, hit that comment button and entertain me!