Matched

The wedding reception was interesting and not at all like what we see in Scotland!

It was held in the bride’s family’s compound and spilled out onto the street outside. The “street” was a sandy alley running between high-walled compounds and partially blocked by a giant baobab tree which somehow they managed to get cars past later.

I was picked up sharpish at 6:00 and taken to the compound where I sat outside for a while with a variety of local hangers-on until someone came and invited me in. I entered, unknown to me, in the middle of prayers but folk were very understanding and I sat with my head bowed until they were finished and I was given a plastic cup of wonjo juice.

Soon after that, a guy in a knitted cap, yellow top and matching baggy “plus fours” advertising Maggi dressing (popular out here) stood up and basically acted as a human loudspeaker for spokesmen from both the groom’s and bride’s families. The happy couple were not present – or even together anywhere else – but we’ll come to that. The Maggi man took what was said, sentence by sentence and intoned it loudly so all could hear. I later discovered it was partly a public statement that the deal had been struck, any financial arrangements satisfied and that both sides were content to go ahead. There was also good advice to the absent married couple, the families were reminded it wasn’t just two people who were being united, but two families were being joined and Allah was asked to help those looking for a lifetime partner to find one.

After this, there was a bit of sitting around and general chat, then the photographers turned up with mains-powered floodlamps attached to their equipment and began blinding us and filming the results. While this went on, praise-singers did their stuff for money. Praise-singers are women steeped in local and family history who, if they know who you are, will for a few dalasi sing a song about your lineage: “You are the son of a very strong man whose father killed a crocodile and whose mother had eighteen strapping sons” etc. I, of course was immune to this.

Eventually, with a honking of horns, the bridal party arrived. The big double gates were thrown open, as is normal the world over the photographers blocked everyone else’s view and the bride came in accompanied by an entourage of girls and women. She was beautifully made up and dressed, her hands covered in delicate henna tracings and she was in tears, though obviously happy.

The group processed through the courtyard, delayed a minute at the far end and then came back to the street, by which time seating for them had been arranged and the bridal party settled to have more pictures taken and receive wedding gifts.

I asked the guy next to me when the groom would appear and was told he wouldn’t be coming: this was the bride’s night. It was the groom who had invited me and he had rung up whilst I was waiting in the street at the start to tell me not to worry – he’d see me later. I had assumed he meant later in the evening.

When I saw the food arriving, I decided to leave. It all looked very hygienically wrapped in silver foil carry-out trays, but I didn’t feel much like eating and this seemed a good point to slip away. A guy I knew was also leaving, so I was obviously not committing a social faux-pas and he guided me by the light of his mobile phone through the unlit lanes until I was on solid tarmac that I recognised and I could make my way back unaided by the lights of the occasional passing car.

If I understand correctly, tomorrow the bride will decamp to the groom’s compound and their married life will begin in earnest, surrounded no doubt by a large extended family of grannies, uncles, cousins, nephews and what have you. There is probably no truth in the rumour they are going to Gartcosh for a honeymoon.

Monday

I think yesterday was slightly less hot than it has been of late: not cool, but just not so hot. Today is shaping up to return to high temperatures.

I forgot to mention that on Thursday and Friday some of the staff – amongst them Saikou and Mousa – were called at short notice by the Ministry to a seminar. It seems to have been some sort of pep talk about needing to be at work for the appointed hours and not to go off and do things in company time. I’ve never been aware of Saikou doing that though he is sometimes a bit late, probably due to the all-pervasive transport issues. I asked Mousa whether there had been anything said about actually doing some work while you’re there or if just turning up was sufficient: I don’t think he got the point.

At lunch today, I met Alhagi the bridegroom. I got the distinct feeling that he had thought he’d be there last night as well: however, he said he’d heard I’d been there and was very pleased…

Not a lot of news today, really. I tried “The 3 Little Pigs” out with Year 2 and I can’t say they were much better than Year 1. It must be my accent, as I got plenty of “big bird wolf” again. When I think about it, I suspect the feathered thing is pronounced “bad” out here, so it’s not surprising, though a little disheartening as I hard written “big bad wolf” on the board.

Year 2 are still reading “Granny was a Buffer Girl” and apparently enjoying it: today’s section dealt with a rather ugly girl’s infatuation with a popular lad and how she got him in the end. I had to try to explain the word “metamorphose”. Nae bother at a’ I thought: they have butterflies here. The problem was that they didn’t know they started as eggs, changed to caterpillars, then larvae and finally metamorphosed into flutterbys. I ended up doing a biology lesson and was on very shaky ground. My only consolation was they knew even less than me, so I bluffed my way through it.

Back to normal with IT – lots of work lost (silly girls!) due to power cuts and a reluctance to save files.

There is more talk now about the arrival of the IRA group and a slight feeling that “things must be done”. Whether they will be done is another matter.

The electrician is still uncontactable. Mousa tells me he gets a salary from the PIA, but I suspect it’s only some sort of retainer to keep the PIA as his priority client. Whatever the truth, the arrangement doesn’t work. The same goes for the plumber.

I spent a bit of the wedding reception chatting to the painter who is supposed to be giving a quote for painting the exterior of the RPI, but he didn’t appear today, so I couldn’t follow it up.

One of the main reasons for my coming out here was to prepare the ground for the IRA group, but I don’t feel that has been achieved. I have raised a few snags, one or two of which have been addressed, I’ve taken part in various management-issue related meetings, have provided some feed-back to folk in Scotland and I’ve done lots of teaching, but as far as having tins of paint, bags of cement, piles of sand etc. ready and waiting for the group to arrive, I’ve not had any success. This is partly due to the group not being quite sure what their priorities will be and partly due to a lack of funds as I’m still waiting to get GMD6000 back from Mr Federa, the administrator on the Interim Board. I told him a little white lie today and said I needed the money urgently as I was broke: I am assured (and I believe him) that I will get the money very soon, but now would be better!

I heard today that Emma from Gamscot, who was here for some months last year, is coming out in ten days’ time for a week. She says she wants to see how things are going after her last stay: I hope she’s not expecting too much, or she’ll be disappointed!

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