Diary Snippets

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Footsteps, yarns and little fibs

Asked to join a meeting to discuss wedding arrangements, but nothing seemed quite right.

Submitted: September 20, 2017

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Submitted: September 20, 2017



Out of the blue, from time to time I heard stories that seemed on the incredible side, too good to be true or loaded with fiction, but I tried to write in my diary what I was told or what I saw as accurately as possible. Sometimes I still reflect on the odd things and shake my head, wondering about it all.

Big E, (I called him that behind his back) my boss, the director of Hifadhi, never ceased to amaze me! He did things that showed he might have been powerful, cheeky or plain stupid. How he wangled things and the way some of those things turned out often baffled me! He came to me one day to ask me to participate in a special meeting. I never knew ahead of time what these meetings were going to involve, and what I might be roped into doing or paying for, but I threw on a tidy shirt and a clean pair of trousers and padded off to Big E's quarters.

I was required to introduce myself to the six men he sat with at the table and I shook their hands, they then in turn introduced themselves. Next to me sat a young man in western clothing, his name was Emanuel. Next to him was this big, booming fellow, who was a local radio announcer, he was dressed in copious, flowing white robes. He was an advocate, to be best man, for the next man who was dressed in smart western clothes. He worked for TANAPA, the National Parks and as far as I could fathom, he was from Nigeria. Next to him sat a big, broad-nosed man who wore a ref fez and robes of red, and black edged with gold, this guy was an accountant with the National Parks. Then sat John, Big E's brother, who I already knew well. The other man I also knew, he was a retired vet. Both he and John wore smart western clothes. I felt somewhat under-dressed. They were unconcerned and asked me to tell them a little about New Zealand.

Big E then told me that he had been elected head of the wider family and that this Nigerian man wanted to marry into it. They were lobbying and negotiating the bride price and who would pay for what towards the wedding arrangements. The wedding was to take place in Dar es Salaam. Each side had their spokesperson who did the talking, while being whispered to. There was soon apparent agreement indicating that the negotiations went smoothly. Food was brought out and I noticed that there were pork chops. Obviously of some of the men were of the Islam faith and I knew that the vet was. I heard him ask Big E what the meat was and his bland reply was 'mutton'. No issue was made although most avoided it, the vet muttered something like, ‘If I’m told it is mutton, then it is mutton!’ Surely Big E must have known the implications of serving pork, but got away with it.

After the meal, Big E announced that the formalities were over, beer and soda was brought out - the bride emerged with Mama Baraka and Mags arrived as well so we toasted the happy, engaged couple. But the whole thing had me confused. These guys were obviously wealthy, while Big E and his family lived modestly. The groom had arrived in a flash, new Mercedes – they don’t come cheap! The radio announcer guy whispered to me that the groom will be a tribal chief someday, that chieftainship runs in his family.  The groom, according to the radio announcer, remembers his grandfather's death, when as per tradition, he was buried sitting in his favourite chair! His grandfather was stiff with rigor mortise so they could not sit him properly so he would not have fitted into the grave properly, so they chopped off his legs with an axe to make him fit! Then with him they buried - alive - three or four young, fit, bright people of the village to keep him company! Apparently it is a great honour to be buried with your chief! This practice continues today (according to him).

Next, Mr. Wide-nose with his neat hat and gold braided robe sidled up to me to continue the marriage theme. He told me that the King of Sudan became king at the age of 17 while he was still at Oxford University. He is now (then) in his 20's and is proud of his tribal traditions. He takes a new wife each year and all the eligible young women dance naked before him in the hope they will be chosen. Well that’s what he told me, but I had never heard of any King of Sudan, nevertheless I nodded sagely, thinking maybe the word his word ‘king’ was misinterpreted. Only later did I realise, for all his flash robes and smart looks Mr. Wide-nose must have been out of kilter with his history, he was probably referring to the King of Swaziland whose life has been somewhat similar.

It turned out that other than being a sort of witness to proceedings, my role was merely a presence to keep the discussions ‘orderly’. But even then I don’t think I was required, it’s more likely Big E, in his was just adding to my Tanzania experience. I guess I should be grateful for that.


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