Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Good Surprises

When I received my invitation to Ali's wedding, I was distracted by the beauty of the embossed arabic lettering on the cover and the weight of the paper stock, not to mention the honour of having been invited to share in what is, for many people, one of the most significant moments in their lives. I never stopped to consider where in the world one might find 'Kisumu'.

In fact, it was a good two weeks after I had rsvp'd that I realized that, holy shit, Kisumu is not some small town in Alberta. It's a big town. In Kenya!

I missed the weddings of five good friends while I was away at INSEAD last year. Could I justify traveling to another continent now for a wedding of someone that I've known for less than a year? Hell yeah. In fact, it was the first of three that I'll be attending over the next six weeks.

This one did not disappoint. Although the invitation had touched on multiple festivities, I really had no idea what I was in store for. For an entire week, Ali and Salima hosted and entertained us. Festivities every day, with audiences ranging from the dozens to somewhere around one thousand. There was singing, dancing, laughing, loving and living. A few of my favorite moments of each...

We kicked things off with a karaoke night. I wasn't sure what to think when the bride got up and sang 'I will survive', but it turned out to be a pretty fun night. Some people were never meant to sing Celine Dion!

Bollywood night, featuring everyone dressed in their favorite indian garb. My favorite were my french friends Alex and Brunehild, who outdid the indians in attendance! Who actually owns outfits like this?
Then there was the Bulgarian dance troop that performed traditional indian dances for us. I still don't know what the connection was between Bulgaria, India and Kenya, but there was some vigorous action happening on stage.

A comedian who told jokes that made would make Dennis Leary blush. Nothing was off limits; diarrhea, disabilities, racism, sexism. My favorite was the african joke with the punchline 'black box'. I've never seen anything like it at a wedding.

Probably my favorite part of the Ismaili wedding tradition; the Pithi ceremony. It's intended as a beautification ritual in which the bride/grooms loved ones apply a variety of substances for the purpose of helping the bride/groom look and smell their best for the wedding. At some point over the centuries, this has evolved into the opposite. Eggs, onion salad dressing, garlic powder, flour, ketchup...anything that you can imagine. It's a lot of fun (unless you're the groom!).

After glamming it up all week, we toned it down did something for the community. Repairing and painting a local orphanage. There's nothing like manual labour to make a city dweller feel completely incompetent.
I'm fairly certain that this will be the largest, longest and farthest wedding that I will ever attend. Not bad considering that I thought that I had rsvp'd for a family affair in Calgary!


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