Joe and Grace’s Wedding – The reception

As the guests were shepherded towards the reception tents, the “bridal team” was whisked away to a photo shoot.  After the photos were all taken, it was back into the limo for the “big arrival” at the reception.As we pulled up to the reception, once again, I could hear screaming, singing, and out of the window I spotted a huge crowd of people waiting at the entrance gate.  “They are waiting to greet the married couple” I was told, and with that Joe and Grace were shoved out of the limo and were swallowed by the singing, manic crowd.  We quickly followed, and once again, I was told to just dance and sing.

So off we danced to the reception area, where more guests were waiting.  Once in the reception area, we took over the dance floor in a bizarre elated dance of arrival, during which we were instructed by the MC to grindl.  My goodness, I don’t have the muscles for grinding!  But boy, do all the old ladies!!  Everyone was raucously shaking their behinds down to the grind, me attempting a pale imitation in order to keep up appearances 🙂  At one point some old ladies seemed to get stuck on the ground, and had to turn to help for a hand in getting up 🙂 But nothing would kill the mood.

Eventually we sat down to eat, during which a number of songs and speeches took place.  The food was scrumptious, however my dress so tight I had little chance of eating much of it!  Then came the cutting of the cake.  Busily chatting away at another table, Gloria, bridesmaid extraordinaire grabbed me, telling me “Quick, we’re supposed to do a jig to the cake!!!”  A jig??  Hardly surprised by this point.

After the cake cutting, we were instructed to take trays of cake and distribute it among the crowd.  I believe I made a very good waiter, somewhat cheekily confirmed by the many guests who shouted “I want the mzungu waitress”, “Hey look, I have a mzungu servant”, “Look, the mzungu is serving me!”  Alright guys, calm down, I’m handing out bits of wedding cake.

Not too much time for munching on cake, as soon it was time for the first dance.  The wedding team (us) was instructed to form a circle around the couple, as they took to the floor for their first dance.  Soon the circle was given up and all of us were dancing once again.  A perfect end to a perfect day.

(And only a few hours to wait until the big party held that evening 😉 …)


Joe and Grace’s Wedding – The ceremony

Arriving at the venue, we were all dancing away in the back of the limo having a real old party.  We parked up in the garden, waiting for everyone to be seated and for the boys to get ready.  Soon it was time to get going.The music struck up, and I was off down the runway, looking for a man who I had never met, who was supposed to meet me somewhere along the way.  We found each other though, and made it to the stage raised above the swimming pool.  By the time all bridesmaids and grooms-men got into position, it was clear we were facing a roasting day.

Soon the bride was walking up the aisle, looking beautiful as anything.  I have to say, I was so so proud to see my two old friends, Joe and Grace, looking so happy together.

After the introductions and greetings had been said, it was announced that “Praise and Worship” would begin.  Now for the Europeans among us – praise and worship is not settling down in your seat for prayers.  No no.  At this point the music struck up, and out walked a praise and worship man, with a microphone, and began dancing around the stage and singing.  The whole gathering started clapping and dancing, and to my – horror – I noticed all the bridal party start very specific dance moves.  Oh dear.  Well, now or never, I set to trying to follow the dance moves… while watching the manic laughter on Tom’s face in the front row of the congregation.  Soon, though, the Congolese man sat next to him and helped him out, and I was the one laughing as Tom twirled and jiggled on the front row.

After praise and worship the ceremony took place – including the pastor telling Joe to lift up the veil and examine whether the right woman had been brought before him (!!)  “Yep, that’s Grace”… that would’ve been a mistake and a half if they got the wrong girl!  Then came the vows… and much to our amusement, halfway through the vows, the minister stopped leading, and said “Joe, you can finish the rest alone”… surprise!  The same with Grace 🙂

Soon though, Joe and Grace were Man and Wife, and the music had struck up again, and we were dancing off the stage to the reception!

Joe and Grace’s Wedding – The bride’s house

After much preparation, the morning of April 21st arrived, and I woke up at 5am to get on a very wet motorbike to Buruburu – to Grace’s house.  After much getting lost, I finally got to Grace’s house, and was led into the kitchen to a huddle of women.  “Gabi, here’s your cup of tea, there are the sausages.  Fill your belly well!”  Grace’s mum told me.  I found myself standing, cup of tea in hand, nibbling sausages, surrounded by ladies in hairnets.

Soon enough the make-up lady arrived, so it was on with the bridesmaid dress and I plonked down in front of the lady.  “Ah yes, they told me there was a white one.. but you’re not so white, it’s fine.”  And she set to work on my face.  When we was done, I was thrust into the seat of the hairdresser, who after about 20 minutes of attempting to curl my hair (good luck), declared that I was finished and she’s just going to spray some oil onto my hair.  “Some what??” “Oil, oil spray – don’t you use it??” “Not usually, no…”  But on went the oil spray, and after all that I found my hair looking much the same as half an hour before, but a good deal stickier.  Anyway, all that is irrelevant, because it was the bride we all wanted to see.

However, as it should be, the bride was going to keep the groom waiting, until she looked just perfect.  In the meantime, I sat stunned, peeping out of the window, while a huge crowd gathered in front of the house, screaming, singing, clapping, and chanting.  Asking what they were all doing, I was told “they’re calling for the bride.”  It was quite something.  Half an hour late for leaving already, the bride was finally ready and all the bridesmaids were summoned to her room.  Suddenly, a lady with a very loud voice started singing… and the bridesmaids united started clapping, dancing, and singing along.  Oh dear.  This, I hadn’t been informed of.  But duty calling, I did my best to join in, despite not having the foggiest about what was going on.  Seeing my confusion, co-maid Gloria came to my rescue – “you haven’t been to a Kamba wedding before have you?” …No.  “We’re singing that the bride is coming, they’re traditional wedding songs.”

We then danced and paraded down the staircase and into the living room, to be met by a big group of singing relatives.  The procession stopped by the front door.  “Now, we have to bargain over the bride”  Gloria whispered.  After much singing, shouting, and arguing through a closed front door.. finally the door was opened and a big suitcase was handed over to the best man.  Colourful cloths were laid over the doorstep and porch, and the bride was escorted from her parents’ house…  once again, to much screaming and singing.  We danced along behind her, and all got into the incredible limousine waiting for us on the street.  The crowd swelled, and screamed, and sang, and we were on our way to the wedding.

What a start.

Coptic Easter

The 14th April marked the day of Coptic Easter.  Having met the wonderful Dr. Jacob, Michael, Isaac and Ramy over here in Kenya – a group of lovely Egyptians – Tom and I found ourselves invited to an Egyptian Easter party.On the evening of the 14th we got ourselves ready in our finest attire (which is not saying much really), and got ourselves over to Dr. Jacob’s house.  We were the first to arrive, everyone else still being at church.  In the kitchen there was the biggest mound of food I’ve ever seen, and the smells tortured us as we sat in the living room, waiting for the other guests 🙂

On TV, a recording of Coptic Easter, where a miracle happens every year – a candle lighting by itself when carried into a religious building by the pope.  Just in the middle of the event, we had a good old Kenyan power-out, plunging us into darkness.

Dr. Jacob, Tom and I sat there for a good half hour, chatting in the dark.  All of a sudden, Egyptians started arriving, greeting us, and bustling around the house – up and down the stairs, in and out of the house.  There was a lot of rapid Arabic!  All of a sudden Dr. Jacob announced “we’re moving the party”… we all hopped into cars, and found ourselves driving round Nairobi looking for an Egyptian household where there was still power.

Eventually we stopped at a block of flats, where there was also no power.  Parking in the car park, we all got out, and talked in quick Arabic.  Tom and I stood there with not much notion of what was happening.  Eventually, feeling so cold, I got back into the car and promptly fell asleep.

I was woken some time later, by Tom laughing at me, telling me that the party is starting.  Getting out of the car, it turned out the carpark flood lights had been turned on, and the party was to be held in a covered corner of the carpark.  It was 11pm already!  However, one problem remained – the car with the food in it appeared to have gone missing.  Dr. Jacob thrust a beer into our hands, and we watched on in anticipation.

“Come over here, come over here” we were directed, “we’re going to play a game”.  Two lines of people queued up facing each other.  The self-appointed MC explained “so, each person has to say something about the other person in the line, for example: this guy is the fat one, this guy is the bald one…and so on – Get it?”  Tom and I didn’t get it.  “Now, everyone turn around to have your backs to each other”.  We did so.  We waited.  “Ok, game over!” … some things really are lost in translation… 🙂

Anyway, the food arrived!  And we were treated to guest treatment as everyone queued up to pile their own masterful piece of cookery onto our food, and watch us taste it.  There was every type of tasty meat, and pasta, and rice… amazing.  Every time we felt we could eat no more, there would be a shout of “You’re not eating, EAT!” and someone would dive at our plates wielding a piece of meat.

It was an amazing cultural (and culinary) experience, and as everyone settled down on the floor to chatter in Arabic, we excused ourselves with many “Happy Easter!”s.

A big Thank You to Dr. Jacob and his friends for hosting us and making us a part of Coptic Easter!

Lake Victoria: The adventure is still continuing.

Back at Hotel Bimoss, the rain started tipping it down, and all the flying rain fly-termite things had come into the hotel and restaurant.  I heroically (!)  attempted a plate of chips for dinner, the choices being fried meat, fried fish, ugali, and chips.  Tom – ever the culinary explorer – opted for fried cows’ intestines.  A joy to behold and smell, as sick as I was! Tom will forever live with my new nickname for him:  Bowel-mouth.

Purchasing more unidentified amoeba meds from the lady in the corrugated metal shed, I went to sleep, hoping desperately to be cured by the morning.  I wasn’t.

However, we had a strict timetable to keep, and after suffering through another plate of eggs, we boarded a bus to Homa Bay.  We are still not sure how the bus managed to get us off the island, and onto land.  We are guessing there was a causeway.  There were definitely no boats involved this time.

On arrival in Homa Bay, we found our hotel, checked into a room (fairly clean, good bar – great shout, Lonely Planet).  We decided on a stroll around town, soon to realise town consisted of one street, and there was genuinely nothing to do.  So, as we would, we parked ourselves at the stylishly named “Mega Pub”.  Once again, tables and chairs on the street.  From where, we were suddenly confused to see long queues of people, dressed in identical attire, shuffling up and down the street in time to the music pumping onto the street.  Very weird behaviour.  Soon more queues appeared.  What on earth was going on?

People started gathering, the shufflers took up a formation, and lo and behold- it turned out to be the local choir, giving an Easter gospel concert!  The children were torn between staring at the choir, and staring at the mzungus.  It really was an entertaining day!  Soon it became overcast, and we ran back to the hotel as the first of the rain started to fall.

Back at the hotel, I became increasingly ill, and unable to bear my tears, Tom heroically decided to hunt down a pharmacy in the rain.  He soon returned with:  unidentifiable medication (purporting to cure typhoid, and gonorrhoea), and immodium.  At last a medicine that would help!  Maybe I would survive the 8 hour trip back to Nairobi the next night!  I slept early, while Tom enjoyed the football on TV with the locals at the bar.

In the morning, it was back on the bus, and back to Kisumu.  In these areas of Kenya, the daily bus leaves when it is full.  Full meaning, 2 backsides on every seat, and standing passengers.  Dosed up and queasy on meds, we sat on the bus, in the bus station for an hour and a half before we even moved.  But eventually we were on our way, and at 2.30 arrived in Kisumu.

Needing a break from the dirt, we headed out to the posh Kiboko Bay Resort, who allow day visitors to use their facilities and pool.  Typically, after a quick lunch and changing into our swimwear, the clouds broke and the heavens opened.  We whiled away the afternoon, with beers, and chat, until it was time to go back to the bus station, and board the long night-bus back to Nairobi.

I will leave you with the following info:  this time the bus did not break down, I managed not to poo or puke on myself,  and since then, I am fully back on the food and booze.


Lake Victoria: The adventure continues.

Waking on Saturday morning, to Tom going down to pre-order our breakfast, I soon realised all was not well.  I also soon realised that the toilet of door-inclusive-delight, was soon to be known as the toilet of doom, and I was unlikely to escape it for much of the weekend.Nonetheless I headed down for breakfast, Tom assuring me that eggs of any sort cure stomach trouble.  I still don’t know if this is true, or just part of Tom’s egg obsession.  Anyone know by the way?

Anyway, I hopelessly asked the hotel-keeper whether there was any way of getting medicine on the island, or failing that, could I find some aloe vera somewhere (I am a dab-hand at whizzing up a bit of medicinal aloe juice).  Grinning, “Come with me, I’ll take you to the pharmacy”.  Gleefully, I skipped off after him, only to stop in front of a shed in the garden, about 20 yards away.  Aha.  This sort of pharmacy.

A stern looking “Mama” opened the, erm, hole.  “Mmm?”, she grunted.  “I’m sick,” I told her, “Do you have any medication??”  “Ahhaaa, you have malaria!” she announced.  “No, no, not malaria, I only arrived yesterday.  I have a sick stomach”.  “MMmmmm.  Come round to the front counter”.  Round I waddled to the front counter, to have 2 huge pills thrust at me.  “These will cure you”, she announced.  For 150 bob, this promise didn’t sound too bad.  Thanking her, I sped back off to the hotel, to guzzle my pills and hope for the best.

After a quick lie-down, we had to rush to get the daily boat to Mfangano Island.  An hour and a half fishing boat trip into the centre of the Lake, to visit this island promising beautiful mountains, ancient cave paintings, and much more.  As people and food and water were piled into the fishing boat, I soon fell asleep, despite the waves lashing at the sides of the wooden boat… and I woke only an hour or so later, as we neared the island.

As the boatman came around asking for ticket-money, the man next to us (who claimed he had spotted us the day before on the island) insisted on paying for both of us.  Kenyans are truly some of the most hospitable people ever – he was just thrilled to welcome us to his island.  We clambered out of the boat, to be met by George, the island tour guide.  Given my dwindling health, I was sad to announce that I would have to take the afternoon boat back to Mbita, as I could not cope with a night of camping free of all facilities.  I was already feeling decidedly peaky.

So George rushed us off on motorbikes, to hike up the mountain to see the cave paintings that are one of Mfangano’s unique attractions.  Village children were in raptures to see the “mzungus”, and we barely put our arms down for the amount of waves and greetings we had to return.  A group of three children rushed over, and presented me with a large, crucified beetle.  Hmm.

We set off up the mountain, me slowly but surely becoming more and more sick, and faint, and having difficulties climbing up a rocky mountainside.  Eventually I had to give up, and sat down on a memorable big rock, urging Tom and George to go ahead and visit the rock paintings.  So sadly, I can’t actually comment on the cave, or the ancient paintings.  I was asleep on a rock on the mountainside.

Soon Tom and George came hurtling down the mountain, “We just spotted the boat, it’s about to leave!”  Great.  George had rung the boatmen on his mobile, and urged them to wait for the mzungus.  So even I had to muster all my energies, to bomb down the mountainside, scramble onto a motorbike, and charge back to the boat “dock” (bit of sand).  Thanking George, we hopped on the boat, next to a huge sack of stinking fish, and set off back to Mbita.

Lake Victoria

Seeing as it was Easter weekend, Tom and I both had 4 consecutive days off work.  This meant serious thinking and careful selection of where to travel to.  4 days are not to be wasted.  We settled on Lake Victoria, an 8 hour over-night bus ride to the West of Kenya.Getting on the bus on Thursday evening, we settled in for the long ride.  We quickly fell asleep, and woke only hours later to the strange puffing and wheezing of the bus motor.  Oh dear.  The bus was moving incredibly slowly, there was absolute darkness outside, and we were in the middle of nowhere.  Soon, we broke down.  Out hopped the driver and co-driver, with mobile-phone torches and a screw-driver.  Much tinkering and banging and engine revving later, off we sped, only to grind to a halt again soon after.  More tinkering and banging and engine revving (an hour or so passed meanwhile), and we were back on the road – for good, this time.  It was a lucky escape.  Even with the delay, we pulled into Kisumu bus station at 7.30 a.m.

First things first, some breakfast.  As we are wont to do – we plonked ourselves down at a table at a local cafe, much to the bewilderment of the locals.  A quick glance at the menus, and I ordered an omelet.  “No omelet today”, announced the waitress.  “How about fried eggs?” … Fried eggs were fine, I assured her.  Go figure.  After a yummy breakfast that filled the hungry gaps in our tummies just so, we hopped on the back of a motorbike, and dropped by the Kisumu museum.  Lonely Planet promised us a wealth of information about the geography and history of the Lake.  Sounded like a good place to start.  Well, Lonely Planet lied.  There is one exhibit at the Kisumu museum, which houses a few African pots, a bit of Maasai jewellry, and a stuffed lion.  Outside, one can view a fake Luo village (complete with individual huts for each wife), and a snake pit – with no snakes, and a tortoise pit – with huge, sad tortoises sat around in their tiny enclosure.

We quickly left, and found a matatu to go to the ferry.  Our first destination was Mbita Island.  Accessible only via an hour long ferry journey, once again, we were accompanied by curious stares by local people taking their children and chickens over to the island for Easter weekend.

On arriving at Mbita, we realised that the island was another type of Africa- a type that appeared to have grasped even less Western influence than the rest of Kenya.  We wandered over to the bus station/marketplace/cattle grazing ground, and found the Elk Guest House, to have our lunch.  The Elk features 4 tables plonked on the street/marketplace, and a lady deep-frying freshly caught tilapia over a fire.  Choices pretty limited, we went for deep-fried tilapia, chapatis, and Tusker.  It was a feast hungrily devoured with our fingers.  To much more amusement of the locals.

After lunch we checked into “the fanciest hotel in town”, the Bimoss hotel.  There were semi-clean bedsheets, a lock on the door, and a toilet WITH A DOOR (to my endless delight – little did I know at this stage that I would spend much of the weekend there).

Back down onto the street, we called a motorbike guy, who took us off to Tom Mboya’s mausoleum, whizzing past large monitor lizards on the way.  Tom Mboya was set to be the second president of Kenya, before he was assassinated aged only 39.  His mausoleum now sits fenced off and locked off from public viewing, monitored by the Kenyan government.  However, next to the mausoleum, in his old home, sits a museum in his honour, cobbled together by his countless brothers and sisters (in true Luo fashion, Mboya’s father had numerous wives, each of which gave birth to 5+ children).

His half-brother gave us a tour of the shabby museum – “these were his shoes, this is a photo of his briefcase, these were his wife’s cooking pots, ….etc etc”.  However, he explained, much research goes on at the “institute”.  Firstly, the family united are trying to establish which side of the family Mboya’s intelligence came from.  “Given the high facial resemblance, we have concluded his brains came from his maternal branch”.  Right.  Proper science then.  “Now we are trying to find out which of his brother and sisters might have Tom Mboya’s very same brain.  Some of them look very much like him, so we are researching which of those that look so much like him might also share his very same brain.”  Good on them for asking questions, but still a few steps to go before the shack becomes a centre for genetic research I sense.

Back on the motorbike, we soon realised there’s not much else to do on Mbita Island.  So we headed back to the Elk Guest House for drinks, and as the sun went down, we retreated to our hotel bar, for a nice fried tilapia for dinner.  Oh the variety 🙂

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