Saidou's wedding


          In the post of 7/26, I mentioned going to Mamadou's house and getting a sneak preview of the wardrobe that his brother Saidou was having prepared for his bride in preparation for their impending wedding. That wedding was held the weekend before last. As is typical of Pulaar weddings, it was a two-day affair, with the Friday festivities being held at the home of the bride and the Saturday celebration hosted by the family of the groom. I went to the Saturday party.

          When I arrived shortly after noon, there were already many people in attendance. Since Saidou lives in the outskirts of the city, the neighborhood has more of a village feeling than that of a city. The only paved road was the one that bypasses the neighborhood; once you leave that, you are surrounded by the sand.

          The small lane that passes in front of the family home had been covered by the festival tents that are usually rented for such occasions. It meant that the "street" became the meeting place for the women and children, who listened to recorded music and lounged around on the rugs and mats that were placed under the protective covering.

          When I arrived, Mamadou ushered me into the men's space, the family salon, the same room where I usually spend time with the family when I visit. There is seating on sofas for about ten people; others rested directly on the floor. It's not a very large room - only about 8 by 15 feet. The air inside was stifling, as there was no breeze at all. They have electricity, but there was not a fan in sight.

          There were far more women and children than men in attendance, and the space provided for them, under the street tent, was spacious and adequate. It was only a matter of about thirty minutes, though, before we men outgrew our space. Mamadou came in to inform us that there was another place that we could go nearby. Carrying a fan to help with the heat, he led us around the corner to... an abandoned house! There were plastic mats on the floor for us, a few pillows, and one matala for the few men who would get to sit on it and have some luxury cushioning. As he looked for an outlet in which he could plug the fan, Mamadou found that there were no outlets. We would just have to make do without it.

          The family was very solicitous of my needs - making sure that I had bottled water, a pillow, and was comfortable. What they couldn't do, though, was provide simultaneous translation for what was going on. In fact, it was just socializing. Most of it was in Pulaar, but occasionally men spoke to me in French. I had met Mamadou when he worked for the Peace Corps last summer during my training, when several of his relatives also worked there. That meant there was a small handful of men I could chat with. Otherwise, all there was to do was sit and observe what everyone was wearing and doing.

          There was no ceremony of any kind - no public display of vows, throwing of rice, speeches, or anything like that. In fact, Saidou was not there all day. As seems to be the custom, he was staying away fromt he event, being hidden by his friends. His phone was turned off, so nobody could reach him. I came to learn that the newlyweds had spent the previous night at the bride's house and that Saidou (in the best translation that I can offer of what was told to me) "had been successful" the night before. Even though it seemed that people were willing to answer any question that I might have had, I declined from asking, "Successful at what?"

          After about three hours of this sitting around, the men got up and walked en masse to the neighborhood mosque for their afternoon prayers, which meant that I got to sit around by myself until they got back. (I was the lone outsider at the event.) When I ventured outside in front of the house to stretch my legs a little, I became the spectacle of the day, as this neighborhood doesn't get many white folks visiting. The children were excited to see a gen-yew-ine toubab in their very own neighborhood!

          This was very definitely a home-grown event, with neighbors and family pitching in to do the cooking, cleaning, and serving - no white-shirted servers from a catering service. Shortly after prayer time, the helpers geared up to serve the meal, coming around with the basins of water for washing hands, the plastic coverings to be placed under the platters of food, and then the food itself, which was large bowls of rice with hunks of meat on it. People were very kind and asked if I wanted my own plate or spoon, but that wasn't necessary. I can do the one-handed ball-up-the-rice-and-pop-it-in-the-mouth routine, which is always made easier when the rice is extra oily, as it was that day.

           After we ate, Moctar, Mamadou's uncle whom I had met last year, told me that he was going to another house to rest. He invited me to come along, as it would be much more calm. There was a fan inside, but it was blasting hot, so I opted to stay outside where there was a breeze. We had some fruit there, and then I decided that it was time to head on home. As far as I know, Saidou never showed up that day.

           The celebration lasted into the night, and I think that there must have been dancing in the evening, but there was just so much that I could handle, and I wanted to be able to get home and undressed, as I had been wearing my culturally appropriate attire, a khaftan with long sleeves.

          I needed to get a prescription filled. It is not a product that the PC medical office had on hand. Their procedure for obtaining prescriptions is to either send to PC Washington for the item or to have the Volunteer get a local pharmacy to fill it, and then reimburse the PCV for the cost of the prescription. I've gone thorough this procedure once before, so was familiar with it.

           I could not find the prescription in any pharmacy I went to. As a result, I went to the medical office to see what I should do next. This is the conversation I had with G, who is alternatively described as our "medical secretary" and "nurse."

J: (after the appropriate greetings, of course) I can't find this prescription. None of the eleven pharmacies I went to has it.
G: Did you try Pharmacy (she mentioned a name I can't remember)?
J: I don't know where that one is. Where is it?
G: Never mind. Did you try Pharmacy Kennedy?
J: Yes. They didn't have it.
G: Did you try the National Hospital?
J: No.
G: Why not?
J: I didn't know that that was a place that I should try.
G: (picks up phone to call the National Hospital; speaks to somebody there) They don't have it.
J: Now what?
G: (picks up phone to call another pharmacy; speaks to somebody there) They have it.
J: Good. Where is it?
G: In Carrefour Madrid (a neighborhood far from the bureau).
J: Okay. What do I do? Take a taxi to Carrefour Madrid? Then how do I find it? (There are no street names and house numbers here.)
G: Hmmmm…. I will see if a Peace Corps driver can take this there for you.
J: Thank you. How much is it?
G: 3,800 (ouguiya, about $12)
J: Okay. Here's 4,000.
G: How do you get reimbursed for this?
J: I give you the receipt, you make out a voucher, give it to the cashier, and then I pick up the money from him.
G: Does the money come from our medical budget or from the administrative budget?
J: I don't know. How could I know what budget it comes from?
G: Because if it comes from the medical budget, then I could just pay for it myself and give you your money back.
J: That would be good (to avoid a long turn-around time for reimbursement).
G: Which do you prefer?
J: Do you mean which budget I prefer this to be taken from?
G: No. Do you want to pay for it or do you want me to pay for it?
J: That would be very nice if you could pay for it. Thank you for offering.
G: (gives back money) When are you going to pick it up from me?
J: When will it be available?
G: Later this afternoon or tomorrow.
J: Then I'll pick it up later this afternoon or tomorrow.
G: That's good.
J: Thank you.
G: You're welcome.

           When I arrived at the bureau the next morning, I had a message that G had called me to tell me that the prescription had arrived. Then I got home and went to apply the medication, only to find that it was manufactured three years ago and expires in 17 days!