[The Passewe family--Soko, Momo, Yatta & Marthalyn]
Preface: For those of you who don't know, Momo is my favorite Liberian. I know, that's saying something, right? But it's true. Momo is my Chief Security Guard, constant source of laughter and entertainment, and the person I miss the most whenever I'm home. As we say, "everyone needs alittle Momo in their life." And, all is well in the world when Momo's around. According to Momo, we're best friends.
Last weekend, most of the ORR gang, along with a flatbed truck full of Liberians, set off for Gbarnga (pronounced Bonga) for Momo and Marthalyn's country wedding. We weren't really sure where we were going, other than 'past Gbarnga and then turn so on the dusty road and it is far small,' but 5.5 hours later, we arrived at the village of the bride-to-be. Let's just say, we were a site to behold!
Now, if you've never experienced a 'country wedding'...well, you haven't had a true Liberian cultural experience; but in most cases, one country wedding is enough to last awhile. But, since this was Momo's (my best friend) big day, I added another country wedding to my Liberian resume. Hmm...there's alot of meeting, negotiating, dowery presenting, rice, and townspeople. Oh yea, and music, livestock, popcorn and waiting around. But, the Passewe wedding was not nearly as painful as the last country wedding I went to.
Ok, back on track. Once we arrived, we weren't really sure what to do. I asked Ma Mary to give us a signal when we should change into our wedding clothes. We decided that when the bride and groom went to change, that would be our cue. But in the mean time, we made friends with the neighborhood kids, enjoyed the shade, visited with the bride's family and watched Ma Mary get right to work in the kitchen (she was supposed to only be a guest).
Once everybody changed, we all gathered under the thatched awning (complete with hanging pink flowers) to settle in for the actual ceremony. This involved alot of introductions, talking, presenting of gifts (wood carvings, glass bowl, kola nuts) and then the money exchange (apparently, $48 plus some small LD is the going rate). This all sounds nice, but if only you could have seen everything else that was going on--the drunk woman yelling at the white people, goats pooping, women popping popcorn, dogs eating popcorn, women chopping chickens into pieces...you get the idea.
Hysterical. Memorable. So Liberian. Loved it. Wish you were there.
After the ceremony, which never included vows, a kiss, a minister, looking into each other's eyes, "I do's"...none of that stuff...the feast began. Rice with bitter ball soup, along with soft drinks, but those were only for the white people. It was good! After that we quickly changed out of our wedding clothes (I couldn't wait because the zipper on my skirt broke as soon as I put it on, which made for awkwardness) and graciously talked our way out of the village and into town to find a guest house. The village party was going to go all night...or at least until the fuel ran out from the generator that was brought in the back of the truck from town.
We decided to try out the United Methodist Guest House in Gbarnga. After we finally found someone on the property, and negotiated the rate ($15/single, $20/double), we claimed rooms and had a delicious dinner of leftovers--boiled eggs, flat bread, trail mix, chips, salsa, guacamole, baked beans and hummus. Ma Mary was loving all of the 'American food.' The guest house was decent, but I picked the wrong bed and had a pretty miserable time until about 3am. We woke up, took our time and headed back to the village to pick up the wedding guests to bring them back to Monrovia with us. Let's just say, the party continued in the back of the flatbed truck, and every now and then, we thought we might have a man overboard. It was a celebration, all 5.5 hours back to Monrovia...until we happened across a fresh motorbike accident, which provided for some excitement and emergency response action for the ORR gang. After unloading the contents of the flatbed truck into the pickup and stabilizing the patient and moving him with a tarp into the back of the flatbed truck, the flatbed set out for the hospital while the rest of us headed home.
It was, for sure, a weekend to remember. Here are a few photos.
[The ORR convoy. The wedding site (Marthalyn's family's home). Making friends with the village children. The wedding caterers (Ma Mary took charge!). Momo's son, Soko, wondered off with my camera (during the ceremony) and took this great self-portrait. The party continues in the back of the flatbed truck.]