WEDDING RINGAfter our bizarre, ten-minute wedding ceremony in Kenya was over, I wasn’t sure if my Peace Corps volunteer hero and I were really married. What I did know was that I had a 9-karat gold ring on my finger and that the equatorial African sun was hot enough to give me hallucinations.

I did not hallucinate, however, or even imagine, that years later (like yesterday), both my prince and I would forget the anniversary of that weird wedding ceremony.  No.  We woke up, spent a lovely slothful day in our house in the south of France and never gave it a thought. Shame on us, because it was most certainly an event to remember: It was the day I became Wife Number One. Allow me to entertain you with the story:

Here Comes the Bride

On a sunny tropical morn in June, my hero and I walk to the District Commissioner’s office in the town of Nyeri for the joyous event, at least we’re expecting it to be joyous. It turns out to be rather bizarre, but we don’t know that yet.

Our wedding party of twelve strong awaits us at the door, a hippie lot consisting of one Swede, one Brit, a couple of Kenyans and several American Peace Corps volunteers, all dressed up in their finest jeans and cleanest shirts.

We squeeze ourselves into the small office, a humorless space devoid of festive adornments and full of stale air. Behind the desk stands the District Commissioner, a Kenyan man of solid build and serious demeanor. Also present are two mystery maidens, pretty Kikuyu girls in neatly pressed frocks. We do not know who they are, but soon discover they’re here to serve as our witnesses in case we don’t have any. We do, but the girls do not leave because (I assume) seeing wazungu (white people) getting hitched in this town is not a daily occurrence.

It may well be a very rare occurrence because the DC, wearing a suit and tie as is befitting his status, is sweating bullets. And not only from the heat, because along with the sweating he is also trembling and displaying a nervous tick.

After various solemn greetings, the ceremony commences. The DC directs himself to my man, ignoring me. Totally. As if I were invisible.

“Do you understand,” he asks, his cheek twitching, “that this is a civil ceremony and not a tribal one?”

My husband-to-be says yes, he does. So do I (this is, after all, Africa), but my understanding is of no importance apparently. I am not amused.

“And that under civil law, you can only have one wife?”

My man says, yes, he understands.

The DC’s hand trembles so much he drops his pen. “And do you understand that if you want another wife under civil law, you must first divorce the first one?”

Ye gods. Is this an omen? Am I making a terrible mistake? They are talking about getting rid of me before I’m even married. How cool is that? I’m standing here in all my bridal glory, miniskirt and all, and the DC is talking to my man as if I am not even here. I’m overwhelmed with emotion at this sacred matrimonial moment. I’m sure, dear reader, you can identify.

My not-yet husband says he understands about divorce. (He hails, after all, from America.)

I’m aquiver with nerves. Should I get out of here, rush back to Holland? Marry a dentist instead? What was I thinking, traveling to Africa, marrying a foreigner?

“However,” the DC continues, cheek twitching some more, “in the event you want a second wife but don’t want to divorce your civil-law wife, you’ll be allowed to marry a second one under tribal law.”

This is good news! My man won’t have to get rid of me if he wants another wife! I’m overcome with emotion. (This is, after all, my wedding day.)

After some more of this scintillating discourse, we finally get to the one single question I have the privilege to respond to:

“Do you take this man…”TROUWERIJ

I say yes, I do.

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Years have passed. So far no second wife, tribal or otherwise. No second husband either. We both still wear our 9-karat gold ring. The only diamond I have is my man. (Oh, wow, my fingers just typed that line all by themselves!) I hope next year I won’t forget our anniversary. It really is something to celebrate.

NOTE:  This wedding was not a recent event, and I’m sure that the ceremony I have described has been changed and modernized. So if you want one just like it, you are out of luck.

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Have you ever looked back at your life and wondered how you got to where you are now? Have you ever experienced an unexpected bizarre event? Scroll down, hit that comment button and entertain me!

 

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Body BuilderDear reader, by now you must know I am a sucker for funky foreign stuff, and living in France, I have the fabulous opportunity to visit the twice-yearly antique market in a town not far from my village. (I wrote another blog post about that market a couple of years ago.)

It’s a kick to see some of the treasures displayed along the streets, to imagine who might have once owned or coveted these things, and if perhaps these people were a bit soft in the head and in need of a spot of therapy.

Then again, who am I to judge? Does owning this creepy body builder carving say anything about the original owner — or the artist who created it — other than that he or she loved well-oiled muscular bodies? You tell me.

One should not judge the taste of others, so I will not. Look at these godawful chairs. Wouldn’t they cheer up a gloomy room, and what’s wrong with that?

Red chairs(No, they are not toy chairs. They’re full size!) Of course the painting behind the chairs would help to brighten things up as well.

But if these chairs do not fit your sophisticated sense of style, what about this one:

Poppy Chair

Who doesn’t like poppies?

The market has the “normal” sort of junk as well, the knickknacks and trinkets from yesteryear, the dishes and glasses and vases. This time I was particularly charmed by the collection of art meant to be displayed on the mantelpiece, the coffee table or perhaps the home altar. Here a few for your entertainment and possible coveting:

Mom an Dad on the mantelpiece

Who are these lovely people? Mom and Dad? So much nicer than a photo, don’t you think?

A Far Away Uncle?

Might this be a rich distant relative who traveled the world?

And below, who would this lovely damsel be?

Danser

Someone’s talented daughter?

It’s not only the flotsam and jetsam of the good old days that’s fun to look at. People-watching is a kick as well.

Lovely colors

I want a coat like hers, and the guts to wear it. I so admire people with a unique style. Me, I’m so boring.

Mystery objects tickle my fancy — thingamabobs and doodads and doohickeys. Small ones, big ones, skinny ones. Any idea what these sticks might be?

Oyster sticks

Antique French Oyster Sticks

I had no clue what these were, so I asked the vendor: They’re oyster sticks, so there you have it. He explained that in the Mediterranean oyster beds, oysters were grown in the hollows. Or something like that. Nowadays they use other techniques. Google it if you care.

It occurred to me later how cool it would be to have an arrangement of 5 or 7 of these sticks displayed on a wall. Très artistique! Sadly, I thought of it too late. Maybe next time.

And when it comes to artistically re-purposing old or antique items, think of what you could do with these:

Chinese cabinet doorsDoors from an antique Chinese cabinet.

I fell in love with these before I realized what they were: doors. I knew instantly what I wanted to do with them: Hang them on a big wall like a painting, a piece of art. So did I buy them? No. The dealer wanted hundreds of euros/dollars for them. Even bargaining would not have gone down far enough for me, even though my prince said if you want them get them. But no, I have my limits, you know. So I sighed and took a picture instead.

Next I saw this contraption, and had no idea what it was. A torture device? An agricultural gizmo?

Mystery boards with stones

It was huge. No vendor was in sight to ask what this thing was, so I am still wandering around in the dark desert of unknowing. The wooden boards have slits in them and into the slits bits of stone have been inserted. What could you do with this? Make a really big dining table out of it by adding legs and covering it with a sheet of glass. Any other ideas?

Are you a hoarder or a manic collector of one thing or another? I wish you would have been here! I saw a stack of Marie Claire magazines from 1940, I kid you not. Boxes and boxes of antique post cards, of old buttons, of all sorts of junk treasures.

As usual, there was a plethora of bed linens available — linen, white, monogrammed. Some people wax lyrical about these, how cool they are to sleep under, how lovely to look at. All I see is the ironing they require and I run. I did stop to admire this piece of embroidery and took a picture. For a quiet moment I meditated over all the hours a dreamy girl – now long dead – must have spent making it to add to her trousseau.

Antique embroidery

In my mind’s eye I could see her sitting in a chair wearing a prim little dress stitching away while dreaming of love and marriage. I didn’t inspect the piece for a label to see if perhaps it was made in China, because I did not want to have my romantic scenario busted.

I should stop here. You’ve seen enough old stuff, me thinks. Except maybe just one more:

Mystery CarvingMystery carving. Head stuck in rock?

Please tell me if you know what this might be. Surely someone can shed some light…

Did I buy something? Yes! A loaf of country bread from the baker who was selling his wares to the hungry shopping masses. The bread was not antique: It was still warm. So it goes.

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Make my day and tell me something about your experiences with antique markets, with collecting stuff, with not collecting stuff.

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