Monday, July 29, 2013

The Civil Wedding

If coming home after sunrise and sleeping until 6pm is any indication of a good time, I think we can safely say wedding #2 was a success!  It was a long day because here the ceremony and reception are separated by several hours.  The ceremony took place in a building that would be like City Hall back home.  There were 27 weddings on Saturday!  The room was fairly large and the set up was much like a church would be, seating on either side of an aisle for the groom’s family and the bride’s family.  Georgia wore a beautiful, big, fairy tale type gown.  When the officiant came into the room they played this official music that made me feel like I was at a taping of Judge Judy…lol.  The ceremony was fairly short, but beautiful.  Georgia’s husband, Cyrille, has quite a sense of humor.  When the officiant asked him “Do you take this woman?” he took the microphone, stood up, and said, “I have a few questions first.”  Everyone, even the officiant, got a good laugh out of it.

Chairs for the bride and groom in front of the ceremony room.

The groom enters with his mom

Front row seats for the family!

The elders on the bride's side

Georgia raising her hand to show she's ready for Cyrille to put a ring on it!

Cyrille, Georgia, and the's official!
After the ceremony we went outside for some photos and then took off in a motorcade to the cocktail hour.  When people get married here they get a police escort and the first car in the motorcade is a pick up truck with a bunch of people chanting and singing, plus a videographer who hangs out the back and videos the married couple’s car, which is following the pick up truck.  Everyone else in the wedding follows those two cars and traffic pulls over and lets everyone pass by. 

The cocktail hour was at The Beach Club, which is where we went back for the reception later Saturday night.  It was a beautiful space and Georgia and Cyrille had rented the place for the day, so we had it all to ourselves.  At around two in the afternoon, after hors d’oeuvres and drinks we headed back home for much needed naps. 

The bride and her little brother at cocktail hour.

The reception was scheduled to start at 8:30 that night and this event required invitations.  No invitation, no entrance.  There was a receiving line to take photos with the bride and groom and then you were seated in the large hall.  Weddings here are big on entertainment, so there was an MC and throughout dinner up until at least midnight there were dancers, singers, and comedians who came and performed on the dance floor.  Sometime after midnight the dancing started and went all night long until the sun was coming up.  I think we may have left around 5 in the morning.  We dropped some people off at the club (which also don’t close until the sun comes up), grabbed something to eat, and trudged our way into the house around 6am.  I don’t even remember my head hitting the pillow and the next thing I knew I was waking up at 6pm Sunday evening.  

The reception room

Sweetheart table

The sweetheart table all lit up
Cyrille and Georgia make their entrance.  Everyone waves their napkins in the air.

The beautiful cake display

Landry and his Auntie Jean, one of his mom's best friends

Dancing with the father of the bride.

Maybe 2am??

Landry's brother, Mignon, and his girlfriend Loris

You know these two

Mignon and I

The bride and her brothers

La famille

Me and Loris

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Week in Review

This week has been an interesting one to say the least.  On Sunday afternoon Landry and I went back to the house of the uncle who hosted the cultural wedding for a meeting with the bride’s side of the family.  It was time to divvy up all of the money and goods that had been given by the groom’s family.  We didn’t expect anything ourselves, but as the brother of the bride, it was expected that we attend.  We ended up carrying a bunch of plastic chairs down a hill to a storage room on the side of the house.  The room was made of cinder block with one light inside, but we were all seated outside of the room and a green mat was placed on the ground.  Landry’s dad had a list of the items given, items that had been requested, but were missing, and a stack of money.  Each item was discussed in great detail and often times the discussion went well off track.  We were there well after dark listening to the back and forth discussion before we were allowed to pull the cars around and load everything up.  I didn’t take any pictures because I didn’t want to seem like a tourist at the family event, so hopefully my description is enough.  We ended up carting back several cases of Heineken and soda, a huge jug of red wine, two machetes and an ax, a big tin basin full of liquor bottles, cooking oil and rice in containers larger than what you might find at a Sam’s or Costco, twenty-five different 6-meter pieces of fabric, 25 silk scarves, a hat, and an embroidered suit jacket.

After packing up the goods I thought we were done, but then we headed back up to the house to listen to more talking for at least another hour.  As best I could tell very little of it was about the actual divvying up of goods, but they were speaking part in French and part in Fang, so I lost the ability to follow the conversation fairly quickly.  Fortunately a TV was on in the background and watching that helped to pass the time a bit quicker.  I think by the time we left it was nine or so at night.

Monday we went to see Landry’s sister at work and I was able to use their Internet connection, which is much more reliable than the one at the cyber café.  I spent my time trying to catch up on email and what’s happening with everyone on Facebook.  Then we took a walk around downtown and settled on a small café for dinner.  Below is a picture of my croque madame and white wine (this pic is for you, Jacqui!).  The food is so good here!

Croque Madame (bechamel sauce, ham, egg, and gruyere cheese) and a bottle of wine for $5!  :-)
Tuesday I went to get my hair done.  For those of you who have known me for a while you know that I’ve run the gauntlet with hairstyles, but it’s so expensive to have done in the US.  I was SO excited to get back to my braids.  Below is the first of probably two styles that I’ll get while here and it only cost $24!  Gabon is actually a fairly expensive country to visit for many things, but hair braiding is not one of them, which makes me a very happy traveler!

Sadly, I wasn’t happy for long.  I’d been having some stomach issues, which isn’t all that odd for my first week of traveling, but then that turned into chills, full body aches and weakness, a headache and fever.  Tanty quickly determined that it was malaria and gave me medicine.  Malaria!  I guess my third visit to Africa was the charm since I’d been able to avoid it the first two times.  Cathie, if you’re reading this, ignore all my talk and take your meds!  Though I must say, the malaria medicine works almost instantly.  By the time I woke up on Wednesday morning the weakness, fever, and chills were gone.  I was still a little achy, but apparently that’s to be expected and today I feel great.  Next time I’ll be sure not to forget my bug spray, which I’m convinced played a big role in sparing me from malaria the first two times I was here.

Now, if my suitcase arrives from Turkey tomorrow morning my week will be complete!  Yup, that’s right.  Three of our four suitcases arrived on Monday and the one that was missing had ALL of my clothes in it except for one dress and two pairs of underwear that I threw in a different bag last minute…and thank goodness I did!  Another flight arrived on Wednesday and still no bag.  They keep saying it’s because people are coming to the airport with 6, 7, 8 bags, but I just think it’s stupid that they don’t track excess baggage in some way.  So I, who only brought two bags, am stuck without my bags for a week, when someone who brought eight gets all eight upon landing??  And then yesterday when we went to the airport, bags that were missing from Monday’s flight had arrived, but mine still hadn’t!  We had more than a word with the rep from Turkish Airlines yesterday who promised me on Friday that our bags would be here Monday.  He said he sent an urgent message to the baggage office in Turkey to ensure my bag would arrive on Friday…we’ll see.  Thankfully, my dress for the civil wedding and my shoes were packed in a separate bag, so at least I have that if nothing else.  And the adventure continues…

Our niece, Lyn, just because she's so cute!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Cultural Wedding

Yesterday was Landry’s sister’s cultural wedding.  They decided to celebrate both traditionally with their families, as well as with a civil ceremony and a reception much like what we have in the States.  I’ve decided to post a ton of pictures here and let them tell the story.  However, the brief background of the cultural wedding is that the bride and groom’s families come together and the oldest male from each side takes the lead in negotiating the marriage.  The bride and groom each choose a fabric from the market and everyone in attendance buys that fabric and has an outfit made, which is why you’ll see almost everyone is in one of three fabrics (the market ran out of Georgia’s first fabric, so she had to choose a second one).  Once the families come to an agreement, the bride changes out of the dress in her fabric to a dress in the groom’s fabric to symbolize the joining of the families.  There are no invitations for the cultural wedding, so hundreds of people can show up.  After the wedding there’s a huge dinner, music, and socializing.  The civil wedding will be next week.

The groom's family

The bride's family

The groom's family counting money to be given to the bride's family.

A comedian performs while the bride's family privately discusses what has been offered by the groom's family.

The loot.

Landry and Maelys' friend, Emanuelle "Manu"

The families have come to a preliminary agreement and the bride comes out in her processional.
The bride hides her face with a fan and a palm leaf.

The bride's aunts tear the palm leaf in half, revealing the bride.

The bride's uncle, and eldest male

Me and Manu

A supposed agreement had been reached and then the bride's uncle came out with a shotgun demanding more from the groom's family.  He put on a convincing show!

Finally an agreement between the elders

The newly married couple!

The mother of the bride.

At dinner

Maelys and Landry

Just when we thought the negotiations were complete, more gifts were brought out, including sugar cane, plantains, rice, chickens, ducks, and a goat

And a very fiesty pig

For those of you who followed our last trip to Gabon, this is our niece Sybelle.  She's so grown up now!!

Landry and I in full effect

The aftermath of dishes (the bride's mother is responsible for food at the cultural wedding, so this was our backyard Sunday morning.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Getting There

Well, as always seems with my travels, our trip started off as quite an adventure.  About eight minutes before we arrived at Dulles Airport in DC (remembering that we live about three hours away in Philadelphia) I realized that I had left my old passport at home.  I had my valid passport with my married name, but had failed to realize that my visa was in my old passport!  Landry called his friend who is watching our house and he had to take a picture of the visa with his phone and email it to Landry’s sister.  We just hoped that the airline would allow me to board in Turkey without a valid visa in my passport.

The first leg of our trip was about ten hours long and we landed in Turkey around 4pm local time.  We only had about an hour once we had made it through the transit terminal and there were three things I wanted to try: Turkish coffee (as a shout out to Haifaa and Bahjat), apple tea, and ice cream.  Since we were in such a rush and didn’t know how far we had to walk to get to our gate we passed the only place I saw to get ice cream.  I’ll have to save that and the apple tea for our flight back.  I ended up getting Turkish coffee and Landry got some really good baklava.  
Turkish coffee and baklava

This is what happens after you've already been flying for ten hours

Views of Istanbul from the airport

The line at our gate was crazy long and they weren’t even boarding yet, so we sat down and waited until the line had gone down to just a few people before getting up.  We were two of the last three people to board and sure enough, the agent at the gate told me that I couldn’t board the plane without a visa.  I explained to him that I had a valid visa, I had just forgotten my passport and that my sister-in-law would have my visa waiting for me when we landed in Gabon.  He argued back and forth with us for a while and then called his supervisor who, after several heart pounding minutes, agreed to put me on the plane after explaining that Gabon was not required to accept me and I may need to turn right around and head home.  Needless to say, I spent the next six and a half hour flight worrying about whether or not we’d get through customs in Gabon.

Enter Landry and the infinitely small community of Libreville (and when I say small, I mean that everyone seems to know everyone, despite hundreds of thousands of residents).  Before we even got completely off the plane he had run into two people he knew from high school, one of whom worked with security.  Landry explained the situation to him and he ran around the airport until he found a security officer that would help us.  The security officer escorted us past customs, sat me down on a bench, and had Landry go out to get the copy of my visa from his sister.  He came back with the copy and after much flipping through my passport, photocopies, and lectures about how complicated we had made things, my passport was stamped and we were in Gabon.

This is what you look like when you've forgotten the second most important document of your international travel :-(

Relief was very quickly replaced by frustration.  We had made it to Gabon, but once again our bags had not.  We landed at 2am on Friday….our bags will land at 2am on Monday…hopefully.  Thankfully, we packed everything we needed for the cultural wedding in our carry-on. I must say though, except for the bag issue, Turkish Airlines is awesome.  Free pillows, blankets, slippers, and travel kits, good movies, and free wine with dinner!

It’s been great being back.  We met our niece Lyn for the first time and we spent yesterday and this morning hanging out, helping to get ready for the wedding this afternoon.  More stories, I’m sure, to follow and definitely many pics!