24 January 2010

Le premier pas

24 January 2010
One of the men that I've been helping over the past year is currently preparing to be married. Koffi is a Baptist pastor. His father died when he was a toddler and his family didn't value education so he left school before getting to high school. Somehow, though, he continued studying and learning and speaks very good French and reads and writes English pretty well. I have been helping him to correspond with a couple in the states that have chosen to support him with his work with his church, especially with the poor and orphaned children. It's an interesting position to be in; I don't really feel it is my purpose or desire to fundraise for local churches, but I really like Koffi and I know he uses the money well.
Most recently, they received some money and Koffi decided to forego the holiday party (complete with a rented sound system and generator) to instead pay the remaining school fees of the children in his church, many of whom had just been suspended for not paying their annual fee of 3,500 CFA (about 8 dollars).
Anyway, he's a good guy with priorities I agree with, so it's particularly exciting for me that I'll be here for his wedding! The marriage isn't arrange, but there are still lots of family customs to observe. Koffi and Akou have already agreed they would like to marry. Now Koffi needs to send a couple highly-respected family members to the house of Akou's family to introduce him and the idea of marriage. If the family is welcoming to these guests, Koffi himself will go to visit, bringing along three bottles: one soft drink, one bottle of gin, and one bottle of sodabe (local gin distilled from palm wine). The parents will see Koffi, then leave him waiting alone outside the house while they seek out the daughter, Akou, to ask her if they should accept the bottles (and thereby accept the proposal). At this point, we hope everything will go according to plan - Koffi and Akou have already spoken to each other and should want the same thing. IF successful, Koffi will then wait around for another while, waiting for the parents to put together the list for the "dote" or dowry.
The contents of a dowry are very different depending on the family. It is interesting, though, that it's the groom that provides the dowry, no? Most dowries will include more bottles of alcohol, several outfits for the wife - pieces of cloth with matching headscarves, shoes and jewelry-, and a sum of money. It'll be interesting to see what Koffi will have to provide!
The groom has to gather the dowry and return to hand it over before further wedding plans can go ahead.
I'm going with him to visit the family, lending foreigner prestige and my digital camera to record the event! I'm looking forward to an adventure.

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