Having got my wedding dates wrong, I woke on Saturday with a full, and empty day before me which started at 7am by hand-washing six sets of the curtains in our main room and making sure all the water buckets were filled.
Once those chores were out of the way, I made a quick trip to Kagoro’s Saturday market before visiting our neighbour Mrs Aka’ahs to help her outline the strategic plan for her local NGO which aims to motivate and empower local youths to fulfil their potential, rather than wallowing in what could be considered to be a somewhat hopeless cycle of poverty and disadvantage.
Returning home after spending a delightful afternoon with Mrs Aka’ahs and her husband, I wrote down my recommendations whilst they were still fresh in my head and finished off the evening with ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ - which is a tremendous film although the story-line is at times slightly implausible.
So approached Sunday. I had arranged to visit one of Fantsuam’s field officers in her local village Zakwa at 13:00 to be followed by a wedding, close by in Garaje, of the son of the senior brother of our friend Pele who is developing the nearby Fantsuam Resort.
I spent the morning with another regular chore - scrubbing the six stone candles which filter our boiled water, ready for drinking. If you saw the sludge that congeals on the porous stone candles, you would understand why we bother with the filtering. I left to pick up transport to Kafanchan, where I had instructions to stop at ‘The White House’ (a local watering hole) where my colleague Sarah would collect me to trek to her village.
Sarah and her husband, Michael Thomas; children in the Michael’s compound,
Hina – the one that got away, the five junior Michael children (L – R Comfort, Salvation, Jothan, Mordecai and Patience).
With the very generous lunch out of the way (I managed to eat about ¼ of the bowl they had provided for me) Sarah took me to visit her mother-in-law in a neighbouring compound. The heat inside her own small house had become oppressive and as we stepped outside the skies clouded over and shortly after greeting the aged kaka (grandmother) under the compound’s shady mango tree, the heavens opened and Sarah, her mother-in-law, I, and 10 small children crowded into the kaka’s tiny mud room to escape what appeared to be the closest I have come to a hurricane.
A self-taken picture (no-one else in the room knew how to handle a camera) capturing just a few of the children that were squeezed into the tiny room with us
Such can be the attraction of a bature, particularly one that has arrived with one of the principal guests, however this reverence does not preclude the MCs from announcing that we would be leading the next (traditional) dance. I was delighted that my performance elicited not only cheers from the crowd but contributions of at least N500-worth of N20 notes stuck to my forehead (before quickly descending to the ground), the traditional way of recognising performances at events as well as contributing to the cause, in this case the married couple.
As it began to rain again, Pele took a small party back to his new venture, the Fantsuam Resort, built on a small hill overlooking the River Wonderful waterfalls. Although we arrived during darkness (and it was Pele’s arrival that prompted the ‘on-ing of the gen’) here are a couple of dy time shots of the resort during dry season.
And so the relentless social whirl continued on Monday, for I had yet another wedding to attend. My room-mates have dubbed me the professional wedding guest (or crasher - depending on whether knowing either of the happy couple is required to qualify you as a guest). I think I’ve notched up five so far.
The band lead the bride and groom and the bridal party, dancing down the aisle.
As my host Yashen was busy with ushering duties, I had to make my own way to the reception and though not offered a place on the sofas on this occasion, I was quickly given a seat next to family of the groom who had travelled from Kaduna.
I attempted to leave half way through the proceedings as I had forgotten to bring any water with me and my mouth was parched. Although drinks (usually minerals) are served, this is left to the end of the occasion as the huge majority of the guests (and this goes for any event, be it wedding, send-forth, chief’s turbanning, or cultural festival) just pack up and go once the refreshments are served. Forget about what’s on the programme or who’s speaking – they will just up and leave.
I went to find Yashen for his invitation however he persuaded me to stay, luring me with food and drink. And I (as an almost native Nigerian) could of course not refuse! The ceremony itself continued for about another 30 minutes during which the atmosphere once again started heating up like an oven and the skies quickly blackened.
Just in time Yashen found me and escorted me to a house across the road where other women had met, again just as the storm broke. And once again we sat inside a (larger than last time) mud room, with a tin roof, this time with a group of 15-20 women, jollof rice and (in my case only) a few pieces of meat and a bottle of cold Star. Worth the wait!