Monday, February 26, 2018

Guya the Trailblazer

The extended family enthusiastically responded when cousin Guya, named after late Grandma, invited us to her wedding, almost exactly a year after the death of the beloved lady she was named after.

(I should start with the dinner we all enjoyed on the eve of the wedding, and a late night saga that ensued with certain cousins, but those details will be withheld.)

After fetching the bride from her hideout in Donholm, Umoja SDA church was the place to be. We headed there through interminable Outer Ring Road traffic, impenetrable even on a Sunday, which delayed the intended 10am starting time. (While crawling through the traffic I had the pleasure of viewing Nairobi ladies in their "Sunday best" rushing off to churches. A beautiful sight indeed, and they were everywhere.) I have yet to attend a wedding which began dead on time, but I also generally avoid weddings I do not absolutely have to attend.

Got there to the initial shock of familiar faces (relatives) everywhere which shock eventually wore out when I detected strangers in the midst. Now if you think Nairobi ladies in their Sunday best are strikingly beautiful, then you should see Nairobi ladies at a wedding.

But I digress. Armed with my little digital camera, which could disappear if I wrapped my fist around it, I baptised myself Freelance Photographer and went about capturing photos of favorite people. The professional guys with zoom lenses the size of my head made me feel like an upstart but I was not deterred, having three cousins and a sister in the bridal party. So I jostled for space right along with the most extravagant of them.

And now humor me as I delve into improbable theories fathered by idly musing as my "sisters" marched slowly down the aisle in advance of Guya the highlight of the day. Who came up with the idea of nubile forerunners, eligible bachelorettes, thus displaying their beauty to crowds? What is the rationale behind that? Is it an enticement for the boy child? Is it their warm up for their own big day? Is it build up anticipation for the bride's appearance?

They smiled, they swayed and stepped to the beat. Their corresponding groomsman marched towards them to meet them halfway. They paired off and headed to the pulpit.

At length the rigmarole of marching prospective brides and grooms, and a former bride and groom (a.k.a best man and best maid), and even the wedding matrons, was dispensed with and the lady of the hour stepped out of her vehicle to take her place in the spotlight: the church entrance. Flanked by her proud parents, with wedding music chiming sweetly, she too marched down the aisle to meet her groom and his parents halfway. He unveiled her under pastoral supervision, after which the whole team advanced unhurriedly towards the pulpit.

You know how it goes. A choir sang. A funny preacher gave the couple marital advice and harangued others present to marry in church. The couple took vows, signed certificates, as choirs sang, and then the MC sent us away to the reception. A return march of married couple, best couple, parents, bridal party, matrons, fans, etc, from pulpit to exit, concluded that chapter, with us wannabe Photographers lining the aisle.

There was a hubbub outside as we non-car-owning attendees tried to charm our way into a free ride to the reception. My strategy was to stand around lugubriously until someone had mercy on me. It worked eventually on one uncle, who lumped me and three other sundry stragglers into the back seat of a Pajero.

Outer Ring Road traffic once again delayed matters as a procession of ribboned vehicles headed to Sir Yusuf Ali on Thika Road.

Lunch was served as extremely danceworthy music played, but a full plate anchored me in my seat. I also kept the company of a lively young lady, an absent cousin's girlfriend, who was full of stories and thought I was funny and discouraged me from abandoning food for dance. I also ran into a short, lovely mutual friend who knew the groom and I knew the bride, small world. Speeches began but I was understandably distracted, though I certainly caught the bride's mother's. And then there was time to catch up with long lost relatives and to familiarize oneself with remote relatives as cake was served. Shortly after, the obligatory vote of thanks was hammered out, and everybody could go home, or ask about the after party.

Luckily very few people asked me when I am getting married. 2021, I told them.

I also realized just how important it is for me to start being seen at such events in the company of a lady, even if a hired escort, if only to deflect loved ones' concerns over my long running militant singledom. So if you are a lady - any lady - reading this and are open to the idea of pretending to be my serious girlfriend at major family functions, which are not many, post your application in Comments.

Fate was kind to me. Just as I leave who pops up but Guya herself and her husband John. I hugged her and told her she had done well to set a really high benchmark for the rest of us cousins. Now nothing less than a church wedding will do.

Well done cuz.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Social Sunday

The announcement invited all youth to invite their friends, assemble at Bata Hilton at 9:00 am Sunday and then proceed as a group to Karura Forest.

We who kept time spent two hours waiting for the others. In that time between small talk with my mates I played with two energetic kids, a brother and a sister, who came along.

Eventual turnout was lower than expected. And rhe ladies largely absconded, resulting in poor gender balance.

Off we trooped to the bus stop for the journey to Karura by matatu. Alighted near UN, walked a well manicured path to the Forest entrance, engaged the security guard with banter as she checked our bags for possible pollutants, invaded the forest.

Upon arrival an initial aimlessness afflicted us as we gathered our wits. Shortly two or three hired bicycles surfaced. We took turns fighting to be next and pedalling them up and down the hills and around the track. The sun's hot rays did regulate our fervour or else I would have covered many miles.

Eventually we assembled under the shade of trees where we introduced ourselves to one another using an innovatove memory game. Afterwards everybody was  required to self-report on their strengths and weaknesses. It was revealing to say the least, how most people are keenly aware of their best and worst traits of character.

And then we played more team-building type games involving blindfolds, obstacles and crossing a lake of fire, but hunger prevailed, so we cut that short so the youthful facilitator could rush through the moral of the story: something about faith and teamwork. He conveniently glossed over the emerging reality that Kenyans will always cheat to win given half a chance and there is no prospect for electoral reform on the horizon. At least that is the main thing I came away with.

Lunch! Rice, beans, chapati, vegetable salad and a refreshing slice of watermelon. Writing that made me hungry just now, it was well made and well served. After lunch we had a brief devotion, and then a few more jumping and clapping games, for which patience was wearing thin.

Then at last followed the real highlight of my day, a major reason for which I left bed by 7 on a Sunday morning and travelled halfway across town: football. Us men split into two teams in full afternoon solar glare to chase that inflated leather up and down. I tried to score but made off with two assists, a kicked chest and a sore back. Meanwhile the ladies were playing kati and skipping ropes like little girls. We would have appreciated a cheering squad better, but alright.

And then we drank water, prayed, left for our homes; a Sunday well spent.