Unfortunately, circumstantial events sometimes overtake good planning!
Nancy Clement extended herself, perhaps a bit too much. (A good heart drives her like an ambulance racing to the hospital.) This time, the tree branch that she extended herself onto when she offered to arrange a wedding invitation to me exposed her to a furious wind storm. Just about broke the branch off, with her on it!
Nancy’s adopted niece, Shamsia, and Shamsia’s fiancé, Frank, scheduled their wedding on Thursday. Most Arusha weddings occur on Saturday. This time, Saturday’s wedding schedule crowded her into scheduling two days earlier. Wedding at 12:00, midday. Celebration at 6:00 PM. General directions provided, but Lota would be able to find it. Even though addresses, other than PO boxes, don’t exist in Arusha.
Took the day off from business planning. Told aspiring entrepreneurs that we would continue on Friday.
Plenty of time to get there on time. Had already mentioned to Lota my precise time scheduling and the fact that late arrivals tighten my stomach. Had already arrived at various business planning meetings liberally late. Done better, lately.
Wednesday evening, Joyce continued experiencing stomach pains, herself. Lota: perhaps an ulcer? She had her appendix removed a couple weeks ago. Surgical complications? Maybe. First thing Friday, Lota planned to take her to the hospital, get back by 10:30, and get us to the church on time.
Tanzania’s president Magafuli decided to hold a parade for himself on Thursday. At least, that was the practical result of his visit, yesterday. Arusha roads shut down. Except for the president’s motorcade. It crawled. His parade attendees attended because they wanted to use the road as soon as he passed. But, the significance of his high office demanded the physical demonstration of his popular support by the masses. Surely, news cameras took it all in, to report the surge of common guy support. (Per Lota, he rigged his own election, changed the law to legalize results without dispute, and shut down multiple newspapers for publishing dissenting analysis. Remaining newspapers play up his popular support.)
Lota knew that taking Joyce to the hospital stood as priority number one. Joyce didn’t get the message. Lota arrived to pick her up. Still needed to shower and get dressed. I think Lota’s stomach started to tighten. Finally stuffed her in the front seat. Off to the hospital.
Presidential motorcades take priority over hospital emergencies. Joyce’s personal ambulance needed to wait for a higher priority. “Sometimes,” he thought, “just need to get creative.” Hailed a friend with a motorcycle. Toyos and friends with Toyos race around, or loiter, all over the place. Loaded her on a friend’s Toyo, because those things go anywhere. If illegal, can’t catch ‘em, anyway.
I packed my camera, put on a clean shirt with my newly washed blue jeans, and pulled up a chair on the front porch. Pretended my chair was a rocker and began waiting well before 10:30. Plenty of time. Played a game or two on my cell phone. Relaxing, not to have to rush to the day’s business planning meeting.
At 11:30, figured my cell phone might need re-charging. Plugged it in and played the image of a person completely in charge of his schedule. Cool, like a refrigerated cucumber. (Inside, melting like ice cream left on the counter.)
Lota rolls in about 1:00 PM. Wedding’s probably over by now. But, Tanzanian schedules carry with them different standards of promptness. Perhaps the wedding planners planned for contingencies. If Lota got stuck in traffic, the wedding party and guests became temporary presidential fans, also.
“Don’t know. A friend of mine took her on his Toyo.”
We left the compound by 1:15, maybe 1:30. Figured we’d be on time to congratulate the newlyweds, anyway. We’d still take plenty of pictures at the 6 PM celebration.
Found the general area, just as the directions described. Took several turns and passed multiple churches. No sign of the right one, though. Lota said we passed it. Turned around, took several turns retesting the road bumps. They had not changed. Hadn’t been repaired since our first road test, either.
Pulled off to ask directions from 6 guys resting on their Toyos. (Guys don’t ask directions, unless the situation gets rather hopeless. Gals know this. We’re loaded with another excuse.) They pointed that way, back to where we came from on our retracing exercise. Lota poked his head through the window when he walked back to the car. Said he was going to check out the church that sat within sight of our Land Rover. Wandered around a bit, before concluding that it was not the right church. Pointed out that churches dot the roadway landscapes almost as often as Coca Cola sponsored markets.
Continued retracing the potholes, in spite of the cyclists’ pointing the other direction. Reached the main road, likely the one that the president left in his dust. Passed an intersection or two, each one with appropriate caution. The church might have been down any of them. Stopped again to ask for directions from another vendor. He smiled, pointed, and shrugged his shoulders. Friendly chap, though. Not sure if he and Lota knew each other. But, they do now. Lota’s got a network much wider than the president. He knows half the Arusha population. Doesn’t even need a parade.
We turned around again. Cautiously, like a cat stalking its prey, we turned down another road. We crept up to the entrance to another gospel provider. Turned into the parking lot. Guys swinging axes into the terrace, turning the soil for renewed planting. Two cars sat there, but no other sign of life.
“This is it!” Lota assures. “We’re here.”
The pick axe guys smile, wave a little. A wink and a nod from one or two.
“Do you think we missed it?” I asked.
“Maybe. Don’t know.” His smile could relax a race car driver sprinting to the checkered flag.
I walk down to the church. The place looks totally undisturbed. Chairs neatly arranged. Encased flower alter looks like it still anticipated a bride’s smile. No sign of a recently used sanctuary. The place remains immaculate. Take a few pictures of the evidence. A deserted planet, or so it seemed.
It’s maybe a bit past 2 pm. About 2:45, another car arrives. I got to meet the director of Mwedo Secondary School. “Mturi”, he says, then spells. We bond pretty quickly. Nice guy. Wants more sponsored students next year. Really appreciates the ones from Olmotonyi. Points out that they all did much better after their transfer. Brags a little about their successful testing. Good students! Can’t wait for my visit.
A truck full of guys hanging out the truck bed arrived. They’re uniformed, also. Jumped out. Each carried a brass instrument of one kind or another. I recognized the trombone right away. Used to play one in junior high. (That’s an exaggeration.) The short one carried a trumpet-like piece of brass. Another broke stride with the brassies, and carried a drum with sticks. A friendly bunch.
A few more cars arrive. The wedding party. Wow! They all look fabulous! Ladies in polka dot dresses. Really nice! Another car with more ladies. This time, six of them get out with maroon dresses, gold trim and hair that must have took each of their salon stylists a week to fix. Each eye magnet dragged multiple sets of wandering eyes around with them.
A few minutes later, a black BMW arrives. A huge spray of flowers adorn the front like the nose of a boxer. A pretty boxer, though. A ribbon extends to the back of the car on both sides. Both ends barely drag, catching dust along the way. The bride! Must be!
Another ten minutes until she steps out. Not sure about the additional wait. I think women take their time, much like men wait to ask for directions. Just an observation, politically incorrect, I’m sure.
The wedding lived up to expectations, and more. Except for the timeliness of its start. It lasted an hour and a half. Way different than United States weddings. They danced their way down the aisle, danced some more, and then listened to the preacher deliver a message whose meaning could not be missed (unless you didn’t understand Swahili). Impactful, dramatic.
The exit played out much like the entrance. Lot of juking back and forth with the heavy beat of loud music.
We followed the crowd to a park where the photographers did what they do best. We milled around for about an hour, took pictures of monkeys playing around us. Saw a few dick dicks. Took pictures of each other, so now we’re all famous!
Left at 6:00, almost in time for the celebration. Except Lota looked at me as if I didn’t understand that we still needed to get there. Would not be instantaneous.
So, the celebration began after 7:00 PM. Waited around for the soup to be heated, before anyone entered the venue. So, I lied. We entered the place and got seated around 8:00 PM. The place rocked until about 11:00 or so before people lined up for food. Wonderful experience. Again, different than United States reception styles, but nevertheless, rather joyous and loud.
Got to be a bit after midnight. Didn’t hang around beyond wolfing down our suppers. Needed to pick up Lota’s brother, Abarani, from his car lot office. (I think we were actually late. I’m glad he’s patient.)
If you have read this far, you have now been trained to wait for a punch line. Afraid there really isn’t much to it. The culture here runs a different clock.
The Lord actually got us there on time. More than two hours late, but the wedding began about three hours late. No one stressed, except perhaps me. No one really expected either the wedding or the celebration to run on time. When the time was right, the Lord delivered. No need to have stressed.
Perhaps I should learn a lesson, after all. In spite of my drive to arrive according to my own schedule. Perhaps I should rely more on the Lord’s time.
The good people of Arusha put my piety to shame. Nehemiah has repeatedly explained to me the spirituality associated with his fasting, which he goes through frequently. Lota and I talk a lot about faith.
People’s dependency here upon God “to provide” tends to drive me nuts. I rely on myself to figure things out, to schedule my happenings, and to rationalize my faith. People here humble me with their faith, even though they tend to also drive me nuts with their late starts and finishes.
As evidenced yesterday, the Lord still tends to deliver on time.
Perhaps, I should take a lesson. A spiritual one.