Singing at the Arboretum

Friday 24th July 2015
One Week To Go

This morning it rained here at African Leadership Academy. The rain started at about 2.30am and it was a full rain with thunder and lightning. I woke up to the sound of it and I love the rain because it makes me remember things, people and events with palpable detail and nostalgia. This morning, maybe because I had been chatting with Poriot on WhatsApp before I fell asleep, my mind went back to 4 years ago. One of my family friends/sisters who is my mum’s goddaughter is getting married in August this year and she and I had chatted this week about her wedding plans, so that too likely influenced my frame of mind because the rain took my mind back to 2011 the year we got married.

Four years ago at a time like today, 24th of July, it was a Sunday. The previous day 23rd July 2011, was a Saturday (duh), exactly one week to our wedding. Poriot and I met up that Saturday morning and went to Arboretum Forest near State House with my youngest brother Moses, to attend a final rehearsal with the EWFX Chorus which was going to sing at our wedding. EWFX stands for Everything We Feel Expressed. The EWFX Chorus consisted of awesome young ladies and gentlemen some of whom had gone to high school with Moses, and others who had just come together for the love of music. Scott the Violinist- yes the now famous amazing one, was a part of them and he was going to play the violin for my bridal entrance music- Canon in D. He was going to do violin while Filah was going to do the keyboard. Filah- the very same very talented, gifted, spectacular Filah of East African Maisha Talent and Pentamony, was the leader and founder of EWFX. So we met with the group at Arboretum which is itself such a magical place, and add to that the beautiful voices of the choir, the enchanting violin and whimsical guitar by Bensoo -Benson, who I had met in high school along with Filah way before my own brother met them and now they all were besties, is a talented guitarist.

Poriot and I had already created a song list and had gone over the songs with the choir at an earlier meeting so on this day we were just going over the final touches to ensure that everyone was on the same page. We had chosen Misa Taita for our wedding (the Taita Mass), and one of my favorite choices which Moses would conduct on the day was the Peace Song that says ‘Amani ya Bwana, Amani ya Bwana, Amani ya Bwana… niache nizunguluke, niache nizunguluke, niache nizunguluke… nileke nidengereke, nileke nidengereke, nileke nidengereka! ’ (Peace of God, Peace of God, let me dance, let me turn around).  This song is always a fun one, but with the beautiful harmonies of EWFX, this song was more than fun, it was a riot! (Get it? Riot, Poriot 🙂 )

A smaller group of the choir- including my brother Moses- was going to do a special composition while we signed the marriage certificate and lit the unity candle. It’s a song that says “I wish the light of God for you, sweet, pure and true… I wish every solid dream you dream, of strawberries, honey and ice cream, in God’s time be true’’  The other song for this particular segment of the ceremony went like this was “I say this to you for the whole world to know, that I love you for sure. I will always be with you till then end of my life, this is my promise I make to you”. Hearing these two songs sang in perfect acapella harmony under trees, with sunlight filtering in through the branches, standing on dried leaves was magic-al. I  remember I was wearing my deep blue Chinese collar A-line knee-length twirl dress and had gotten my hair retouched/re-permed and styled that week and a pedicure and manicure done, so was already feeling quite bridal- if there is such a thing- yes there is. Poriot and I and indeed all our family and friends involved were at that point where there was still lots of work to be done but the pieces were beginning to fall in place- so we were anxious but very excited at the same time.

After the rehearsal, Poriot, Moses and I split up in town. I met up with my good friend Ade in CBD at Ambassadeur Stage where we boarded Double M matatus to go to Jacaranda. She was wearing a long sleeveless strapless green dress and easy sandals and she looked effortlessly fabulous as always. Ade had walked with me all over shops in Westlands as I looked for the perfect gown and had been with me when we found The One, and this was just one more thing that she was doing with me; I can never repay her for her support. The reason we met in town was because we were going to my bridal shower at my mum’s; the shower that is organized by cousins, aunties and your mum’s friends. In some places like Tanzania it is known as the kitchen party.  I was told I could have two friends only, as it is a session where women advise you, so I picked Ade and of course my maid of honour, best friend, soulmate and desk-mate from high school till forever- Josephine. Josephine met us in Jacaranda as she didn’t need to come all the way to town.

The bridal shower/kitchen party was an event I will never forget because it was so meaningful and profound. I learned what it means to love, serve and submit to your husband, how to manage your home, marriage, relationships withon and without your home and everything in between. I started to see what it meant to be a Taita wife, a Christian wife, a Kenyan wife, a wife who is happy and whose husband and family is too. I cannot divulge more than that but what I can say is that it was a wonderful afternoon of sharing. I am forever grateful to my Mum, my cousins Betty and Maggie, and my aunties- Aunt Mama Kibirisho, Aunt Mama Ade, Aunt Wifi (Mamake Eliza), Aunt Mama Morgan, Aunt Mama Kale (Mrs Mwandau) and the lady who was the main teacher- Mrs Christine Mwakima- for the wisdom that they imparted on me that day. What I liked best was the honesty with which I was spoken to. I felt like a grown up and a little girl all at once and very fortunate that I had these women who so lovingly and generously were helping me step into the next phase of my life as they had dine since my childhood. They made it clear, however, that while they shared their thoughts and ideas with me, the rest was up to me and that Poriot and I and not anyone else had the power to shape our marriage to what we wanted it to be.

The purpose of Ade and Josephine being there- traditionally the bride’s close friends- was to support me and to ensure that they could reboot my memory if ever forgot or faltered during the years to follow. I always ask why nobody does this for men and why the man is expected to just know what to do and somehow figure out how to be a good husband and head of a family and yet he has not really been taught. But I guess at least in Poriot’s case, some of those teachings happened during the initiation period that men go through as a rite of passage in Kalenjin culture. Usually what is discussed in there (out there?) during the tumin (initiation) period is top secret but it should result in more responsible informed men who can provide for, guide and protect the family. Fortunately, Poriot has been a great husband and so I suppose (some) men do figure it out somehow. I don’t know. Women figure it out too along the way because, well, very few actually get the chance to be prepared this way before entering into the institution of marriage and family life. So that’s how Saturday 23rd July went.

The following day, 24th July 2011, was a Sunday. I and my entourage went to South B, near Bounty Hotel, to do the final fitting for the bridesmaids dresses. The beautiful girls who had agreed to form half of our bridal party were my cousins Esther, Anje and Lynda, my friends Josephine, Ade and Beatrice, and my roommate from the UWC, Brittany who I called Roomie and who had come all the way from New Mexico bless her soul.  Lynda and Josephine had also come from the US for the wedding and Esther had come in from South Africa, so it was one of the few times when we were all able to get together physically in one place not just virtually on email or Facebook. The other half of the bridal party was a great group of fun, handsome, supportive guys- Poriot’s best man, Farhan, Poriot’s friends, former roommates and colleagues- Izo, Koyo, Tito and Al-Amin, Poriot’s brother Toro and my brother Moses. They didn’t accompany us to the dresses fitting appointment- naturally as it was unnecessary- but they had done their suits prior to this and as always needed less fitting sessions.

The dresses looked lovely on the girls; the bright yellow was even better than I had imagined. There was still some finishing to be done, adjustments here and there, final ironing and so on, but overall we all felt more comfortable knowing that the dresses would be ready in time for the wedding. We had already found shoes the previous week (‘Shoes that said Wedding’ as I was quoted to say). I remember that everyone was sort of okay with the design but one notorious friend wanted the skirt/bottom part of her dress re-done a little differently. I was going to make a fuss out of it (yah and be branded as a bridezilla, no way) but I realized that in the larger scheme of things, it was more important for her to feel pretty and comfortable on the day- (and remain my friend- she still is thankfully) – than for everyone to have the exact same outfit. When all was said and done, they all looked fabulous- photos available for evidence 🙂 This was a fun day because we were realizing that this ‘thing’ we had talked about for weeks and months was actually beginning to take real shape. Oh I forgot, on Saturday, before going to Arboretum, my cousin Betty and I had met and bought Karyna, her daughter, her dress and stockings for flower girl, and agreed that Betty would buy the gloves and headband later. So on this Sunday afternoon everything was coming together pretty well.

From the tailor’s- and she is called Carol- a lovely lady who is very talented and professional in her work- Poriot picked us up and was going to drop us at Josephine’s house. It had already leaked to me that the team was organizing a bridal shower that afternoon- this one was going to be the playful fun one for girls- a bachelorette party to be precise. Upon arrival at Josephine’s, I was received with song and dance and they put those shiny Christmas decorations on me- fondly known as mushaino. Josephine, Patricia and Njeri were singing “Jamani leo ni leo” (Today is the day), but they kept laughing saying they were not good at it because I was always the one solo-ing songs from our high school days so they were having a hard time,  they said. They did very well though, if you ask me. Aside from my six bridesmaids, Jose and Jose’s sisters Njeri and Patricia who are also my sisters by extension and my insistence, my other friends were there too- Mutune, Jennifer Kyule, Jedidah, Shiko, and Jose’s cousins Mwihaki and Monica. It was a lot of fun, lots of stories, games and giggles. They had decorated the house beautifully with balloons which I love and they had gotten me very sweet gifts and had very sweet messages for me. I feel my heart fill up with emotion when I play back to that day and weekend overall because it was a weekend of so much love and celebration and meaning, and yet more was to come the following weekend.

As I finish this piece, I also want to give special thanks to Poriot’s colleague (and our) friend Job, who had lent us his car to use for pre and post wedding errands. We didn’t own a car by then and having one at our disposal made everything ten times easier as we had a million errands to run. Some months later when we did own our own car (and saw how attached one can get to their car), I realized afresh just what a huge thing it was that Job did for us by giving us his for over two weeks. Job is now getting married later this year to my former  high school mate Carol- the world just goes round in circles doesn’t it- and I hope that even if they won’t need to borrow our car, that we can be of as much help to them as Job was to us.

Well, so that’s what was happening 4 years ago on a weekend such as this one that just ended. What a long detailed flashback, hey? I wrote it for two reasons. One to reminisce for the sake of reminiscing because it is nice to remember; and the other to thank all these named and unnamed people for all those beautiful times and memories.  I thank all of them, all of you, and I thank God for blessing us by making our dreams of strawberries, honey and ice cream come true.

Memories of love, from Joburg.