Monday, September 1, 2014

Mawwiage...is what bwings us togethuh....

*A Guest Post from Blu*

Mulenga

On Friday, I went with Mulenga and a whole crew of representatives to negotiate the price for his bride to be, Miriam (more on her name later). For months now, Mulenga has been in talks with Miriam’s family about getting married. The whole family had to sit together, which meant everyone had to be there. After waiting several months, he brought his mother out to sit down and talk with the family to let them know that he was serious. This happened about 6 weeks ago. He woke early in the morning and left with his mother and Emmanuel, an older friend who is standing in as his uncle. The day before, he explained to me, “We have to be at their village before anyone is awake and we have to be the ones to wake them up and let them know our intentions.” I immediately protested, insisting that waking your future in-laws up at 4:30 in the morning was not the way to begin a relationship. He told me not to worry. In fact, he was going to stay in the car while his mother and Emmanuel went to discuss. Throughout the process Mulenga is not allowed to speak to the family. Zambian culture is very strict about how you relate to your in-laws. I remember introducing my mother-in-law to a church one Sunday and everyone gasped because I #1 looked her in the eye, #2 pointed to her, and #3 called her by name. Big no no.

I digress. A group of 9 of us went to meet the family. In preparation, they had sent a list containing prices as a starting point for negotiations. It included 10 kwacha for a big spear for the wedding ceremony, 10 kwacha for a little spear for the mother-in-law (remember waking her up early in the morning?!), 200 kwacha to open negotiations, 10 more kwacha for “prayers.” I asked why he had to pay for prayers and those on our side said, “Nobody really knows. It’s just a way for them to get more money.” Good tradition for the family of the bride!

We stopped about 200 yards outside the village and Emmanuel went ahead to inform them of our arrival. Miriam was placed in a bedroom by herself, then they called for us. Mulenga was prepared to not speak or smile, no matter what happened. I think it was to show he is serious about the wedding? Whatever the reason, he approached the village with the most depressed, forlorn look I’ve ever seen. Like his life was over or something. *Insert marriage joke here* Mulenga and Cornvent, another representative, were taken inside a house and told to wait by themselves. The rest of us were taken to the house where Miriam was hidden (we didn’t know she was there) and told to wait. They brought us sweet beer, which is a non-alcoholic, not so tasty, chunky corn drink. But at least it had sugar in it, so I managed to drink most of my cup.

After about 90 minutes, the entire family came in and sat down. Mulenga and Cornvent followed and sat in the corner, eyes down the entire time. They had about 15 on their side, and with our 9, it was a tight squeeze for everyone to sit in a 8’X10’ room. The meeting opened with a prayer and then everyone introduced themselves and gave their clan names and relation to either Mulenga or Miriam. On my turn I introduced myself as “Blu Mudeenda (My Tonga name). To my father’s side, I’m a Tidwell. To my mother’s side, I’m a Howell. Mulenga is my little brother.” Then we went around again and everyone spoke directly to Mulenga and Miriam. It was at this point that I realized that she was hiding in the other room. Everyone kept talking to her over the wall. Mulenga just kept looking at the ground as if he was about to cry. It was bizarre to say the least. But it was also a very special time of imparting wisdom to the to lovebirds as well as cracking jokes. One of the uncles was talking to Mulenga and told him in a very stern voice, “Look at me. The other day you were driving that truck and the way you were driving was crazy! You almost ran me over! If you’re going to be part of this family, you must always stop and greet me when you see me. Don’t drive crazy like that!” Everyone in the room was laughing, except for Mulenga and Cornvent. Mulenga held his beaten-down puppy dog look. The uncle continued, “Look. I know your teeth are clenched together right now and you’re trying not to laugh. I’m done.” Later on, Mulenga said that was a point where he almost started laughing, but held it in in order to show respect.

It was a very formal time, but it was evident that everyone was very relaxed and willing to have a good time. Although we try to be as culturally relevant as possible, most of the time our interaction with Zambians from the village is on our terms. They come to work and are very reserved and respectful. They come to church and are learning new things and most of the time unsure of themselves. Sometimes we speak through an interpreter or just use English, which naturally puts up barriers. It was nice to see everyone interact in a place and in a way in which they felt completely comfortable. The old ladies told Miriam how happy they were for her. They promised to buy her new chitengis, since all her clothes would be left with the family when she married. The men welcomed Mulenga into the family and talked about how his family was now their family. And how they will help one another and solve problems together. I was especially proud of the New Day representatives, Hildah, Abby, and Joyce. Their turns to speak centered around the Bible and God’s plan for marriage. It was not only good advice for Mulenga and Miriam, but a good witness to everyone in the room as well. When everyone was finished, Mulenga and Cornvent left again to sit by themselves and Miriam was escorted out of the house. She walked through the middle of the group in the sitting room, but was covered with a chitengi so that no one could see her face. Everyone else got a three minute break, then settled back in to begin negotiations.

First, they read the list of demands from the bride’s family. As they read them off, Emmanuel quickly agreed to the small amounts for spears and prayers and such. The total amount for that came to 280 kwacha (about $45). They then turned their attention to the matter of cows. The family asked for one bull for the father of the bride and one cow for the mother as a payment of good faith for Miriam. Since Mulenga owns no cattle, we asked about just bringing cash instead, but their asking price was too high. After Mulenga buys the first two animals, he is free to marry his fiancĂ©. After marriage, however, he will be required to pay for an additional two cows at a cost of 1,500 kwacha a piece. This payment, however, is not expected for several years. All told, he got a new wife for the equivalent of two cows and $45. I’m not sure about the purpose of paying for a wife, but I suppose it does ensure that the husband is serious about his intentions. If we did the same thing in America, there would probably be significantly fewer weddings. Come to think of it, I’d probably still be single!

After agreeing upon payment, Emmanuel sat down in the floor with the 280 kwacha. A representative from the other family sat down across from him. He counted out the money on a small decorative cloth. They then grabbed opposite corners and together tied the money inside the cloth in a show of unity. They explained that Mulenga should show up two days later before the sun rises to give Miriam a new name. After that, he wouldn’t be able to see her until the wedding. We all agreed and then they served a feast of chicken, guinea fowl, goat, ndelele, and nshima. Our side of the family all ate together, separate from the other family and Mulenga (who was still separated from everyone). Everyone ate until we were full, but there was still goat left over. As they were taking away the leftovers, Emmanuel stopped them and asked if he could take the rest home with him. If you just promised to make Mulenga pay that much money, I suppose you’re entitled to the leftover goat. He took it and everyone was happy.

Back home, I asked Mulenga about the naming ceremony. He had no idea that he was going to have to give her a name, and only had a day and a half to decide. I tried to help out, but he solidly rejected my suggestions of Tina Turner, Obama, and Cleopatra. He told me it had to be related to his family somehow. Instead, he was trying to decide between his mother, Gladys, his sister, Mabel, and his favorite cousin, Musola. He finally decided on Gladys. Personally, I would have still gone with Cleopatra, but hey, he’s buying the cows, he gets to decide.

He also didn’t know about the not seeing each other rule. Originally, he was thinking of a wedding next July. This new wrinkle, however, has him looking for two young cows as soon as possible. He is very excited and seems genuinely happy. After the wedding, Miri—um, Gladys will be living with Mulenga in new staff housing that we are currently building on the edge of New Day. It will be an adjustment having someone new on the property, but we trust Mulenga’s judgment and choice and are excited about his new life! Please pray for this young couple, as there are many in the community who need to see what a godly marriage looks like.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Sleepover Madness!

It has been a little crazy this month!! The New Day kids have definitely been bed-swapping during this school break! We have had the 4 groups (Big Boys, Big Girls, Little Girls, Little Boys) over here, plus they have been at Teacher Diana/Carolyn's, Teacher Debbie's, the Cooks, and Nurse Mandy! It has been loads of fun.....but no more sleepovers at my house until December!! ;)

Cason must have gotten hold of the camera and is practicing the art of the selfie

Lots of tv time - He-Man for the boys!!

All Christina wants for Christmas is her 2 front teeth! ;)

And LOTS of ipad time!! The kids LOVE ipads but only get to play them the 4 times a year they sleepover at our house

Pretty Gertrude has no front teeth either!

More ipad time...and Malilwe's face is kinda scary!!

Joseph :)

Kelitah enjoying a Barbie movie

Mweene, Phillip, and Kefi (who is finally old enough for sleepovers!!)

It's a bird, it's a plane...it's SuperKef!

And LOTS of time on the "bounce house" (as the kids call a trampoline!)

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Church

If someone were to ask me, "What is the hardest part of living in Zambia? What is your greatest challenge?" I would definitely say that it is church. Ask anyone who has lived overseas for longer than, say, 6 months, and they just might agree.

New Day Church is in the process of building, so we are meeting on the corner of the property in a large shelter. The shelter has a dirt floor, and the wind blows and blows in August, so after about 5 minutes at church we are COVERED in dirt. I wish I had taken a picture of my kids today - dirt all over their faces - everywhere! I wanted to take a shower right when I got home! On top of that, we have new "seats" at church. These are logs cut from trees that are about 8 inches off the ground. Everyone looks around when they get to church to try to find the flattest log to sit on! When we get there, we sing a few songs (in Tonga), and then we open the Tonga hymnbook and sing. Then it's time for Sunday School, where we stay seated on the logs. After that, us Americans beg for a song we can sing standing up to give our bodies a break! We then have "testimonies", "special songs," and the offering. It's then back to the logs for another hour of preaching (it takes longer because of the use of interpreters).

I walked home (1/2 mile) today alone, because I stayed for a women's meeting after church. I admit I was struggling. The filth covering my body, my very sore bottom, and just walking away wondering, "Did I really worship?" Some days are hard. Suddenly, I heard a sound, and I knew EXACTLY what it was...it was the sound of a huge dust storm (dirt devil as we call them in Texas). My eyes widened, and I just KNEW God was sending this storm after me to punish me for my thoughts about church! I walked faster, trying to beat it home, frequently looking behind me to see where it was. It finally caught up to me and blew past, with me just catching the outskirts. I held my long skirt and squeezed my eyes shut, grateful it had "missed" me.

Just then, a scripture came to mind. I knew God was speaking to me. "Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper."
God was at church this morning at New Day. Dust was blowing, the logs were uncomfortable, the singing wasn't in my heart language, but He was there. He was waiting to meet with me, but I was too worried about my comfort. He was at your church this morning too, no matter where you worship or what it looks like. His whisper after the windstorm reminded me and convicted me that it is an absolute privilege to worship God every Sunday here at New Day in Zambia.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Recent Happenings!

Here are a few things we've been up to at New Day in the last week!

A stomach virus hit the Tidwell house.. :(

Cambree and her favorite food!

Lots of sleepovers! Cambree & Cason went to Choma to spend the night with our American missionary friends, the Smiths from Ohio!

Nurse Mandy came over for dinner & a movie!

Darbi took 4 of our full-time volunteers to Lusaka for a girls only trip before school starts! We ate...a LOT!

And got pedicures!

And drank lots of coffee!

And Malawi shandys!

And had lots of dessert!

I enjoyed 2 hours of reading magazines while the rest got pedicures!

Me & Nurse Mandy

Rhapsody's - yum!

Sandy's!

Shaka's Grill!

Vegetarian fajitas!

Now we are back at New Day, gearing up for a week of school prep (and 3 more sleepovers!) before school starts Sept 1st!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Last Lusaka Day!

Today is officially our LAST day of vacation!! We are sad to see it go, but ready to get back to our New Day family and life!

Silly sisters :)

I love my big sis!

We are tired of restaurants, so I bought food to cook here in Lusaka, something I NEVER do! (in Lusaka I mean!)

Fun cousin pictures - how cool is it that our kids are ages 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, and 11!

We had a picnic at the playground today!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Cousin Time in Lusaka!

We are in Lusaka for a couple of days with my sister's family! It has been 6 months since we've seen them, so it's fun to catch up and watch the kids play together!

Blu is still in vacation mode!

Caedmon & Isaac, who apparently won the "World Cup" were very excited to pose for a picture!

Cambree & Isabel played Barbies ALL morning long!

Cason & Amos - here comes trouble! ;)

My sweet Abigail Ruth!

Durban Vacation, Day #7!

We left Durban yesterday and are back in the capitol city of Zambia, Lusaka! Here we are checking out of our hotel and waiting on our taxi!

This was the BEST meal I had on vacation - a Mediterranean roasted veggie wrap from Kauai!

One last stop at Mugg n' Bean - red velvet hot cocoa and a pretzel salted caramel mocha!

And ring pops from the candy store!

Thanks for experiencing our vacation with us! This will go in my blog book and will be something we remember for years to come! This was our first long trip to take with 3 kids in tow, and they did amazingly well! And yes, we already have 2015 and 2016's trips planned. ;)