The dry season, also known as funeral season, is already in full swing. Which means every weekend I am asked to go to numerous funerals. This past weekend, there was also a special dance that every chef has only once during his reign in a town about 30-40 minutes from here, and a wedding. Also, the cashier at my partner MC2 was having a funeral for her father, so it was a full weekend of partying.

I left Saturday morning for Batufam, where they were having the Chief dance. Almost all of the village Chiefs of the west province were there, and each brings their own dancers to dance. Aladji and I snuck into the covered area and got to watch the ceremony from where the rest of the invited guests were watching. While there, a beautiful African woman sat next to me and started talking to me. I said a few things, then she looked at me, and said she thought I was ‘some other white guy’. I get this a lot. In fact, I get confused with the male volunteer who used to be in Bangou 4 years ago. He is 6’2 with blonde hair and in no way similar looking.

Next, the invited guests (and us) went off into the back where there was a huge reception to feed the hundreds of people. We ate, then went back to our seats, however when we got there, they were taken by others, so we had to make due elsewhere.

A few minutes later, the actual traditional dance started, where maybe 200 dancers parade around the area with sticks, guns, and all sorts of amazing traditional garb, led by the Chief of Batufam himself. It was pretty cool to see. Right before it was over we started walking back, then caught a taxi back to Bangou.

After a 15 minute nap and a splash of water to the face, I met up with Aladji again, cheftop and Adolph and we headed to the cashier’s father’s funeral. There were a few people there I knew and we of course ate and drank.

Right before I was done eating, Aladji pulled me aside and told me the Chief of Bangou wanted me to go to the chefferie (palace) right away. He was waiting on me to start the small marriage ceremony. Aladji couldn’t go because he needed to stay there with the police chief, and Adolph wasn’t invited, so me and cheftop went off to the wedding.

Traditionally, when someone wants to marry one of the Chief’s daughters (he has 50 kids), they must come to the palace with his family and go through the process of asking for her. (it is also common for the Chief to give daughters to people he likes.)

The ritual is small and pretty informal, except for a few parts, where the queens (since the Chief has more than one wife), cart off the daughter waiting to get married along with many of the kids already there, and then start bringing in other kids with fabric over their face. The present this kid to the mother of the groom and ask ‘Is this the kid you want?’ A whole other group of things are said all in jest until eventually the right daughter is carted out with fabric on her face, but changed into a more formal dress. They future mother in law inspects her carefully, making sure that it really is her, then the queen takes off the fabric off the daughter. The grooms family erupts in applause, crowd around her, and take her over to their side of the room, signifying that she is now part of their family.

Another cool part of the ceremony was when the Chief asked them both to come forward. He then gave a piece of fruit called Cola (a really nasty, sour nut, but I know some volunteers who like it) to his daughter and asked her to take a bite, then to give it to her future husband to finish. He then explains to her that now that Cola is part of you, it is in you and you can’t take it out. No matter what happens with your husband, if he becomes poor or sick, you can’t leave him. He is like that Cola that you just ate. He’s now part of you. Although simple, the allegories are helpful and I think in its simplicity, we in the West could learn from them.

After the formalities, the Chief, cheftop, me and Aladji, which arrived a little later, went off to eat in a separate room with the Chief, where he gave me a bottle of Scotch to take home with me. I finally got home around 2 in the morning.

At 8:30 am Aladji called me. He was with Cheftop and they were ready to go to the days funerals. Don’t people every sleep around here?! Even though I was tired, I got up and went with them. Finally, at 1pm, three funerals and 4 meals later, I was done with the funerals for the day and I went home to sleep.

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