Back to back weddings are tough. The first one this week happened at a sports club which meant that the festivities were over at midnight. Not too bad. The next one, however, was in the village which meant this was an all night deal. John and I try to prepare ourselves for these events by spending extra time praying and taking a nap sometime during the day so that we can be fully conscious and present with our friends.
Around 10 pm, we put on our wedding gear and made our way to the other side of the village. We weren’t exactly sure of the location, but thought that we would just follow the music. After we walked a bit, we came upon a section of street that had been decorated with all manner of LED lights. This must be it. As we approached the area we noticed that there wasn’t any music playing.
We looked around and couldn’t seem to find anyone in wedding mode. We greeted a woman sitting in a chair near the entrance of a home. She returned our greeting and said that this was the place but lissa, lissa (not yet, not yet). I sighed. Even when we try to be late, we’re still very early.
She motioned for me to sit next to her so I did. Just then a man walked by and greeted John. He then told John that the wedding wouldn’t start for a while so he should come with him to drink tea. John looked at me and said, “You can go with me or you can stay here and visit.”
Since I didn’t know either person, I chose to visit with the woman. I began speaking to her in Arabic and she smiled broadly. “Oh, your Arabic is so good!” she exclaimed. I smiled in return knowing that my Arabic is not that good but that she was being kind. We chatted about a lot of topics and then she asked, “Is your husband a good man?”
“Yes, he’s a very good man,” I said.
She nodded and then asked, “Do you love him?”
“Yes, I do.”
She then told me the sad story of her husband. “He is not a good man,” she said. She has two older daughters and one 4 year old boy. She said after the boy was born, her husband left her. She now has no husband and her parents are dead.
I took her hand and said, “I am so sorry. That is very hard.”
She then asked again, “Your husband is a good man?”
“Yes,” I said.
“Mashallah. Mashallah,” she retorted. (This is a saying that basically means, “I envy you, but God protect me from being jealous.”)
Just then her sisters came from their homes and pulled up chairs. They switched to Kinsey which is their native language. She then told them all about me. When they wanted to know something from me directly, they would switch back to Arabic. Once they had their answers, they would discuss me in Kinsey. It’s all very unnerving, but it’s how it goes here, so I just have to get used to it.
My first friend said to them, “She has a good husband. She loves him.”
I smiled and wondered what their reaction would be.
They just smiled and said, “Good. Good.”
Just then a white van loaded to the brim pulled up in front of us. 8 guys jumped out and began unloading all the sound equipment. Ah, the band is here!
When the ladies saw them they looked at me and said, “Oh you can dance!”
I laughed and said, “No, I probably won’t dance. I’ll just watch.”
“Oh, you must dance!”
Now in nervous laughter I reiterated, “I like dancing, but I’m just not very good at it.”
One sister said, “You are shy here, but you must dance in America!”
“No, not really. I’m just not very good at it so I don’t really dance.”
Another said, “You must dance there!”
To add emphasis I said, “No, I don’t dance here or in America.” I continued, “I don’t even dance in Germany or Kenya! In fact, I don’t dance anywhere in the world!”
“You don’t dance anywhere?”
“Nowhere in the world!” I said laughing, thinking that this conversation in Arabic was going well. I’m understanding. They’re understanding.
Just then one sister looked at me and said, “You never dance?” while she crossed her arms as to give herself a hug and began rocking side to side. She continued, “Your husband is a good man?”
“Yes, of course, he is a….” Wait. What are you actually asking me? Are we still talking about dancing?
I looked up and now all three sisters are staring at me intently. One then said, “Do you dance or not?”
Now I’m speechless. This whole time I’m thinking we’re having an innocent discussion about dancing. Somehow we aren’t talking about dancing anymore…at least I don’t think so.
I’m sure my face turned a deeper crimson than normal as I began to understand the full ramifications of their questions.
Somehow I misunderstood a verb or did not know about a particular euphemism or something. All I knew is that I had just dogmatically stated to 3 strangers that “Nowhere in the world do I….uh, dance.”
They all saw my distress and began cackling loudly. They slapped each others’ hands and began speaking quickly in Kinsey. I’m sure I had just provided fodder for them and all their friends for weeks to come.
I hadn’t even made it to the wedding yet and already I’d made an impression, a big impression. Even typing this is painful in a horrible but hysterical way. (I’d certainly be laughing very hard too if this were anyone’s story, but mine.)
My awkward silence was covered up by the now blaring speakers which had been placed all around the area. Almost time to get this party started…What else could possibly happen?