One of my favorite silly stories from my study abroad happened at a wedding ceremony I attended with my family.
During the ceremony which was about 5 hours long and in Luganda (so I’m not exactly sure what happened), many generations and family members danced and gave blessings to the groom’s family. About halfway through the ceremony, a stray cow walked in the back and ran into a bunch of the parked cars, setting off a bunch of car alarms. Apparently that’s normal, but my aunties found it hilarious that my friend and I were so amused. Someone eventually got the cow and tied it down, so of course we did what any normal American would do and took selfies with the cow in our traditional wear. There was also a crowd of village children that came to watch the wedding, but an even larger crowd showed up when they spotted the 2 muzungus wearing traditional attire. There might have been 50 kids watching us take pictures with a cow who crashed a wedding, which to them seemed absolutely ridiculous. The actual bridewealth part of the ceremony was so elaborate, with almost an hour of family members carrying baskets of gifts for the bride’s family. The gifts ranged from cases of soda, to fruit, to suitcases, to a lifetime supply of laundry detergent, some chickens, and even a cow. The gifts filled the entire room, and just as you thought the gifts were finished, ten more would come out. The ceremony was very different from anything I’ve ever seen in the US, but it was amazing to me the tradition that is preserved within the introduction. One of my aunties told me that after this ceremony, the marriage is considered valid in the Buganda kingdom, and some don’t even have an official wedding with a marriage certificate. Ugandans know how to throw a great ceremony!
Although I have spent much of my time studying Africa because of my interest in public health, I am now fascinated by the way Ugandans act and care for one another. Everyone is family, tied through the kinship that is humanity, and everyone who shows kindness receives kindness. The people here understand what it means to be apart of a community and the essence of hard work. I can say with great reverence that compared to most of the people here, I have not truly learned what hard work is because they have to put in way more work to ensure success than I do. This program will helped me to better understand a culture different than my own, take a break from the craziness of school and dispel some of the preconceptions people have about Africa.
Everyday was an adventure and this experience allowed me to learn so much about myself and where I fit into the world. If you are looking for an easy semester and do not want to experience any challenges, then this is not the program for you. But if you want to see the world from a different perspective, try new things, become more independent and have a life changing experience then this is the program for you. The combination of coursework and cultural interactions truly focuses on experiential learning. The SIT staff are wonderful and are with you every step of the way.