I hope by now you all know that another of my sisters is off the market, effective last Saturday 9th April 2005. It wasn’t a quiet do, so, by Thursday, two of my sisters (still, for the guyz, just in case you want to know, yes, they are available but hurry while stock lasts. If U want any more tips, I talk over ice cream and Pizza but some malakwang and cassava will equally do) and my little niece, Toto, were on the 9am bus up north to Gulu. Mission? To paint Gulu red before the rest of the sane family members turn up and of course, as bridesmaids-to-be, we had to practice in the church.
As we waited for the bus to fill up, hawkers selling all sorts of items were both in and outside of the bus. At one particular time, Concy and I (we sat together) were busy composing text messages on our mobile fones (they are of similar make and colour). A bread vendor offered to sell us bread but we decline. He then went to try his fortunes elsewhere. After a while, he was back, insisting we take bread along with us. ‘Only if it’s free,’ Concy said and I agreed with her.
‘You were here very busy with your computers now you want free bread!’ he said and walked away. Since when did our telephone boxes become computers? We laughed.
I was rather impressed by the first movie we watched in the bus – a Nigerian movie about two sisters. One was good one was evil. I don’t like the way they kept writing ‘one year later’, ‘ten years later’ then when the plot got really captivating, we were asked to watch out for part two. Well, the Otada bus people didn’t have part two; they put a western movie that was dominated by wrestling and other irrelevant violence. That’ when I took a nap or two if wasn’t listening to my sis Concy talking. No sooner did my eyes open than she was saying something. Go have a talk show Concy.
We had a stopover at Kigumba, Masindi where we bought roast cassava. I love cassava so much, you could lock me up for a year with it and I’d survive. What we had to debate about was the muchomo – roast meat. Well, we settled for goat meat and a possible running stomach that sometimes comes along with eating all those meats on sticks along the way. We calculated that by Saturday, a running stomach would be gone. Just for the record, we enjoyed the muchomo and nothing happened.
Back to the bus, it was the last movie that captivated most of the passengers. That’s when I got to hear a wide variety of laughters. Even the guy behind us was translating it into Luganda for his neighbour. It was a Nigerian movie about a young boy who was wrapped and given as a wedding present to a couple at their wedding. The newly weds soon got fed up of him and after daily spanking didn’t drive sense into his nut, they returned him to his single father. Meanwhile the dad was so poor at getting himself a gf; all his attempts failed measurably and provoked laughter. Moreover, the little boy was 'sharp' and successfully netted himself a chick whom he hid in a water drum when his dad once knocked at the door when they were having ‘quality time’.
We stopped again at Karuma for a routine check then crossed the breathtaking raging river Nile with a backdrop of the Karuma falls. You know, people come all the way from north pole to white water raft here in Ug and the rapids are in my back yard yet I’ve never! I should white water raft some day. When is my birthday? Girlfriends, we have a date – we’ll try it at Bujagali – just start saving because it costs and arm, a leg and a back!
Crossing the lovely Karuma Bridge marks the beginning of Kabalega National Game Park. That’s when I started to see what my bro Jimmy calls my cousins – baboons. I love the little ones. If it was legal, I’d carry one away as a pet because I absolutely adore them. Just go ahead and tip the Uganda Wildlife Authority to constantly keep an eye on me because that affinity for ‘my cousins’ is not about to fade. Temptation is a real thing, you know.
Well, that was the bus ride to Gulu. Time check half 1pm. At the Gulu bus park, Stella and her fiancé picked us up. She lives on Market Street. After arrival, we didn’t waste time in going to the market to say ‘hi’ to our aunt. All the way, heads were turning b’se we all had the same hair do and didn’t look familiar. When Kampala girls hit town, what do u expect? (kidding).
Well, my aunt sell really nice dry fish and as we were still chatting away, heard calabashes being stoked with thin metal sticks – the way they do it in the Laraka'raka traditional dance and guys were singing – Acholi style. Wow, I’m going there, I decided and sure enough, the dance was on. I was only surprised that there were four guys. Their music sounded like they were eight or more. Ladies joined in and one particular one danced till the end. I couldn’t help clapping for her as she panted when the dance was closed.
We had to be in church by 5pm to practice our ‘match’. Well, we kept Acholi time and were there at half five. The Reverand was about to leave. We practiced a particular style of match and he insisted we walk with a spring!
I wanted to meet one of my friends in Gulu called Joe. Problem was, he was in the field and was going to work till late. He works with a humanitarian organisation and as a social worker he was going to talk to some kids in a night commuter center on Kaunda grounds. Those are the kids who, because of the ongoing war, come to spend the nights in Gulu town which is deemed safer than their village homes. He invited me to join in ans as a social worker in the making I was keen about it but the time was ‘tricky’ – (7-9pm) – in Gulu and knowing my sister Doreen, she could impose a curfew all the way from Kampala.
After consultations with Concy with whom, according to Denis my bro, ‘I normally have my escapades’ I decided otherwise. That was day 1.
Day two; Friday. This time, it was practice with the Bishop of Kitgum at 10am in Church. He was going to lead the wedding service and we couldn’t afford to be late again so we opted for European time.
After breakfast, we went to ‘greet’ our aunt Mary and she offered us another breakfast. We were at the church grounds by 10:10m. and at the reverend’s house, he offered us tea again. Now if u r an African like me, u know it’s rude to decline a meal at someone’s home no matter how bulging ur stomach is. What's more, at that rate, we risked not fitting into our tailor-made wedding outfits.
Sure enough the Bishop also kept time but had decided to have a word with the couple first. The word must have turned out into a sermon because I think we waited for hours.
By then, people started trickling in from Kampala. We had to practice without one of the pageboys, my sweet little nephew ,Odoi, and without the flower girl as well. And, we did it outside b’se the church was being cleaned – mothers union, I think. At one point I wondered why I wasn’t gallivanting around Gulu instead. Then, it was all over – a storm cut it short. We’d finished anyway and had to rush home.
Just know that anything that can go wrong tries to go wrong at the last minute. That afternoon, my sweet sis Doreen(still in Kampala) went to pick our dresses, wedding gown and all but the Italian lady responsible for that was missing. Whats more, the ladies in the bridal shop said they couldn’t dare release anything minus their boss. Secondly they decorating crew were ‘stranded’ because the decorations hadn’t arrived from Kampala. Thing is almost everybody had to work at least half day in K’la then set off for Gulu and if the key things and people didn’t make it by Friday afternoon, it would be too late.
Somehow, things started sorting themselves out. Dresses arrived, cake, decorations, people( many of which had a stopover at Gulu’s Alobo night club)…
One lady literally ferried her salon to Gulu. Not that there isn’t any decent salon in Gulu but in such matters, you have to be sure of everything. Well she had her drier, tongs – not thongs, hair washing sink, manicure items, combs, hair extensions, sprays, name it. The bride and her matron were ready to be worked on, only to realise there was no relaxer! That was 9sth pm. With the way I like moving, I offered to go look for some. You could see that Stella was already worked up. Good thing is we got some Ultra Sheen – so who said Gulu was backward?
After that, Sophie and I went to Kakanyero, a nearby nice Hotel to buy the whole house of ladies some supper. By then the flower girl, a pretty seven year old called Clara, had joined us.
At Kakanyero, we had to ask the Askaris at the gate where the restaurant was. They laughed and directed us to it. (Wasn't it obvious we weren't regular there?) Lovely place. we placed our order for the takeaways and sat down to watch another Nigerian movie. An Italian oldish guy (I can bet my hand he was Italian) with long black hair and a black leather jacket sat in front of us and obstructed our view of the TV so we repositioned our chairs. We were casually dressed: t-shirt and jeans and chatted away, unlike the clienteles who were formal, collected and so businesslike – even the one who seemed to be in their mid twenties.
In about half an hour, we were Sophie and I were back with chips. After supper, as they were working on the bride’s hair, we worked on our nail vanish. They were through with the first phase of the hair and the rest was reserved for Saturday morning. We were still on the vanish and yes, I was the expert – which probably explains why we were taking so long!
Stella put off the radio and asked us to wind up and get some sleep. By then it was coming to 1am. She set her alarm clock for 5:30. Hmm, so that’s how early people get up when they’re going to get married? That’s if they sleep.
Day three – D-Day!
Stella woke us up at six. By the time we grudgingly got out of bed, it was about 6;30. There was so much to do, one wonders what we had been doing in Gulu all that time, Doreen asked. Our nail vanishing wasn’t complete, we hadn’t styled our braids, gathered makeup and I hadn’t practiced in high heels. You know, I’m a down to earth person and three inches off the Acholi soil is’t quite my thing. One thing I had practiced was the traditional hip shaking dance. For that I was ready come the reception and the song I was keenly waiting for was ‘Ajulina’, which draws everyone to the dance floor and every serious Luo should know the lyrics by heart.
After breakfast, Doreen came to pick us, we were going to dress at her hotel room so that Stella, her matron and the flower girl have all the space they want and need. Well at Franklin Hotel where we were, it was our braids first. We realised that we had no hair clips so at that odd hour, two hours to the wedding, we were gallivanting around Gulu town, seven chicks, all looking for hair clips. Our vain search was cut short by the realisation that time, time, time…It got to a point where we got so desparete we entered a stationary shop and asked for clips- any clips. I lamented how in Kampala I have two whole sets of hair clips. ‘Don’t mention Kampala now,’ Monica insisted.
You see, the saloon lady had to work on the bride and all so we had to wrk on our own hair due to time. A combination of Doreen, Pamela our designer sister and Grace, one of Doreen’s best friends, came up with something bridal. It was a trial and error method: a stylo –sorry style is tried on someone’s head and if we all agreed to it, it’s done on all the four bride’s maids. Luckily, Doreen had three hair clips in her handbag and Grace had four so we managed with those. Doreen kept asking what time it was every five minutes or so. At the same time across Gulu town, the flower girl was screaming at the top of her voice that she looked horrible b’se her hair was gelled onto her head.
Still at Franklin hotel it was makeup time. That was another hard paper but we passed it. Now in Ug, there is such a thing called a power cut and one has just occurred so the rest of the ‘evenements’ - events will come later....