The happy couple walking down the aisle.

The happy couple walking down the aisle.

Msane is a quiet man.  He is also very sweet.  He calls on the younger kids to speak during assembly, he can be encouraging while still acknowledging the challenges facing educators in rural South Africa, and he always gives me a big hug when I return from Peace Corps meetings and workshops.  One day, he came to work with a radiant smile.  He had gotten engaged.

He invited the entire school staff to the wedding, even though some of us had not known him long.  Early on a Sunday morning, we put on our finery, piled into the hired vehicle, and rode the three hours to Mtubatuba, my favorite name in all of South Africa.

Mtubatuba-bound with this motley crew, representing the workmates.

Mtubatuba-bound with this motley crew, representing the workmates.

The white wedding had many of the elements of an American wedding:  wedding colors, bridesmaids and groomsmen, vows, exchanging rings, cutting the cake, and a big, white dress.  The speeching and preaching went on longer than I’m used to, continuing into the meal.  The bride was shy and the groom was in love.

Family of the groom, kicking it up.

Family of the groom, kicking it up.

After the wedding, we went to the groom’s home for the umabo, or traditional Zulu wedding.  Family members dressed up in their traditional costumes to sing and dance. A gift was presented to the king and he danced his appreciation.  The bride’s father danced to show his satisfaction with the bride price.  The bride’s family presented gifts of blankets and pillows to the groom’s family, and not just as a “come and get it” queue, passing out blankets and checking off a list.  Two by two, the family members came, lay down on a mat, and were covered with their new blanket.

Family of the bride:  preparing the blankets.

Family of the bride: preparing the blankets.

There was a little old gogo wearing ankle shakers made of tin cans.  She moved too quickly for me to study them or to even get a photo, but I think I have a new project for Grade R.

There was so much back and forth and singing and dancing during the umabo that I’m sure I had no idea what was happening.  I just knew that I was ridiculously happy to be able witness a Zulu traditional ceremony and to wish health and happiness to sweet Msane.

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