Sunday, November 12, 2006

Never Again International

Never Again International
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12 November, 2006: Somebody’s Getting Married

Here is something a little more cheery than our usual blogs that announce our coming fates and faults in the ways of global death and destruction (I am at fault on this one, sorry). A wedding occurred amidst the chaos:

Our fearless leader (after all, he did face New York City for 2 months and came out standing), Albert Nzamukwereka, is no longer fearless, but, uh, married. On 11 November (okay, it started on 10 November and probably went into the wee-hours of 12 November), Never Again Rwanda’s (NAR) director got married. As a peacebuilding “activist” Albert can come up with the ideas that shape the way Great Lakes Regional youth will interact with the issues that face them as they grow. Now, he will get the opportunity to do the same thing at a more micro level—with his family.

On the evening of the 10th, Albert and Innocente’s closest families and friends gathered at the compound of National Defence in Kigali to take part in the civil ceremony with the Justice of the Peace (though I thought that was Albert’s role—Justice of the Peace, that is). Upon approaching Albert, it was obvious he was nervous. Looking sleek and spiffy in his suit, his first words to me as he stared at his phone, twenty minutes past the meet time, were “Jed, I have not heard from where Innocente is.” She had not yet arrived, but within minutes she was there, astounding in her pre-marriage dress. We entered the hall and the civil ceremony took place: a guy talked for a long time, Albert and Innocente sat in front of everyone, pictures were taking, documents were signed and we were all humbled.

From this, there was a reception at a nearby restaurant. Basically, a chance to ogle at the newly civil ceremony-ized married couple.

On the 11th, there was a church wedding at Zion Temple in Kicukiro, one of the many suburbs of Kigali. Along with 2 other couple’s, Albert and Innocente got through their religious ceremonial marriage after long last. The preacher preached, the choir choired and the congregation congregated to the hymns and haws of gospel and religious fervour. Albert and Innocente definitely stood out amongst the couples as they were the only ones that did not look horribly awkward and uncomfortable throughout the process. I think Albert may have even said something funny at one point (uh…). Their nervous tension showed as they went through the ceremony, but once it came to revealing the bride from beneath the veil, Albert was obviously ecstatic, and Innocente as well. Vows were exchanged and now they will be together forever (wow, that statement was a lot more absolute than I am used to making).

From there, it was off to Green Hills for the reception. This was only for Albert and Innocente, of course. The hall was beautifully decorated and jam-packed with family, friends, and well-wishers (Mazungu count: 9.5). A barrage of soda was served, music was played, we sat and stared at the married couple, a champagne cork (non-alcoholic, of course) was popped and flew across the room directly at my face (of all people…), cake was cut and served to everyone (except 3 small rows of gatherers, needless to say I was in one of those rows—but the cake sure looked good!). One man from each side of the family got up to share the ceremonial banana beer and talk about how Albert and Innocente met—this is all a time-honoured tradition and according to my source they were really just talking about cows and promises for drinks at a later time. Then gifts were presented to bride and groom, a song was sung, dancers performed, Innocente cried, Albert held back tears (peacebuilders are not allowed to cry in the face of marriage, I guess) but was obviously lost in thought about the future.

After the reception, there was another event back at Albert’s home. He had spent the previous months making is home acceptable to Innocente’s family, and so after the reception close family, friends and I were invited to come witness the ritual of watching as Innocente’s family came to judge Innocente’s new digs. I think they approved, for a few moments later all her belongings and a bunch of massive peace baskets were hauled into the house. Stuff kept on appearing, I would think “there couldn’t possibly be anymore” and all of a sudden a human-sized suitcase would appear. Talk about coming into a relationship with a lot of baggage (shit, that was too easy, disregard that last sentence and the obvious self-critique in it). Afterward, there was a lot of sitting, talking, staring, and, without precedent, drinking of soda.

What have we learned from this? And how, and why, does it matter to Never Again International and Rwanda? There are no full answers to these questions. But it is important to remind ourselves that no matter how much we are hating ourselves or our world for all the inhumanity and death that men (and a couple of women—thank you Ms. Thatcher) bring upon this world, we can still find some sustenance in the hope that love can come from somewhere and go somewhere. A lot of what this organization, and others like it, aims to do is to envision a better tomorrow and we often struggle (at least, in the Western sense) with how to make that more concrete and less abstract. Sometimes it may be more fruitful to go back to the basics and remind ourselves that we can still look for happiness amidst the chaos and anger. This is coming from someone who knows little how to do any of what I just proclaimed we should do and someone who untrusts the idea of marriage at this point in his life—but this is okay, I can still feign over the good it may do for others.

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