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Dinner party

Posted by on December 3, 2011

Nothing of note happened on Monday so I won’t even bother with a separate entry.

On Tuesday, I invited several co-workers and Jake over for dinner at my apartment. Since Salome lives far south of town and I live on the north side, she came home with me and hung out while I cooked. Her sister, Ruthie, joined us a bit later and it was nice to have some company.

I made lentil stew with plenty of vegetables, homemade bread, salad and apple crisp with ice cream for dessert. I made everything myself except for the ice cream.

In addition to Salome and Ruthie, Jake and Lucy came over and we were a merry party of 5. None of the Zimbabweans had ever had lentils before and don’t often eat that many vegetables in one meal. I think they were sincere when they said they liked it, but they may have been polite since the meal was quite out of their normal eating habits. Zimbabweans typically eat a lot of meat and the girls were surprised that they could feel so full without beef or chicken in a meal!

Over dinner we discussed many things, but one topic of conversation was weddings because Lucy announced that she just became engaged. Zimbabwe is a bit behind the times in this regard because when a young couple wants to get married, the bridegroom has to pay the bride’s father (in cash) and it can be quite a lot! There’s a big ceremony involved before the actual wedding, which is organized by the bride’s aunt and the groom’s uncle or male relative. The man has to pay the bride’s father some money to enter the bride’s house to negotiate a price. Then he sits on the floor and his family pays more money for permission to sit on the couch. Then the man pays money so he can sit on the couch. Then the guy presents food to the bride’s mother so she can prepare a meal. There’s a lot of back and forth and at some point the bride comes out to confirm that the guy is the one she wants to marry. Eventually a price is settled on, which always includes some cows for the bride’s mother even if they live in the city. I don’t know all the details but it seems quite complicated. Lucy said she won’t know until afterward how much her boyfriend paid, but she was estimating it could be $10,000 USD!!

After the ceremony they are officially betrothed. And then comes the white wedding, which should be within six months of the betrothal. The wedding is also expensive because all family members, no matter how distantly related, are invited and most people come. The guests do not bring gifts, but might expect food or housing to be provided. I didn’t quite get all of the details since it was beyond my range of experience.

People used to marry quite young here but that is changing. Salome and Lucy think that the average age of a bride is now in her mid to late 20s but a woman is still expected to have a child before her one year wedding anniversary. Luckily, the average number of children is also going down. A generation ago it was not uncommon to see a family with 8 children, but now it’s two or three.

A woman is still expected to do all the work around the house: cooking, cleaning, laundry, taking care of children, (or getting the maid to do all of that) on top of working full time if possible. There is certainly no such thing as gender equality in Zimbabwe.

It was really fascinating to learn all of this but I am very glad I was not born here; it’s very hard to be a woman and they surely get the short end of the stick!

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