Sharifu (our day-guard) came to us last week with Kimuli. “This one has a problem” he said. We asked what the problem was. Well. Kimuli is now twenty and has decided he wants a wife – actually what was said was “He wants to buy a wife”. He is one of our best workers despite what the previous couple told us. They told us he was useless and their kids weren’t allowed around him. He barely spoke any English, really only about two words until Raelee came along and decided he was her best friend. He was our day guard, but he worked harder than any of the others on the grounds so we promoted him. Having Raelee around, he has learned more and more English and keeps a close eye on her and Smokey every day. He and Sharifu are like sons to us and big brothers to Raelee.
So when he came to us with the “problem” we asked what is involved in buying a wife. Sharifu and Derrick explained to us that the man/boy goes to the intended woman/girl’s parents and asks for permission to take her as his wife. They negotiate on what he has to give them to get this permission. Sometimes it may take the future groom months even years to acqure the expected selling price! Kimuli had collected 300,000 shillings from friends but he was short 200,000 so that he could offer 500,000. Half a million shillings is more than most people see in a year, some never see that much at once. He was asking us for the remaining 200,000. He would go to the town they live in and offer this and ask if they would accept it and agree to his marrying their daughter. We contributed to his fund even though it is hard to understand having to beg and borrow money so that one can marry. If you have to do this just to buy the wife, what about taking care of the wife? And I wonder if he is really ready to be married buy he is considered old here and it goes against the culture for him to be single. Plus, in this culture, if you have money you are expected to give it to anyone that asks, it is very rude not to. This is why so many put their money into chickens and goats – no cash means not having to give it out. Kimuli is the oldest in his family (at least the oldest to one mother – his dad has two wives) and his father is the one that had his leg amputated. So, both wives, father and siblings expect him to support him and buy whatever they need and want. If he marries then they will stop expecting him to support them because now he will have to support his wife and the children that come.
He went to the parents and they accepted the 500,000 shillings but also agreed on a number of chickens and goats. Also gomez for the mother of the bride and sisters and possibly Aunts. (the gomez is the traditional dress and still used for celebrations. They range from 25,000-30,000 and up, depending on the cost of the fabric chosen. Then they are made by a seamstress. Now Kimuli is 178,000 short! When he comes up with that money he will have bought his bride to be! Then the “meetings” will start in the village with the list of things needed for the reception here. I imagine that the actual marriage ceremony will happen at the girl’s parents home. There will be meetings until the total of the list of items has been met. I guess we won’t know when the actual wedding will be until he has finished paying off the 178,000! He has a house he built and is trying to get a bathroom built before he marries. He wants to be prepared! And I know Raelee will be as thrilled as anyone when he and his wife do start having babies!
Sharifu, on the other hand, is definitely old to be single – he is twenty-two but has no plans to marry just because it is expected. We know the pressure on him is great to be married and try to encourage him in his decision to wait until he is ready and has someone he loves. I’m not saying Kimuli doesn’t love his girl but in most marriages here love has nothing to do with it. It’s crazy to us, especially when we see the struggle to take care of multiple wives and so many children, to find it so common for boys and girls barely into their teens marrying. Girls are married off as young as twelve just so the parents no longer have to take care of her. And exceptionally scary to be raising a daughter in this culture whose life goal is to be a wife and mother! Right now she would love to know that it is possible to be married at twelve!
I will keep you up to date on the progress of this endeavor as it goes along!
**When talking about giving livestock for marriage, my husband told them that I am a ten cow bride! They thought that was pretty impressive! Haha!