On the Monday before the wedding, at 3:00 pm, those in the wedding party, the bride and groom, bridesmaids and groomsmen, and the parents, needed to meet with the tailor in Mafikeng, a town about a half hour drive past Itsoseng, in order to be fitted for their traditional African garb to be worn in the second part of the reception. Those of us not in the wedding party planned to arrive with the main group. We all scheduled our flights into Johannesburg accordingly. Some of us flew in the previous evening, some were arriving that morning. Everyone was to gather together at the airport in Jo’Berg, meet up with Tsholo’s uncle, who was driving a pickup truck (which the Africans called a ‘van’) for the luggage, and then drive to Itsoseng in a caravan of rented cars in time to make the 3:00 appointment.
Shortly after 10:00 am, there were 14 of us, one from Finland, one from Germany, and the rest from America, gathered together in the airport. We enjoyed sitting around in the terminal, getting acquainted with each other. However, nobody knew where Tsholo’s uncle David was. It turns out that he had gotten lost on the way to the airport. (We later found out how difficult it is to get across Jo’berg, getting lost ourselves.)
When David finally arrived hours later, accompanied by two of Tsholo’s sisters, a niece, and a young man to help with the luggage, there was much greeting and hugging. Everybody was introduced to each person. I lost track of the time, but I noticed that nobody seemed in a hurry. What was important was that we have fun and feel welcome.
Eventually, we loaded up the pickup truck, and it took off. Then we went to get our rental cars. This took a surprisingly long time even though the paper-work was already taken care of, but eventually our caravan of four cars got going.
After about an hour, we pulled into a gas station and convenience store. This was a surprise to us, but it was evidently a place that they had chosen to meet up with Uncle David. Uncle David, despite his long head start, wasn’t there yet. He had evidently made a wrong turn.
The convenience store was very much like one in the states, but with meat pies and biltong in addition to the snacks that you might find in the U.S. We used the facilities, bought snacks, and stood around talking. When David finally got there, they got out of the truck, greeted everybody, used the facilities, bought snacks, and stood around talking. Tepu, the groom’s mother, expressed some concern that we were going to be very late for the tailor, but she was assured that there would be no problem: the tailor would wait for these very important customers. So we hung around the rest stop for a bit longer. Eventually, Nate, one of the groomsmen, shouted out, “OK everyone, we’re leaving”, and, amazingly, we left, Uncle David leading the way. Of course, things were not well organized, and our caravan was divided into two groups before we were even out of the parking lot. But we were on our way.
Along the way. we stopped several more times, each stop a surprise of those of us in the rear car of the caravan. First, David waited under a tree to allow the two groups to come together. Then, we stopped again in a dirt parking lot, where some families were picnicking under a tree, to get beer, to take pictures, relax, and enjoy ourselves. After this pleasant stop, we got under way, only to be diverted again, this time to join some friends who were hanging out and drinking in a park next to a small lake. At this point, it dawned on the Americans that we were not going to make it to the tailor’s today. Somebody broke out a bottle of tequila from the luggage, which was shared with the crowd. After a while, we got under way, only to stop again as we passed through Lichtenburg, this time at a liquor store. At this point, Tsholo (the bride) was getting exasperated: she told us not to get out of the car so we would get going again quickly.
We finally arrived in Itsoseng at David’s house about dusk. As we approached his house, the lead cars started honking their horns. As soon as people got out of the cars, everyone started singing and dancing, the women ululating, the westerners joining in, somewhat clumsily in my case. In the dirt street outside the gate, a swarm of about two dozen little kids gathered around to see what was going on, fascinated by the appearance of white people in their neighborhood. We went inside David’s home, said prayer of thanksgiving for our safe arrival, and had a short visit.
After a while, we went a few blocks to the home of Sioto and Kerrileng Molale, Tsholo’s parents, to have dinner. It was dark when we got there: really dark. The electricity was off throughout the neighborhood due to a “load shedding” event, curtesy of the utility company. Imagine expecting two dozen people for dinner, not being sure exactly when, half of them foreigners you have never met, only to have the power go off shortly before they arrive.
Regardless, people were in the mood to have fun. Again, there was honking of horns on our arrival, followed by even more singing, sometimes in Tswana, sometimes in English, and, of course dancing.
Some of us became very lightheaded. It was too late to make it to the nearest restaurant in Mafikeng before it closed. We broke out some nuts and granola bars to hold people until food could be served.
With the whole neighborhood being so dark, the stars were brilliant. I found Orion right away, and then tried to orient myself, looking for the North Star, until I remembered where I was. We noticed an occasional shooting star. We forget how beautiful the sky can be on a clear night, unencumbered by light and air pollution.
Eventually, power was restored. Food was served: the traditional pap that South Africans eat with almost every meal, grilled chicken wings, and some spiced vegetables, which were added to the menu to please the foreign guests. Soon, many of us older folk toddled off to he homes where we were staying to get some sleep.
I presume that sometime during the day, the tailor was informed that we weren’t going to make it. We had another appointment the next day, at 1:00. The wedding party did make it that day, arriving about 5:30, after his helpers had all gone home. The westerners found this haphazard, disorganized, and disrespectful to the tailor. To the Africans, it was more important that we have a good time, that we celebrate, and that we feel welcomed, and they were not willing to sacrifice the celebration just for this appointment. Almost everything happened on African Time. The tailor was used to this, expected it, and coped.
It was all good. We felt welcome.