Tonight was a night of many firsts . . . for both me and a 10 year veteran missionary couple. They were invited to an anniversary party (the first one they've heard of for a Nigerien couple), so they asked if I'd like to come along . . . for another taste of Nigerien culture.
We arrived over an hour after the scheduled start time . . . we were some of the first ones there. Nigerien etiquette rule #1: never arrive on time, and NEVER EVER EVER EVER arrive early. We greeted the hostess, and the other women and then sat down. The event was held outside of the host's home, but within the mud walls of their property. The chairs were arranged around the perimeter, men on the left, women on the right. Or at least that's how it's usually done. But for the first time in their 10 years in Niger, they saw married couples sitting together!! A man got up to say a few words, the couple blew out 10 candles from the cake, and then, much to the shock (and excitement) of the veteran missies, the couple danced together! These are Nigerien Christians, breaking the rules!! It was fantastic!! Then, several other married couples got up and joined them!!!
Many of them women tonight were not wearing head scarves (!!) and were dressed to the nines, Quite a few of the younger women were dressed in western style clothing. It was a very unusual party, or so I'm told.
After the honored couple had their dance (and lots of photos were taken), dinner was served. Chicken and onions over millet with some sort of gingered fruit juice in a bag. Drinking juice from a little baggie is an art. They are filled to just under capacity, and then a knot is tied at the top, with no wiggle room. You have to bite a little whole in the corner and suck. But the art is being able to drink it slowly . . . I however, poured quite a bit of it on my zuni (the wrap around skirt . . . see previous postings).
Being that it was some time after 9pm, I didn't finish all of my dinner . . . but that's okay, there were Auntie Cindy assured me that there were plenty of dogs around to clean up after us. As I was trying to place my paper plate, still full of chicken and onions over millet, on the ground I saw a khaki colored blur out of the corner of my eye. "Oh good, the dog is right behind us, " I whispered to Cindy. We glanced back, oops! It was a little boy . . . and then another, and another, and another!! They were hiding behind all the women waiting to get scavenge the food we had left!! Cindy and I just sat and giggled!! (We did that a lot tonight!!)
Nigerien etiquette rule #2: once you're done eating, the party is over -- it's completely acceptable and expected for you to get up and leave. We took our cue from the others who ate and left, and off we went -- there had been some sort of vehicle emergency that Uncle James had to leave early to attend to, so Auntie Cindy and I weaved our way through the streets without a flash light . . . praying that God would protect our feet from whatever we might step in and our ankles from unsuspecting holes and rocks, and the power wouldn't go out until we got home -- without the few little lights around it would have been utter and total darkness (which He did -- about 10 minutes after we got back, the power went out -- there's a much needed storm coming). Nigerien etiquette rule #3: when it's so dark you can't see where you're stepping, avoid the really dark spots on the ground (chances are, the mud isn't from someone's garden hose).
On our walk back we passed several stalls (Cindy calls them "the strip mall") that were still open for business. There was even a "cinema" -- behind a fence made of sticks, every Friday night you can pay to watch a movie. Not sure what it was . . . it wasn't in French and it wasn't in English. But it was loud. We even came across a few "arcades" (a little TV set on a stool and 8-10 little Nigerien boys huddled around). One was an original Nintendo and the other was a Sega. It's been a very long time since I've seen anyone play the very first version of Super Mario Brothers! But there they were . . . Mario and Luigi, hanging out on the side of Main Street in the middle of nowhere Galmi, Niger. I LOVE IT!!
Tonight couldn't have been better! And to think, there's a wedding tomorrow!