They sent us across the street from the bride's house to a cousin's house. The wedding gifts from the family were piled in the middle of the courtyard: 100kg sacks of dried corn, rice, millet and wheat; cases of pasta; 15 sets (3 each) of small pots; a few bed sheets; some rugs; four large grass mats; and several dozen metal bowls. The women of the family sat on the ground by the gifts, waiting. Alheri, O., and I joined them.
And then we waited.
After about half an hour, the women all got up (except the great-grannies) and put the gifts on their heads. It was time to bring the gifts to the couple's new home. The women were highly entertained by my desire to help . . . considering one single small pot fell off my head three or four times while I was standing still. The women agreed to let me help carry as long as I promised not to put anything else on my head.
We filed out of the compound onto Main Street (the road that runs west to Niamey and east to Chad) and started walking. We turned off the road into another compound. I knew some of the people that live on that compound, and I knew where S. & S. were going to be living . . . this was the wrong place. Something was up, but I wasn't sure what.
Unsure of what was happening . . . or where the bride was . . . or why there wasn't a reception . . . or why we weren't at the couple's house . . . or . . . the woman next to mean leaned over and in French informed me that they were splitting the gifts between the families of the couple.
Two designated dividers, one from each family, began counting out the pots, bedsheets, bowls and mats. One to the left, one to the right. Sort of gives new meaning to 'His and Hers'.
They got down to the end and there remained one set of pots and one bedsheet. The matriarch of the groom's family was not happy. Granted, at this point, everything was in Hausa, and no one bothered to fill me in, so the conversation from here on out is all speculation on my part . . . but it got pretty heated and I confess, I enjoyed every minute of it!
The matriarch wanted to keep the last set for her side of the family. The bride's women contested this. Big Mamma wouldn't let it go. Someone from her side disagreed, it was only a set of pots and bed sheet, no big deal. But it was a big deal to her and she was in no mood to lose. The women on the left started to argue louder. She crossed her arms and turned her face away from the group. She was not going to budge.
Her whole family got in the fight on the side of the bride. 'Let it go already, Mamma!' Her arms stayed crossed.
Finally, one of the bride's matriarchs stood and headed for the compound door and quickly was gone. The argument eased and we all sat staring at one another. From time to time, one from the groom's side would let Big Mamma know she was in the wrong and she'd remind them who was boss.
About ten minutes later the granny was back, this time with another set of pots and a bedsheet. She placed them down with the pile on the bride's side. 'No! I want that one!' Big Mamma said, pointing to the new set. The women on the left collectively rolled their eyes and swapped out the gifts. She was satisfied.
Now that the gifts were split, we all got up and left. That was it. Over and done. We left the gifts there in two piles . . . nothing else said.
I guess there's just some things, like In-Laws, really do cross cultures.