All is busy here as English Alive has the end of the semester exams next week – after which there is a two week holiday ! – Ethiopian Christmas on the 7th was nice with all pupils contributing a bit of money ( well – those who had money to contribute – those who didn’t we just contributed for them ) so that we could buy biscuits and sweets and have a Christmas party on the 6th January – Christmas Eve !
On a personal level, Christmas was a little overshadowed by the thought of our wedding ! – although Dawit and I have been together for over 6 years we were never really that bothered about making it legal since we weren’t interested in fuss and besides – we never had the money ! However, when we went to renew my residents permit, it suddenly appeared that we had to married in order to get it renewed this year ! – oh yeah, we thought, we will do it sometime this year – just give us the permit, but instead it was a case of getting married immediately – no marriage certificate – no permit !! – which left us with no choice but to go for it !
The wedding day didn’t go quite as planned ! – initially our plan was to get married at 1.30 pm ( even though the place where you get married doesn’t bother with things like appointments - you simply go along !!! ) on Friday 8th January ( the day after Christmas ) and planned to slowly get things ready the few days before hand. However, that was not to be since suddenly I became sick with a sort of flu / sore throat things so Tuesday and Wednesday were totally wiped out with me in bed and then still feeling quite bad on the Thursday ( Christmas day ) so that when we went to bed on Christmas day we weren’t sure whether we would be getting married the next day or not !
We were quite excited when we woke up to find that in fact I was feeling a bit better and as such decided to go for it and get married that day ! – this meant that there was a huge list of things to do since except getting a dress made for me and Dawit buying a new shirt and tie, we hadn’t done anything !!! We planned to zoom around and get our passport photos for the marriage certificate, get our documents photocopied, get my nails and eyebrows done during the morning and then get home for a quick lunch and to pack the bag so we could zoom off on holiday straight after the wedding ! During the morning there was also the matter of popping into the British Embassy and getting the certificate of no impediment ( we had put in that three weeks previously ) but we thought that would be just be another 5 minute thing to join the list !
We were doing quite well until 10 am when we went to get the certificate – I had to wait for the consular to come for about three quarters of an hour so that I could read out the affidavit to him and sign in his presence ! Zooming out of the British Embassy with the precious document, Dawit suddenly wondered whether the document needed to be verified by the Ethiopian authorities, since he suddenly remembered that we had had to verify Iyosious and baby’s birth certificates – so instead of finishing off the last remaining bits of our list, we zoomed off to the registry office place, where of course, they told us that it needed to be verified !
Unfortunately, since this was a Friday, the verification office closed at 11.30 until 1.30 pm in order that those who are Muslim can go to the mosque ! Still undeterred, we zoomed around doing all the other things – which of course all took much longer that we had thought ! This meant that we didn’t have the time to go home for any lunch and instead zoomed to the document verification place for 1.30 pm – the time when we were initially supposed to be getting married !
The children were being looked after by Dawits sister ( and quickly getting fed up waiting for the “ party ” ) and the family and Dawits friend were all waiting ( they were the witnesses ) – which meant that we were constantly on the phone to everyone, telling them not to give up, that we were still going to try for today but just be on hold !!!!
The queue at the document verification place was HUGE ! – causing us to suddenly think about what time the registry office closed for the day ! – We calculated that if it was a 4 pm closure time, then we had had it ! – there would be no way that we would be able to make it there by about 3.30 which we assumed would be the latest time to be eligible ! – it was beginning to look as if the wedding would not be that day – but with the school were I work so busy , if we left it, then this would mean that I would have to go to school in the morning and then the wedding would have to be in the afternoon – not exactly the best !!! - so innumerous phone calls were made to try to find out the closing time – which we eventually found out to be 5.30 – so once again, we thought that we could make it !
Dawit pushed his way to the front of the queue at the document place and there we waited and waited and waited for the precious stamp ! – the on going phone calls carried on and on – people were getting fed up with waiting for the wedding and were beginning to encourage us to do it next week instead !
At last at about 2.45 pm we managed to get the document and zoomed to get our passport photos – we managed to find a place that did it in 20 minutes so zoomed in – had some harassed photos taken and had a cup of coffee – the only refreshment that we had had all day !
Eventually at 3. 30 we managed to make it home ! This was the quickest dressing that you could ever see ! – dress on, shoes on, bit of water on my hair and at 3.40 we were off !!
At about 4 pm , after picking up the best man ( whom had given up and gone home ! ) we managed to make it to the registry office place !
The registry office was located in the basement , a huge windowless place, consisting of a row of hard chairs , some people sitting at their computers and a blasting TV showing things such as Ethiopian dancers, some people celebrating their child’s birthday party etc ! – there in the semi darkness we filled in the copious pieces of paper – both in English and Amharic ( my birthday in the Ethiopian calendar is 10 / 10 / 1961 ! – that does make you seem very old ! ) until 4.30 pm.
The good thing was that since it was so late ( and no one is going to look good at 4.30 pm on a Friday ! ) there wasn’t anyone else ! – so we went straight in !
The room was decorated quite nicely – a typically Ethiopian style of glamour with the walls lined with blue and white material and big white wedding chairs for the bride and groom ! The man who was to marry us ( a very scruffy looking man wearing a dirty looking green jacket and looking more like a guard than someone to marry you ! ) turned on the music and loud Ethiopian music blasted out ! – we could hardly hear ourselves think so Dawit got him to turn it off !
We all sat down and left Dawits mother ( she was the only one who wasn’t a witness ) in charge of taking the wedding photos. The only trouble was that she didn’t know how to work it and didn’t quite get the idea that you can take as many as you want since they cost nothing ! – this meant that in the end she took 21 photos of which most of them are pretty hopeless with heads cut off etc !! – still, at least she tried !!
The man in the dirty jacket didn’t say a word the whole time – he just gave Dawit a big green book ( all in Amharic – have no idea what it said ! ) and then Dawit signed and then we clapped, then the book went to me for my signature and a little clap, this being repeated for the four witnesses.
No one said anything during this time and then the dirty green jacketed man opened the door for us to go ! Dawit sister had been intelligent enough to have taken our wedding rings ( which we have been wearing for the last 2 years or so ! ) off us and put them in a little box so then we exchanged rings ( again to silence ) and that was that !!!
Everyone then went off back home again since we hadn’t arranged anything for afterwards as we had planned to go away for the night – however, it was too late to go anywhere so sat in the car not sure where to go ! – the kids were moaning and groaning that that was the worst party they had ever been to and that they needed cake – Dawit was thus quite keen to take them off to the cafe for a cake – but after all the stress I needed something stronger than a cake and a juice ! – so instead we went to an outdoor cafe in gardens where I had two pints of beer and we ate meat ! – not the most traditional of wedding meals – but considering that I hadn’t eaten anything since 6 am that morning it tasted pretty good to me !
All in all I can honestly say that it was the weirdest wedding ever ! – we seemed to have spent most of the day wondering whether we would get married that day or not , the getting ready – well, I spend more time getting ready to go to work each day - and the wedding itself – well ! - however, am glad to at last be legally married ( even though we only got legally married for the visa ! )- Dawit is perfect and it is nice to be married to him ( even though I have been married to him in my head for years ! )
Originally my plan was to change my name - however, when you look at it then it is too expensive and complicated ! – to change the passport alone is about 100 pounds ! – not to mention drivers licence, bank accounts etc - so instead of being the exotic Stephanie Hailu – Mills instead I am the commonplace “ Mrs Mills ! “ – but happy just to be Dawits wife.