Adding to the list of new experiences I’ve gained on this trip, today I presented a gift and sang a song to a newlywed couple at a Maasai wedding celebration.

A few weeks ago during the data collection stage of our Directed Research, one of our guides mentioned that he was going to a friend’s wedding this weekend. Soon after, we had secured an invitation for our group and convinced our professors to let us take the afternoon off from writing papers to go.

While we all felt a little trepidation upon arriving (imagine twenty foreign strangers dropping in to your wedding), in true Kenyan and Maasai style we were quickly made to feel comfortable and welcomed. There were many people standing and sitting around, enjoying sodas and each others’ company. About half of the guests were dressed in traditional Maasai shuka and jewelry, while the other half were wearing western style clothes, some speaking Maasai, and others Swahili or English. The bride and groom, looking somber, were decked out in beautiful beaded shukas and elaborate jewelry, including a headpiece on the bride’s part.

The official marriage ceremony had taken place earlier in the day, and the dancing was yet to come, but we got to witness and participate in a gift-giving procession, including impassioned speeches from friends and family of the couple. Each gift, including goats, a bed, and many wrapped packages, was received by the couple who then posed for a photo with the gift and the giver. Our group presented a small gift, gave a small speech, and with some prompting sang “Lean on Me.”

I think its indicative of how much my time in East Africa has influenced me that I regarded very little of what I saw today as new or strange!