When a Dinka woman is to be married her friends and family gather around her and, at night, walk with her to her future husband’s house. Upon arrival they help her move her things in and, because all other traditional rites have already been performed between the two families, the two are husband and wife.
When a Dinka boy enters into manhood through traditional scarification he does so with his peers beside him. They group spend the week together and then are ready to enter the world of adulthood.
Both these traditions, although onetime events for an individual, show the importance of community support.
At our wedding there were pies.
We got married on October 11, 2003. Thanksgiving weekend. We had a lot of people coming from all over, and our goal for the day was to highlight how important all these people were to us. So, we got them to do stuff for us. Instead of a few attendants, we had “committee heads”. There were people in charge of music, toasts, buttons (or badges or pins—whatever you call them, they had our pretty faces on them and we gave them as party favours), and pies.
We didn’t have a wedding cake. It was Thanksgiving, for goodness’ sake, and wedding or not, cake is never a substitute for pie. Never. The pies were baked and brought by family and friends to share with our wedding community. Everyone loved the pie idea, and of everyone we’ve told since that day, no one has ever lamented the lack of cake at our wedding. Mmmm, pie.
Anyway, since our wedding was so fraught with pie, we decided to make making pies our anniversary tradition. And ever since, we have been making pies on or around October 11th, whether it’s been in Canada, Korea, or Sudan.
Although we didn’t really think about it when we decided on one of our only family traditions, pies are the perfect food for sharing. It is community food. We have discovered that wherever we are there are friends or family to help us figure out how to make pie with new ingredients or cooking techniques (this year it was a solar oven), and then there are usually a few more people around to help us eat the pie. And in this way, we are not only reminded of the day that we married, but also of the amazing people that are in our lives.
If Sudan teaches any foreigner anything, it is the value of community. The joy and pain that is so personally felt when something happens to someone from your community shows its face every day here. As we gathered with new friends to eat our cherry and pumpkin pies we thought about how difficult life would be without people to laugh and cry with. Without people to eat pie.
Pressing the crust while talking work on the phone – I can multitask!; Joel pours out the cherries; our first two pies of year 7 – thanks to Jano who sought out the only pie filling in Kampala for us; thankful for the sunny day as we put the pies in the solar oven; next pie = pumpkin; while the pumpkin boiled soft we spent the time dancing, keeping our drinks cool by dipping them in the water tank, and cutting grass; Joel and Luke love the new market find that made the pumpkin pie so delicious – cream in a can; mixing up pumpkin goodness; after assembling the pumpkin pie we had about 6 hours to kill while the solar oven baked away; I was a bit worried that the pies wouldn’t bake all the way through; but as the sun was setting we opened up the oven; tested the pies and; were happy with the results; three pumpkin pies to celebrate our Thanksgiving/Anniversary weekend.
P.S – We also ate potatoes, stuffing, okra, tomatoes, corn, bean, and duck! Happy Thanksgiving.