We had a big surprise today! Richard Alorum, a young man of 25 yrs, has acted as our Fra Fra language teacher for both of our visits to Kongo. Richard is the oldest male in his house, both his father and an older brother have died within the last 5 years. This is usually a position of great responsibility in a Ghanaian household, only Richard has managed to excape much of that burden due to a disability. He apparently had polio as a child and has no use of his left arm/hand and some weakness in his legs. Though he was forced to quit high school after the deaths due to lack of money, his life has been far more carefree than other young men in the area. He could not farm and spent a lot of time hanging out in the market. He was quite hospitable to DJ during his visit, showing him around the village and inviting DJ to visit his house.
Once DJ left, Richard invited David and I to visit as well. We scheduled to go last Saturday in the morning. In the meantime, we have seen him at market or at our house nearly every day. We last had a language lesson on Wednesday and nothing seemed out of the ordinary at that time. Upon arrival at his house Saturday, what should happen but he introduces us to his wife!! That’s right, as it turns out he began the process of getting married according to local tradition 3 days prior. The marriage customs are very complex, but we learned a lot talking to Richard today. A short time ago, his “father” (actually his dead father’s brother) told him that as the eldest brother, it was time he married and assume his responsibility as head of the household. Richard agreed to do so, but by his demeanor and interaction with us Saturday it seems he is less that enthusiastic. Shortly thereafter (3 days ago) the young lady, who is quite beautiful, moved into Richard’s family house. Over the next week, Richard’s family will take cola nuts, tobacco, guinea fowl, alcohol, a few goats, and finally some cows to the bride’s family. If all goes well, the deal will be sealed with a cock delivered to the bride’s family as the final gesture. His family just married off several of his sisters so that they now have the cows to then transfer onto his bride’s family. It is all pretty incredible! Richard is obviously overwhelmed by the responsibility he is expected to assume. As you can imagine, his family struggles to find money to purchase the numerous dowry items, to help out we have now paid in advance for a lifetime of language lessons. Last week he was still a kid hanging out in the market and with the white folks, now he has to worry about providing food, shelter, and clothing for is mother, grandmother, younger siblings, and wife.