A blog about a dot

‘Really?!’  I hear you say.  ‘Why is she writing a post about a small circle?!’  A-ha.  Well, you need to know that in French, the word dot translates as ‘dowry’.  Here in Chad the dowry system is still alive and well in all households whether Christian or Muslim.  Once a dowry has been paid, the couple are legally together, and the man has many more rights over any children the couple already have than the woman.  Sometimes the dowry is paid on the same day as the couple marry at the mairie (town hall), other times it’s paid years in advance of the wedding.  It often depends on how much money the two families have.  

At the end of November Nemerci, the house-helper of my American colleagues Bert and Debbie, announced that her dot ceremony was going to be on 8th December and that we were all invited.  Unfortunately, Bert and Debbie were going to be away, but I decided I would go as I’ve known Nemerci since I was here back in 2013. 

A week later Nemerci told us the date had changed to 15thDecember as her family needed a bit more time to prepare.

Nemerci said she would bring in the fabric that she had chosen for us ladies from the hospital to wear.  So I duly paid up and bought the fabric so that I could match everyone else going.  I gave it to one of our lab technicians who’s also a tailor and asked him to make anything he liked, as long as I had a skirt, top and head wrap.  I knew that this was a bit risky, as he could literally do *anything*.  And they love flamboyant frilly clothes!  Here’s the end result, I look a bit like a ruffled marshmallow but lots of Chadian ladies exclaimed how good I looked (!)

In my ruffled outfit….

A few days before the event, I asked Nemerci what time the dot ceremony was to start.  ‘Oh, between 8am and 8.30am’ she said.  I was dubious.  Nothing starts on time here.  I asked one of our nurses, who lives near Nemerci and was going to meet me to show me the way, what time I should get there ‘oh about 9am or 9.30am should be fine’.  I then asked another nurse what time she was aiming to get there. ‘Oh about 10am’.  I decided to aim for 9.30am and leave the hospital around 9am for the half-hour drive.

9am arrives and I go to get in the car.  One of our female guards is waiting (in her dress made from the same fabric as mine, naturally).  She asks if she can travel with me as she’s no money for the bus.  I tell her of course she can.  She then asks if a lady who lives near her can come with us too.  ‘Sure’ I say.  She goes to get her neighbour while I start the car and open the internal compound gate.  We all get in the car and I’m starting to drive out of the hospital when another female hospital member rushes up ‘please can I come with you too?’.  ‘Sure’ I reply.  ‘I just need to go and get in my dot outfit’ she says as she turns to walk quickly to her house.  Fortunately, she lives in Guinebor!  We wait for 10 minutes outside her house while she gets changed into outfit made from the same fabric as the outfits me and the female guard are wearing.  Finally we leave Guinebor.  It’s already 9.30am.   Oops.  The best laid plans!  We travel to the other side of town and I park up next to the main road and ring the nurse who says she’ll come and meet us and guide us to Nemerci’s house.  We wait by the side of the road for a while. 
In the car with my passengers 🙂

Waiting by the side of the road 
Confusion ensues as she can’t figure out where exactly we are, plus someone in my car spots another one of our nurses on the back of a motorbike, wearing the same fabric as the rest of us and obviously heading to the dot ceremony too.  We call her, and she says she’ll wait further up the road for us.  Cue another 5 minutes of phone calls and confusion and others sounding their car horns at me because I’m driving at a snail’s pace trying to find at least one of the nurses we’re looking for.  We then spot both of them at once and we are guided to the house where the dot ceremony is taking place. 

There are lots of people.  I’m not totally sure where in proceedings they are (it’s now 10.30am, oops) but we’re ushered into a room where we find a very smiley Nemerci surrounded by female family and friends.  We all give her a hug and sit down on the mats on the floor.

We’re presented with a plate of snacks and then a load of yoy-yoyying starts (it’s a weird sound that Chadian ladies make when they’re celebrating something!).  The man’s female relatives start entering the room to greet Nemerci.  One of them is his sister, Missi, who I work with in pharmacy at the hospital.

Snacks on arrival

About 50 ladies file in, hug Nemerci, lift her up off the ground, yoy-yoy a lot and leave the room.  I ask someone next to me if the dowry has already been paid. ‘Yes’ they said.  So yep, we managed to miss the main event.  Oops.  I was consoled by the fact that some people from the hospital arrived even later than us.  Plus Nemerci didn’t seem at all bothered that we could’ve turned up a tad earlier.  The man’s family then all left to go to their house for food.  Turns out that once the dowry has been paid and accepted, the two families celebrate separately.

We were then given more food and a fizzy drink full of e-numbers that are common fare at any party worldwide.

More food

Once we’d eaten, there was a move among the people I’d arrived with to leave.  Turns out that because we know the man’s sister, we need to go to their house too to say hello and congratulate them.  So we say goodbye to Nemerci, I greet her Mum and Dad, we take some photos and then we pile into the car to drive another 20 minutes to the man’s house. 

Selfie with Nemerci

Again, none of us know where the house is so we drive to the vague vicinity and call someone we know who’s already there.  Twenty minutes later a random guy on a motorbike taps on the car door, saying he’s from the house we’re looking for and that he’s been sent to show us the way.
View while we waited

On arrival we greet Nemerci’s fiancé and sister (our colleague) and are shown some seats.  Twenty minutes later we’re presented with even more food.

Even more food,
we couldn’t eat all this despite it being yummy

We washed the food we managed to eat (we couldn’t finish it) down with a coke and then just hung around chatting for a while and enjoying that fact that it wasn’t hot (yay for cold season).

Food prep area, look at all the washing up!

Once we’d spent ample time at this house, we left and made our way home across town. 
It was great to be able to celebrate with Nemerci and also be part of a ‘dot’, something I’ve not previously done.  Hopefully I’ll get invited to another one at some point, so that I can turn up on time and actually see the handing over of the dowry (oops again).