On Thursday Arthur and I were married for 15 years. One of the TAFES staff told us this milestone makes us senior people, though most uni-educated Tanzanians get married when they are much older than we were so maybe in our case the seniority does not quite align!
He also suggested we have a party. 8 years ago on our first wedding anniversary in Tanzania our language tutor asked us if we were going to have a party too. I remember being taken aback: in my individualistic culture a normal thing to do for a wedding anniversary is to go out to dinner with your partner, not invite the neighbourhood! Unless it was a big one or a recommitment ceremony, doing so might even seem self-indulgent. But in a collective culture like Tanzania, these things are to be shared and that makes sense because any growth or success you experience takes place in a context. Marriages are not only about the people in them but those who have contributed to them.
With this anniversary, over half of our married life has been spent in Tanzania. Our relationship has been nurtured on Tanzanian soil as we have eaten food from Tanzania, worn Tanzanian clothes, and slept on a mattress made in Tanzania having made sure we were safe from the Tanzanian mosquitoes, all while we have been working to listen to Tanzanians and wrap our heads around how they see the world.”
And yet, between us we have spoken English not Swahili, have worn Birkenstocks, celebrated milestones by eating cheese, and related to one another in decidedly un-Tanzanian ways as the young people who come to us for marriage advice remind us, curious about this different way of doing things.
Some of those things have been because of our cultural background and some of those things have just been who we are or who we have become. I hesitate to say that our marriage is Australian when marriage and models of marriage are highly contested in our passport country.
But we’re also not Tanzanian and even though we have spent more of our married life in Tanzania, our marriage is not Tanzanian either. Yet it is in Tanzania that our marriage has grown for the last 8 years, and likely grown in different ways and directions than it might have had we been in an Australian context. Even if our marriage is not Tanzanian, there’s little doubt that Tanzania has shaped our marriage in ways both tangible and intangible.
So it did feel appropriate to celebrate in a Tanzanian way and today we had a party. It was small because the covid situation in Tanzania is still uncertain. As we have our whole time in Tanzania, we had to allow others to both direct us and serve us. It’s so humbling. So were their words to us. (Tanzanian parties are mainly speeches.) We appreciated the chance to reflect on our marriage and to sing each other’s praises in public. Mostly, it was an opportunity to give thanks to God for 15 years of growing together in the soil where he’s planted us.
Categories: Written by Tamie
Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.