The concept of marriage is different in Mozambique.
Almost nobody that we've met is actually, verily, legally married. Couples love each other, live together, and put on wedding bands, but their marriages are more ceremonial than they are strictly, fully binding. Most married couples in Mozambique have no legal documentation to prove the status of their marriage. And in the eyes of the law, these unions simply don't exist.
Marriages, rather than being legally binding, are flexible and (somewhat) temporary. Weddings, likewise, are shorter and less formal. A simple ceremony will suffice to bind the bride and groom, and the two are considered to be "married" if their families have come together to present the couple as a unit to both extended families. In this way, a lot of young people find themselves married to their boyfriend or girlfriend without ever really meaning to. Or at least, without really thinking about it or planning out their lives in advance. Young people seem to get forced into it, especially if they're caught having sex, or if it's discovered that the young woman is pregnant.
In Romao's case, the situation is closer to the former. He was discovered sleeping over at his girlfriend's house in February (note: literally discovered sleeping), and the family decided that it was high time that the two of them got married. Teresa was 17 at the time. Romao was 20 years old.
For months, there was talk about the upcoming wedding between Romao and his young girlfriend. But as is always the case in Mozambique, the actual event seemed like it would never materialize. Weeks dragged into months, and all that Romao could say on the subject was,
"Soon. I don't know. It's really up to Mom and to the rest of Teresa's family."
To be honest, Dan and I didn't think that it would ever really happen.
Suddenly, though (as can also be the case in Mozambique), it happened. Everything came together without warning, all at once. Romao's uncle was bringing up caixas of soda from Malawi. Romao's mom was returning from the family's distant homestead in the country. Teresa's family bought a goat and was starting to convene at her father's house in Zobue.
"Oh, my gosh," I said. "Romao, you're getting married."
Dan and I have a close relationship with Romao, but we can't really talk about how we feel about this. Romao can't really talk about how he feels, either. We don't know if he feels happy, sad, scared, or in love. We don't know if he feels pressured into it, or if he even knows how he feels about it.
All we know is that the wedding took place two days ago, in the middle of a Tuesday afternoon. The ceremony was non-religions and non-legally-binding, but ultimately sweet and meaningful. In fact, I would go so far as to say that it was the most sensible wedding that I have ever been to, and I am so thankful that I was there to see it and take part. It was one of the very best days of my Peace Corps experience, and I will remember it for the rest of my life.
See pictures of the wedding at Romao Gets Married (Part II)