Monday, June 14

Two and a half months in Indonesia: Wedding

Sixteen years previous I attended my first wedding and reception. It was for my mother's eldest sister. As the largest and strongest of my cousins then and now, I was the Bible bearer. Six years previous I attended my second wedding reception. It was for a long-time family friend and his Ukranian bride whom he had found through an international chat room. So, by this count, last night I increased my attendance of weddings and related activities a full 33%.

I had spent the morning and afternoon traveling to and from Songan village on Mount Batur where I collected the children's thank-you letters and pictures for their sponsors. Spending roughly six hours on the way to and from, switching buses on narrow Bali road and taking a motorbike more-or-less straight up a mountain until we broke through the clouds only rarely has never had the most beneficial effect on my mood. My bottom ends up sore from bouncing on seats of generally low cushion, my back sore from carrying my backpack and camera all day, and my hands and forearms sore from holding the rest of me tight against the aforementioned motorbike seat. Walking back down the street to the villa, I was thinking only of some time in the ocean and an evening with the best episodes of Chuck.

Instead, walking past the mosque and through the crowd that had spilled out from it into the street and the empty shops across from it, a village leader and member of our center's advisory council came out to shake my hand and, turning to show an open palm toward the entrance and the buffet line just beyond, asked, "Service?" The only thing keeping me for turning straight in was my less than adequate appearance. I went back only for Demetra. We made it back by the time the night fell. The marriage itself was long past and in the time it took me to shower and dress in the finest Kenya's streets had to offer, the crowd had well dispersed. There were still processions in with the groom, accompanied by striding men in military dress who would throw strikes in and blocks against every side; processions out to fetch the bride; and processions back in with the bride, but it was tame.

And would you know, it was fun. I hate social events where I know few to none. I hate the forced attempts to find something to talk about before the conversation draws its final breath while we commemorate its end with a further few minutes of silence. I ought to hate those especially where the conversation with most is limited to a handful of words in English and Indonesian, but it worked. I didn't have to worry about the mingling. I was free to spend time with the few I knew without trying to ingratiate myself with a host I would never see again. I said hello to the surprising number of people whom I had met in the past weeks, the kids who came to the center for classes, our teachers, the es campur woman, the nasi campur woman, another advisory council member.

And the food. The first line had brownies, pastries filled with lightly saute├ęd vegetables and hard boiled egg, chocolate jellies, fish crackers and garlic fried peanuts. That was the snack line. The buffet line had chicken on a stick and cow on a stick, both in a peanut sauce; ground fish on a thicker stick; beef in a curry sauce; chicken meatballs, bigger fish crackers and spicy hot potatoes bits. Know I now why all the shops on our street were closed for the past week, and women just sat in the emptied rooms peeling garlic. Tasty times. I'm a terrible vegetarian.

I'm really glad I went. In just these two months, Bali has celebrated something like three public holidays, and I've twice seen roads stopped by processions to temples. A lot goes on around here, and I was missing it all. I had no idea, and then I get invited to this. It was a nice surprise. It was a good end to my time here.

A final point. After Kenya, Bali was a relief in so many ways. Yes, there was an ocean and black sand beach not more than a hundred meters from the center. Yes, children only visited the center for three or four hours a day providing in their absence a very appreciated quiet. Yes, I could cook for myself. Vying with these all for tops, people didn't care as much that I was white. I still stuck out and drivers would pull off the road in front of me to ask if I needed a ride, but kids weren't singing mzungu when I passed. Then the newly weds ask Demetra and I to take a picture with them. Before the military troupe. Before their brothers and sisters. Before their parents. Yeah.

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