Today, I went along with a few of the company staff to an Acehnese wedding, held in a small village adjacent to the city of Banda Aceh. The groom was head of the community service organization that my company had helped set up in the village to help them after the tsunami. In fact, one of the grants that we gave them was for the women's association to create community wedding clothes needed for the various ceremonies - and this wedding was it's first test run.
After doing a few hours work in the decrepit office this morning, Desy (our MIS and Office Manager) arrived with her two friends to take me (and our Program Implementation Manager, Richard) to the wedding. On the way, we passed no less than five other wedding parties - either walking on the side of the road, or in a a flower-and-ribbon decorate car in traffic. I asked Desy if there has been an upsurge in weddings since the tsunami, and she said yes, most young people are trying to move on. Next week, Dwi, one of our bookkeepers, is also getting married. Like many others, it will be a second wedding for him, as he lost his first wife during the tsunami.
I really didn't know what to expect - mostly I just fretted over the long white skirt I (thankfully) remembered to pack. The practical slits (um, so I can walk) that come up only to my knees seemed awfully .... sexy, in comparison to what the other women were wearing. But oh well, I just sucked it up and hoped that my "bule" (boo-lay) -ness would give me a pass for being indiscrete.
While we didn't attend the wedding itself, the reception was held outdoors - I think at someone's house. It's hard to tell. Basically, it was a bunch of houses lumped together, with the men sitting (and eating) on one side and the women on the other. One room housed the wedding cake (I WISH I could that photo to attach - it's amazing!) and another, smaller room, swatched all in pink, was where the bride and groom sat, greeting well-wishers.
We were immediately swept into this tin 10room, which had thirty or forty dishes of food spread on the floor, along with five or six of the groom's male family members. The bride and groom sat up on a little stage, atop three steps, with a silvery curtain around them. They both wore the most elaborate costumes, decorate from head to foot in glittering gold and silver (Desy told us later that it was most assuredly not "real" gold - ha!). The bride wore an amazing delicate silvery headdress that covered her entire head and hung down the sides of her face. The best part was that, as it was STIFILING in the room, they had two little girls dressed in princess costumes fanning them.
Now, navigating squatting on the floor in a skirt is always a challenge. But try not pointing your dirty dirty feet at anyone, whilst squashing your food up in small balls with your right hand (aka non-dominant) and feeding yourself? 'Twas a challenge indeed. Luckily, I like being the center of attention, so when I saw little children pointing and laughing at me through the doorway, I just winked and laughed back at them. The dishes themselves were awesome - fried chicken (home ocoked and from KFC up the road - I'm dead serious), a beef curry, fried potatoes, watermelon, stewed pineapple, some jackfruit stew of some sort, something else spicey and meaty and little tiny dishes of water to wash your hands, both before AND after eating. I managed only to get a small dot of curry on my blouse, so I consider it an unmitigated success.
They even started taking the food away and I was STILL eating! Oh dear. It was that good.
After hanging arounda bit more (and shaking all the blood back into my legs, as I had to squat on my knees to eat) , we checked out the amazing tree-like wedding cake. It was taller that Desy, and had small intricate twigs branching out from the core. On each twig were enormous, sugarfrosted - well, for lack of a better word - rosettes. It looked awesome!
All in all, everyone was very friendly and curious. The English here is quite limited (even more so than Japan) but I find the people I'm working with and run into in daily life are so darned sweet, it doesn't matter much. Of course, it's hard being so out of place, but it was fun. And did I mention, the food was delicious?