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From the city of Ubud, Bali — a Sundanese wedding

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On Sunday we had the wedding. This was basically an all-day affair because the women (me, Mom, Holly) were picked up for makeup etc. at 11:30 am (or so — every time somebody was supposed to pick us up for something it ended up being later than what was said. There was a lot of “we’re meeting at ten” “no, we’re meeting at eleven” “Madrim’s mom is picking you up at the bottom of the Lagoon Tower” “no, a driver is picking you up at the bottom of the Garden Tower.”)

We went to a batik store recommended by Madrim’s mom, which was a pretty nice store. I guess batik is the word for all the Indonesian cloths of that patterned style — previously I thought it was just the ones that are done so that you can see what looks like veins in the cloth. They’re all batik. And each island has a slightly different take on how the designs are done. Madrim’s mother thought the Javanese batik was beter than the Balinese batik. Prices were a bit odd. They ranged from the extremely cheap (45,000 rupiyah, about five bucks U.S.) to 360,000 for the silk shirts. Still not a bad price, but I bought only the cheaper ones. After that we had Vietnamese food, and I was in the odd position of being the only one who seemed that familiar with Vietnamese. Then we went to a beauty parlour that specializes in getting people ready for weddings. So they were doing hair and makeup on all the female members of the wedding party, especially the bride. The styles for the bride are very very elaborate, where they put the hair up in a net made of jasmine flowers and then have these long dangly strings of jasmine flowers hanging down. It looks beautiful. While waiting I looked through a couple of what seemed to be bridal magazines and saw that sometimes the bride has a tiara on as well. Madrim did not go the tiara route.

The time at the beauty salon really dragged — it seemed to take them forever to get to us. It’s the only time here so far that I’ve been really what you could call bored. I didn’t think to bring a book, so instead I read Indonesian fashion magazines. A couple of odd things: all the skin care adds are about “whitening.” And one of the fashion spreads was about jaunty new ways to wear the Islamic head scarf. I have read that Indonesia is the world’s largest Muslim nation, but I don’t get the impression it is the world’s MOST Muslim nation. Just like the Hindu on Bali, they seem to do things in their own way. We did see a bunch of men praying to Mecca one day. We went into a convenience store near the hotel and came out at about noon and there they were. It was kind of neat.

The woman at the salon did our hair, then Madrim saw it and said it wasn’t right. Well, Holly’s and mine weren’t right. She hadn’t put it up formally smooth enough. So she had to do it again. It went from something that took about three pins and two squirts of hairspray to something that took about a dozen pins and half a can of hairspray. But it stayed in place most of the rest of the night.

We went back to Madrim’s mother’s skin care clinic (she’s a dermatologist) and put on our clothes. The men were already there, in jackets with mandarin collars, sarongs, and these adorable little hats. The men’s garb was rented except for Michael, the groom. I thought about how in Scotland the formal dress is kilts. This seemed like that. Although here in Bali the guys wear sarongs a lot, they didn’t really in Jakarta, except for formal wear.

The women wear tght-fitting lace tunics on top and super-slim skirts on the bottom. My mother had a lot of trouble walking in hers. I tried to give pointers. Later, at the wedding, one of the women (I think it was the woman conducting the ceremony, who seemed to be Muslim) tried to show her how to do it by walking and swinging her hips back and forth in an exaggerated way. It was cute, but didn’t help much. It wasn’t until much later, when I was watching the peacock dancers, that I realized how you really do it: knock-kneed, with the feet turned in at a 45-degree angle and each step perpendicular to the last one. Then, if you don’t stop the motion artificially, it will cause your hips to move back and forth like that. Once I figured this out it helped, since my hips had been getting sore from walking in the skirt.

A bus ( a “big bird,” part of the Blue Bird Group, which I guess are the taxi service you want to stick with in Jakarta) took us to the courtyard restaurant where the wedding was to be held. The ceremony was all outdoors, which I was told is unusual, usually weddings are indoors. The Sundanese ceremony is very elaborate, with all these different little symbolic parts that have to do with aspects of married life. Like, there’s a vase filled with water that represents peace. Then the couple breaks it and this is supposed to symbolize that they will work out their problems their own way without burdening their family. It’s a pretty sexually egalitarian ceremony except for one bit where the groom breaks an egg and the bride washes his foot afterwards, this is supposed to symbolize that he is the master of the house and will rule wisely. But then later they play tug-of-war with a barbecued chicken, and whoever gets the biggest piece is the one who will bring the most to support the family.

My favorite part of the ceremony was when the family is led as a processional by a “wise old man” (an actor) and two peacock dancers, while the traditional gamelon music plays. It was recorded gamelon. Gamelon is this Indonesian music that is mostly based on hitting different gongs and bells, with maybe a flute accompaniment. The hotel has a live gamelon orchestra that plays sometimes — they were playing when we first checked in, but I never managed to catch them again.

My second-favorite thing was the fact that when we first arrived — no guests yet, just photographers — there was a punk band playing next door. I think the business was a game shop. The punk band used the word “fuck” a lot, but it was funny because it didn’t sound like they had any idea what they were saying. Then, I swear, the refrain of the song was “white like me.” I was amused, but it was loud, and good that it stopped soon.

The ceremony concludes with a receiving line that is pretty similar to receiving lines in the U.S. (all the guests one by one congratulate the couple and their parents) except that here a SMALL wedding like Mike and Madrim’s has four hundred guests. They congratulate by doing this thing where the hands are folded together and you touch your nose, then take the other person’s hands (also folded) then touch your nose again. I never really got the hang of it. Which was all right. Assorted family sits up on the platform with the bride & groom but off to the side where we could drink juice if we wanted.

After that I found the air-conditioned room where the family was supposed to have our special dinner. There was tea (teh) and coffee (kopi) already sweetened. And there were these rice and meat things wrapped in banana leaves that we were told we could eat right away. I tried some. It was really good. Then I left to go watch Mike and Madrim dance together. After that I started feeling ill and didn’t eat much of the rest of the wedding food. I figured it was my turn. Everybody gets ill at some point on a trip like this.

I’m really looking forward to seeing the professional pictures. I’m sure I look like a goon.

–Julie

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