Love is in the air. It is wedding season in Indonesia, and my fellow ETAs have been sharing about their experiences with Indonesian weddings across the archipelago. From Manado to Malang to Gorontalo, us bules have run the gamut of wedding experiences. It is no different in Pangkal Pinang.
Prior to this year, I have been to exactly two weddings. One was for my Uncle Phil and Aunt Anna, who live in Washington State. I was in fifth grade at the time and I remember writing them letters asking if I could be flower girl, which they allowed. (Thanks! Love you guys.) The other wedding I have been to was for a cousin of my host family in Thailand. That was a traditional Isaan (northeastern Thailand) wedding where the groom and his kin walked from their family’s compound to the home of the bride, bearing gifts of pillows and blankets and other household objects. There was a live band that marched with the family and family members had the option of dancing with the musical procession. I danced with them and took lots of pictures of the actual ceremony, which involved monks chanting and lots of white string binding everyone together as a new, united family.
Now that I have been in Indonesia for two almost three months, I have exponentially increased my number of weddings attended. Thanks to the good work done by aforementioned ETAs in other cities (check out their blog links above!) I have realized that the weddings I have attended are in the style of Bangka (the name of my island) and that these festivities are not the same everywhere in Indonesia.
The part of the weddings that I have seen is the reception. This is the time when all friends, kin, neighbors, and the itinerant foreigner can come to congratulate the happy couple, eat to the point of bursting, and maybe sing a song or two. People are constantly coming and going… once you have shaken the hands of the couple, both sets of in-laws, and other relatives stationed under the arched entryway, you are expected to load up on kue [cakes]. After appetizing yourself with chunks of luridly-colored, wiggling pastries, you are expected to get up for round 2 which consists of heaps of rice and as much savory, spicy food as you can handle. Round 3 is optional depending on whether or not you want a sweet drink and/or ice cream to cleanse your palate.
[Side note: As a vegetarian the food is usually a non-event for me; I have learned to be very mistrustful of Indonesian food and as a rule of thumb I eat before leaving the house unless I know I will be going to a “safe” (i.e. already vetted for being both clean and veggie-friendly) establishment.]
Once you have eaten your fill, you have the option of shaking everyone’s hand again to take your leave, which is what most people do. OOOORRR you can stay awhile and get down and dirty to the dangdut music that is sure to be blasting from large boom-boom-booming speakers. Dangdut music deserves a post of its own, but for now let it suffice to say that I have a love-hate relationship with this uniquely Indonesian musical form. Dangdut is descended from pop-style music from India and has taken on a life of its own in Indonesia. On an aesthetic level, I hate it. The beat is annoying and I would never choose to listen to dangdut on my own will. When some of my students gleefully informed me that there was even a “King of Dangdut,” Rhoma Irama, I just about peed with fear that I would then be subjected to song after song from this supposed King.
But on a cultural level, I love dangdut music. I love seeing a different side to my Indonesia friends as they quite literally go wild when dangdut music comes on. People here LOVE their dangdut music, and they are not afraid to show it. Dangdut makes people sing and dance and laugh and smile, all of which is contagious. Dancing for dangdut music even has its own verb: berjoget. When the music comes on, all the Indonesians around me instantly urge Joget, Miss! Joget joget! Dance, Miss! Dance dance! I am a willing participant and have found myself joget-ing atop more than a few stages during my time here. My love of dancing, complete with hip wiggles and flailing arm movements, have found a welcoming home in the thudding beat of dangdut.
Anyway, I have only seen the reception of four different weddings here. I imagine that there is a private ceremony where the couples say their vows or whatever the Indonesian equivalent is, but I think that part is reserved for family members only. So without further adieu, I bring you… pictures!!
After getting back in the car and weaving through traffic to head back into town, the teachers that took us on this adventure asked if we were tired. Caitlin and I responded with a rousing “No, not yet.” They then informed us that we actually had a full itinerary of weddings because there were other couples getting married on the same day all over the city. And so in one day I went to three and a half weddings, plus in the afternoon we went to a temple, gamelan class, cemetary, hospital to visit a sick relative, and were introduced to the extended family of said sick relative. It was a full day, to be sure. But I’ll stick with telling about the weddings for now…
On the way to our third wedding of the day, we stopped so that one teacher could go to a different wedding while the rest of us waited in the car. “I wasn’t invited,” sniffed another teacher. It seemed like weddings were a free-for-all, but maybe that’s just because we are bules and live by different rules than most Indonesians due to our foreign and generally clueless status. So we waited while Teacher #1 did the hand-shaking/making-an-appearance thing.
The fourth wedding that I have been to was with teachers from my school, SMA3, when a fellow teacher got married a few weeks after the first round of weddings. The day started early, when Caitlin and I were picked up at home by none other than my headmistress. We stopped at school for a bit, where we met with teachers taking a chartered bus to the wedding which was apparently two hours away.
The ride there was uneventful, though Caitlin and I had a firsthand look at the burning jungles that are the source of the smog that is enveloping many parts of Sumatra, Kalimantan, and even my new home in Pangkal Pinang. I haven’t loaded those pictures into the Cloud yet, so smartphone photos will have to do for now.