Thursday, June 03, 2004

I write as a nice Indonesian man in bright blue pants is installing our water heater. I am very excited about warm showers. Now if only our water consistently worked.

I think yesterday was our best day here so far. School went well. I kept the 15 students busy and interested enough that six-year-olds Jason and Albert (who happens to be quite fat) didn’t have time to hit, kick, or throw their chairs, as is their custom. In fact, I kept them so busy that while we were singing a song that involves a lot of moving, a cute little boy lost his snack.

The children want to please and want me to be able to speak their language. I have two assistants who are able to speak Indonesian. Once when both of them were out of the classroom a little girl kept saying something seemingly urgent to me. I couldn’t decipher what she wanted, so I looked outside to see if there was anyone who could help. The director of the school was walking by. I called her over and she translated for me. I had somehow skipped the little girl when I was passing out erasers and she wanted one. I was embarrassed, but such is par for the course.

We were invited to a lunch at the school yesterday via a memo. The memo said the lunch started at 12:15 and would be by the swimming pool. Matt and I arrived around 12:20, thinking that would be late enough. After the honored guests showed up at 1:15 and there were a few speeches, we ate. They had a meal of various grilled fish, rice and soups. Matt and I went first since we had to teach a class at 2:00. I had trouble getting any meat off of the any of the fish (fishes?). It seems that every time I stuck my fork in to get the flesh, it would find a hollow spot. I ate mostly rice.

We were sitting with a very enjoyable couple, Joie (Joy) and Brian. She is Filipino and he is from Manado. She just started teaching at the school this week and is helping me in my class. He predicted when we sat down at 12:20 or so that we would eat in an hour. He animatedly told of the worldview of the Indonesians as being an “enjoy life” mindset.

After school we came home to still warm freshly baked chocolate chip cookies (more chocolate chunk). Sonya, being the wonderful person she is, made a cookie jar full of cookies. We sat down and had cookies and milk. They tasted different than what we are used to, but so very good.

Both of the kids were here and were playing the run and giggle game. Matt had brought home a literature book to look through. It had lots of colorful pictures in it and Joshua and Stacia sat with me for a long time looking at the pictures. Joshua was amazed by a close-up picture of the moon. He is very quiet and attentive.

Sonya and the kids left and we got dressed to go to a wedding party. The pastor’s son from the church we had gone to on Sunday was to pick us up. We dressed in our nicest clothes and waited. He came and actually apologized for being late. I hadn’t been watching the time because by this time I have realized that a set time is actually a 2-hour window.

We arrived at the wedding party, with our white envelope with money in it. There were Christmas lights up everywhere and the immense building was decorated elaborately. We walked up to the door, where neon Styrofoam signs congratulated the bride and groom (we learned her name is Vicky).

As we entered, I saw a woman in an ivory colored strapless dress with a big puffy skirt. I assumed she was the bride until I saw four other girls dressed just like her. They were the bridesmaids. Behind them in the center of the entrance was a giant colored ice sculpture that had an M and a V connected by a heart.

We were escorted to our table, which happened to be at the very front of the room next to the bride and groom’s table. There were hundreds of people there, many of the women wearing dresses that included something that sparkled. As we sat down, we noticed that the Cassels were seated at the table next to us. I guess they have to keep the bule close to the front.

When I was telling Sonya about the wedding and musing over our place of honor, I told her that we must have been seated there because we were with Henry, who is a doctor and a friend of the groom, and also with his wife’s parents, the father being involved in the government somehow. Sonya laughed and said, “No, it’s because your skin is white.” I laughed with her and realized again what a crazy land we moved to.

The wedding was a mix of elegance and cheesiness. As the bride and groom descended the grand staircase at the back of the room, colored tissue paper confetti fell on them. The bride’s dress was beautiful, very much like wedding gowns in the states, only hers had a ring of pastel flowers seeming airbrushed around the skirt. There were several men with cameras, videoing the reception. They had assistants they held very bright lights on poles. There was a screen set up so everyone could see what was going on and would video the audience and show them on the screen. I was on the screen for what seemed like a very long time before they moved on. Scenes from the wedding ceremony were also shown on the screen, along with engagement photos and other photos generally framed in bright colors with English captions such as “Romance” and “Forever Love.”

A very nice meal was served, complete with chill coke in wine glasses. Some kind of energy drink was also available. I joked with Henry and his wife that it was to help people get through the mayor’s long speech. Henry said that the mayor’s (he called him the “major,” I think because y’s are pronounced like j’s sometimes) speech walked around a lot without getting anywhere.

I watched very carefully when filling my plate and when eating to make sure I was doing it right. The spoon goes in the right hand and the fork in the left. When you are finished you place your fork and spoon up side down on your plate in an X formation. The brown and green “pudding” is eaten with a smaller spoon and before the fruit in sauce, which is eaten with a new small spoon.

After we ate a choir came out and sang “From the Moment” and a song in Indonesian. The choir was amazing with good harmony and no accompaniment. After the bride changed into her pink gown (why? I don’t know) the choir sang part of Handel’s Messiah. They did a great job with it, but hearing the Halleluiah chorus at a wedding sends a number of messages. I think they were saying “Halleluiah, the mayor stopped talking.”

As the party ended, we were shoved into a tightly packed mob pushing and shoving for their turn to shake the bride and groom’s hands. I was wearing heals, making me taller than most of the people there. As I examined the tops of the heads around me, I realized how utterly out of place we looked. In my mind it was as if we were on Sesame Street and Big Bird started singing, “one of these things is not like the others.” It was a very strange feeling.

We got home after eleven, exhausted, but in a good way.

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