Sunday, October 31, 2010


Before spring beds and dacron pillows there was capok.  Soft like fine wool when it comes out of  the pod,  and rock hard when it has been compressed. Sleeping on it makes your ears numb and your hips ache.  Some locals still make their own mattresses, though most have converted to modern materials.  If we ever get snowed in I'll collect a bag of capok pods and make a footstool.

whinge & binge

It’s oppressively hot, the bananas taste like potato, the internet is a frustrating 1 kilobyte per second and I’m mid-menstrual.  Reading Gourmet Traveller does nothing but stir the emptiness inside.  I know what I’ll do, I’ll make vegan chocolate pancakes to temporarily smother the pain. Perfect.

part three - the wedding

The big day has arrived, part three of the journey to matrimonial success.  Part one (the asking), and part two, (the dowry party) are here and here.  Only Tom's name is on the official invitation as I am bound by obligation to be present.  We spruce up for the event, Tom in a collared shirt, and me in my conservative best. I don't want all eyes to be diverted from the bride to my bare thighs. 

We rock up to the church at 10.00am as indicated, and the place is deserted.  A phone call to the groom's sister-in-law tells us they decided to change it to 1.00pm.  Just like that.  Great, thanks for letting us know. Back home for a cuppa, hang up the dress and into the work duds for a few hours.

I am summoned to the bride's house at 12.30pm to photograph the bride and groom leaving the house.   There is a short blessing ceremony before they travel the 500 metres to the church in a silver van, together with the flower girl and two bridesmaids.  The flushing bride fans herself with what looks like an orange feather duster and clutches her plastic flower arrangement.  It is all very 1980's suburban dream - flounces and lace and frills.

There are only 15 people at the church, the remainder of the extended clan are busy slaughtering pigs and weaving the fat onto skewers for the reception dinner.  Preparation for the wedding began at 3.00am and over 250 people are expected to turn up for the feast.  Weddings are a rather fluid affair - you invite as many people as you can afford to feed, they turn up whenever they feel like it, eat, then leave. It is very much about keeping up with the neighbours and outdoing them if possible.

Plastic chairs are shrouded in ikat cloth, a hint of tradition in the kitsch surrounds of the church.  Last year's Christmas decorations still hang from the ceiling and the priest booms his message of love and devotion from the bow of a ship. It is hard to contain a fit of the giggles, so after taking a few photos we sneak out the back door.

We arrive at the reception on sunset, sign the official guest register and receive a slice of tasteless cake, a cup of water and a hideous bombanerie:  a tiny boot, covered in sand and ribbon and containing two toothpicks.

Hundreds of plastic chairs are set up inside a boundary of  rope and coconut fronds.  The deceased don't miss as the family graveyard is inside the compound and offers extra lounge seating.  The host tries to usher us to the front row and we gently decline in favour of an outside seat for a subtle getaway when the formal proceedings are over.  These events have a habit of dragging on way past my bedtime.

Cold fluorescent bulbs set the mood, and the bridal party sit front and centre on a stage framed by fake flowers and badly draped curtains. The majority of the extended family are out the back preparing dinner and having their own behind the scenes party, leaving the distinguished guests to suffer through the speeches.

The banquet table is set with a water-cup dome sculpture, cutlery wheels and stacks of plates with single ply napkins the thickness of a tissue. 

What's a party without a few hungry dogs?

There's an outbreak of typhoid in town and we seriously question the idea of dinner, with an unknown number of hands involved in its preparation and presentation. We figure the vegies have been boiled to within an inch of their life and as we are avoiding the more questionable meaty offerings we should be ok.

And to the highlight of the proceedings - the cutting of the cake.  I find it sad that they follow such a stale western model of weddings at the expense of any traditional celebration. Long live the dream of the princess bride.

Despite the fact that pre-marital pregnancy is very common, the big kiss moment in public is painful to watch.  It begins with the local custom of nose rubbing, then to the roar of the crowd the groom steals a quick peck.  Definitely no tongue. It is like seeing two primary school kids fumble behind the lunch shed.  The bride looks like she is about to faint.  The youngsters look on from the shadows with a mixture of awe and disgust.

The cake is cut and the night reaches its crescendo.  The groom takes a small forkful of sponge and feeds it to his new wife, then goes in for the seagull swoop and attempts to eat it from her mouth.

Friday, October 29, 2010

god's holiday house

The lord obviously spoke to someone in our village about his need for a bigger holiday house.  Despite the fact that the children do not have books, the school has minimal resources and the clinic relies on donations, the church thought it imperative that massive extensions be undertaken at a cost of 3 billion rupiah.  The initial building was poorly designed for the climate, and other than Sundays and the occasional wedding or christening it sits unused.  Why then build something even more excessive and outrageous?  What would be wrong with a permanent grass roof that allows cross ventilation and can be used as a community centre, kindergarten or workshop for the rest of the week?  It is true, the lord works in mysterious ways.  


The scaffolding encases the old church like a web.  The new "cathedral" is being built over the old structure, and when completed, the old church will be demolished from the inside.  

 The locals work on a rotating roster, and the sound of the church bell heralds the labourers for their day of service.  The project is expected to take two years. 

In the words of the controversial and humerous critic A.A. Gill, "it is far easier to get money out of the destitute than the filthy rich; the poor want to go to a better place, the rich know there isn't going to be one." 

kitchen vignette

I've been doing a spot of decorating lately.  Put up a driftwood shelf to hold nothing in particular and hung a few pictures, including the take-away menu from Grocer and Grind. Best not to read this just prior to opening our fridge.  We salvaged the old sign from the roadside and strapped it to my bike basket for the ride home.  It was torn down by the villagers in a dispute over the location of the boundary.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

view from the sink

Helps to take your mind off the dishes.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

posing for a cause

You can take the girl out of the office, but you can't take the marketing out of the girl.  Doing my best Elle impersonation to promo the new range of Keep Cups on sale at Samudra.  Many disposable cups and lids incorporate plastic, polythene and even toxic dyes and are therefore not recyclable.  500 million of them end up in landfill every year and can take decades to break down.  Keep Cups are a reusable, designed and manufactured in Australia from recyclable plastic with a  low embodied energy, and will last for ages if your mates don’t souvenir them.  If you're heading out to Dunsborough, call in to Samudra and grab one.

photographed by my talented aqua assistant, tmc

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

setting in a finer location

Following in the wake of slate grey and silver comes the kaleidoscope of pink, yellow, orange and mauve.  If the lagoon is calm it reflects the colours like a velvet tablecloth.  Don't pack your camera away as soon as the sun dips below the horizon, the best is yet to come.

And finally, a classic Indo image to feed your reverie.  Taken from our front yard.  

days of thunder

On the cusp of the wet season, the sky is a spectacle that teases with promise of rain.  Sonorous thunder and dense banks of cloud circle overhead, occasionally gracing us with their bounty of fresh water. I love a clear blue ceiling, but when you live an endless summer (oh the trouble) the beauty of a dramatic sky is captivating.  

Here I share with you the many shades of grey. 

Saturday, October 23, 2010

strange fruit

 I saw this strange fruit at the markets and had to buy it for investigative purposes.  The locals tell me it is a type of guava, however I can't find a single image or description of it on the web.  It has a pungent smell that intensifies as it ripens and stinks out the fridge; something between lilliums, vanilla and rotten bananas.  The flesh is soft, and the initial taste is pleasant enough, then it makes your mouth pucker as the sour notes kick in.  

The seed is the grey thing on top and apparently tastes like a peanut when roasted.  Can't say it will be making a return visit to our fruit bowl.  Tom hated it, and Bo Diddly took one lick and left it alone.  Even the pigs weren't interested, and for an animal that eats hermit crabs whole, that is quite a statement. 


Friday, October 22, 2010

garden hour

As the sun dips behind the coconuts, the back yard is cast in late afternoon shadow and the gardener comes out to play.  A snip of pruning here, a tug of weeding there, until the attack of mosquitoes forces me to abandon my pondering.

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