Friday, January 6, 2012

wedding feast

Preparing a wedding feast is a mammoth task, involving women from all branches of the extended family. As with an Aussie event, the men tend to do the heavy lifting; erecting tarps, unloading plastic chairs and building a temporary fence around the venue with coconut leaves and sticks. Then they squat under the shade for the rest of the day while the women chop and stir and stoke and wash.  The average wedding has around 300 plus guests - that is, most of the village - and the food preparation begins at dawn on the big day.  Rice, pig, goat and noodles are standard, with additional dishes added relative to the wealth of the family.  I have a morbid fascination with the massive vestibules of boiled meat, and emit involuntary shrieks of horror when my lens hovers too close. 

The groom's parents foot the bill for all food and water (the reception is alcohol free aside from the odd nip of sopi out the back), and family members are asked to make a donation toward the catering and "hire" of equipment.  The pots, woks, plates and serving bowls are community owned and are stored at the chief's house in between events. 

Hanging out the back with the ladies around an oversized pot of boiling rice is always a valued experience. I feel a sense of kinship that is absent in my Australian life where I don't even know the name of my neighbours.  Over the years I have learned more insider snippets of custom, gossip and tradition, and my roving camera and meat avoidance is always welcome entertainment.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

indonesia's got talent

The annual inter-school singing competition is a big deal for all concerned. Hundreds of kids from primary schools throughout the western half of the island converge at the church with doting parents, teachers, extended family and dogs in tow.  It is serious business, with three judges awarding a trophy and cash prize to the winning school.  I was asked to photograph our local school, appearing sixth and eleventh on the programme. In between I could escape the stifling church interior and watch the real action outside. Strict teachers and hovering parents insisted on last minute practice of scales and smiles, and refinement of the conductor's arm movements. A team of mums prepared a take-away dinner of rice, fried noodles and unidentified meat morsels for every child, which was presented to them, along with a plastic cup of water, after their performance. The single-use plastic rubbish was a disturbing sideline to the event.

Each group sang the same two songs, and by the eleventh round I definitely had the tune sussed. I felt a swelling of pride to see the village kids singing angelically in their matching polyester gowns (purple and green). Unfortunately we didn't win, or come second or third, but there is always next year.

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