Yesterday I went with Avira, a student, to her village, a couple kilometers away—she had invited me to a wedding “thing”. it wasn’t clear what exactly, but nothing is ever clear when being invited somewhere. Peace Corps Indonesia’s motto has become “embrace the ambiguity”. I’ve done just that by not attempting to decipher the details of things I’m invited to (this is also making me less of a control freak).
Avira showed me around her village, identifying every plant
comparing and contrasting modern and traditional houses that coexist everywhere.
We went into several houses, meeting her neighbors
… and they did not let me leave empty handed, as Avira’s backpack was FULL of snacks from neighbors (my host family was quite surprised when I got home…) by the end of our adventures.
Avira’s 23 year-old brother was getting engaged, and the ceremony we attended is called tunangan which is sort of equivalent to an engagement party, but way different from what you’re thinking. We went to the soon-to-be-fiancé’s house, she was a shy 20 year-old.
When all of the family members arrived at the home, bearing gift baskets
all of the men (about 20 of them) gathered to sit in one room
while the women (about 12 of us) sat in another adjoining room, and dozens of others were busy in the back of the house preparing food and tending to the babies. I was sitting across from the young girl, who seemed indifferent, awkward, and timid considering she was about to be engaged, while her mother was trying to mask her emotions, wiping her tears occasionally with her jilbab. Then some men, perhaps family, had an open discussion about the wedding arrangements, all without consulting or including the to-be-weds, who couldn’t have been more quiet, void of emotions, or sitting further away from one another. I kept checking to see if they were making any secret eye contact, but the guy was texting and smoking, while the girl awkwardly had her eyes fixed on the floor. Then the engaged couple and their parents stood up in the middle everyone in the room, it became official when the ring was put on their fingers, then the two paid their respects to each other and their parents and then they went back to sit on the floor apart from one another.
Then some prayers were said and then everyone ate in silence. The girl’s mother had to ask her several times to eat because she kept refusing, but finally budged on a little bit of rice with curry sauce and a stick or two of satay. Then the two went on their separate ways. No displays of affection, or even acknowledgement that they knew one another. The entire ceremony was really bizarre but fascinating to me because of the lack of intimacy while celebrating the union of two people who should love and support each other for the rest of their lives.