Tuesday, August 5, 2008

July 30: An Early Morning Wedding


Wednesday, July 30

On Monday, I saw one of the students sewing and asked her about it.

"It's for the wedding tomorrow. Do you want to come? You can see how it's different from America."

I'm always up for a good wedding. "Sure! What time?"


"At night?" I think I squeaked that one.

"No, in the morning." Well, I already knew how weddings here were different. Reception is breakfast.

It was held in the shelter by the church which had been decorated with balloons and tinselly streamers. People were sitting on the pink and blue plastic chairs. Those without seats (everyone welcome) were standing around; the kids playing on the ground looking as grubby as always. Up on the platform there was a row of seated young men and women dwindling down on either side to small kids in flowered head dresses. Against the right wall, men were sitting at a table.

It took me a while to figure out who was whom and I used up my batteries on the couple in the middle of the stage. No. They weren't the bride and groom, but I have lots of nice pictures of them. If I had read the banner, I would have known that there were 2 couples being married; one sat on the left, the other on the right with the best men and bride's maid seated on either side. They wore everyday dress, though color coordinated, and the women were wearing the traditional head scarf/hat. They looked like tintypes from the 19th century, stiffly posed with flowers in hand or on lapel.

Though it was in Karen, the ceremony seemed vaguely familiar, except the part where they solemnly took turns signing documents at the table. There was a lot of singing by different groups in the congregation, and, of course, prayer and preaching. As soon as Thra Simon declared the benediction, the stiff poses broke and the smiling began. The young people came down from the stage for the reception line and it was off to wherever the day took us. It took me to the reception. One of the bride's maids was Thra Eh Doe Wah's sister and one of the "receptions" was being held at his in-laws' house, so he invited me along and showed me the way.

We followed the rivers of mud to ladder littered with muddy shoes. They were bringing out round, short tables and bowls of food. Just grab a piece of floor and dig in. Fortunately, William came along so I had someone to talk to and we had an interesting discussion on culture. Does eating your food with your hands make a culture more primitive? (He told me to go ahead and use a spoon. That food was hot!) There was pork (of course), soup, fried veggies – beans and morning glories – fish paste, and curried eggs. Oh, and rice. Most of it was too spicy for me to eat, but I had already eaten breakfast.

The couple was brought the house with much music and confetti and she went into a room never to be seen by me again. He came out after taking off his new Karen shirt (they often wear it over a "regular" shirt) and joined the guests. William and I left for the chapel service that starts the school day.

After classes, I wandered over to Williams to watch him mow his lawn with scissors. A crowd of students passed by for "home services." Once a week, rather than having evening chapel the worship groups split up and go to different homes. I hadn't gone with them, so I decided to tag along. We went to one of the many homes for children who had been sent from Burma for school. We sat on the floor along the walls of the common room of a typical, rambling bamboo house. The students follow a traditional format which of course includes singing, prayer and a message. The children sang a song in response, and they then gave us dinner. If I had known I'd be eating some of their precious food, I wouldn't have gone. It was noodles and I think small fish. There are a lot of these dormitories around the camp; I'll have to find out how many children there are here. We went back along the muddy river they call a road. I made it back without slipping (wrong shoes again) and without losing my sarong which is probably more important.

Today, I found John and invited him to walk with me. Have I told you about John? He's lived here for 5 years and still speaks fondly of his village in Burma. He's 18; his parents are still in Burma but he has aunts and uncles and a brother who have already moved to Minneapolis. He leaves on Aug. 14. The kid is tense with excitement. As we walked he told me what he had learned today at the preparation class: about the flight over, and how America was started. He's going with his 2 cousins who are about his age. That leaves his uncle, William, with the youngest who looks around 8. William will still be here, tending his lawn. We spent a few hours today talking about his future. Is he more useful here, teaching the students at the college, or going abroad to get more training? Right now, he's the only teacher unable to leave the camp, and that gets him down. I'm trying to find ways to send him resources once I get home.


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