Right now, somewhere in Bali, there’s a ceremony taking place. There’s always a ceremony or festival happening in Bali — a wedding, a 3-month old baby ceremony, a ceremony for a new house or hotel, a ceremony for the new moon or the full moon, a ceremony because we haven’t had a ceremony in 3 days — you name it, there’s a ceremony for it.
Our invitation to a wedding happened in one of those haphazard ways we seem to meet people who enjoy sharing good times with us.
A young boy crossed the street to warn me how dangerous it was for me to walk on the right side of the road facing the traffic because “in Bali, we drive on the left, so you’re supposed to walk also on the left”. He said that when the cars see you walking, they go around. I argued that I would rather be responsible for stepping aside for vehicles that I can see coming towards me than to walk with cars approaching from behind and trust that they will avoid me. He kept trying to get me to cross the road and could not understand nor appreciate my logic in the least.
One thing we’ve learned in our tenure here is that Balinese and Westerners do not reason or think in the same fashion at all. We have as much trouble understanding their thought process as they do ours. I wasn’t going to continue to argue, or tell him about the girl in the coffee shop that was limping because she got hit from behind walking on the left side of the road. A month here had taught me how useless my logic was.
I did the next best thing — I distracted him with “why haven’t I received an invitation to a ceremony in the village yet?” Luckily, this struck a chord with him because his neighbour was to be married so we were invited to a traditional Balinese wedding in the village of Lean for the next day.
We brought the appropriate envelope of money to the bride and groom, as is the custom. Also, as a further gift, we served as the wedding photographers for the day and later gave them prints. We saw many fishermen we had met on the beach, convenience store owners, and even the lady who sold us mixed rice wrapped in a brown paper cone for breakfast.
The men thoroughly enjoy themselves at these ceremonies. They gather together on one side of the grounds, sit in a circle, pass the arak around until they are singing and dancing almost in a trance. They eat, smoke, talk and joke, happily enjoying the celebration. This is in contrast to the women, relegated to another area quietly sit quietly or lay around surrounded by the children who are their responsibility. I was told that my special status as a Westerner allowed me to join the men’s circle which I certainly preferred.
The wedding ceremony takes more than one day. The festivities begin with the men spending all night together to drink and prepare the satay meat for the next day. In the morning, we had Balinese “kopi” (coffee), and satay. (Ivan sampled the satay. Besides not having their thought processes, we also don’t have their antibodies that protect us from their food preparation methods!) In the afternoon, the bride goes to the husband’s village for a special “acceptance” ritual with his family and village. They then return to continue into the night with the music, drums, gamelans and drinking. We would have stayed, but Ivan already had his fill of palm wine, arak and dancing.