Monday, April 30, 2012

Bali: Two Weddings and a Funeral

   One thing that knocked me sideways was how genuinely welcoming and friendly the Balinese are. A few days after we arrived in Ubud, Madek invited us to a family wedding, the first of two we attended. He also told us that we shouldn't miss an upcoming cremation. Having watched a Buddhist cremation in Chiang Mai two years ago, I was curious to see what it would be like here where the main religion is Hindu.
   Weddings first. All we had to do, he said, was look for the decorated entrance to the family compound--and walk in.
     Takes a bit of courage actually when you're very obviously the only non-Balinese around. And the only people not wearing traditional dress.
   The women were busy weaving beautiful decorations.
 The men cut up chunks of pork and made literally hundreds and hundreds of satay sticks.
And, same as anywhere else in the world, the kids, once they saw a camera, started fooling around.
   Just part of the finished decorations.

   And the happy couple...
   For the second wedding, Kate and I went down to the market early one morning and invested in sarongs, sashes and, for her, a lace jacket. Peter did the same (sans the jacket).
    Don't they look handsome? This was the little back lane that we walked down several times a day. Normally there are dogs and chickens around.
    Performers kept guests amused at the wedding...

   I was fascinated by this decoration made from meat and chili France, we use that lacy stuff on the right to wrap pâté.
   We'd had such a great time at the Buddhist cremation in Chiang Mai a couple of years ago that we didn't think twice about making our way to the centre of Ubud as instructed, and following the crowds to the side street where events were getting underway. (What happens in Bali is that the body is buried until the family can afford the considerable millions of rupiah needed to perform a proper cremation. Often, it's a mass event. The one we witnessed consisted of two simultaneous celebrations.)
   Dressed in our sarongs, we watched as groups of young men hoisted massive bamboo platforms aloft.

      Riding perilously high, a priest sprinkles water on the crowds below. These traditions date back a long time--well before electricity was invented. These days, young men armed with tall poles stand ready to deflect potentially lethal electrical wires.

    Women joined the procession carrying incredibly ornate offerings.

     The body must not be allowed to come back to earth so the idea is to confuse it en route to the cremation grounds with considerable gong-banging and drumming. The edifices swerved this way and that, reversed, and were taken down side streets so that the departed literally doesn't know where he or she is...which is the whole idea.
    The procession moved along Ubud's main street with vast numbers of patient motor-cyclists behind it. Amid the fumes of petrol and incense, we followed the giant bulls to a temple. Party time. Vendors sold snacks, Coca Cola and Pocari Sweat. Kids waved Hello Kitty balloons aloft.

    The ashes would be taken to the ocean...

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