10-16 One more Mared

They had rings, which is unusual.

Weddings here are weird. They are exact replicas of a church weddings in the West in the same way that a doll house is an exact replica of a house. There are flower girls in matching dresses and shoes, a wedding gown and a veil, flowers for the bride and witnesses in the wedding party.

Except, the flower girls’ dresses have been cinched up with pins and bits of string, their shoes are too big, the wedding dress is one of three that get used at every wedding, and no one’s suit actually fits. It looks like kids playing wedding in their parents clothes. The scowling groom doesn’t help that impression.
Leslyn, all dolled up for her wedding.

Still, the ceremony was nice. They walked down the aisle under and arch of flowers with an escort of flower girls. The concession to kastomwas the aunties hiding under a sese. They even had an exchange of rings, which was surprising. That was the first time I’ve seen them do that.

After the church wedding, the kastomstarts. Really, it starts when they get back to the village but since a large portion of the kastomis bawdy jokes between women, it would be a waste not to start making them on the hour walk back to the village.
The people from the man’s village come to the woman’s village to take her to their village. It becomes a huge escort of people wandering their way from one village to the other. I do mean wandering. I would guess that the first people went up around noon and the last ones went up at about sunset. All of those times were perfectly acceptable times to show up.
I got distracted chatting outside the church and missed the party so I hung out in Melsisi and waited for the boat. The boat was waiting on the bank, so we stayed in Melsisi until 4:30 when the bank closed for the day. We arrived in a mostly empty village and continued straight up the hill to the village of the groom. We were some of the last people to arrive, but we weren’t considered late.
The women’s marriage kastomis called barate. Pronounced like karate except with a ‘b’. It is bawdy, lewd and ridiculous. I enjoy it. It is supposed to teach the new wife about the life of a married woman, but really I think they just have fun being silly. The aunties of the boy are ‘men’ for the evening as signified by their manly attire. I’ve seen everything from red sweat pants to a red mat loin cloth or board shorts and a button down shirt. The aunties of the girl are the ‘women’. The ‘men’ and ‘women’ do skits all evening.
I missed round one this time because I was being naughty and drinking kava with the handful of other women who drink. Round one is trying to eat a giant laplap without using your hands which turns into a metaphor for cunnilingus. Then they have to cut the laplap with means sticking a phallic object in something that has been a metaphor for women’s tabu part. Basically, more sex jokes.
Something old, something new
Something borrowed, something blue.
We got borrowed and old covered!

Round two is the reverse. The ‘men’ come in carrying coconut and lollipops that they give the ‘women’. Then they ‘teach’ the ‘women’ how to drink the coconuts or suck on the lollipops. This time around, one of the ‘women’ played it up with a popice which she kept asking how it went in and sticking one of the ‘men’ in the bum. Juvenile humor, yes, but it still makes me laugh.

Round three is what I refer to as the baby-making round. The ‘men’ carry in a doll and give it to the women. (The direct translation from Bislama for how someone gets pregnant is that the man gave her a baby. I’m pretty sure it is a direct translation from language as well.) The women then breastfeed the doll and coo over it like a baby. In this case, the bride already has 2 kids, so they names the baby Sawan, which is her first born. They called in the baby’s father, which was the groom himself to milk the laplap. He did that with the moral support of one of his papas (no one can ever be alone). The groom gave his papa a red mat in thanks for his support during the terrifying ordeal of walking into a roomful of women. I presume there is more to it than that, but I don’t know what it is. Finally, the ‘women’ get called out by the ‘men’ using the makasof the coconut the groom milked. (Makasis food scraps or the used up part of an organic material like the leftover coconut shavings or milked out kava.) The ‘women’ run out like they are chickens running to their food. As with many things kastom, they closed with a dance.
She was so cute.

In the spaces in between the rounds of barate, I drank kava and hung out with various women. One of my kava buddies decided to drink some tusker beer after her kava, which I wasn’t on board with. Aside from the stomach ache it gives me, I like my reputation the way it is. It would be a bad move for people to know I drink alcohol on the island, so I left her to go story with other people. I got a chance to sit and chat with Leslyn, the bride, for awhile. I goofed off with some of the kids. I took a nap under the eaves of a kitchen, though I kept getting woken up by people shining lights in my face.

Jason and I left the party around midnight. I was ready to go get most of a night’s sleep in my own bed and the young men were rather drunk. Jason didn’t want to be a bouncer so we left before he got turned into one by the young men or by his own conscious.
At 5:30 am, we were woken up by the return of those same young men. They got down to the nakamal with music blaring and all the yelling your would imagine from a bunch of drunken frat boys. By mid-morning the village was silent. Really, even in the afternoon, the village was rather quiet between people napping and people hungover.
Weddings here are a big deal. I’m glad I got to witness this one because the bride is someone who has been important to me over the last two years. I am also fine with missing many more than I attend. I like to sleep at night, not dance until daylight.

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