Friday, April 22

We walked down the hill to Janet and Leonard's house just a few minutes after six o'clock this morning. Janet's nephew is the groom today! Soon we were gliding across a very calm sea watching the sun come up on our way to Karumalun.
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We were the first wave of people to arrive. Janet's family members were making pretty wreaths with young coconut leaves and frangipani flowers. My sweet Sarah jumped in to help right away.

From Marulaon, we had heard the first round of bells - the wake up bells - ring at six o'clock. At 6:30 two bells rang to tell everybody to go bathe and get dressed for church. Our family visited with Janet's family while we waited for the final bell to ring signal that it was time to actually go to church.
Some of the groom’s relatives were frying fish for the wedding feast.
The smell made my tummy growl, even though our family had eaten breakfast before we came.
The bell rang and the drum finally sounded around 7:00, so our family walked over to the church in the middle of this beautiful village. We got settled in the church, the girls and I found a spot on the left in the middle with the ladies while Benjamin and Aaron got shooed up to the front where the special people were sitting.
I was right next to the window so I could watch the bridal party getting ready just outside the church. Watching the bride get her veil tweaked while the pretty little “flower girl” stood close by reminded me of weddings back in my passport culture. The church wedding offered no surprises, and I did love when the priest tied the bride and groom's hands together with the sash he was wearing. Such a beautiful picture of marriage.
After the service, we sang and danced the bride and groom over to a shaded area where a breakfast of tea and donuts had been prepared for guests. The bride and groom looked somber, so I asked Kiko why they had long faces. She told me that it was their custom to look sad because you are leaving your families. Sarah always attracts lots of little ones, and it didn't take long before she had a crowd trying to hold her hands and follow her every move.

Two of the little girls soon grabbed my hands and we set off to tour the village. I'm familiar with this sweet village, but I asked the girls anyway, “Hassa otail vasia?” Where is Ezekiel Hassa's house? They led me to a part of the island I had never seen before, and before too long, I was staring at a pig pen. So I tried another tactic, “Ami ofoe?” Whose pig? It was Hassa's pig! Strike two. “Hassa otua otail vasia?” Where is Ezekiel Hassa's wife's house? They pointed to the other pig pen nearby. It was her pig. So much for communicating well!

We headed off to where I KNEW their house was located, but when we arrived, I was told Janet had already gone back to the public meeting place. So we turned around to go back. But not before I noticed just how beautifully God created our little corner of the world.
As we rounded a kitchen, I heard one of the ladies holler, “Vava Joanna!”, so I turned the corner to go inside. I did my very best to communicate in Lavukaleve when they asked me who made my necklace. Usually I can hear and understand the gist of what people are saying, but rarely can I put together a properly formed sentence to respond.

The ladies were kind and patient. One of them asked me if I had forgotten how to speak language. It was easiest to just say yes!
My tour guides and I made it back to the public area just in time to see the first waves of food come out. The ladies began sorting through the bowls and bowls of cassava pudding, fish, cassava, and pieces of pig.
Two big tables were set up for the feasting: coconut leaves set on top of boards for the “little people” and blue clothes set on top of tables for the “big men.” This concept is still very difficult for me to accept.

Our family is almost always at the “big men” table, which seems so wrong to my American brain trained to espouse equality. But this system works here, and today it was easier for me to think in terms of a wedding with its head table for the special guests.

Along with the other children, our amazing Choatelets helped guard the “little people” table from the flies that really wanted to get at all that delicious food.

Meanwhile, I was waving the flies away from the “big man” table which was quickly piled high with plates full of rice.

When they ran out of plates to fill, then the platters of fish and pork began to come out.

I watched my friends carefully spoon out a little bit of this pork soup or this cassava pudding onto each plate. When every plate was ready and every person was in place, the blessing was said and we all sat down to an amazing feast. The Lavukal know how to cook!
After the feasting we had yet another long wait. Olivia and her friends dug up lots and lots of tiny “silat” until somebody told them that these little shellfish were under the current seafood ban. Katherine and her friends wove small balls from coconut leaves to help pass the time.
Finally, we heard singing coming from the end of the village where the groom's family lives. All of the women on his side of the family were bringing the new bride and groom for the custom part of the wedding celebrations. The couple had changed from their Western attire, appropriate for the church wedding, to their custom clothes, appropriate for the next part of the festivities.

As soon as the couple was settled, the singing and dancing started up again, this time with male voices. The groom's side of the family came bearing gifts and joyfully singing and swaying.
As each person came bearing their gifts, they paused to shake hands with the bride and groom and to leave their gifts on the table.

Except for the big beautiful canoe. That stayed on the ground when it was given.
Before the groom's side had finished giving gifts, we could hear the bride's side begin to sing. It was like a battle of the bands!
After all of the gifts were given, the speeches began. Aaron was next to last. He did a great job briefly encouraging the groom that “he who finds a wife finds a good thing.”

We finally headed home just before 4:00. I think we've all learned how to gauge our liquid intake so we don't need to use the "beach bathrooms" on day trips, yet not drink so little that we get dehydrated. Therefore, we had a rush for the bathroom when we got home just before radio sched with SITAG.


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