Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Dang Tung Part II: The Wedding

Dang Tung

One of the women who works in Lauren's village market was getting married and Lauren was invited. She asked around and we were invited too. I love how it is no big deal for a guest to bring along two uninvited and unknown guests to a wedding at the last minute here and in Thailand. I get the impression it is the more, the merrier.

Lauren thought it would be fun for us get the traditional Khmer dress-up treatment with elaborate hair and makeup. I was all for it. In the evening, after Lauren had finished school for the day we headed over to the beauty parlor. There were several women there ahead of us, so we waited our turn.

Dang Tung

Lauren went first and as expected her hair was immediately teased to huge proportions. A significant amount of hairspray and bobby pins were added. A crimping iron came out. The finishing touch was a jeweled tiara that was added to her beehive-like hair at a jaunty angle. We all agreed she had the look of a retro prom queen doing the morning after walk of shame. It was awesome.

Dang Tung

When my turn came the hairdresser first started out teasing my hair up, but quickly realized there was too little and it was too thin to tease. After a brief assessment she switched to twisting pieces and stabbing them into places with sharp, tip-less bobby pints. Things started to get really spectacular when the jeweled chain came out and she wove around the twists. We all thought the the giant yellow and orange flower pinned to the back was the finishing touch, but we would later learn there was still fabulousness to come. After completing my makeup, the hairdresser dug into a bag and produced a ponytail of black hair.

Dang Tung

"That's real hair isn't it?" I asked. Oh, yes. Yes it was real hair indeed. Completely disregarding the drastic difference in hair colors the hair dresser proceeded to pin this ponytail to the back of my head and arranged so it draped over my shoulder in rigid, hairspray curls. Talk about awesomeness. I took to calling it the muskrat. We were not at the wedding for very long before I had to rather aggressively pry int from my head. The hard, hairsprayed curls made it impossible for me to turn my head to the left. The would stick fast to my right shoulder and pull at the hair they were attached to when I turned my head.

Dang Tung

The actual wedding portion of the wedding had taken place through out the day and we were arriving for the reception. Though some of Lauren's market friends wanted us to join their table we were ushered to another, half-empty table. Apparently, a table could not receive food unless its seats were full, so the arrival of three more people was very important to this table. Plus, we were informed that some of the people at this table spoke English. With the music blaring so loudly from the band, I am not sure how a conversation in any language could have taken place.

Dang Tung

In addition to tons of food there was also plenty of alcohol. I was trying to drain my first glass of beer so I could pour some water into the glass instead. However, every time I looked down, I discovered my half-filled glass was full again. The lady to my right was keeping me topped up. Cale (who was between me and Lauren) had a safe glass, so he drained his and filled it with water for me and I passed him my never ending glass of beer.

The table was presented with rice and an assortment of Khmer dishes. I have a hard time eating things I cannot see and in the dim light nothing was distinguishable. Lauren was kind enough to tell us what was in all the dishes, but I still could not bring myself to brave the unseen items. I ate only rice and the carrots from one of the soup-like items (I was informed later it might have been a pickling brine?). The best quote of the night came when I pointed to a soup situated between me and Cale saying, "Something in that soup wants out." A cricket of some sort had made its way into this viscous, brown gravy in front of us and was desperately swimming its way to the edge and grasping at the slippery sides. However, at first glance, in the dim light and in my overwhelmed state, my first reaction was to assume that there were still-live elements to this meal. Cale gave the cricket a hand and I pretended that soup didn't exist anymore.

Not long after the food came out the dancing began. There was a band playing Khmer karaoke music with hired singers tunelessly belting out the music. In order to show our appreciation for being invited, Cale and I (who are not dancers) joined in for a couple of numbers. However, when they began to play more popular music that involved actually dancing attempts (and not just walking around in a circle and moving your hands a little) we bowed out. Our decision to sit out the dances was upsetting to some drunken men who literally tried to pull us bodily on to the dance floor. There was one man in particular (who appeared to be part of the staff serving the food and providing the tables and chairs) who would have absolutely none of our sitting and watching. He repeatedly grabbed both Cale and I and tried to drag us from our seats.

Dang Tung
The bride

One difficult aspect of the wedding experience were the can kids. There were several young boys and one young girl who were wandering from table to table with long strings. They would scavenge for empty beer cans, check to see if they were in fact empty (usually by drinking the last swallow) and then add them to the string. Lauren explained to us (as she asked for an extra bowl and spoon, filled the bowl with food from the table and handed it off to the kids) that these kids were motherless or fatherless and were scavenging the wedding for recyclables to make some money. To see the way that kid attacked the food Lauren had given him was a clear indication that they weren't scavenging for a little extra pocket change. They were looking for money for dinner in these beer cans. One of these kids we had in fact met earlier in the day. He lived near to Lauren and had come by her house. We were informed, in Khmer, with the kid standing right there that his mother was recently dead. It had a feel of, "Oh, this one? This is the one with the dead mother."

Dang Tung

It wasn't until several hours after we got home that night that I learned that something I ate at the wedding hadn't sat well with me, which led to the tale of my illness and our journey to Kampot, which you have already heard.

Tune in next time to hear about what it is like in Kampot when you finally leave your guesthouse after 48 hours of drinking water, lying around and living on a handful of french fries and a banana.

— Sara

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