August has been the month of weddings! Over the past few weeks there have been hundreds of locals trudging food (taro, green bananas, yams and bullock) from one village to the next in preparation for the big events. Sometimes these bundles of food can weigh up to 30kg and most villages are a few kms apart. In Vanuatu there is still a bride price to be paid so the family of the groom has to find food and money to give the family of the bride. We decided to go to the last wedding for 2006 – it was said to be the biggest yet….and it certainly lived up to expectations.
Over 200 guests gathered for the occasion and the food was piled up high. After the ceremony in the church, we all moved to the house of the groom to give our presents. I think plastic bowls and plates were the “in thing” with the couple receiving over 50 of them! It’s always such a weird contrast at weddings...in the background is cheery string band music but in the foreground is mothers and auntie’s grieving over the ‘loss’ of their daughter as she moves from the house where she has grown up to the house of her newly found husband.
(Matt covered in talcum powder after just giving his present to the bride and groom)
After the presents had been piled up high it was time to eat! Weddings on Ambrym offer one of the rare occasions where locals get to enjoy some red meat. Everyone is fed a plate of rice and bullock in a tent that can house about 30 people (made from coconut fronds and local thatch) so the guests eat in shifts until everyone has had their fill.
We moseyed on back to our bungalow mid afternoon but the party went on all through the night.
We have also had some nice thank you and farwell kakai’s (food) lately.
The first took place in the old custom village of Fanla. One of the highest ranking custom chiefs, Chief Maghekon invited us to come to his village at 2pm for a thank you kakai. We arrived at 2.30pm but typically the locals were on island time so no one was around until 3pm. We were anticipating eating with the village but around 4pm Chief Maghekon appeared with a bundle of lap lap. They made a really nice speech to thank us for our efforts and then gave us a carving and three bamboo flutes and sent us on our way.
(Matt standing with some of the big men of Ambrym – chief Maghekon is on the right)
The second thank you was in Fanrereo about half an hour up the hill from our village. The guys made Kava so Matt had some with them and they also killed a chook for us. We helped roast it on some coals and it tasted delicious! All the villagers brought food, layed it out for us and once again lathered us with presents (carvings, flutes and mats).
It feels so nice to be appreciated for the work we have done over the past 12 months. The big party with the whole North of Ambrym is still to come!