After working in the field with Weepon and her family last week, Siobhan and I were invited to attend the wedding of Ah Met, Weepon’s younger brother this week. So on Friday we got dressed into our traditional Karen outfits and went to meet the family. We were travelling by truck to the village of Ah Met’s wife-to-be, JuhRee and while we sat waiting for everyone else to get ready, we had a few drinks of rice whiskey with the groom who was attempting to settle his nerves. Once everyone – around 15 of us in total – was assembled in the back of the truck we set off on our very squashed and uncomfortable two hour journey to JuhRee’s village – called Tor Gah Bah.
It is common practise in Karen culture for the groom to move to the bride’s house and live there with her family – with some exceptions of course. So today Ah Met had to say goodbye to HuayPakoot as his home for the foreseeable future. When we finally arrived in his new village we spent a few awkward moments trying to find out where we were supposed to be staying for the night as the actual wedding ceremony wasn’t until 7AM the following morning, and tonight was for the families to get acquainted with each other and have a party. Slowly but surely more of our own villagers from HuayPakoot arrived, much to our relief. This village was smaller than ours, and there are around half the inhabitants, but they are not used to seeing foreigners and so would openly stare at us given any opportunity. It is also polite in Karen culture to eat separately from yours guests, so while our villagers ate first in one house, Siobhan and I were put in a separate house to eat our dinner! Luckily, one girl, Day Wah could speak excellent English and therefore wanted to practise on us over dinner and to give us a tour of her Village. After dinner we met back up with the people from HuayPakoot who took us to various houses to drink green tea and meet new people. We got the impression that our villagers felt just as awkward as we did sometimes which made us feel slightly better.
Later in the evening we found ourselves sitting in on a village meeting and a song rehearsal for the wedding, with Weepon, her mother and her niece. We had a good time listening to the songs, despite not being able to understand the words. We then went back to our home for the night where some of the older girls in our village were also staying to have a girly gossip and sleepover.
We woke up early the next morning and got dressed back into our wedding outfits before going out to wait for the bride and groom. We waited on the side of the main road through the village, and JuhRee came from one direction in her wedding clothes – consisting of the traditional clothes worn by married Karen women and a white veil. She also came with two younger girls and one friend all in their white dresses to signify the fact that they were unmarried. At the same time, Ah Met came from the opposite direction in his traditional Karen shirt with one close friend and some of the men from his family. As JuhRee, like the rest of her village is Christian, the wedding was a Christian ceremony, and Ah Met would have to convert to Christianity in order to stay. The wedding was quick and simple – lasting just half an hour, and afterwards we went outside to take photos of the newlyweds though some of the villagers from Tor Gah Bah were more interested in taking photos of Siobhan and I. We had a quick breakfast before getting back into the truck, though this time we had to spend the journey with half the pig in the back with us, as it was given as a gift to the family of Ah Met. We were doubly relieved by the time we got back to HuayPakoot, firstly to get away from the pig, and secondly to be able to relax with our own villagers who are accustomed to us being here. We had a party in our village on Saturday afternoon which was very nice as some of the villagers who live away came back to celebrate with us until well into the evening.
By Phoebe and Siobhan