I’d been chilling with Ibu Salma for a few days when I got invited to a wedding. Fortunately, not my own. So I was all for it.
The wedding was going to be held across the lake. I was invited by cousins of the bride, friends of Ibu Salma’s from in town. They weren’t orang Dongi – this was going to be a Muslim wedding.
In honour of the occasion, I put on my nicest clothes. The very best of homeless motorcycling couture. But Ibu Salma saw me, and just shook her head. You can’t go like that, she said.
So she set about fixing me.
For a second, I thought I was going to be trussed up in one of the terrifyingly sparkly dresses that Ibu Salma hires out – seriously, these things have hoopskirts and everything – and I wondered if I should run, or whether it was already too late.
But wait – no need to panic yet. Apparently my flowing pants from Bali passed muster. Add a sparkly top over my black singlet, and commandeer a pair of wedge heels from the very accommodating youngest daughter, and voila.
Well, almost. Ibu Salma plonked me down in front of the mirror – resistance is futile – and started doing my hair and make-up. The hair curls were kind of cute and it reminded me of my mother with her box of hot rollers that came out on special occassions only. Then the blusher – and now I was squirming, seriously doubtful that any extra pinkness could possibly be required on my freckly white-girl complexion. Now, lipstick – I’m not allowed to leave without lipstick, and no, oh no, it’s pink….
Ibu Salma stood back, satisfied: now her guest wouldn’t embarass her at the wedding. And I had to admit, I did feel kind of cute. Sparkles have not been my natural habitat for me for at least twenty years, but hey, when in Rome.
I escaped further ministrations because my ride was waiting – Leah, her dad, and her little brother were all coming to the wedding. We down to catch one of the infamous ferries across the lake.
Remember that dark, deep lake with localised squalls of rain from a few days ago? The one that’s half a kilometre deep, that cars and ferries and KLXs keep sinking into? Today, it was a different creature. Under blazing hot sunshine the freshwater turned an impossible blue. The air was clear and sweet with a brisk breeze that blew my loose trousers around my legs. The only thing to shelter from was the sun, which toasted the waiting passengers with blow-torch ferocity.
For once, the little wooden ferry seemed equal to the challenge. Leah had come prepared, and we lounged in the shade of her umbrella while the wind on the lake messed up my hair. She looked effortlessly elegant in understated black, eyebrows and make-up flawless. I told her so, and she laughed: no, she said, this isn’t really me, I’m a complete tomboy.
Well that made two of us, and I was in excellent company. Leah is a freshly-minted mechanical engineer with things to do in life. She’s clever and driven and engaged in the quiet rebellion of not being married.
We chatted a while about what it’s like to be a female engineer in Indonesia, and the answers were a little demoralising. Yes, she said, there is sexism. She was planning on applying for graduate roles roles with the mining company, but was realistic about her prospects: whereas male engineers are likely to be hired in graduate engineering roles, female engineers are hired as drafting assistants. Hearing this made me wild; but also made me respect her all the more. Not only does she have to meet the rigorous academic requirements to obtain the same qualification as her male counterparts, but she also has to put up with this kind of institutionalised rubbish every single day. The resilience required to show up every day and perform even though you’re treated as ‘lesser than’ – well, that takes guts as well as skill.
Today, however, we were off to have fun. We cruised across the lake and disembarked awkwardly from the boat, which was considerably lower than the wooden jetty. No people, and only one hand bag, were lost down the gap and into the lake that day.
Now, remember how I said that subtlety is not highly valued at weddings around here? Well, here you go.
We congratulated the bride and groom, and we visited with relatives around the village. We took the obligatory formal photo, and we filled our bellies with rich curries and sugary delights.
And now, Leah and I are off to eat bakso keju at the beach.