Indian weddings are a big, sparkly, long and joyful process. Unlike the weddings of Europe and North America which last an afternoon, maybe and evening, sometimes perhaps fill an entire day, Indian weddings continue for up to a week! A full seven days of rituals, celebration, honor, family and friends. Up to five or six hundred people might attend one or many days of such a wedding: each guest is greeted, each guest is fed and each guest turns up in their best Sunday clothes!
Before plans for the wedding even start being thought of however, there are a number of other events which the couple must complete. The first of which is a ceremony during which the family of the groom visits the family of the bride and offer elaborate gifts and presents. These are to signify the groom's family's ability to care for, dress and feed the bride, should she be allowed to join his family.
These gifts usually include a saree – the traditional Indian dress – jewellery, homemade traditional Indian sweets and cash.
If the bride's family accepts these gifts, the girl is, from that moment, considered part of the boy's family. In return the bride's family also presents the groom with (slightly less elaborate) gifts.
One of our host family’s sons, Riki, has recently gotten engaged to his sweetheart, Shazi, and their proposal ceremony was last Saturday. The two volunteers who are currently living with the Ram family and myself were all invited to the ceremony… one of the requirements for going however was that Coline and I both wear sarees and dress up properly! I had no problem with this at all… J Maxime got away with wearing a simple Indian style shirt.
On the day I went to the Ram house and helped Uma, the mom there, finish making the sweets! We made barfi, a sweet made out of milk powder, ghee (melted butter) and sugar! The process is incredibly tricky – if you over cook the sugar a tiny bit too much, or don’t mix the batter quite fast enough – the entire batch is destroyed! (I didn’t do any of the tricky bits!)
Then Uma and I sat and finished preparing our sarees – I bought my own which was a mission in itself! – we had to sew lace to petty-coats, and line the bead work… I could not believe what a drawn put process it all was.
At about 7 o’clock the house filled up with family members, all the women dressed up and gorgeous in the most beautiful colorful sarees. Coline and I were taken aside and carefully dressed – putting on a saree is an art!! One wrong tuck or fold and you could end up in just your petty-coat! Bindis, make up, bangles and flowers in the hair, and we were set!
Once we arrived at Shazi’s parent’s house the ceremony began. It was conducted in Hindi, so I didn’t understand a thing, but both families looked very proud and happy and each received the other’s gifts graciously.
Everyone was then served a bowl full of all the sweets Uma had been preparing all week! Most of them were a bit sickly sweet for my taste, but the rest of the guests were pleased with the snack – even the barfi I’d help make!! Then, after eating all that sugar, we were invited to sit for dinner!! Only about 12 people could sit to eat at once – we were lined up along a makeshift table and served up enormous portions of amazing curries, pilau rice and puri (deep-fried roti) and salad! The women ate first and then the men, and then it was time to go home again!
Riki came with us – he was going to celebrate with this male friends, and Shazi was left to be with her girlfriends, and I went home and tried to untangle and unwrap myself from my beautiful saree!
I’m definitely looking forward to some other occasion to wear it again!!
Time is flying by and it's hard to believe that I have been in Fiji over six weeks already. July is behind us, one 2 Week Special is over, the second is in full swing and the winter season is coming to an end - each day is warmer than the last and the days are getting longer. The short term summer-holiday volunteers are less and less, and most of the people arriving here are staying for longer periods of time.
And me, I'm slowly getting used to Fiji-Time and not letting general lateness of everything frustrate me :P!! Things happen when they happen, and life is relaxed!
I'm guessing that 'beautiful' is not the word usually used to describe Nadi... the big concrete road cutting through the entire city, the rutsy buses spewing black smoke, the sometimes ugly buildings crowded together on the street sides, do not altogether paint a pretty picture...
But the longer I'm here, the more of a chance I get to look past beyond the grey road, and through the black smoke at the natural beauty which sits just past the uninspiring architecture. Past the airport in the north lies a large mountain range - green hills standing tall against the blue sky. This is is surrounded by lush, ripe flora and fauna, wild, tropical flowers palm trees, papaya plants. As you head south you can see a sprawling of residential houses, mainly bungalows in brilliant colors with abundant gardens. There is plenty of green everywhere.
Turn off the main road at almost any junction and in a short time you are in the midst of a Fijian village. Small houses gathered together, laundry lines carrying baby clothes, shrines to the Hindu Gods - the red fags raised high above the roofs, dirt roads, coconuts.
Wailoaloa Beach, the closest beach to Nadi, is, by Fijian standards, below average in terms of natural beauty. Wailoaloa means black-water, and yes the waters are not post-card-esque, and neither is the grey sand, or the planes which shoot across the skies to and from the adjacent landing strip. But sitting on that beach on a Sunday afternoon is an awesome way to end the week and recharge your energy for Monday. To the left you can peer deep into a jungle of palm trees, to the right lie the aforementioned mountains, and when the sun is setting over the waters you can’t even tell that the ocean is not crystal green.
Nadi is growing on me. It’s a beautiful spot and definitely deserving of more attention than it gets.
Our 2 Week Special volunteers who came here for a Care and Construction Placement, have not only managed to paint all the gate posts at the Treasure House Children's Home, but in their last five days also completed the construction of an incinerator.
The Children's Home specifically asked for an incinerator as they find that buring their garbage openly in the back yard poses a safety risk for the kids. So an incinerator it was - not the most glamorous construction project, but a very necessary one!
The first step was to level out the area the incinerator would be built and create a sturdy base for the structure. The volunteers had to mix the cement by hand (!) which turned out to be quite the strenuous task so everybody took turns to try and get the cement to have the texture of ‘cake mix’ as Mr. Khan, the project supervisor, put it!
Over the next two days the volunteers started laying the bricks. Again cement was prepared and then scooped onto the base and bricks to work as glue and slowly slowly the walls of the incinerator grew. Once a couple of layers of bricks were laid, they had to be filled with cement so that the walls would be solid and able to contain heat.
On Thursday the volunteers were busy filling in little holes in the structure with soft cement and creating a rounded ledge around the top of the incinerator, and on the final day we painted the structure.
Mr. Khan and myself, and all the staff at Treasure House Children’s Home were astounded at how fast the volunteers had worked!! We thought the incinerator would take a couple of weeks to complete, but this group of volunteers had it done in five days!!
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