Bien Hoa: "Wedding Report"
July 20, 2003
A one-hour motorbike ride from HCMC past Bien Hoa. My driver stops for directions a few times.
One hundred men, women and children attend the outdoor reception at the home of the Bride. A modern electronic band plays from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm. No dancing. Lots of singing.
The Bride is 25, sweet and smiling. The Groom is over 40 and serious.
The Bride changes outfits four times:
a. Traditional dress for a solemn ceremony. She accepts a variety of gifts from the groom's family. Very large pots covered with red and gold woven cloths are filled with food and some jewelry.
b. White wedding dress. Bride and Groom visit all the tables where guests are consuming enormous quantities of food.
c. Deep violet close fitting embroidered gown. For the party.
d. Everyday clothes. For later.
A swarm of servers bring huge amounts of delicious food - tasty tidbits of don't ask me what. And just when I am quite full, the main course arrives.
I sit with Charles at a table with all men. I believe it is the table of honor. Next to us is the table of honored women guests. We drink an unending supply of Tiger Beer; the women drink Fanta Orange.
A popular "toast" in Vietnamese translates as "100%". The men at my table challenge me to drain a full mug in one long gulp. They look in my direction, and with a broad smile, raise their large glass and tap the bottom. I accept and accomplish the challenge.
Everyone wants to know about my wife. When the young women finally understand that I am "available," Charles tells me that they are calculating the baby producing prospects. (I think sister VI likes me a little bit.)
After the festivities, a small group of us, including the Bride, ride to the family orchard. We pick fruit from the trees and sit on the ground for the wedding dessert: lychee, jackfruit, durian, longan. Better than flaming Baked Alaska. As the afternoon wanes, my driver and I pack up a bag of lychee and drive home.
What a day! A joyful, colorful day. A special, lucky day.
Vietnam is a wonderful surprise. I think I prefer Ho Chi Minh City to Bangkok. Everyone is happy to meet an American. I am happy too.
Cheers ... I mean ... "100"%,
P.S. All the wedding beer had no effect whatsoever. In fact, I got back to town feeling quite relaxed and comfortable. I even managed a light dinner. You know what they say about Asian food.