Nang Rong, Buriram: "Wedding of Moon and Kevin"
Honey Inn ***
Nang Rong, Buriram
June 18, 2006
Just thirty minutes before the required moment, the mistress of ceremonies at Moon’s evening wedding reception, my friend Rose asked me to speak on behalf of Kevin Brown, Moon’s new husband.
Not unaccustomed as I am to public speaking, I cheerfully agreed.
Except for Kevin's sister, Jan (and acknowledging the excellent English of Peter from Austria and his Indonesian wife, Norma, and a couple from Belgium) I am the only other native English speaking Westerner at this gathering of one hundred and fifty Thai speaking guests of all ages.
Rose provided simultaneous translation.
So, here, slightly enhanced, is what I said:
“Normally the Best Man is a loyal friend who has known the groom for a long time. Now, I have known Kevin for a long time – almost twenty-four hours.
“We have spoken at length several times and I have thumbed through his photo albums of scenes of the mountain ranges and the fishing grounds and his home and garden in Karratha, Western Australia.
“Kevin is a successful businessman who also values his free time. Just after noon on a Friday, Kevin and Moon drive into the exquisite Pilbara for a weekend of camping. Kevin taught Moon to fish in the turquoise seas of the Indian Ocean. Moon is now the best fisherman in the family. She regularly hauls in specimens of snapper, chinaman, and golden travelli (“G.T.” in Oz talk). Some are fifteen or twenty kilos! And of course they are all cooked up Thai-style with chili, basil, garlic, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
“Kevin is “khun jai dee” – a man with a good heart – the most important character trait for Thai people. Kevin’s devoted sister is here with him and I am sure that Kevin’s four grown children send their very best wishes to their cheerful, happy father.
“I have observed that Kevin loves Moon very much. He respects and encourages her Thai culture. Moon will be far from home so she has already made contact with the Thai community in Karratha. She has received several commissions to create custom Thai style dresses.
“Finally, I see that Moon loves Kevin very much. She is delighted to have this caring and affectionate man in her life.
“I am so pleased to be here tonight to celebrate with all of you and with my old friend Moon and my new friend Kevin.
I have promised to visit them soon. Kevin has promised to “throw a few shrimp on the bar-bee” and we’ll wash them down with “a couple a cans.”
The festive day begins with a rooster-crowing knock on my door at The Honey Inn.
After a bleary-eyed shave and a cold shower in my “fan room,” we board a large pick up for the one hour ride to the wedding ceremony. Peter and I stretch out on comfortable padding in the rear. We arrive at the end of an unpaved road at a small village in the middle of the rice fields.
Dozens of villagers are seated on the floor of a large shed-meeting house: mothers nursing their infants, curious children, young women shyly smiling at me, and a group of elderly gray haired ladies carefully assembling their spicy, blood red and soon to be juicy betel nut mixture that they chew with relish. The women are dressed in colorful patterned blouses and sarongs and sit and chat and comment throughout the proceedings.
A small group of men gather around a table in the courtyard – also nursing - glasses filled with ice cubes cooling their Leo or Chiang or Singha.
Moon and Kevin sit before the altar: exotic flowers, platters of bananas and fruit, gold Buddhist symbols. The centerpiece - a charming pink head of a large eared pig. Moon’s father, Chai, gently inserts a candle into each nostril. He lights them up, and the ceremony begins.
Chanting continuously, Chai binds the couple’s hands with a braid; Chai places a long braid on their heads; he pours holy water over their hands. At one point, several women strip small twigs of their tiny bead-like buds and with a hearty shout, toss the “rice” at the newly weds.
As a few women serve up a large community lunch, we again pile into the pick up for the ride back to Nang Rong. Only this time there are five or us in the rear. My taut Western leg muscles have not yet attained any Asian flexibility. Inexorable cramps accompany me all the way back home.
The wedding reception at the Honey Inn begins at 6:00 pm. Phanna, the owner of the Inn provides large baskets of roses; food and beverage aplenty; dancing; karaoke: music by Phanna’s sons. And that ancient Thai custom of clinking your drinking glass with a spoon, the noisy crescendo insists the bride and groom embrace and kiss. One of Phanna’s sisters shrieks with surprise and laughter. I mean, she really shrieks. Kissing? In public? In Thailand? Shocking!
And of course don’t forget Jan’s coolly articulate yet totally forgettable address. Wait till you see the photos of my excellent Thai silk shirt.
What a delightful day with my “family” at my “home away from home."
I am motivated once again to fly to Western Australia to see the newly weds and to drive through the jagged red mountains and the tantalizing Outback.
And I expect to visit my new friends Nora and Peter next month in Banuwangi, East t Java, Indonesia.
Hip, hip, hooray!