So the day had arrived! Today Julito and Nindi were getting married, and we were their invited guests. We took time to make ourselves look as dressy as we could. Filled the small handbag instead of my usual big one, with tissues, a fan and a few other odds and ends and off we went. We dropped Sam off at his birthday party and headed off to the Cathedral near the port. A beautiful stone building we have driven past many times but never visited. As we arrived, we found the groom and his family posing for photographs under the trees while guests mingled in the church yard. Beautiful singing came from the choir inside the church, as there was already a wedding in progress, before the one we were invited to. It was a relief to realise your standard of dress fit with everyone else. We did stand out as the only foreignors or malae in attendance, and we were honoured that the groom came to have photos taken with us, and also to let us know when we should go into the church. Not sure exactly where to sit, do sides of the church matter in Timor-Leste? We weren’t sure, so we picked an aisle and created the row of foreigners.
An order of service was given to us, which made the service a little easier to follow. But in downsizing my handbag i had left my Tetun dictionary at home, which was frustrating. It was interesting to see the women family members of the bride and groom wearing the same colours and fabrics, but different styles of dresses. Both parents escorted their child down the aisle, followed by girls containing baskets of food and statues.
Words cannot describe just how beautiful the choir was. Seated not far from us in an alcove off the main church, the sound of their singing was magnificent and gave goosebumps. As the service progressed it was interesting to hear little bits of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah and Sister Acts “I will follow him” sneaking into the music in between the more traditional hymns and Ave Maria.
We followed the lead of those around us, reading, praying, kneeling and standing. Lots of careful observation is an important skill in cross cultural life, but certainly during a different style of church service. Jason tried following the lead by laughing with everyone else during parts of the sermon that were apparently funny, even though he had no idea what was being said.
It was hot in the church, and again due to my handbag downsizing,I didn’t have my usual water bottle. Thankfully my friend Deborah had two, which helped to ease the dizziness from the heat and lingering sickness. The poor priests at the front of the church seemed to be feeling the heat too, wearing traditional church robes and performing their second wedding service for the day, they looked ready to drop at some moments. And making much use of their handkerchiefs.
The service ended and a list of photos to be taken began to be progressed through starting with family and other official guests. We followed the lead of others and made our way from the church. Noticing the time, it was almost time to collect Sam from his birthday party, so home we went. Yes we were the severely overdressed parents at the birthday party pick up. At home we revelled in the air conditioning and had a long nap, rebuilding our strength for the evening part of the wedding.