I love never knowing what is going to happen next and this was no exception….. Putra had been filming Derti Manulang, a local dukun (healer), in the small village of Barus before I arrived in Sumatra and had been invited to attend her nephews Batak wedding. After an early morning start and delays with transport in the searing heat, we travelled a few hours from Parapat at Lake Toba to Barus. After crossing picturesque rivers on rickety wooden bridges we ended up in a little area surrounded by coconut trees and forest and basic wooden houses tucked away from the rest of the village.
Dripping in sweat from the last leg of our journey, crammed into a becak with all Putra’s camera gear and our luggage, we arrived at Derti’s house just as her nephew Effendi and his bride were getting ready to leave for the church. Everyone giggled and smiled nervously at the sight of a foreigner in their village, but gave a huge welcome to us before we were swiftly directed back into our transport and followed the car to the church, so we could film and photograph the whole event.
The wedding and celebrations continued for three days and was incredible and I feel blessed to have been able to attend. The locals were incredibly welcoming and friendly and each day I would be followed by a group of beautiful children who all wanted to poke and prod and stare at the stranger in their community. There was a constant buzz as women and men gathered in groups underneath the trees to prepare meals of meat in enormous pots and stir with poles that were much higher than those using them. Children played and giggled as prayers were said, music was played at regular intervals and everyone danced the tor-tor and laughed throughout the ceremonies. Money was exchanged for the bride after long discussions, the bride and groom took to the stage to sing and were handed cash from guests in return for their efforts. I don’t know where Indonesians get the idea that all foreigners are full of confidence and would be happy to get up on a stage and sing and dance alone for their entertainment, but I refused even after a glass or two of traditional tuak (fermented rice alcohol) and saved myself from utter humiliation.
I have thousands and thousands of images of all the people, rituals and community preparing for each days events in the forest… and most importantly, I have a head filled with beautiful memories. It seems the most magical moments really do happen when you least expect them….