A Marriage Negotiation in Bali

The rest of the family arrived from Sumbawa yesterday along with our gardener/driver. They spent seven and a half hours on the ferry from Lombok  to Bali in rough seas so they were seasick, tired, and dirty (they spent a lot of time throwing up on the ferry.

Today was our first day here as a group, and the first order of business was to accompany Dommi, our gardener/driver to the village of Tegallingah where we have a small amount of agricultural ground which we use for growing rambutans. Dommi has been smsing a young lady from the village and somewhere during all the smsing (encouraged by my wife), he decided thatview of bali sea from tegallingah he wanted to marry her. So we were going as his “family” to meet the girl’s family and get the process begun.

The village is up in the hills above Singaraja, about thirty minutes from our house.  My wife and I went as Dommi’s parents, a neighbor and her husband who are originally from this village went with us as well as my youngest sister-in-law, her husband, their smallest child, my smallest child, my middle daughter, and one of my brothers-in-law. We had Dommi with us as well.  My wife and I drove up on one of her motorbikes which I planned to use later to make an early exit (people are used to me showing up to be polite and then exiting as soon as possible). Everyone else drove up in our car. When we entered the village where the girl (a potential new “daughter-in-law”) lives wth her family, a crowd of people immediately converged on the car. We climbed a steep walkway to the family’s house. The father and mother came out to greet all of us as neighbors began to gather to observe the city people (along with the “tourist”). As I was smoking a cigarette, I sat outside with my brother-in-law while the rest of the family went in to the house. As I was sitting outside smoking, groups of village children came as close as possible to stare at me (why not – how many tourists do they get?). I amused all of them by saying “hello” in a rather loud voice which, upon hearing, would cause all of the children to giggle and run away. The growing crowd of adults kept a polite distance where they could observe me.

Finished with the cigarette, I went inside to take part in the process. My wife was sitting alongside the parents on a carpet on the floor, the bride-to-be, was sitting next to an older sister with her tiny niece in her lap. The prospective bridegroom was sitting back by the front window next to my sister-in-law. The maternal grandmother entered just behind me and introductions were made with an apology for the smallness of the house. Then chitchat as the eldest sister wrote down the information we needed about the girl (Ratna) to get paperwork done for all of the bureaucratic formalities that are going to be required.

A few humorous comments were made about the beauty of the prospective mother-in-law (Su, my wife) and the handsomeness of the prospective father-in-law (me) and how it was only fitting that the prospective husband was so handsome. Ratna’s father mentioned how friendly the village was and how it was well known for it’s hospitality to visitors. Looking up, I noticed a huge crowd standing in front of the doorway and window observing the group inside. I made a required comment about how I was sure that I would be visiting many times in the future.

Having spent my 20 minutes there, I asked permission to leave so that I could visit my garden to see how the rambutan trees were coming. I took one more look at Ratna (cute and acting very shy only occasionally making eye contact with my wife and never with me). My wife and I took off on the motorbike. We drove another 10 minutes up the road and stopped at the house of the farmer who farms our land – we bought the land from him years ago, and he farms our land as well as the adjoining land which he still owns – he receives half of the produce from the land and we get the other half which we give away to family and neighbors as it’s too much for us to eat.

The rambutan trees are just bearing fruit now so there wasn’t much to see or pick so we chatted a while about the orchard and land prices in Sumbawa and our kebun there. I went on for a while about all the animals we have – both wanted (the dogs, chickens, geese) and unwanted (monkeys, monitor lizards, vipers, cobras, pythons, musang). We had a coffee and returned to the village so that I could drop Su off there so she could continue with negotiations and I could pick up Rebecca (the middle daughter) and go home to do some work.

Besides my first negotiations for a marriage (I have another “adopted” son who married a few years ago, but I was out of the country and missed the negotiations), I was interested in how Dommi and Ratna were going to react to each other as they have never met in person; they know each other through smsing and sending photos on their handphones. They almost never looked at each other during the time that I was there which was commented on by a few in the negotiating parties as being to shyness around all the families. All this was interesting to me as an anthropologist and technology teacher/geek because the parties involved come from two different islands but carried on a fairly intense courtship via handphones. Interesting how technology is being used in an archipelago to bring people together from diverse parts of the country.

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~ by drbrucepk on December 29, 2007.

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