Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Nuptials in Nepal

We met Sarita when she moved to Qatar to continue working as a nanny for our neighbors and friends the Bromleys.  They employed Sarita in Nepal when they lived there.  She had become a part of their family, so when they moved to Doha, they couldn't wait to have her join them.  I slowly got to know Sarita better, but there was always that invisible barrier between us - you know the one where she insisted on calling me "Ma'am" even though I repeatedly asked her to call me by my first name.  There was also her huge shyness.  Even though I would try and start conversations with her, she would just smile and give short answers - and I knew it wasn't always a language issue.  I learned later from Terah that Sarita's family is of the lower caste in Nepal and this shyness probably has something to do with that and her humble upbringing. 

When Sarita started to come to church with Terah I thought it was just so she could help with the children, but one week she walked into Sacrament Meeting with a beautiful emerald green dress on and the happiest smile I had ever seen on her face.  Something was changing, but I didn't know what.  I asked her to sit by me in Relief Society because she looked kind of lost with Terah taking charge of Young Women, and even though we didn't talk much, just sharing my manual with her as the lesson was given made me feel more a part of her life.  One day Abbey came home and told me that Heavah (Terah's daughter) was very excited because her dad had taught Sarita to swim.  I hadn't known that she couldn't do such a basic thing. 

Sarita continued coming to church and the next thing I knew she was scheduled for baptism.  I was sick the day she was baptized but she told me it was wonderful and she seemed to take on a new glow after that. Then Terah told me that Sarita had been taking a driving course and would soon be taking her driver's license exam.  The changes in Sarita's life were multiplying, but that was only the beginning. 

On Halloween the Bromleys came back to Al Fardan 3 for the compound festivities, even though they had moved to another compound, so we took the opportunity to catch up.  Terah floored me by telling us that Sarita was engaged and would soon be leaving for Nepal to prepare for her wedding.  I couldn't believe it, and as I looked at Sarita's embarrassed smile spreading over her face I knew that this outrageous news was real.  I won't go into the details of Sarita's romance here, so for more background and information on Sarita just dial up Terah's blog and get the whole love story behind Tim and Sarita's wedding.  

So on December 16 we flew to Nepal to be a part of Sarita's continued life transformation.  Terah hand-picked our hotel so we actually had hot water and continuous electricity which are two luxuries in Kathmandu.  I'm so glad we had someone looking out for us because we were in for a real adventure when we stepped out of the airplane and onto the tarmac.  There was no organized line for a bus to a terminal.  We just made our own way to the closest door and on to immigration.  Because we were taking too long filling out the paperwork, the immigration employees hustled us through the process and accepted our half-filled out papers.  I guess it was late and they wanted to go home.
We stayed at the Hotel Gangjong and enjoyed the luxurious hot running water and continuous electricity.

Brett said he watched this man first construct this ladder and proceed to paint our hotel.  Who needs Home Depot?!
We were on our own for a few hours on our first morning there so we walked up and down the street to see the sites.  Apparently Canada was closer than we thought.
This boy was getting a vigorous hair washing on the street from his mother.  I wouldn't have been too happy about it and neither was he.
The signs in Nepal were my favorite form of entertainment.  This one advertises some items one can purchase for "friend communication" and STD is among them.  I guess there are some unfortunate men who have sadly paid for such an item, but I don't think they got it at this particular shop.
This garden was the prettiest green spot we saw in Kathmandu, and it was just along the street in between the crumbling buildings.
Brett loves carved doors and this one stood out among all the decay of the city.
There were a lot of these men along the street selling the most delicious clementine oranges.  We ended up stuffing our luggage with a number of the juicy things.
Yet another entertaining sign.  I guess even Nepal can muster the sophistication of VERBING words.

Even though the sun was shining that day it was pretty cold.  This barefoot old woman couldn't have been too comfortable.  We were told that Nepal is the second poorest country in the world.  I'm sure that could be debated but I tend to believe it after seeing so much evidence of that everywhere in this city.
We couldn't figure out why there seemed to be a big following of Bob Marley in this funny country until Terah and Axel told us that marijuana grows all over Nepal and it is NOT illegal unless the locals try selling it to expats.
There were people carrying all kinds of objects all over and this man had quite an interesting collection.
Families seem to spend a lot of time outside during the daylight hours in Nepal either on the street or their rooftops, taking advantage of Mother Nature's warmth.  I think it is also because most people's living spaces aren't that big.
We came across this Hindu shrine inside someone's private compound.
Again, another shop that sells STDs but this one also has the always popular internet SUFFERING that we can't live without!
This man was carrying live chickens stacked on top of each other in this basket strapped to his head.  He agreed to pose for Brett but was quick to put out his hand for cash after.  I'm sure we weren't the first tourists to be in awe of his skills.
This is the view from our hotel window.  I think this is a restaurant but we never saw anyone eat there. 
Every home was decorated with the bright colors of drying laundry.  Picturesque to me, laborious for the housewives.
Our hotel rooftop was a great place to finally see a wider vision of Kathmandu.  There were no fancy glass and steel highrise buildings that symbolize power and industry.  There were just residence buildings mixed in with haphazard business establishments.
Oh, isn't she funny?  NOT!

This was the most interesting building in our view.  It might be difficult to see in this shot but there is a woman in red going about her chores on the tallest roof and she has a white bunny hopping around and pigeon houses with birds flying in and out.  We wondered if the bunny and pigeons were for dinner or companionship.
This family was sitting down to an elaborate meal.  Life really happens on the roofs here. 
After Sarita and the gang met Tim at the airport, Axel and Terah picked us up for some shopping and dinner in the Thamel district of the city.  Sarita was busy getting her hands and arms decorated with Mehndi so we were Tim's poor excuse for a bachelor party.  It was great to finally meet the groom and hear about Sarita and Tim meeting in person for the first time.  Tim is a software engineer and a very nice guy who was terribly exhausted from his 30 plus hour flight from Palo Alto, California.  He was more entertaining as the night went on, but he was so happy just to finally have met his bride in person and be only hours from matrimony.
Brett bought us some yak hair blankets at this shop.  They sound kind of gross but they are really soft.

We enjoyed a Japanese dinner at one of Terah's favorite restaurants.  Terah's iPhone kept the kids busy while we grilled Tim and put him through the paces.  Terah and Axel were already good friends with Tim after numerous skype sessions, but as you can see, Axel took every opportunity to prepare him for the big day.  I wonder what bit of wisdom he is passing on here. 

Terah's mom Linda was one of the gang and probably the most energetic, easy-going grandma I've ever met.  By the time the trip was over we were good friends. 

After dinner and a little bit of paradise for Brett (shopping for outerwear with Axel's ruthless bartering skills) we went to see Sarita at her family home (her sister's husband's family home that is shared with all his brothers, their families, and his mother).  We hugged her carefully so we wouldn't mess up this unique artwork.  We met the documentary crew (Jenny and Rebecca) and tried to act naturally while they filmed our conversation.  We met Sarita's little mama who had traveled by plane for the first time from a little village in eastern Nepal so she could be at the wedding.  Tim knelt in front of her to give her presents he had brought from home along with a letter and a picture of his own mother.  It was sweet to watch Sarita translate the letter to her mama and then translate her mama's responses to Tim.

As we left for the hotel that night there were men working on a building that Sarita's sister's family would be moving into soon.  When we showed up the next morning most of this dirt had been hauled away with this very amazing system.  Their heads and necks must be very sturdy to carry all that weight in the basket.

Before leaving that night Sarita showed me a sari that her sister (who has a sari shop) made for me and an outfit she made for Abbey.  We were very touched, but I started to panic.  I've never been a big one for dressing up on Halloween so how in the world was I going to pull off a sari? 

The wedding day started off early, and when we woke up Abbey told me that she wasn't feeling well.  As I continued to get ready for the day she got worse and eventually threw up.  Brett and I knew the wedding would not be in her immediate future, so he stayed with Abbey at the hotel while I had a very long day with the wedding.  We never found out if Abbey's illness was from something she ate or drank in Nepal because we all ate and drank the same things, but whatever it was it wiped her out for the full day and even the next day she was pretty weak.  But like Axel says, "Nepal is the gift that keeps on giving."

Terah, with her kids, her mom, and her driver picked me up and we went to Sarita's family home again to get dressed.  It was quite a production for all of us to fit into one tiny room to be "saried".  The smallest lady there had the responsibility of putting me into my sari and it was rather comical.  She kept saying, "I small and you biggest." The process of putting on a sari is so complicated and involves taking no deep breaths, making tucks, folds, wraps, and layers, so I doubt I will ever be able to put mine on again.  Everything came together though and I was able to keep it on for about twelve hours that day.  The combination of not being close to a "useable" bathroom and having a sari on made me hold it ALL DAY and by 5 PM when we got to the Party Palace for the wedding reception there was a passable bathroom so the sari kind of fell off of me in the process.  Linda called in reinforcements and Sarita's sister came and wrapped me all back in for the next few hours.  By the way, it is amazing what a body can do when forced.  I never knew I could hold it that long!

Sarita's niece Nikki was very helpful with this whole process and put on my Bindi.  The color red symbolizes wedlock, so that is why we are all wearing red saris and red Bindi.
Then we finally got to see the bride and she was stunning.  She looked like a Nepali princess.

Heavah looked especially beautiful in her blue outfit.  It matched her eyes perfectly.

Axel and Terah are way too young to be parents of the bride but that is exactly the role they played through this whole courtship.  Axel is very protective and Terah is very supportive of Sarita.  They were very patient through the VERY LONG day, especially with their little family running around.

After hundreds of pictures taken we all walked out on the street to get into the gigantic van.  We made quite the spectacle and you can only imagine how many staring eyes we had on us.  It was quite amazing for them to see these western people dressed in Nepali clothing going to a family wedding.  We waited in the van for quite awhile as everyone filed out of the small alleyway and into the vehicle.  The van was huge but we probably had about 20 people in it with pots and pans full of food for the gathering and even the dog Lucky jumped in at the last minute with his chain attached to his makeshift collar.  Those of you who know me might think that I was freaking out at this point, but I just took things in stride surprisingly and took my cues from Terah's mom.  I thought, "If she can do this, so can I!"
We drove a short distance and found ourselves in this sort of bowery place.  It was an open air building with the sun streaming in, leaves, trash, and other unknown things on the cement floor.  A few garden chairs were placed against the wall, but other than that the structure looked like a great place for a scout camp meeting.  Axel waited outside with Tim until it was time for him to come in for the "ceremony".  When I went out to check on them Tim was telling Axel and Terah that he had been so nervous that morning that he found a computer repair shop close to his hotel and asked them if he could use the internet there.  When they told him they didn't have access to the internet there, that they only repaired computers there, Tim asked them if he could help them fix something.  I guess he was desperate to do something familiar in such a strange place.  Unfortunately they only laughed when he explained his reasons.
Here Lucky, the wedding guest dog, begs for forgiveness from his owner for all his barking.  She is the sweet lady who put me into my sari.
This man is preparing for the wedding ceremony.  I never did find out what his title is in the Hindu faith, but he definitely was in charge.  If you are wondering why they had a Hindu wedding even though they are LDS then you need to read Terah's blog.  She has explained it all very well.  There were a lot of flower petals, smoke, leaves, and burning sticks involved in the preparations and the actual ceremony.  It was certainly like nothing I had ever seen before.  These boys were very interested in the colorful powder painting going on.

Sarita is posing with our EXCELLENT driver here.  His name is Dibender - I'm sure I misspelled that, so sorry, but he pronounces it DiVENDER.  Axel calls him Divender Di (again probably misspelled) because the Nepali word for brother is Di.  When Axel was talking to a shop girl he was calling her Dee Dee so I found out that Dee Dee is the Nepali word for sister.  My sister Yvonna gave me a very appropriate nickname and didn't even know it!

Here Sarita's mom and sister look on as the ceremony continues.
This is a terrible shot, but it shows two important things:  the rustic building and Sarita's embarrassment as people brought up the western tradition of the groom kissing the bride and how that was left out of this Hindu wedding somehow.  It may seem strange to many of you reading this that Tim and Sarita met on the internet and had only talked via skype prior to the wedding.  I thought a lot about this too, but after being in Nepal and realizing that most marriages there are arranged and the bride and groom meet only days before the wedding, this skype arrangement didn't seem as unbelieveable.
This shot is a pretty somber one, but Tim's expression is too funny not to include.  He's got some kind of Joe vs. the Volcano thing going on with his outfit, don't you think?
This is the happier version.
Because the venue was so open, many people, not associated with the bride or the groom, felt the need to be included.  These are some of the poor people who were perched on the steps outside for most of the day, but they had to catch a glimpse of the action inside.  There were also Japanese and German tourists who popped in for pictures with some of us.  I guess it was quite an unusual event.

This is the food that was served at the first event and it was prepared (probably for days before the wedding) and served by Sarita's family.
This ceremony, not part of the wedding, was going on outside next to the Hindu temple. 
There was a lot of washing of the feet and annointing of the heads.  This is Sarita's mama and each family member took a turn.  There were also a lot a fun traditions of stealing the groom's shoes and making him barter with the nieces to get them back.  Tim also had to barter his way back into the wedding room at one point.
There was a lot of waiting around so I spent time snapping pictures.  The next one of this sweet baby is probably my favorite one of the whole trip.  The mama and her baby were just wandering through the building, not related to the family at all.
After about four hours at the first ceremony site we all loaded into the van again and took a VERY long ride home because traffic had come upon us.  The dog actually rode home on a motorcycle this time though.

We waited at the family house (where the electricity was temporarily out and the bathroom facilities involved holes in the ground) for a couple of hours and then it was off to the Party Palace.  This was the reception venue and it was a cross between a school lunchroom and a Lion's Club banquet hall.  If you look closely at the pictures you will see colorful containers on the floor in which guests were to deposit their dirty dishes.  My favorite part of the menu was the tempura shrimp so I got to know that certain Nepali waiter well.

Tim and Sarita sat in school prom-like thrones and guests came up on the risers to congratulate them.  The hall was filled with Nepali music (too loud and not my taste at all) and the colors of shimmering saris.

A portion of Sarita's family

I kept telling myself, "If Linda keeps smiling, so will I."
The LDS branch president and his wife stopped by.

Then the dancing began.

Wherever the Bromleys are there's a party!

I had to snap this shot of my favorite sari of the evening.  If I had one made for myself it would look like this.

If Abbey hadn't been sick the day of the wedding, this is what she would have looked like.
Well, this is probably the longest post I've ever written, and I've more than likely lost most of my readers at this point, but my writing just can't do a Nepali wedding justice.  The warmth of Sarita's family and the sacrifices of the family wedding just cannot be captured in a photo or a paragraph in a blog.  But you have seen the conditions this family lives in through my photos and you have seen their joy as they watched their youngest sister marry.  What else can be said? 

When I first met Sarita I didn't know her life would become a Cinderella story.  She is now a married woman and learning all the things wives over the ages have had to deal with:  What should I make for dinner and when will he learn how to clean up after himself?  She will also be thrown into a new culture very soon as she makes her home in California and is pressed up against an overindulged society.  She will be growing in the Gospel.  She will also be enrolling in a university to study science I'm told.  She already speaks four languages, knows how to drive, swim, and wrangle four Bromley children.  At times she might want to click her heels together like Dorothy did and proclaim that there is no place like her Nepal home, but I don't think she will be doing that or losing a shoe on a staircase anytime soon.  Her trip on the yellow brick road began long before Tim came into her life, and she isn't anything like those helpless Disney princesses who forget their own resourcefulness by waiting for the prince to show up.  She didn't need Tim to rescue her from an unfair caste system in Nepal.  She is an amazing woman who knows who she is and where she is going.  I love you Sarita and can't wait to write the rest of your story!

Sarita Update: As of October 2014, even though it took a couple of years to get an American visa for Sarita while sometimes living apart, she and Tim now live in Hawaii, where Tim transferred for work. They were sealed in the Laie Hawaii Temple a few years ago and are as happy as can be. Sarita's Cinderella story keeps me enthralled and amazed at the hand of the Lord in someone's life, someone who exercises faith and continues to hope for the best as she conquers all kinds of scary challenges. Sarita, you truly are my hero!


Marinda said...

Wow! What a neat experience and fascinating story. This was so interesting and uplifting to read about. And by the way, you look great in that red sari! There are such wonderful people throughout the world - thanks for letting me know about them through you!

And yes, that baby was breath-takingly beautiful!

Megan said...

Hi!!! Thanks so much for writing this!!! I read the whole thing and enjoyed every second! Thanks for the pictures too! I am glad you all were able to make it!
Megan Petty

Amy said...

Oh, I so enjoyed this and the pictures and descriptions, which you always do so well. Very well-written as always, Dianna! What an amazing event to witness! Now, wouldn't it be wonderful if you could attend their sealing?

terahreu said...

I have been anticipating this post and you did not disappoint! Those photos are spectacular and I loved reading about the whole experience through your eyes.

Did I tell you that many of her family members said she looked too happy? That is the reason why you got some solemn looks from her. It is customary to look shy during the ceremony.

Thanks for sharing all this. You are too kind about my family. You failed to mention about our disfunction. There was plenty of that going on too :)

SOOOO glad you came ;) Big kudos to you, Brett and Abbey!