Wedding Crashers

8:27 PM

Then there was that time where we showed up for an educational homestay experience and received way more than we bargained for... The Meas Family Homestay does amazing work with their community. They were wrecked by the Khmer Rouge like most and the ponds on the property are bomb craters courtesy of the USA. Since then they have built an English school for local children and a weaving studio that employs local women. An expat, Paul, has been living there for three years, excited about their sustainable approach to helping their community. He connects the local crafts with western needs (i.e. designers who want patterned fabric from the weavers or ceramic artisans to create vessels for homemade coconut oil). We talk with him about the confusing state of aid in Cambodia, the fake orphanages, the extreme corruption, and the handouts from foreigners basically teaching many Cambodians that they can't do anything for themselves anymore. It's a complex situation where foreign aid doesn't actually aid. But how do you say no to aid?

My first bike ride in 12 years!! I traumatized myself in a crash and have had paralyzing anxiety over bikes since... It was fun!
We stumbled in expecting to learn about the efforts for sustainable homegrown aid, the familial history and more, instead we were whisked into preparations for a 600 person wedding!! What?! Cambodian weddings are 1.5 days long and the prep is in full swing as we arrive the morning beforehand. Tents, chairs, tables, flowers, fruits, on-site catering and so much brightly colored soda are all over the property. And the sound system, oh my goodness the sound system!  Traditional Khmer music is blaring and every 15 minutes there's a mic check of, "Ello? Ello? Ello? Elloooooo? Ello?" 

The first night of the ceremony is a smaller group of family and friends. The wedding outfits for the bride, groom and bridesmaids are all rented as they change these super fancy outfits multiple times for different ceremonies. After the festivities of night one, we help prep for the Fruit Walk the next morning. This involves creating fruit trays wrapped in cellophane with red stickers on top, folding and filling red boxes with treats and stuffing red envelopes with 800 Riel ($0.20) for each guest. The Fruit Walk begins at 6am where guests line up along the road to carry in the fruit baskets and red boxes as offerings. To begin the walk at 6am, the bridal party with their beauty team starts getting ready on our porch at 3:30am, literally two feet from our bed. And that sound system with traditional music, ohhhhhh man, it's up and running to get you into the party mood. "Ello? Ello? Ello?" Not a wake up call we were prepared for. 

This is 6:30am... We were "late" to the Fruit Walk. 

Our team is ready for breakfast! 

After eating, most people head home to rest, change outfits and come back for a fancier lunch and then again for an even fancier dinner. There's a lot of sitting around in between while the couple in the marriage tent are given blessings, go through many ceremonies and are entertained with musicians and comedians. The beauty team was still on our porch after breakfast so as we headed in for our own rest, this sassy man took hold of my hair and gave me the best updo of my life in under ten minutes with his whole crew looking on. Oh yes, he crimped it all first! He also came back for dinner as a she in a fabulous black gown. 

Nails and hair all done, it's time for lunch.
After lunch, the beauty team comes at me again for makeup and with my borrowed ensemble I almost fit in. All of the ladies look amazing in their dresses and handbags. 
Check out the fake eyelashes about a 1/4" above my lash line...
Sidenote: Two months later, we loop back through Chiang Mai and see our Thai mom Binh. I share these pictures with her and she immediately started smoothing out the lines on my forehead! Guess my expressive forehead isn't part of Thai beauty standards. She also named Ryan "King Kong."
The dress and makeup were too much for me after several hours in the insane June heat. 
The dancing went late into the night. Line dances, traditional dances and crazy electronic dances. While practically the whole village is invited, by the end of the night, less fortunate children were running around collecting cans for recycling and food to eat themselves and no one shooed them away.

We eventually call it quits and head back to our room. I'm in undies only, getting ready to shower, and see some food crumbs on the floor. Ants are a big issue around here so I partially open the door and toss the crumbs outside. As I do so, this creature comes running out of the black crevice between the wall and our bed towards me. It's a big spider with its front legs up in attack mode!! I don't do spiders... Spiders take me to a crazy jumpy hyperventilating place. So naturally I fling the door WIDE OPEN, exposing my almost naked self to the party, as I jump over the spider and onto the bed screaming for Ryan who's in the shower. Realizing this very modest culture probably doesn't appreciate my nakedness, I cover up while keeping an eye on my attacker. The spider goes up the wall and behind the curtain and I'm losing my mind that I can't see it anymore. Ryan comes to my rescue, shakes out the curtains and can't find the spider. I CANNOT handle that. I investigate from afar with a flashlight until I can show Ryan the eyes shining back at me and he takes care of business. I understand this to be animal cruelty, but spider-crazed Beth is another person entirely who cannot be reasoned with. 

Irrational fears aside, it's hard to absorb all that we saw and learned in such a short time. What a whirlwind! Such a good time! 

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  1. Looking good!! Love the Cambodian hair and makeup team :) And I'm totally with you on irrational spider fear, so terrifying. Hope you guys are well, travels look amazing xoxo


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