White Karen Village

Trip Start Jan 29, 2007
Trip End Feb 28, 2007

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Flag of Thailand  ,
Saturday, February 10, 2007

We arrived in the White Karen village in the early evening and preparations were happening for the wedding. A 23-year-old man was marrying a 17 or 18-year old woman (we weren't clear on her exact age). Evidently the tradition among this village (not sure if it's true for all White Karen people) is that if a woman meets a man she wants to marry, she makes whiskey for him. She then takes the whiskey to him as a way of asking for his hand (so-to-speak). If he drinks the whiskey, that means yes. If not, then "maybe he not ready" as Nat said.

We arrived through the back way it seemed and trooped up to one of the main buildings in the village. Outside the building we met the groom, his mother and father, and one of this brothers. The father of the groom greeted us warmly and seemed happy and proud that we were there. The mother of the groom was also friendly but seemed a little distracted as mothers usually are in this circumstance!

We were invited inside so we took off our shoes and went in. It was a dimmly lit 2-room structure. The room we were ushered into was about 10'x20' and had an area in the center for a fire for cooking. I never did figure out how they suspended these fire areas because remember the structure is off the ground and made of bamboo. There were several people sitting around the fire and it appeared we had interrupted dinner as there were bowls of food sitting around.

There was an older man who was asleep in the corner, evidently after drinking too much whiskey for the wedding. He woke up to find 11 additional people in the room! He didn't seem too surprised though and he picked me out as an American and asked how many Americans were in our group. I told him two. Then he asked if we were going bamboo rafting and elephant riding. I told him yes. He was happy to be able to speak English to me. It was cool.

As we walked back out through the other room of the structure, we could see the bride being readied for the wedding. A woman was brushing her long black hair and then they placed a white lace veil on her head. She was wearing a brightly colored sarong and traditional top. Nat told us later that the White Karen people are Christian and this village is Catholic. That surprised me but I guess those Catholic missionaries got around. The priest was coming from another area and Nat said they call him "big father". He was going to perform the ceremony.

Outside the structure there were several wooden chopping blocks that were basically tree trunks about 12" across that had been cut in 3" sections to create blocks. These particular blocks were all bloody, evidently from the chickens that were killed for the wedding feast. It was all a bit overwhelming and I struggled to take it all in. I'll have to ask Nikki if she remembers more details. I do remember there were these really scraggly looking teeny puppies running around. They were kinda mangy looking and had big pot bellies and what I guessed was rickets by their bowed legs (weakening of the bones due to lack of vitamin D -- malnutritioned children get it too).

Nat told us earlier we wouldn't be staying long in the village itself because they would be busy with the wedding. There is a word in Karen that sounds something like "tabroot" but it has an "l" in there somewhere and I could never quite say it but it means hello, goodbye, and thank you. Some of us tried to say it as we left, but you have to be careful to say it with the tone going up at the end of the word because evidently if you say it with the tone going down at the end it means "crazy".
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