Gina writes:

Last Thursday and Friday, we were outside of Koraput to attend our friend's sister's wedding in Sambalpur, another district of Orissa. This was our 5th Indian wedding, attending required taking 2 days off work that we technically didn't have, and the wedding was 12 hours away by train, so we weren't that excited about it. But after our friend asked us in person or on the phone about 7 times, sent us text messages about it, caught me on Facebook chat to remind me how important it was, and emailed, we couldn't very well say no. So we decided to change our attitude about it, arrange the train tickets and the days off from work, and party on!

The train left Koraput at about 8 a.m. and arrived in Sambalpur at 6 p.m. An entire day on a train with books and knitting and iPods isn't that bad, but has its sticky and smelly and boring moments for sure. A fellow passenger started a conversation with us, asking the same questions as always -- What are you doing in India? What NGO do you work for? What kind of work? How do you feel about India?. For us, it's not that interesting to have these conversations, but I understand the attraction to the average Indian with nothing to occupy his time for the entire train ride, so we try to be patient. He also asked us how much money we make, which is not as popular of a question, but is totally acceptable to ask. When we told him, his response was, "What?! Only xx? You should work in Bangalore, you can make much more. Your work here in India is a wastage of time if you only make xx!" We cut the conversation short after that.

When we arrived in Sambalpur, we called our friend and she came to pick us up. She took us to our hotel, which was perfect. Simple no-frills room, quiet and windowless, but with A/C! After an hour, I was transported to the wedding hall, where I was dressed in my sari. I wish I would have just followed the pictorial instructions that I have instead of relying on the women in the "bridal suite" where I was taken. There were about 20 women either helping the bride or just hanging out, so they all took the opportunity to watch me undress. Then, I think the short "auntie" who was dressing me was nervous or something because she took a full 20 minutes to fold and refold my sari around me. It was hot, probably at least 90 in that room, and I was sweating so much from my face that it was literally dripping off my chin. Gross! Needless to say, I wasn't in a great mood when I was released from the room and found Corey. I'll admit that I'm totally over the thrill of wearing a sari -- I already have good pictures of me in 3 different saris and they are not that flattering to my figure or the least bit comfortable, especially when walking or climbing a lot of stairs.

Not a great pic, but it's the best we have.

Dinner was served at about 9 p.m. from stations around the big hall. This was cool, not something we'd seen in India before. There was the usual buffet line, but also a coffee station, chow mein station, shaved ice station, a rice pudding station, some street-food snack stations, and a few others. The food was delicious.

This curious cow came to tell us that her invitation was lost in the mail.

The stars "aligned" at 10:30, so that's about the time that the loud, dancing processional with the groom's party arrived. Soon after, the rituals started on stage. Sadly (to me, at least) only about 40 people were still there compared to the 200+ that were at dinner! The upside, though, was that everyone still there was focused on the wedding instead of just chatting with each other and on their cellphones and ignoring the main event, which is what we've seen at the other weddings. The rituals can sometimes last for 6 hours or more, but this ceremony was finished in about 3. I can't explain the significance of any of the rituals or items, but the turmeric, flowers, puffed rice, fire, string, oil lamps, mangos, gifted cloth, gold cardboard crowns, and cement stepping stone all had symbolic significance.

It looked similar to other weddings we've been to, so I took very few pics. Here the bride and groom are both covered, just before they're revealed to each other.

It was interesting to watch even if I had no idea of the purpose. Following expectations, the bride did not smile the entire time, but held an empty look on her face. She's not supposed to show happiness that she's being separated from her family.

We returned to the hotel at about 2 a.m. Since I was in my sari, I had to ride the motorbike side-saddle for the first time, which I disliked a lot. I can understand the need for women to ride that way if they're in a sari, but I think women wearing pants should always ride astride, it's so much safer!

I slept later than Corey (as usual) and woke up to him returning from one of his "exploring trips" with breakfast! We ate, then chilled out (literally) in the room for a few hours. There wasn't anything to do in Sambalpur but browse the shops and it was hot, over 100 degrees. I was feeling no obligation to make use of the day by leaving my nice cool hotel room, so Corey picked up lunch for us when he became restless. Before I knew it, it was nearly 7 p.m. and I had spent the entire day relaxing on the bed, not even seeing the sunlight for 1 minute of the day (due to the lack of windows). Awesome!

The overnight train ride home was uneventful. I tried hiding in my top bunk to avoid conversations from curious fellow travelers, but an annoying but friendly gentleman insisted on asking questions to me while I'm laying down 6 feet above him...awkward! The usual questions again, though this time I had to devote some effort to convincing him that the U.S. actually does have beggars and people living on the street. Not the first time that I've had to correct someone from thinking that all Americans are wealthy. Anyway, we arrived in Koraput at 8:30 a.m., showered and headed to work!