Tales of the Waria

Love Is in the Air

Weddings. What can I say? I’ve attended about 10 of them since coming to Indonesia. That’s more weddings than I’ve ever attended back in the States. It makes sense—in a densely populated place like Indonesia, chances are there’s always a wedding happening somewhere.

Ms. Ayu’s Wedding
Our very own photographer Irfan decides to tie the knot!

I’ve also spent an inordinate amount of time filming weddings. Though warias are not allowed to marry legally (unless they marry women), in Makassar they’re involved at every stage of wedding planning. If they’re not decorating the banquet room or baking traditional cakes, they’re styling the bride and groom or singing at the reception. A wedding just wouldn’t be a wedding without warias.

Mami Ria and fellow warias pose with the happy couple
Can you spot Tiara? Hint: A diva always stands out…

It’s been a long, hot summer and I’m nearing the end. I must admit, after my unfortunate run-in with an old plate of noodles and a suspicious fever that lay hold of me for several days, I am tuckered out. Much more so than my first round of shooting in 2008. It’s been hard summoning up the energy to produce, direct, and shoot in a language that I’m only intermittently accessing. I’ve also discovered that I’ve become dangerously inured to my surroundings. Hanging out with warias in their clubs and salons has become so second nature to me, I’m having trouble determining what what’s filmworthy. Often, instead of shooting, I just end up chatting and eating with my subjects!

When I leave tomorrow, I’m going to miss the folks in Makassar… fiercely. Especially Tiara and Aldy. They’ve become like family to me. I’ve grown accustomed to Aldy’s zen-like demeanor and charm, and Tiara’s wit and hilariously unapologetic exhibitionism. We’ve seen each other through some hard times, and some really wonderful ones as well. I comfort myself knowing that I still have one more trip planned to Indonesia in spring 2010. Stay tuned for more adventures!

My New Family

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