“Tujuhbelas Agustus” or the 17th of August is Hari Kemerdekaan or Indonesia’s Independence Day. This year, most celebrations were kept to a minimal as Ramadan dominated most of August. People were too lethargic to celebrate, as most people fasted. Indonesia is a place where you can really see how important of a role religion plays in society, especially when it takes precedent over celebrating what to me is a fairly important national holiday.
In my regency, to celebrate Hari Kemerdekaan, all of the students and teachers gathered at school and then walked a about a kilometer away to a big field, where other students and teachers had gathered, along with a military and government officials. In my opinion, it was a fairly boring ceremony… typical flag ceremony, which included lots of formal sitting, singing of national songs, saluting, and marching. This year was particularly record breaking as no students fainted (as many do because they must stand in the heat for ~an hour)… the weather was generous that day–breezy and cloudy throughout the ceremony.
After the ceremony was over, we all went home and the day felt like any other day. There weren’t any fireworks, games, parades, or other celebrations. At some other PCV sites, there were parades (check out Nicole’s post with lovely photos! and at others, dramatic re-enactments of the Indonesian nationalists fending off the Dutch colonists. One of my friends and fellow PCV Maryellen had the honor of playing the Dutch colonist who gets shot.
This past Saturday, one of the students at my school, who’s exceptionally good at English, invited me to her village to be a judge in a contest… again, details were bleak, or my understanding just plain sucks… so again ::takes a deep breath:: EMBRACE THE AMBIGUITY! Once we arrived in her village, it became clearer that I was to judge a children’s parade, that was celebrating Independence Day almost a month later…better late than never, right? More students have started to invite me to their villages recently, to experience more late Independence Day celebrations that are happening this week, some of which include kerupuk eating contests, flagpole climbing contests, and other silly games. Children and their parents had dressed up and decorated their bicycles, and it was the cutest more colorful day. It was also the first time a foreigner had visited their village, and it was a double shock for them to see me. Everyone ran out of their homes to stare and analyze every bit of my appearance, as I heard curious whispers of “neng endi, neng endi?!…” Javanese for “where are you/they from?” Months ago, I would have been overwhelmed by all of the unwanted attention (who likes being stared at like you’re an alien?) and not to say it wasn’t overwhelming, but I took advantage of the situation by snapping as many photos as I could. Here’s a few…