(Before you read this post, a photo taken by yours truly was one of thirteen (out of 3,700+ entries) selected for Peace Corps’ 50th Anniversary’s Photo Contest! Carrying my bulky SLR everywhere seems to be working in my favor! PC Indonesia proved that even though we’re a new program, we’re just as strong… two of our photographs received first and second place prizes! Check out the links, all exceptionally outstanding photographs taken by just a handful of amazing, dedicated, and talented PCVs. Sending many selamat’s to Paige and Daniel Gable for their photo–we had a great time relieving our frustrations on those bundles of rice during PST!)
For some reason, Idul Fitri sounds like a very female name to me. I wanted to make sure I didn’t forget to write about such an important holiday in Indonesia. And for the sake of this post, I will refer to Idul Fitri (Eid ul-Fitr as it’s known in the West), the grand Islamic celebration, marking the end of Ramadan, as if it were a new friend of mine.
Kanalkan…first name: Idul or Eid, Arabic for ‘festival’ or ‘festivity’, last name: Fitri or ul-Fitr, also Arabic for ‘breaking the fast’…
The second half of August was spent preparing for Idul’s arrival… this meant Indonesians FLOODING all routes leading to cities, creating traffic jams not only on the jalans but also in stores trying to stock up on as much food and treats as possible. I had never seen people go so crazy over generic cookies in tins and low-grade candy until I went shopping with my host family. It was a claustrophobic nightmare that resulted in quite the migraine. When Idul comes, the last thing you want, is to be hungry… not to mention wearing old clothes… everyone wears new clothes when Idul comes, come on.
The night before Idul’s arrival, children and adults alike got more excited than usual with fireworks, which are available year round. Every time I thought the heart-stopping crackling was over, a new round <!!!!!KUCHICRACKKISNAPKUCHICRACKCACKLECACKLE!!!!> of explosives would go off, usually initiated by a group of overly excited, mischievous, unsupervised boys under the age of 13. It didn’t matter where they were set off, on the side of the road, in the middle of the road, outside of my window, in the company of infants, the fragile elderly, whoever… generally quite close to anything highly flammable or potentially dangerous by American standards. One evening, I was lured outside by a collection of neighbors who were staring at the sky. They quickly informed me that a relative had just returned from Sumatra (an island outside of Java) bringing back with them “better” fireworks, all I could think was “oh shit…”
Let me remind you, I have yet to see a fire engine in this country, but Indonesians seem to have their obsession with fire under promising control.
When I thought I couldn’t go more deaf from the fireworks, reverberating repetitions of ALLAHU AKBAR‘s commenced from the surrounding mosques (and believe me, there’s quite a few), simultaneously echoing off one another for what would become hours and hours and hours. A small parade of children carrying candlesticks walked around the village chanting Allahu Akbar‘s and when 10pm rolled around, I honestly couldn’t have wished for a more ideal time for the electricity to suddenly go out (as it sometimes does), but it didn’t happen… I fell asleep… eventually.
Alas, the morning of Idul’s arrival was quiet and calm. My host family was at the mosque and I awoke to an empty house for the first time. Later that morning, my host family and I, looking sharp in our new baju baju, waited for the rounds of small children from the village to come by and say their mahon ma’af‘s, asking for forgiveness. In return, the kids received some Rupiah and sweets then moved onto the next house where the routine was repeated.
After the children made their rounds, my family and I visited the homes of close neighbor’s, said our mahon ma’af‘s then proceeded to spent the rest of the day hanging out together. We all sat on the floor in the living room while my Bapak made fresh sambal that we shared from a communal bowl, dipping pieces of tahu goreng and lontong. I think there were 7+ chilis in the sambal. While everyone else was breaking a sweat, making sounds of hooo-heee-hooo-heeeeee’s, I calmly kept my composure. Idul brought life back into the community after what had been quite possibly the laziest and slowest August I’d ever experienced in my life. I’d never really hung out with my entire host family at once before because both my Bapak and younger host sister live, work, and study an hour away, in Surabaya, while the small toko my family operates usually keeps them somewhat preoccupied. I managed to capture my first family photo (see slideshow below)!
Idul slowly made her exit in the days following… but not without forcing me to shake 800+ hands at various school, village, government organized halal bi halal‘s, which are ceremonies comprised of endless motivational speeches, asking for forgiveness, snack boxes, walls of speakers, and in my honest opinion lots of boring sitting around in the heat with forced smiling–buat pusing saya (giving me a headache). At one particular regency-sponsored ceremony, the high potential for meeting creeps became evident when a government official in his early 30s approached me, asked for my personal contact information (which I [kindly but sternly] declined to share) and then asked my counterpart if there were any single teachers at our school. That particular ceremony really tested my nerves, which I vocally expressed to my counterpart upon leaving (3-hours later), who then bought a popsicle to cheer me up. It worked.
Idul has done her job, she’s returned to recharge and retreat back in Celebration Land until next year. Nearly every Muslim person in Indonesia has said their apologies and they’re ready for a fresh start with clean slates and hungry stomachs. It is not only a new year for Muslims all over the world, but also for me, as I turned 23 at the beginning of September. I’ve taken my first real vacation, and now feel somewhat recharged after months of observing. My life as a PCV and English teacher have finally started to make a bit more sense as my two favorite “R” words, ‘routine’ and ‘rhythm’, have alas adopted good ‘ole Indo kampung life.
It was both important and quite enjoyable to experience and meet Idul Fitri for the first time. I feel like I understand a little bit more about Indonesian culture and its focus on family, discipline and dedication to Allah. The following slideshow is a series of photos I took during Idul Fitri celebrations.
Now I’m ready to WORK. AYO!