It’s been nearly 6 years since I celebrated my high school graduation, and over 2 since my college graduation. These anticlimactic moments that are so talked up seemed to have snuck up on me, come and gone just like that, while I was busy living life, anticipating big moves and changes, and now here I am, in Indonesia, sweating bullets as my polyester government uniform suffocates every pore on my chest, back, and arms. Yesterday, I was once again celebrating a monumental moment; another graduation, only it wasn’t for me this time. When the 12th graders arrived at school, they were barely recognizable. Perhaps because most of the boys looked more mature in button-ups and nice slacks while most of the girls were covered in thick cakes of make-up, accentuating their noses, sporting obviously fake lashes, wearing blindingly sparkly kebaya‘s and huge fake hair pieces bedazzled to the max in sparkly pins to accompany, or maybe just because of their conspicuous demeanor that displayed how absolutely thrilled they were to graduate and move onto the next step of their life, just like I had not too long ago.
Other things that struck me as unique but that I haven’t the desire to elaborate on — I can’t believe most of the teacher’s didn’t stick around for the bulk of the ceremony. How everyone was so blatantly congratulating our school for our 100% passage rate, when there was some obvious forging of scores going on. The teacher’s procession led by one of my students wearing lots of make-up in his traditional topless Javanese costume. The parents were so hard to read, how were they truly feeling? The fathers were smoking packs upon packs of cigarettes as if it was the last pack left on Earth. They were obviously bored out of their minds, chattering non-stop. Was it rude? Not really. Why were all of the students still required to come to school if there was no place for them in the ceremony? No one hung around afterwards, there wasn’t a real reception, unless snack boxes count. No one clapped. Our school surely saved a lot of money not hiring a photographer. I was called to the stage for a mini improv speech (thanks, Pak Dinas). That there was a student-led drama performance at the end. Many unique moments that hopefully my photographs will help describe because I think I’m drowning in my own sweat. Nice image, right?
Snapshots from an Indonesian high school graduation: