A Saturday in Indonesia

As I mentioned before, the power in Indonesia is very unreliable; it can go out at any moment and come back whenever it wishes. In this case, it is best not to wait around for it to come back— even if you scheduled a Skype date with a special someone and the blackout occurs 15 minutes before the scheduled time. I had come to the school (where I am a relawan, or volunteer) early that morning, anticipating my Skype date. The school has a very strong Wi-Fi connection, so the power went out, I was livid and stared angrily at the dead router for long minutes.

After I decided to put away my laptop, things began to happen. One of the teachers, a very sweet lady, asked me to meet her brother-in-law, a university professor of Physics in Semarang. He speaks very good English and kindly invited me to Semarang sometime to take a look at the university and get away from village life for a day. It was really nice and refreshing to even be invited out of town.

My original plans for that day included going to a nearby city, Salatiga, for the rest of the weekend. Those plans unfortunately fell through for reasons better left unsaid. Instead, I took my first ojek (motorcycle taxi) into town by myself…twice!! I had been so scared of even attempting to use the local modes of transportation. My fears included not being understood by the driver, being taken somewhere else, falling off the motorcycle, and becoming lost and never coming back…Astakhfirullah.

The first trip was organized by my host-father to get me into town to exchange some currency. This failed because the currency “course” was not “up yet”, as the woman at the counter said. I let it slide, promising to come back on Monday when it would “be up”. The second trip I organized myself. I walked to the ojek station up the hill and said I wanted to go to Luwes, the western-style supermarket. The driver nodded and smiled, and I got on the bike. The first thing I noticed was the driver’s jacket…it was covered in ants!!! I spent the majority of the ride brushing ants off of his shoulders.

One thing I’d like to point out is that the traffic in Indonesia is HORRID. There are two lanes on the road, but it’s a free for all. I thought the bike would crash every time we took a turn. Oh—and drivers are usually the ones wearing the helmet whereas the passengers hold on for dear life. Cars were driving their own arrogant way and motorcycles were weaving in and out of the way of trucks and cars at their own speeds. No matter, we reached Luwes quickly and without incident. I spent about thirty minutes trying to find and buy everything I needed, and the only downside is that I’m out of rupiah until Monday.

When I returned to the school, a teacher’s meeting had been called. I am hesitant to go to these meetings due to the fact they are held in, I think, a mix of Bahasa Indonesia and Bahasa Java. Saya masih belajar Bahasa Indonesia! I am still learning Bahasa Indonesia! I’m not even thinking about Java yet. However, I have to make a good impression at the school, so I complied and followed one of the teachers. There is always food at these meetings. Today there was chicken and noodles, sembal (very, very spicy chili paste), and chicken feet. I had never had chicken feet, but I am willing to try everything. Suffice it to say, I did not like my first chicken foot. While the taste of it was fine, the texture was bony, fleshy, sticky, and gelatinous; it put me off. Unfortunately, I did not have my camera and I missed out on a good photo-op (Sorry, Ben Gombash!!).

After the meal and after I had helped collect the dishes, I decided to go home for my second bath. I am getting quite used to the bathrooms here—more on that in another blog entry!

Afterwards, I heard some kids screaming and laughing down the street. Curious, I saw that one of the children had picked up a very large, green leaf insect. I gathered the courage to hold it in my hands myself. A few minutes later welcomed a six or seven-inch-long millipede. It looked like something I had only seen at zoos in America. Then, just a few minutes after that, I saw two iguanas; one large and one small. It is so amazing to see different animals and insects in the wild. I am unused to seeing animals and insects such as these.

Just a little while later, an announcement came on over the village’s loudspeakers (used to sound the call to prayer and Qur’an recitations) that an elderly man in the village had died. He had lived with his wife a few houses behind my host family’s house. Islam necessitates that the body of one who has died must be buried as soon as possible, even on the same day. Instantly, the village began to prepare for his funeral. Almost everyone from the village began to work. Men made preparations for the body while women gathered to cook food and create wreaths and chains out of flowers and long thin leaves. I helped the women with the flowers. I was itching to take some photographs but I waited until someone told me it was okay to do so.

After the ceremony, there was a long funeral march to the cemetery where the man was buried. To watch the villagers bury their own was humbling and unsettling. As I watched them shovel dirt over the body with tools used to harvest rice (I think), I thought of my own mortality and the fact that, until that day, I had never seen a burial, not even in America. I would have never thought my first experience would be in a poor village in Indonesia. After the burial, a headstone was placed near the head of the body and one near the feet. In between, on the reddish brown earth, the villagers scattered pink flower petals and more dirt.

It began to rain as we walked home and the children were all smiling and laughing, as they were even during the funeral. Laughing, they told me to run from the rain. An older woman pointed to my nose piercing, smiled, and said “Bagus” (good). And it was like nothing had ever happened.

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