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Posts Tagged ‘indonesian customs’

Borneo Day 6: Wednesday, July 26

Pink mosque and rice field

Ripening rice field and a pink mosque in Barito Kuala Regency, South Kalimantan.

The counselor at SMAN 1 Mandastana was celebrating the birth of a new baby and invited us to his home, along with the other teachers. School would be let out early so the teachers could attend. After we had rested a bit from our morning teaching and had re-hydrated, Nazar drove us to his home.

Coal barge on Barito

A coal barge on the Barito River. Sorry that it’s a bit blurry – I took this from a moving car as we crossed the bridge.

He lived out in the country beyond the Barito River Bridge and past the river town we had stopped in a few days before. This was the furthest we went to the west. Nazar hadn’t been to his house before and had to call him a few times for directions and turn around a few times. Google Maps isn’t as accurate out here. I had the chance to observe people as they were beginning the rice harvest.

Mosque and rice field

A field of rice ready to harvest and a blue mosque, out in the country of Barito Kuala Regency.

Rice can be grown twice each year in Indonesia. I’ll write about the process of planting and growing rice in a later post, but let me here talk about the harvesting. As the rice becomes ripe, the fields are allowed to dry and the rice heads and stalks turn golden, although never as golden as wheat. Some of the farmers use mechanical rice pickers (there is my obscure Star Trek reference for the day – what episode of the original series discusses Spock’s unfortunate accident with a mechanical rice picker?). Some still harvest by hand with machetes and carry the bundles to their house courtyards, where they use a hand-cranked threshing machine to separate the grains from the stalks (chaff). I saw quite a few of these threshing machines as we traveled today, as the harvest is beginning and farmers have brought them out to use. Once the grain is threshed, it is placed on top of the courtyard or on tarps by the road to dry. The farmers rake it around to help it dry faster. Then it is collected, bagged, and sold. We saw people on motorcycles carrying the bags, and stores by the roads selling the rice.

Drying rice in front of house

Harvested rice is laid out on tarps in the courtyard or driveway of the house (or sometimes at the edges of country lanes) to dry. The rice is raked frequently to aid in even drying. I’m not sure what happens if it rains (as it did later this afternoon).

We finally found the counselor’s house, by a rice field next to a pink mosque. This was his own rice field. We were welcomed into the house, where we removed our shoes and sat on the floor to eat the ceremonial meal.

Drying rice

Laying out tarps for drying rice. The wooden wheel-shaped object behind the farmer is a rice thresher. The stalks are placed inside and a crank is turned, causing the rice grains to be separated or threshed from the stalks. It is then placed on the tarps to dry.

The baby naming/presentation ceremony is an important one in Banjarese culture, and we were treated as honored guests. Different dishes were brought out on a carrying rack for us to choose from, as well as trays of the plastic water cups and steamed rice that he had grown and harvested himself in the field next door. The food was good. After the meal, as other people were beginning to arrive, we took photographs with the mother and mother-in-law and got to hold the baby.

Baby naming ceremony

Food for the baby naming ceremony. The blue plastic cups in the trays are sealed cups of purified water.

Nazar drove us back to the hotel to rest as clouds were beginning to gather.

Rice field and pink mosque 2

The counselor’s rice field and the pink mosque next door.

House and mother in law

The counselor’s house where the ceremony and meal took place. The mother, baby, and mother in law are on the porch. The rice field next door is his field, and we ate rice he harvested from it last year.

David holding baby

Getting to hold the baby. The father is to my left and the mother to my right. He is the counselor at SMAN 1 Mandastana.

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Jakarta Day 2: Sunday, July 16, 2017

Garuda pancasila

The Indonesian flag, with the golden Garuda holding the motto “Unity in Diversity” (old Javanese – Different but One). The five symbols in the shield are the Pancasila.

Now that we were all in Jakarta, we were ready to begin the final training for our field experiences at various schools across Indonesia. We spent the morning in a conference room at the Le Meridién Hotel learning about Indonesian customs and culture.

Dewi led our discussion. She began with a brief history of Indonesia, including the discoveries of Java Man, events leading up to Indonesian independence in 1945, and the governments of Sukarno and Soeharto. When the economy tanked in 1997, Soeharto was forced to step down and Indonesia has been a representative democracy ever since. She discussed the philosophy of Pancasila and the emblem of Indonesia, the Garuda bird with the shield divided into five sections representing the five principles of Pancasila: 1 – The Star, representing a unity of belief in one God (there are five recognized religions in Indonesia: Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Catholicism, and Protestant Christianity – of course, some of these five are polytheistic, such as Hinduism, so I’m not sure how the “one God” aspect works); 2 – The Gold Chain, representing a just and civilized humanity; 3 – The Banyan Tree, representing different roots growing into a common national unity; 4 – The Bull, representing a democracy based on the inherent wisdom of unanimity arising from deliberation among popular representatives; and 5 – The Rice and Cotton, representing social justice for all Indonesians.

We had a break with some tasty juices (pineapple and mango) and fried banana fritters and cookies.

Provinces-of-Indonesia-Map copy

The provinces (states) of Indonesia. They are divided into Regencies (counties) and Districts.

After the break, Dewi went on about some of the customs and the many diverse cultures around the islands. She is originally from western Sumatra but now teaches in Jambi, which is in eastern Sumatra. The major islands of Indonesia (Borneo, Java, and Sumatra) are called the Greater Sunda Islands and are large enough to have many cultures and dialects on the same island. Western Sumatra has unique food, architecture, and customs compared with eastern Sumatra or the more conservative Muslims of Aceh in northern Sumatra. Some ethnic groups or tribes live in the deep interior and have unique languages and customs.

A villager wearing traditional costume jumps over a stone

The tradition of jumping the stone on Nias Island. To prove one’s manhood, you get a running start and vault off of a foot stone and over the top. There is no soft bar that falls when you hit it. Just hard stone.

I checked out a video from our local library about traveling in Indonesia, which also covered some of these ethnic groups. One group on Nias Island off the west coast of Sumatra have a kind of high jump tradition to test one’s arriving at manhood – you get a running start, vault off of a standing stone, and must clear a hurdle about six feet high. Dewi and the video both spoke of other ethnic groups, such as the Toraja of Sulawesi who have houses shaped like the hulls of boats and don’t burry their dead for a year, the Betawi of Java with the traditional black “Soeharto” hat (I’ve got to get one of these) and who have the Ondel-ondel puppets, the saman dance of Aceh province, or the plate dance of West Sumatra, where they break the plates at the end and jump on them barefoot, the kecak dance of Bali, the wayang puppets of Yogyakarta, and other traditions.

There are perhaps 200 or more dialects throughout Indonesia, and Bahasa Indonesia has become the official language as a way of unifying all these cultures together. Most people speak and read it as well as their local dialect and some English or other international language. Teachers wear a khaki tan uniform on Mondays and Tuesdays, black pants and white shirts with ties on Wednesdays, local batik patterns on Thursdays, and more casual clothing on Fridays and Saturdays. School goes six days per week, although Saturdays are more for activities and clubs.

Dewi ended by talking about different Indonesian foods, such as beef rendang (a spicy beef dish from Sumatra), nasi goreng (fried rice), satay padang (rice cakes with sauce), soto (a noodle and rice stew), and bakso (meatball soup). She spoke of cendol, a drink made from sweet green beans and coconut, as well as other favorites. I expect to have the chance to try all of these over the next three weeks.

Beef rendang

Beef rendang, a spicy and savory dish from western Sumatra.

We would learn more particulars about the Indonesian education system tomorrow, but for now, our training was done for the day.

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