Tag Archives: traditions

Snapshots from THE Indonesian Wedding (part one)

13 May

The bride and groomAs I approach the finish line of my service, it was fitting that this weekend was spent basked in celebration with my host family and community members for my host sister’s wedding party. Weddings are typically a business matter for my host family rather than a personal matter.  My host mother is a stylist and my host brother-in-law is a wedding decorator and coordinator. They work together and partner up with local caterers and photographers to meet the matrimonial and celebrational needs in the community. I’ve been to quite a few weddings and have even posted about it before. Though, this was a different ordeal because it was personal.

All the stops were pulled out to make it a memorable event. It started with the wedding ceremony back in March, known as Ijab, which this post focuses on. My next post will include the photos from the wedding reception held this weekend.  I’ve written a little bit about the ceremony in between photos, and as usual you can also mouse over the photos for captions. To learn more about Muslim wedding practices you can look here. Though, from my experience, the many Islamic practices carried out here seems to always be masterfully blended with the long-running traditional Javanese/Madurese/Indonesian culture to form a completely unique to Java practice.

Our front yard was transformed overnight into a wedding hall with tents, tarps, carpets and draped cloth. A band comprising of mostly percussion instruments is ready to get it started. The crew, composed of neighbors who’ve been working around the clock, takes a quick break before guests arrive.

When guests do arrive, as is custom the men and women occupy different areas. The men sit outside under the tent. The women sit inside lining the walls of the room. Celebratory flowers, cakes and gifts sprawl across the floor.

The bride and groom take their positions beside each other with the bride’s veil draped over both of them. Both the bride and groom are adorned in jasmine which smells incredible. They wear a splendid mash-up of Javanese, Muslim and modern formal attire.

After the vows and signing the documents, the groom gives the bride a ring and gifts. From what I understand of how my family practices there was no dowry or bride price. Yet the gifts to the bride may have been a modern interpretation or custom along those lines. The gifts included practical items like nice toiletries, new undergarments (Oh la la!) as well as jewelry and they were given from the groom and his family to the bride. Afterwards the newlywed couple goes around and individually greets everyone of their respective sex.

Following that everyone prays for the success, health and happiness of the new couple.

No Indonesian occasion would be complete without eating together.

And per custom, once everyone eats, they grab their snack boxes and head out.

Once most of the guests have left the photo shoot begins. Shortly thereafter everyone changes back into their house clothes and gets right back to work taking down decorations and cleaning up.

Snapshots from Idul Adha (Hari Qurban)

27 Oct


became this…

within a matter of hours earlier today.

Yesterday was Idul Adha or Hari Qurban. Though yesterday was pretty uneventful with only a prayer session. The real event was today…

Quick facts a la Wikipedia:

Screenshot of quick facts on Idul Adha from Wikipedia.org.

This is my second year experiencing Idul Adha. I wrote about my first experience in this blog post from last year. I went easy on the graphic photos then. However, this year I find myself not only more desensitized, but also left with the feeling that you come here to see something different right? To see a glimpse of life in a different part of the world. Well, this is it. So here we go! (Mouse over for captions. Also I promise it’s not that bad. I’d like to think I was tasteful in shooting and choosing images.)


A few differences between this year and last year:

  • Last year I didn’t actually see the cows get killed. However, between then and now I had witnessed a goat get killed for a celebration my host family held back in March. Like I said, I felt more desensitized having seen it before. I think last year it would have been much more difficult to watch.
  • Last year the whole thing had me feeling rather somber. So it was hard to make sense of everyone else’s nonchalant and merry attitude. This year I understood and accepted it more. These things didn’t bother me as much. Perhaps a sign of how I’ve adapted?
  • Continuing on that note, I thought there was a certain peacefulness and respect in the way they killed the cow. Specifically I saw some students stroking the cow’s face to calm it as it was being tied up. I also liked how they said a prayer before, and while  the religion teacher cut its throat he covered it with a banana leaf, making the whole thing much less gory.
  • This year I actually ate some of the meat. It’s difficult to get over the images of a cow’s windpipe sticking out from its neck, the sound of pouring blood filling a ditch and not to mention the smell of it all. But after the fact I was able to shake it off, teach a class and meet with my co-teachers. Meanwhile back in the school kitchen staff and students were cookin’ up Nasi Rawon, a beef and rice stew. Enticed by the fact that this may be the freshest beef I ever have the opportunity to eat, I tried it. Always try something once right?

Nyepi — experiencing the Hindu New Year

11 Apr

Here’s what you need to know about Nyepi:

  • It’s the Hindu New Year.
  • The word Nyepi is derived from the word meaning “quiet” —makes sense considering the day is supposed to be spent in silence and introspection.
  • Going along with that, everything else on the island stops for 24 hours beginning at 6 a.m. The lights go off; people don’t speak, eat, drink or do a whole lot of anything. Even the airport shuts down, and if you are visiting Bali you aren’t permitted to leave hotel grounds. The only exception for activity on the island is reserved for emergency purposes. Though provided no one is doing anything, it would seem the risk for injury and illness is minimal.  There are even “religious police” that patrol the streets to enforce this. (Though it was tempting I didn’t test it.) The purpose of all this is two-fold:
    • It is meant to be cleansing for the body and mind, so you can start off the New Year right: fresh.
    • The second part has to do with the days preceding it. The Balinese Hindu create giant effigies, known as ogoh-ogoh, from wire, wood and foam. The day before Nyepi they carry these creations through town to scare evil spirits off the island.  They believe that once the evil spirits are scared away, they will return. When they come back, the island appears vacant because of the lack of activity and the evil spirits aren’t apparently interested in terrorizing a vacant island. So they go away leaving the island in peace and harmony once more.
  • Hence if you are going to visit Bali for Nyepi the real excitement is in the day before. The parades in Ubud were quite impressive but I hear Denpasar, the capitol, is where the biggest festivities are held.
  • That being said, the day off is a great time to take it easy and well, introspect.

So with all this in mind Continue reading

Happy Idul Fitri and a shoutout to family

31 Aug

Today was Idul Fitri. Hoorah! Or rather “Selamat Idul Fitri! Mohon maaf lahir dan batin.” Which translates into something like “Happy Idul Fitri, please forgive me [for any times I have wronged you] from my body and heart.” Today was all about family and celebrating a fresh start. It is, from what I understand, the largest holiday here in Indonesia and officially concludes Ramadan aaaannnd… August. Boy howdy!

Not surprisingly, it started off early and with a bang.  I can’t pinpoint the exact time I reached consciousness, but it must have been between 4:30 a.m. and 5 a.m-ish. The fire crackers were already beginning to pop outside, and they wouldn’t cease for the rest of the day. (Sounds like an opening line to a book, no?)

I don’t think I mentioned this before but all throughout Ramadan people have been getting into the spirit by blasting firecrackers…every night.  I quickly concluded it wasn’t the sound of gunshots, but it did take me several days to realize that it also wasn’t an unprecendented rise in motorcycle backfire incidents. Well today the firecrackers where sprinkled throughout the day rather than sequestered to night alone.

I got ready and accompanied my host mother and host sister to the mosque. I rocked a jilbab for the first time out of respect for the occasion and going to the mosque.

At the mosque the entire community gathered.  They prayed. Someone spoke about being a good person, helping the poor and all that jazz. Meanwhile, some found it was still necessary for firecrackers to intermittently be set off.  The service ended. More firecrackers. Firecrackers.

Once we returned home, my family exchanged embraces and asked each other forgiveness. It got a little bit emotional up in here, which caught me off guard. I wasn’t sure where things were headed from there. So, naturally, I went into my clueless state where I just kind of stand around awkwardly wondering how I should act or what I should do while everyone else goes about their business and until I can figure out what’s going on. A series of tamu, or visitors, began showing up. They would enter, my host family would greet them and encourage them to sit down and eat. They would ask forgiveness, chat for a few moments, and then the family clans would be on their way to the next shindig.  It was like the framework for speed dating applied to the holidays.

After several rotations of visitors, we hit the road and were off to visit grandmother’s house. When we arrived, she wasn’t there. I thought this to be peculiar, shouldn’t she be expecting us? So we headed over to an uncle’s house where we spent a good portion of the day, and wouldn’t you know it? We found grandma there too.

After we got home, around 6 p.m., I was ready to call it a day when more tamu, showed up. The rest of the evening played out similarly to the activities of earlier that day.

What sort of baffled me about the whole thing was there seemed to be no method to how you visited people or how you avoided missing people who came to visit.  When family comes to visit like this, esspecailly from farther away towns, this is called mudik. Apparently it will continue to take place over the next few days as the leberan holiday continues creating a spike in movement and travel around Indonesia. My host father says this one time a year is likely the only time you’ll see family from far away. So I can’t, then, understand how people just kind of drop by and if you’re there, you’re there and if you’re not, you’ll just have to wait to see the family til next year.

Regardless of the odd way things played out, the general mood very much so reminded me of holidays back home. Particularly Easter and Christmas. As awesome as my host family and their extended family is,  it was hard for me to not wish that I was with my family and hanging out with my cousins and aunts and uncles instead. It was hard being in a familiar situation, but without the familiar faces. So a shoutout to the family. I love and miss you!

Tamale time

29 Nov

Continue reading