Today I was invited outside the city to lunch. We drove for about 30 minutes down several dirt roads. Surrounding us were plantations of various sorts.
Cassava plants shaded by palms.
We arrived at a house on stilts built above a narrow, spring-fed reservoir filled with fish. Three people were fishing.I
After fishing for a few minutes, lunch was served--rice, chicken, a spinach-like vegetable and fish of course. The food was called "yellow food" in Indonesian and was delicious.
The owner of the establishment had a son wanted to be a police officer and liked the USA so I made him an honorary Redhawks.
We said goodbyes and headed out. As we traveled back we stopped to speak with a farmer who showed us pepper up close.
The farmer was also tapping rubber trees for latex. I was thrilled because I explain this process every year to almost every cultures class.
After the tree is scored it will run for about six hours into a small cup. The latex is then collected in larger tubs where it slowly congealed and then hardens.
The farmer didn't lie. It smells awful!!
Of course after seeing all this in action, I asked to try it.
As I walked back to the car, the farmer was climbing a tall coconut tree. He descended with several coconuts--one for each member of our group. He swayed down and hacked the coconuts open with his machete. Suddenly there were straws and spoons as well.
Me with one of my hosts friends.
Because this farmer was clearly a quality producer in the community contributor he he became a Redhawks too.
I left with the same deep appreciation of Indonesian hospitality I have felt thought the trip and a deeper understanding of where things I use regularly in the US come from.
In Jakarta, fashion determines whether a person wears hijab at all and how often she does so. In Bangka, hijab is a sign of modesty and an indicator of religiosity.
The longer the hijab/jilbab, the greater emphasis a person places on modesty and religiosity. Thus to wear a hijab that does not cover the neck is at one side of the spectrum whereas a jilbab that descends past the knees is another side of the spectrum. Traditionally, many Muslim women in Indonesia did cover there hair but not with the hijab or jilbab.
A traditional head covering called "minang." Notice that it does not cover the neck.
Some authors have suggested that the popularity of hijab in Indonesia reflects political activism, increasing influence from Arab culture, increasing conservatism or any combination of these.1 http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/03/world/asia/03jilbab.htm When asked very few women agree that it is Arab influence or politics. Rather, wearing hijab as a variety of meanings depending on the person.
Here is one of the two interviews I completed at the Pluralusm conference I participated in.
I visited the largest Chinese cemetery in Southeast Asia today. In Chinese theology, a person has two souls. The yang soul resides with the living and dwells in the family home. The yin soul because it is seen as potentially dangerous and must be pacified and kept away from the family.
Once a year in Ching Ming Chinese people visit the grave site to clean it, make offerings and burn cardboard replicas if luxury items (cellphones, cars, money etc) to send it to the spirit world and pacify the spirits.
Remains of Ching Ming?
Chinese traditions see no inconsistency in observing more than one religion at a time. This is the Christian part of the cemetery.
I was hoping to see a burial but it was only workers completing a new plot.
So I walked into breakfast--a buffet with lots of rice, vegetables and hot soup. I sat down and began to eat as one of the hotel staff tended to the buffet by lighting a stereo votive.
I wasn't much alarmed when the stereo began to flare and sizzle nor was I alarmed when the hotel worker--a twenty-something girl went for a small rag to put out the growing flames. Then suddenly---fire (bars). The counter was on fire like cherry jubilee. The girl screamed as she ran into the next room. After briefly dismissing the idea of documenting the whole thing, I rushed in to assist.
I went to the nearest table cloth and began, went to the water cooler and waited what seemed like an eternity for the water to trickle out. I picked up the sopping table cloth, thre it over the chicken soup and moved the soup onto the floor. The floor promptly caught fire as well.
After beating the floor and soup owl, the fire was extinguished. The two workers looked at each other, covered their mouths and laughed.
With flames extinguished we visited a community mosqu constructed entirely with funding from the Bangkinese people and in an architectural style unique to Bangka. Curios about the azan (call to prayer) I asked if a muezzin (azan caller) climbes the minaret.
The imam said no but invited me to climb the minaret and observe the view, which I did.
Pancasila (literally“five principles) is the five principles upon which the Indonesian constitution is based (sort of like our Bill of Rights and a country mission combined). The first (and arguably most important) of these principles is monotheism. Indonesia is not an Islamic state but rather a religious state that accepts 5 (6 with the recent addition of Confucianism) monotheistic religions: Islam, Protestant Christianity, Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Confucianism. Belief in one of these religions is stated on one’s birth certificate and is a basic requirement. It is rare for some-one to publically state that he or she is an atheist because religion, especially Islam is so fun- damental to civic life. Though Jakarta is urban and thus more liberal, school still begins with and Islamic prayer and as previous posts have revealed, students engage in prayer (Salat) during the school day. Going to mosque (Masjid) is even a punishment among very progressive/liberal teachers. Despite the fact that prayer and Religion (primarily, though not exclusively Islam) is ubiquitous in schools and public life, religion doesn’t have the same role in society as it does in the United States. Religion in schools is not about personal transformation or personal connection with one’s god, it is a civic virtue. Religion helps build the whole person. It is called upon to develop a person’s character, not unlike physical education is used to inspire students to be concerned with exercise, health and wellness. In Indonesia, Islam functions almost like a “character counts” program. In fact, recent reforms in Indonesia have called for all subjects to include more religion in the curriculum. In other words, math should include Islamic story problems and Science should emphasize God’s glory evident in nature. Pancasila, is thus simultaneously about religion, character development and nationalism (patriotism).
Interestingly, any student of religion knows that Buddhism and Confucianism is not always monotheistic as God does not figure prominently in some forms of Buddhism. Hinduism too may be understood as monotheistic or polytheistic depending on perspective or person. So the question is, why are these religions identified as monotheistic? The answer to this puzzle is interesting. Basically, Buddhists and Confucians in Indonesia do not believe in monotheism—at least not in the same way that Muslims and Christians do. Today, I spoke with several Buddhists. After many questions, I learned that Buddhism in Indonesia is mix between Theravada and hayana Buddhism. (Theravada Buddhists believe that one as attain enlightenment by their own ower, Mahayana Buddhists believe that beings called Bodhisattvas can assist them. See article.) An individual can choose one or both depending on one’s needs. In different members of a family may choose different forms. I inquired about the concept of god in Buddhism and was first told, “yes, there is a god in Buddhism. This confused me, as Buddhist texts and teachers in the US always identify Buddhism as a philosophy lacking an all-encompassing deity. After asking about ten addtional questions, I learned that the concept of god is basically unknowable, and could be seen as equivalent to Nirvana (state of enlightenment). Furthermore, Buddhists don’t use the word god because doing so with negative thoughts results in negative karma. In short, there isn’t a god, in the all-powerful, creative sense that Jews, Christians, and Muslims believe in. So what gives? Why say you’re monotheistic, when you are a Confucian or Buddhist who doesn’t conceive of god in the same way? The answer has much more to do with politics, than it does with religion. In Indonesia, Buddhists are generally of Chinese origin. Because of their history as traders, they hold most of the private property and wealth in Indonesia. For this reason, they exercise a great deal of clout in the government. This clout is perhaps part of what yielded the inclusion of Buddhism and Confucianism into the national constitution and Pancasila. Basically, the wealth and power of the Chinese-Indonesians, resulted in the inclusion of Buddhism, and then later Confucianism. And because Buddhism, Confucianism, (and Hinduism) does not really see any inconsistencies in a more inclusive notion of god, Buddhists and Confucians have no problem conceiving god to be, in a sort of roundabout way, the same god as Muslims, and Christians. It is of course Muslims who comprise the majority of Indonesia. Thus, they too have considerable power in national matters. For this reason, non-Muslims are not allowed to hold civil service jobs.
Tonight I visited English classes at Tidar (community school). Students ranged in age from 17 to 28. Many were studying in hopes of going abroad. Others wanted to expand their knowledge of the world through English. And some wanted simply to improve themselves.
They loved the NCHS yearbook and the senior slideshow. I was asked many questions about the US ranging from why each school had a special animal (e.g. Redhawk) to what they could do to push their government and citizens to become more environmentally responsible.
They also asked if everyone in America was tall and beautiful.
And finally, for all of you 2013 grads, here are a group of Indonesian Twenty-something's enjoying the senior slideshow. : )
Lots more to tell in upcoming posts. I climbed a minaret and put out a fire all in one day...
Today we spent time visiting a public school in Bangka today. Students and staff were extremely kind and friendly.
Teachers (known as "gurus")
(Above) 9th and 10th graders sing Christina Perry.
(Above) In Indonesia students greet and say goodbye to teachers by touching their foreheads or cheeks to teachers hands. Sometimes they prefer the cheek to avoid getting sweat on the teacher. This clip is of poor quality. I'm saying "thank you in Bahasa Indonesian (language).
One of the most visible and politically controversial aspects of Islam is the wearing of the veil. The veil comes in a variety of forms and styles, but is typically known as Hijab when it covers the primarily only the hair and Jilbab when it descends further near the waist. The general, though not universally-held belief among many Muslims is that Hijab is fard (“FURD”) or required of all women starting a puberty. Depending on one’s culture, one’s family, one’s choice, or occasionally law, this may mean different styles of Hijab such as Burka or Niqab (loose full body coverings with either slits for the eyes or a screen over the eyes), chador, and several others. Muslims universally agree that the Qur'an commands modesty, but disagree on what exactly modesty means. Some suggest that modesty means simply dressing conservatively, many others suggest that modesty means covering one's hair, and still others suggest that modesty means covering everthing except one's hands, one's face and one's feet. One could continue this spectrum of modesty until one arrives at Birka or Niqab.
The "burkini", swimwear for women, or in this case girls and women.
In the United States, women and girls (at least those I have spoken to) have considerable freedom with respect to the hijab. Though all women must wear hijab at masjid (or mosque), many do not wear hijab at any other time. Others, because of personal choice or sometimes family insistence do wear the hijab whenever they are in the presence of males who are not specific relatives (i.e. see quote at the end of the post--fathers, husbands, sons etc.).
A public Islamic K-8 school in Jakarta.
Indonesia has a population of 250 million of which 87% are Muslim. Though not an Islamic state (it is a religious state recognizing six monotheistic religions, Hinduism, Buddhism, Protestant Christianity, Catholicism, Confucianism and Islam), many women wear the hijab. Scholarship on the subject generally falls into two camps: one camp suggesting the Hijab is the result of a relatively recent Arab influence and another which suggests that Islam in Indonesia is hybrid that combines indigenous traditions with Islam. As a guy who is willing to ask a lot of question, I found a diverse set of beliefs and practices surrounding the hijab. First, unlike I have found in the United States, some girls (primarily those in their teens and early twenties) wear hijab almost as a one would wear a scarf or pair of shoes. When hijab matches one’s outfit, or one’s whim, it is worn. When it doesn’t, girls feel free to not wear hijab. For this reason, there are many many different colors and styles of hijab. Styles seem to cater to age but fashion seems to be a high priority. This view of wearing the hijab was reported primarily in Jakarta, Indonesia’s largest and most progressive cities. Where this view of hijab was reported, women tend to younger and their mothers and grandmothers did not wear the hijab, though this is not always the case. A smaller number of women reported that hijab is fard and that it they wear hijab at all times it is required and that once they began wearing it,they continued to wear it. Women who held this view almost always had mothers who wore the hijab and tend to view the wearing of hijab as a religious obligation.
Overall, roughly 50% of girls I have observed in various Indonesian contexts wear hijab. So far, I have observed six schools. These schools have included two public Islamic schools (there are also private Islamic schools) and four public schools. Both had about half of the population that wore hijab. A larger percentage of teachers wear hijab, though they too do not universally wear it. In general, hijab is widely viewed as choice, and only on one occasion have I encountered the view that all women should be wearing hijab. For the most part, the wearing of the hijab all of the time, some of the time, or never is a personal choice that most people care little about. I suppose, the view of hijab, is not unlike shorts for boys at NCHS—some wear them every day, some never, some when they feel like it. Fashion and comfort is the driving concern.
Quotes from the Qur'an regarding Hijab:
“And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what must ordinarily appear therof; that they should draw their veils over their bosoms and not display their beauty except to their husbands, their fathers, their husbands' fathers, their sons, their husbands' sons, their brothers, or their brothers' sons or their sisters' sons, or their women or the servants whom their right hands possess, or male servants free of physical needs, or small children who have no sense of the shame of sex, and that they should not strike their feet in order to draw attention to their hidden ornaments. And O you Believers, turn you all together towards Allah, that you may attain Bliss.” (Quran 24:31).
O Prophet, tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers to draw their cloaks close round them (when they go abroad). That will be better, so that they may be recognised and not annoyed. Allah is ever Forgiving, Merciful.” (Quran 33:5)