Exhausted after another long hub day at UMM, I reached into my pocket to open the text from my bapak reading, “today my grandmother is die”. I had known the nenek I lived with had been sick, but had no idea to what extent. When I asked where she was the day before, Maryam had made it sound as if it was the flu – in retrospect, she had been coughing and weezing ever since I had arrived. The next couple days were a little rough as I tried to grasp that she was actually gone; I’d never really known anyone who died before so it was a bit of a new experience for me – even more so as it took place in a foreign country and I didn’t know what was culturally appropriate.
I walked up the hill to my homestay that night to a cluster of over 200 people crowding the streets. Suntari saw me and invited me inside nenek’s side of the house where a group of men sat on the left side of the entryway; nenek’s body lay next to them covered by a sheet. For the next couple hours we sat and drank tea as the guests asked me about America and my purpose Indonesia. Through the window, I watched as the crowd continued to grow. Eventually, one of the men ushered me outside as Suntari and two others carried out the body. They rest her across their legs as hundreds gathered around them and a line of ibus came in with soapy rags to cleanse the body. The next day a prayer and procession was held early in the morning, at which Maryam fainted and was carried inside – her and Suntari had stayed up all night greeting the many visitors stopping in. For seven days, people milled in and out of our house, paying their respects, sharing a meal, and dropping off copious amounts of food to feed the hundreds of Indonesians gathering at our house each night that week to pray for Asminiyah.
No Time to Spare
Furthermore, as every week in PST is, this one was packed to the brim with activities. Finished with practicum, our full time language classes resumed; 6 hours a day with Guru Totok. With that, my running resumed as I didn’t have to be at class until 8am, compared to 6:30 from the weeks before. It was great to get some physical activity back into routine. I often catch myself amazed about halfway through my run that I am actually here and surrounded by so much beauty. On Tuesday; however, I skipped my run for an early departure to Surabaya. About twenty of us climbed on a bus to the city for Immigration. Just some finger prints and a couple of photos, the process was pretty fast and efficient; plus we got to spend the rest of the day visiting a botanical garden. Although quite serene and devoid of the usual trash and crowdedness that so often defines Indonesia, it turned out to be more of a forest with a few fields rather than what I would consider a botanical garden.
Afterwards we visited a peaceful warung my host family had taken me to the night before. Low-lying tables rest on platforms surrounding calm romantic ponds. After playing with the koi fish surrounding us, we enjoyed a delicious meal and briefly discussed our plans for the English camp we planned to host the coming weekend.
Wednesday was just business as usual, but Thursday about half the volunteers got together with several of the cultural facilitators and made a trip out to Kanjuruhan Stadium to see Arema (one of Indonsia’s professional soccer teams) play. As I’d never been to a professional soccer game before, I was pretty excited – although I’m pretty sure UCSB would have torn them apart. As we neared the stadium, traffic was stop and go, as pickup trucks and motor bikes packed full of face-painted men and boys waving flags in the air played loud music and shouted at the bus of bulehs passing by. We sprung for the VIP seats, Rp. 50,000 compared to the general admission for Rp. 10,000. However, the only difference was the awning above our heads. And as we arrived a bit late, most of us spent the game standing anyways.
The game was a little ridiculous with a score of 5 to 3 Arema, a couple near fights, and the usual rough housing of the ref, but more entertaining was the crowd – three hours of excited, screaming Indonesians pushing and shoving their way into seats which didn’t previously exist, blasting air horns, exploding fireworks, and a few clouds of blue smoke that seemed to engulf the crowd from time to time. On the other end of the spectrum, the ride home was less than exciting – 4 hours stuck in bumper to bumper traffic in an AC-less bus just isn’t my cup of tea.
The Week ended with our last day of language class on Friday. After lunch, we said our farewells to Guru Totok, presenting him a Machester United batik we had all chipped in for, followed by taking an unhealthy amount of corny group photos.
Although no memorable quotes come to mind this week, I’d still like to leave you with something special. After shopping in the pasar (market) for English camp prizes the other day, we stumbled across a bag full of toy dinosaurs. Having a couple extra, I’ve decided to take one on as my friend. Phillip is the dark one who stands on two legs; pay no attention to the other…find the beginning of his adventures in Indonesia below…
Great post and photos. So sad for your host family.
So very sorry about Asminiyah. Your description of the events is a tender tribute to her.