Well it’s been a few weeks since my last post so let me briefly fill you in on what I’ve been up to. Last time we spoke, I told you all that school is back in session. However, with the onset of Ramadan and my school still under construction, one will rarely find me in a classroom. However, that doesn’t mean the school isn’t busy. I wake up most days around 6am and depart for school around 7. While my work days may be spent in the office reading my kindle and chatting with fellow teachers, the students and staff continue to put their school together. Although the classrooms may be near to finished, there are still many more bricks to be laid and ditches to be dug. Everyone does their part in the construction – students, teachers, and hired help alike.
Although school may be a bit lacking in excitement, I’ve still been able to keep myself more or less entertained here in the Tengger, with Kasada and Indonesian Independence Day making August a busy month. Once a year, thousands make their way to the Tengger to take part in the Kasada festival held at Mt. Bromo. From my understanding, it is believed that there was once a King and Queen in Indonesia who were unable to produce a child. Distraught with the fact that they were not to have an heir, they went to the god of
Bromo. The god promised to help the King and Queen under the condition that they would sacrifice their last child to the volcano. The King and Queen agreed and were blessed with 25 children, but when the time came for the sacrifice, they refused. However, after the god threatened an eruption, the child sacrificed himself. Now, every year during Kasada, people of the Tengger return to Bromo with sacrifices of food, flowers, and coin in order to appease the god and ward off another eruption.
My experience with Kasada began on a Friday night about two weeks ago around 11pm with Dedik telling me to wake up and come eat. Not really hungry, and slightly confused, I went upstairs and took down a few spoon-fulls of cold rice before being ushered into a jeep with my family. Our first stop was a nearby village, just about a mile away, which was hosting a dangdut concert (Indonesian music) for the festivities. We only hung around a bit, as I’m not particularly fond of dangdut, before we hopped back in the jeep and continued on our way to Bromo. We pulled over about four or five time in route so bapak could drop off offerings at the various shrines found on the side of the road.
We then made our way down through the desert surrounding Bromo (known as the sea of sand) and parked our jeep out by the Hindu temple, Pura Luhur Poten. The land surrounding Bromo has a much different feel to it at night compared to the day, especially engulfed in its heavy clouds of fog. Moreover, during Kasada, an endless sea of tents, stalls, and campfires seem to spring up, surrounding the temple, and transforming it into a small village of its own.
Our first stop was the temple. It had been closed during both of my prior visits, so it was nice to get a look inside this time. After my family took time to pray and a brief walk around, drums began to beat and a procession led by five children wielding torches torches took its exit of the temple and began the climb up Bromo. In the center of the procession walked four men carrying a pyramid of fruit above their heads. Although the ascent up Bromo is not one I consider overly difficult, I was happy not to be one of those four heaving a five foot tower of bananas, oranges, and apples to the crater.
Once at the top, hundreds of people struggled to find their place along the rim of the volcano for a view of this vitamin-packed offering. It’s a wonder no one fell in, especially those camped inside the crater itself, swinging fishing nets in attempts to catch the many gifts flung into Bromo throughout the night. After two climbs up and down Bromo that night and a couple hours of hitch hiking, I found myself thoroughly exhausted upon return to my bed at 4am. Next year I think I’ll spend the day before sleeping.