Sunday, November 29, 2009

Thanksgiving and Idul Adha

first off SORRY it has been forever. a lot has been going on this month, mostly just school. almost everyday after it ends me and my friends go and buy food from the street vendors or take angkot to a nearby mall to walk around or maybe see a movie. its really great. my bahasa has improved SO MUCH. i still can't say a lot, but i understand almost everything. so now when i'm with people we talk a mix, bahasa every word i can but when i get stuck i say it in english and they teach me the right word. everyday i learn more, even though i usually forget about half of it by the next day.

thanksgiving was amazing. i was pretty homesick, just thinking about family all day and about the traditions we have that i never thought twice about. the us embassy arranged for all of the YES kids to be carted off to the houses of embassy workers to have a thanksgiving feast. i took a taxi to meet the father of my dinner family at a hotel in central jakarta. it was a bit awkward at first, we didn't really know what to say to each other, but it got better. the family was really nice. i think both the parents were korean-american, and they had one son who stayed pretty quiet the whole time. it was hard to have much of a conversation since we were all stuffing our faces with delicious delicious food. needless to say i ate like an animal. i can't begin to express how grateful i am to this family for opening their home to me. normally on thanksgiving, all i think of is seeing my cousins and eating more than is humanly healthy. but this year (this is really cliche..) i really felt so thankful. for everything. to be in indonesia this year. that i got the YES scholarship in the first place. to everyone in indonesia who has helped me so much so far. thankful for family, for the bottomless support and love they always give. never in my life have i thought this much about being grateful. i never really had to. it was all right there, and i never even really thought about it that much. but here, so removed from it all, and it really hit me how many wonderful and incredible things and people i have in my life. all night there was nonstop praying sounding from the mosques, because idul adha was the next day.

we had to get up early on friday to go to my host-grandma's house. when everyone got there we spread some carpets out on the floor and all sat and listened to a man lead prayers. it was so cool. i love the way arabic sounds. after the prayer there was a sort of train where everyone went around and kissed everyone else's hands to show forgiveness. when you got to the end of the train you'd sit by the last person and everyone else who came through would kiss your hand and join the line. then we feasted. instead of regular rice we had ketupat, which is a kind of sticky rice that's cooked in little cones wrapped in a pouch of woven palm leaves and boiled. to go over this there was some really good curry like soup with pumpkin. after a while there we left to the other grandma's house for a little while and chatted, then it was back to the house for a little while. after maybe an hour, we left again with a bunch of cousins and went to a bazaar. we shopped for a few hours, ate, and shopped some more. after a while we split up and i went with diandra and her group to blok m to buy cheap pirated dvds, among other things. these ones were cheaper than the ones i got in yogya, i think they were 6o or 70 cents. i love it. after we got dvds we walked around looking at all the pirated, cheap, and knockoff things. i saw an ipod mini for sale. sometime around 6 we drove to another mall and saw a man walking around in a a bright pink suit shirt, bright pink shorts, a long bright pink coat, bright pink cowboy boots, and a brown cowboy hat. it was the funniest thing i have ever seen. i was desperate to take a picture of him but there was no way i could sneak one without being totally rude. then dennie and dewi came and took us to yet another mall, where we met up with some family and ate chinese food. in this mall there was a huge christmas display with spongebob and patrick and the pineapple house and we all got pictures taken by it. they were playing lots of christmas music and it made me kind of homesick and sad. this christmas is going to definitely be one i never forget. i can't imagine christmas without snow. ahh its weird to think about! after a long day of nonstop shopping, we came home and i slept like a rock.

i had to get up early for school on saturday. lucky me. for some reason all of the desks had been taken out of our classroom, so we sat on the floor and talked until it was time to go do the morning run. i think they shortened it today, because it went by a lot faster than it normally does. so we were sitting back in the classroom lounging on the floor and my friends, who were out in the hall, got really excited and called me out to them. they had just killed one of the 4 adorable saggy cows that i walked past not too long ago. let me back up. idul adha is a holiday where goats and cows are sacrificed to symbolize abraham being willing to sacrifice his own son but instead killing a goat when god's angel stopped him. the animals are killed halal, similar to jewish kosher for those of you who know it, its just meant to be more humane. after they are killed, the animals are cut up and the meat is donated to the poor, who have no meat. i think just about every school had this happen on saturday. well i was in total shock. i told my friends i didn't want to watch but at the same time, i couldn't look away. luckily more people started to gather and my friend lady was standing just enough in front of me that i couldn't see the first awful moment when the cow's throat was cut. basically this is how it went: our religion teacher was singing prayers into a microphone. some men, who i guess came with the cows, would take the cow and somehow harness it with a rope and at the right moment cut the throat. it was so terrible, sometimes the cows would struggle and try to get away so one of the men would go grab its tail and the kids standing on the basketball court were laughing. the cut never fully killed the cow. it would lay there, in what i'm sure was unimaginable pain, almost but not quite decapitated (sorry this gets pretty graphic) just waiting for it all to end. they'd blink and kick their legs. blood was everywhere. after the poor animal finally died, one man would grab its head and another would grab its tail and they'd drag it off, leaving a nice trail of blood, to go finish decapitating it. then they'd spray the blood away and it would be the next cow's turn. they were scared. you could tell they knew what was happening and they were scared. i know this is so much more humane than a slaughterhouse but frankly, there is no humane way to kill something. nothing about the act of killing, no matter the creature, is humane. while it was horrifying and sad, i'm glad i watched. i learned A LOT. my views of meat have forever changed. never again will i look at it the same way, now that i've seen what its really like. the cows i watched were lucky in the sense that it was lightyears better than a slaughterhouse death and they were actually fully dead before all the cutting began. but i watched a cow die. i watched its last minutes, saw the life fade from its big eyes. you can't come back from that. after the executions we went back to class like nothing happened while outside the students in osis, kind of like rotc, helped skin and cut up the cows. so glad i'm not in osis. i'm sorry. this is an extremely opinionated story. maybe if i wasn't already vegetarian, i would have seen it all differently. and i know its religious. its just...shocking. suddenly all the cows and goats that have been lining the streets for weeks are gone, and i know just where they went. but it was a really cool experience, and like just about everything else here, i will never ever forget it. i will also most likely never ever eat beef again.

so that was the holidays for now. i'm really curious to see what christmas is going to be like. i still love it here. its full into the rainy season now, which is so beautiful. almost everyday it rains. and when i say rains, i mean full out storms. usually its so hard the things in the distance are faded and blurred, i think of it as indonesia's version of a blizzard. and there's always thunder that sounds like a gunshot and lightning that, at night time, makes the entire sky light up. i love it. rain is already magical, but this is the most magical rain i have ever seen. overall things are great. again i'm so sorry for the huge gap in posts. this month i will try to post once every week or two. i really wish my friends and family could be here and see what i'm seeing. indonesia is such an amazing country. i can't imagine spending this crazy year anywhere else in the world. i love it with my entire soul.


Harper said...

the poor cowsy!
fern this post is amazing! why is everyone in our family good at writing except me????
i miss you and love you so!!
<3 <3 sage

McCaye said...


I really love these rituals of forgiveness you have participated in at the end of Ramadan and again now.

I'm really shocked by the account of the slaughter of the cows!! At lunch Dave and I went to EHS to meet with Chiara's counselor. We were trying to imagine the students all standing outside to watch a ritual slaughterer killing cows as the ROTC kids helped with the butchering nearby. Needless to say, we couldn't! But everyone is eating beef, so what difference does it make? The slaughter of animals is hidden here, that's all.

Thanks for the description of the rain storms as Indonesian blizzards.

Keep the great observations coming!

lieb dich lieb dich!!


McCaye said...

Hey, I can't even imagine what the sound of nonstop praying from the mosques would be like all night long. It must be completely amazing.

Did anyone explain to you how the care of the poor is linked up with the (near) sacrifice of Ishmael? Do all holidays include donating food to the poor? Just wondering.

I like the sound of the Rahmonto grandmas.

love you,


Anonymous said...

christmas means carnage!!!!!
(hahaha i saw that one of the labels was i just had to say that)

and i'd like to tell you that you are an amazing writer. flan you are so inspiring!! you are experiencing the world in such a beautiful way and that makes you so beautiful to me (even more than you already are). thank you for letting me have an insight into your amazing journey in such a small way. i can picture it all in my mind, it's just lovely.

keep livin.
keep lovin.
keep laughin.

i love you more than i could ever perfectly express.


sarah louise said...


This latest entry is so poignant, full of emotion and rich imagery. It was well worth the wait!

Your "voice" causes me envision you as an NPR correspondent or U.N. ambassador. Also, a pixie.

I agree that snowy holidays with your family in UT are the epitome of contentment-- but how wonderful to be across the planet experiencing both memories of home and the warmth of another culture.

These are experiences that will always be with you, even if you choose to spend next Christmas somewhere as remote as the Pineapple House under the sea.