Sunday, October 19, 2008

Islamic Javanese Wedding

Last night we went to an Islamic Javanese wedding. Islamic weddings are often multi-stage events with the official ceremony involving only the immediate family, and a reception occurring later, sometimes months later. For example, recently I went to a reception for the marriages of two brothers, both of whom had been married months earlier. This reception was very elaborate involving almost a thousand guests and involved a long greeting line with dozens of tables filled with food at the end. However, the event is only one of congratulating the married couple and then eating.

The event Lori and I went to last night was a much simpler event. As is customary, the wedding took place at the house of the bride. The road was blocked off to traffic and a sitting area was set up on the street under a canopy. The marriage ceremony took place in a small room in the house with only the couple, a few family members, and the Muslim official. The ceremony involved readings from the Quran and a prayer in Arabic, even though I am pretty sure neither the couple nor the family members understand Arabic. And then there was, of course, the paper work required by the state. It was a very simple ceremony, which I understand is the norm for Islamic weddings.

While the ceremony was simple, the bride and groom were in elaborate traditional Javanese dress. (See pictures) Both bride and groom had makeup on that lightened their complexion, making them whiter than normal. As I understand it, the desire to appear whiter is related to the association of physical labour with tanned skin. To have lighter skin is a sign of belonging to a higher economic class that does not have to engage in physical labour for a livelihood. A similar sign is men having long fingernails, usually only the thumb or pinkie.

After the wedding ceremony came the reception. The food was traditional Javanese food with rice, spicy vegetables and meat with peanut sauce. What was interesting was that on the tables were we sat were cups holding cigarettes. Many men smoke in Indonesia but I have never seen cigarettes distributed like this. All cigarette advertising in Indonesia comes with large warnings that are very explicit, but cigarettes are very cheap and boys start smoking when they are young. I haven't seen women smoking but I find it hard to believe that it doesn't happen. There might be some sort of social stigma attached to women smoking in public. Anyways, the men were helping themselves to the cigarettes but they didn't smoke around the table, which we greatly appreciated.

We had a good time visiting with friends and eating delicious food.


Saturday, October 18, 2008

Beginning of Rainy Season

Rainy season began last week. About two weeks ago the weather in Jogja became much more uncomfortable. I am not sure if the temperature is much higher, perhaps a few degrees, and certainly the humidity jumped to around 70%, but I think the main difference was the wind. During the dry season there was a constant breeze in the city, and in our house, we didn't really need fans since there was good air movement. However, about the beginning of October, this changed so that we have all our fans on all the time.

When it rains, it tends to cool down a bit, but we haven't yet reached the point in the rainy season when it rains every day. This means that for the last two weeks, it has been hot, humid and sticky. Of course, it is going to be hot, humid and sticky for the next six months or so, but as with the cold of winter in Canada, it takes a few weeks to adjust.

Indonesians usually bathe twice a day, once in the morning and once late in the afternoon. The lady who helps us with the children isn't particularly impressed by the fact that we don't bathe the children similarly so she has taken it upon herself to do it. It seems to me that Sara and Raina spend a lot of time taking baths. However, with the onset of rainy season, the rest of the family is slowly adopting the habit of bathing before supper.

One of the benefits that comes with the beginning of the rainy season is cleaner air. I have been struggling with a sore throat over the last month or so which I believe is the result of dust and pollution. My 30 minute walk to work is mostly along congested roads so it isn't all that surprising that I am having some sort of respiratory issues. Lori and the kids don't seem to be affected. The rain helps keep the dust and pollution down.

Another benefit that comes with the rainy season is everything turns green. It is not that vegetation browns like we experienced in Nigeria, but the greening is noticeable. Curiously, there isn't much colour. Javanese love elaborate gardens and plants, but most of these plants don't flower. There are plants here that have bright colours and one can't walk around without seeing many different varieties of orchids. However, the vast majority of plants cultivated around homes are broad leaf plants that don't flower. And these plants are almost always potted. I haven't figured that one out yet.

Mostly, though, I am looking forward to the rainy season for the great thunderstorms. In the middle of the season, we get two or three thunderstorms a week and there is nothing as soothing as rain pounding on the roof and some good thunder and lightning.


Thursday, October 2, 2008

Bali Holiday

We have just returned from Bali. We had a great time, dividing our stay in two different hotels. Our first hotel was more contemporary with a largely European clientele, mostly Germans, Dutch and French. The hotel was by the beach so we could hear the surf from our room. Unfortunately the surf was too dangerous for swimming so we played in the sand. The pool was nice and the girls had a great time there. The downside of the hotel was its isolation so that we couldn't really walk anywhere. Our stay in Bali coincided with that of another family from Jogja we have gotten to know through the girl's school. We had a very nice meal with them at an Italian restaurant on the beach, watching the sunset.

The second hotel was in Sanur. This hotel was a bit more down-scale and traditional, but we liked it as well. The clientele here was largely Australian. Unfortunately it was a 10 minute walk to the beach, but the beach was better for the kids. I am finding that Sanur is my favourite part of Bali. The beach isn't nearly as busy as other parts and it isn't as developed. The beach has a very nice 'boardwalk' that must be several kilometers long. Also, the main street is a nice walk with a mix of restaurants, tourist shops and art stores.

We returned home at the end of Idul Fitri so last night was a bit noisy. Indonesians like to celebrate the holiday with fireworks even though they are illegal. Someone in our neighbourhood was shooting them off late into the night, making it hard to get to sleep. Apparently the night before was even more noisy so I am glad we missed that.

On the other hand, our house has its share of bumps in the night. In our yard, we have a mango tree. This tree isn't nearly as big as the ones we had in Africa, but it is big enough so that it overhangs our house. This means that some mangoes will fall on our roof, making quite a noise. I suppose the mangoes fall all through the day but it seems that the big, heavy ones fall only in the evening as the kids are going to sleep.