Little Things Part 2
on Solo Diaries (Indonesia), 18/May/2009 11:13, 34 days ago
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Normal0falsefalsefalseEN-USX-NONEX-NONEMicrosoftInternetExplorer4st1\:*{behavior:url(#ieooui) }/* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-priority:99; mso-style-qformat:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:11.0pt; font-family:"Calibri","sans-serif"; mso-ascii-font-family:Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-fareast-theme-font:minor-fareast; mso-hansi-font-family:Calibri; mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-bidi-theme-font:minor-bidi;}In my ongoing effort to enlighten people from home on the many quirks of life inIndonesia, here is part two in my series,“Little Things.”Car-washing– for the privileged few who own cars (as I’ve mentioned, they are outnumbered by motorcycles by a 100-to-1 ratio) washing them appears to be the most symbolic activity one can do to show pride and status.In my kost (which is what my‘apartment’ complex is called) there are 2 car owners; one car is a Nissan, the other is a Mercedes.I am not exaggerating when I say these owners wash their cars– thoroughly –every single day.Did I mention that the cars are usually washed at 6am, and the activity is what wakes me up every morning?Because the courtyard in my kost is covered by a plastic shelter, every single sound is amplified to the nth degree, and splashing water sounds likeNiagara Falls.When these men wash their cars, their facial expressions indicate that they believe they are carrying out brain surgery or some other equally crucial endeavour, and you had better take note of how important they are.To their credit, these cars usually look pretty good, despite the fact that the Mercedes driver appears to be the worst inAsia(a difficult feat to be sure) as his front bumper has been missing on more than one occasion.For the record, motorcycle-washing appears to be not quite as obsessive, but still quite common.Eventually, perhaps when I have conducted more research, I will tackle the subject of‘road-washing’ – similar to the Italian-Canadian tradition of ‘driveway-washing’ yet even less environmentally responsible.Prayer– Living inCanada, which Homer Simpson good-naturedly refers to as‘America Junior,’ I have a certain amount of apprehension towards Islam, given the rhetoric and propaganda we are fed so regularly by theUSmedia.My ignorance leads me to try to understand this religion a little more.In the Muslim faith, one is required to pray to Mecca 5 times per day, at set times, the first at 5am, and the last just before sunset.At InterAksi, the staff performs this task in a room just off the main office (which is at such an angle that I can watch them conduct their prayers through the door, though I admit it feels like I am spying on something personal).They lay down a little carpet, and perform a series of activities– at times standing, kneeling, sitting, and bowing – that appear to have some set order.They don’t speak, so I am led to believe that prayer is a silent activity, despite the fact that elaborate singing is broadcast (at typical eardrum-splitting Indonesian volume levels) from every mosque in the city at each prayer time.The men simply pray whereas the women are compelled to don a white robe (is it called a burka?) which leaves only their faces uncovered.Friday prayers are the most important, and the world shuts down for them to occur; businesses close, traffic literally disappears, and mosques fill with men– women are not allowed.I have occasionally felt brave enough to ask questions about Islam and about prayers, but because of the language barrier, I am yet to understand the real essence of Islam.So far the gist of what I have gotten is that the prayers are arranged to accommodate an elaborate car-washing schedule.Rice–Indonesiais not the place to be if you don’t like rice.To Indonesians it is such an important staple that they feel a meal, no matter how large, is only a snack if it doesn’t contain rice.This is part of Suharto’s legacy, in that he felt every man, woman, and child needed rice and it was a symbol of the Indonesian state’s ability to provide for its people.A campaign was launched to educate Indonesians about the value of white rice, and that if they were eating it regularly, their needs were being met.So, in a misguided attempt to give sustenance, thousands upon thousands of acres of land were turned into rice fields, despite the fact that much of the agricultural land had originally been dedicated to much more nutritious crops like soybean.Unfortunately, despite the fact that much of the protein in the Indonesian diet comes from tofu&tempe, which are soybean-based, 95% of the soybeans consumed here are imported– from theUnited States!The opinion is that the whitest rice is the best, and people will actually climb up on displays of bags of rice to look through them, tossing bags aside at random, until they find the‘whitest’ bag in the pile.Imagine their chagrin when I sheepishly say I try to avoid white rice as there is diabetes in my family and I have to watch my starch intake.Peoples’ facial expressions indicate to me that they think I am even more insane than when I try to refuse plastic bags in stores.Ants-- we Canadians are no stranger to these industrious insects. We should consider ourselves lucky, however, that we have Winter, in that it compels us to ensure our homes are sealed from the elements, and that the cold helps control the variety of ants to which we are exposed. In Indonesia, many 'windows' are simply holes in walls; granted they usually look nice, with wooden frames and decorative work, but they are just open air. Also, as previously mentioned, doors are rarely closed. The variety of ants is also huge, ranging from tiny little things you can barely see, to giant, angry, red monsters whose sharp, vice-like jaws are clearly visible, and are extraordinarily effective. One has to maintain a constant state of vigilance to ensure they are not overrun by ants here. The slightest crumb, particularly if it contains sugar (aseverythingdoes in Indonesia), attracts an army of ants, and disturbing them is generally not a good idea as they defend themselves mercilessly. Even the lizards avoid them; I have seen them curiously approach trails of ants marching by the hundreds -- which I assumed would be a smorgasbord to them -- but they get a wary look on their faces (OK I made this up as lizards' faces are really not that expressive) and turn away in a 'get me out of here' fashion. It is not uncommon to find ants crawling on your arm, or on your clothes, or on your computer monitor or keyboard (I imagine that under my keyboard is an ant graveyard, but I try not to think about it too much). The locals seem to just accept the ants and get on with life, pretending they are not there. I'm not sure how they do this, and I doubt I will be in Indonesia long enough to develop this skill, as for now, I am on the warpath, locked in a battle I can't possibly win.