Today was National Youth Pledge Day, as I am told, and so there was of course a ceremony. This ceremony was at this track type court that's open to the public and within a short walk from the school compound. There were at least three different high schools represented, a group of uniformed soldiers, a very small marching band, students from middle school, and teachers; all of whom lined up in blocks of school and age, and stood at attention like soldiers during the whole ceremony. The choir was from my school and we (I was lucky enough to be allowed to sit with them) under a curtained tent near the open stage. On the open stage sat dignitaries of the city, I assume, and perhaps the principles of the schools. The whole thing was a much more intense version of the weekly ceremony at each school. This time a general read out the orders to solute and stand at attention, and he was very loud! Even though he had a microphone! And he would emphasize his orders by dragging out syllables, it was a little bit funny because of how dramatic he made it. Just saying. He would be like "SIAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAP" [which means "ready"]. It was seriously that long. Almost like he was yell/singing! :)
At every formal occasion in Indonesia, and this is not a generalization but a statement that holds true to every formal occasion, there is food for at least the honored dignitaries. Thus the people on the stage and the choir got a little box of delicious, catered, Indonesian food.
Something that was special about today was seeing some of the traditional dresses of the various cultures that make up Indonesia. When three military officers took turns reading Pancasila (the national ideology/propaganda, take your pick), behind them stood, in solidarity, couples [one male and one female, Indonesia is super hetero-centric] from maybe seven of Indonesia's cultures. There was a couple representing the Sunda, the Jawa, the Padung, the Kalimantan, the Sulawesi, and none of m friends could agree on what the other ones were.
Everyone was very proud of the ceremony, my impression is that Indonesians like to impress people with ceremony but they don't exactly listen to the speakers or pay attention. One of the things that really dazzled my friends was this kind of marching brigade. A group of men and women [yay for an example of inclusiveness :) despite the fact that there were no women in the soldier block of attendees] marched out and sort of danced except like robots, and the big deal was that they were "one." One unit, one person. This reminds me of Pancasila, which I too am starting to memorize from hearing every Monday, the second tenant of which--when translated--is something like "One supreme national identity as Indonesians." Indonesia is made up of SO many different cultures, I think this instance really shows how much the government socializes the citizens to put a great deal of value on "being one [in the national identity]." I can see how the citizens buying into this theology/propaganda/idea (I don't know what to call it) really helps the country maintain a sense of unity, cohesion, and harmony despite widespread culture differences.
Unfortunately I fear that my posts will be few and far between now because my internet connection at home is really not very good--even weaker because it's now rainy season--and I rarely have a good enough connection to type up a blog post. I'll try to drop by some wi-fi places more often, but when I'm there I'm with people who like to engage me in conversation... thus be my prob....
On a more personal note, the biggest thing I'm struggling with here, so far, is the extent to which religion is a part of every day life. Today is Friday, the day when school ends early and students have religion class. At my school, there is only religion class for Muslims, so the other students have to wait for the teacher with a key to come and unlock the school gate. On Fridays, all Muslim students are required to wear baju Muslim, like a white linen shirt that's usually very delicately embroidered. Thus, when letting students out of the gate, the teacher pulls back any student wearing baju Muslim because they have to stay at school for religion class. Only my school is so strict, though--because the overwhelming majority of students are Muslim (in my class there are fifty students, two of whom are not Muslim), and I think because we are mainly funded by an Islamic organization. My point is only that literally every day of everyone's life, people are defined by their religion...there is no escaping it. And while maybe some people are fine with that, I know for a fact that I am not. I do not enjoy my personal beliefs being relegated to a category of government approved religions. It's not fun to have people assume that because I'm Christian, they can tell me how I should practice my religion. A couple of times I went to the Islam religion class and subsequently got a talking to from the only other student in my class who is Christian. He wanted me to promise not to convert and he is very insistent that I go to religion class with him (I went one time, but then I found out he is Baptist; not saying anything about Baptists, the religion class was just not my preferred expenditure of energy). He is convinced that all Protestant religions are the same, so I should just go to religion class with him. I don't think there's anything in the Book of Order about how my church should support me while I face this situation (hahaha, that's a very poor and cheesy joke that you will get if you identify as a Frozen Chosen [Presbyterian]). What's frustrating about that is that my complex and long thought out beliefs are reduced to a label from a list of government approved religion labels that everyone is plastered with all the time. If this happened in the States, I would be totally pissed off that any one felt like they had the right to so adamantly insist that I follow my religion in a certain way. As it is I am certainly frustrated, but I also see clearly that my friend has grown up his whole life as being labeled with a religion that is a minority. People who are also Christians literally try to high-five me when they find out I am Christian. I'm sure that he's just as frustrated that I don't seem to want to be labeled with religion all the time--it is the norm for him. I am more than my religion, my beliefs don't fit inside the tenants and theology of any one defined religion, and I'm happy about that. I see very clearly now that I value spirituality over subscribing to a particular religion; I value constantly developing and reforming my own beliefs and theology; I believe that doubt and "straying from the path" are important to one's spiritual growth and discovery of identity/values.
Oh, I have SO much more to say on this issue. I can't possible say it all before I'm completely devoured by the mosquitoes who are currently snacking on me.
Next time I will explore my thoughts and questions about Indonesia's values of conservative dress and the double standard that exists between male and female discretion with regards to skin.
In the mean time I'll leave you with some funny anecdotes:
-When my friends say "Cadbury" as in Cadbury eggs the chocolate, it completely sounds like they are saying "Get booty." So hilarious. You can't even imagine.
-The other day I had to have an intensive pronunciation training session with my class after someone asked me to please "Shit down..." when they meant to ask me to "sit down." Oh goodness.
-My friends wanted to learn American slang, so I taught them the first phrases I could think of. These included the expressions "She got a donk." "Shawtie is fly." and "I rolled up."
-The other night my sister asked me what kinds of music are traditional in America, I said Rap, country, tried to explain folk music/ blugrass (and then played her some Old Crowe Medicine Show), Jazz, and R&B. Then I acquiesced to her request to rap. My song of choice was "No Hands" by Waka Flocka Flame. :)