Tag Archives: Religion

Ramadan is coming

//samiajibintang.wordpress.com/ which looks like an interesting blog)

Masjid Raya Baiturrahman (the Grand Mosque), Banda Aceh (photo stolen from http://samiajibintang.wordpress.com/ which looks like an interesting blog)

Ramadan starts next week, so this week I’ve been eating at my favourite lunch place as much as possible. The ayam goreng (fried chicken) is so good. Eating fried chicken every day is not a habit I planned to develop but it really is that delicious.

All but three people in my office will be fasting for Ramadan which pretty much sets the tone that we don’t eat in the office. We certainly don’t cook in the kitchen because the food smells are like torture to someone fasting. Very few lunch places are open, which means that finding food each day is a bit of an adventure. Last year I ate biscuits hidden in my drawer, which I thought was the perfect solution…until I realised that man cannot live on biscuits alone and got pretty sick.

I would have liked to fast with my colleagues, but because it’s my final few weeks in the office I decided it wasn’t very responsible to significantly reduce my productivity (it’s hard to focus on work when you’re hungry) for novelty’s sake. There wouldn’t be any religious significance in it for me.

Idul Fitri (the celebratory period after the fasting month, also known as Eid ul-Fitr in Arabic) isn’t the most spectacular event in Banda Aceh. Most people go back to their ancestral villages so all is quiet in Banda town. There is just one thing that I’m sad to miss this year (I’ll be leaving before Ramadan ends). I’ve never been able to figure out why, but a very popular gift for children duringIdul Fitri is very realistic plastic guns. They shoot little ball bearings (they are a kind of air rifle I suppose), and come in all different shapes and sizes, but the most popular seems to be theKalashnakov-inspired models. Yes, I agree that toy guns aren’t an appropriate toy for a child (especially in post-conflict Aceh), but they are so much fun. There is no end to the hilarity when you sneak up on your friend and…well, I guess it is a little bit childish.

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Want to have a super weekend in Banda Aceh?! Here’s how!

It was a busy weekend in Banda Aceh this weekend. And like the best weekends it lasted for three days. Sunday was Indonesian Independence Day so a public holiday was observed on Monday.

Friday was the 3rd anniversary of the cessation of conflict between the Government of Indonesia and the Free Aceh Movement. There were public events all day and I quickly dropped in on one in the afternoon to see one of our NGO partners perform (they have a band). All I found was the Deputy Governor giving a ratherlong speech…and a sign telling me where I could stand.

Pria (men) to the left and wanita (women) to the right. Sex segregation in the middle of the day? Really? When I first saw the sign I hoped it was directions to the bathroom…

Later that night at the same location there was a concert with the very popular and very awesome Acehnese performer, Rafly. The segregation plan failed and there were boys and girls sitting wherever they felt like it. Standing was strictly forbidden though. I guess it might have led to…dancing! Gasp! Rafly really knows how to rock your socks off so it was a killer to remain seated when the music was telling you to shake your bootie. Occasionally some boys lost control and jumped up to dance…but they were very quickly reminded by crowd control to sit down (crowd control=military so you actually have to listen to them).

On Sunday, Independence Day, there were all kinds of festivities around town, including panjat pinang where groups of men from the local area climb a slippery pole to grab the loot at the top (the loot consisted of electrical appliances at the one we saw). A few of us headed to a local park to watch as groups of men tried with varying levels of success to reach the top of the pole. There were two poles, each was smeared in grease and was the height of maybe 6 or 7 men.

Here are some men at the base of one of the poles.

This group have almost made it to the top.

And this guy was the first to reach the top.

He proceeded to detach the boxes and throw them down to the ground. Fortunately the boxes were symbolic. The appliances had been removed before being attached to the pole. A friend of mine saw one of these competitions in which the victor threw down a blender from the top of the pole and it smashed.

On Monday a few of us decided to go for a walk to the secret secret beach. I call it the secret secret beach to distinguish it from the regular secret beach, which is not a secret at all because everyone knows where it is and it’s easy to get there. The secret secret beach actually deserves its name….we walked for a few hours and couldn’t find it.

Here is the wholesome hiking troupe making our way along the track. At this point we were pretty sure we were on the right track because our GPS told us so (that’s right…we even had a GPS and we still didn’t make it!)

We continued along the track but eventually arrived at a cliff that was very clearly a dead end. Fortunately this was the view at the dead end:

Can’t be too sad about finding a view like that.

At this point we were low on drinking water and it was very hot, so like sensible little hikers we turned back. We had received some guidance (relating to both navigation and life) along the way from an old man who stayed in a hut along the track. On our way back we stopped in at the hut for a chat. He was deaf so our communication was limited, but he did give us some life lessons (because what else is an old man in the forest going to do?)

Life lessons from the old man.
1. get married
2. have babies
3. getting married and having babies is good
4. Hedgehog is tasty and good for virility

I was pretty much ready to sign up for marriage and babies by the end of the hike.

Here, Simone and Marcus are sitting in the man’s hut.

Here, Cat is talking to the old man.

A little further on from the old man’s house is a natural well he collects water from. It’s salty so you can’t drink it but it’s perfect for pouring over your head, as demonstrated so beautifully by Simone.

After making it out of the forest we stopped in at the easy-to-find-secret-beach for a quick swim and then headed to Joel’s for drinks and pizza. Marcus ordered our drinks while Simone and I used the showers.

We came back to the table to find (each):
1 big bottle of water
1 pocari sweat (isotonic drink)
1 coke
1 pineapple juice

We were pretty thirsty.

This weekend was probably as good as they get… I reflected on this as I had a hot shower (it was truly glorious) at Marcus, Simone and Cat’s place after returning from the beach. How can you beat that?

Friday night’s the night not to party

It’s Friday night and I should be out of the office but I haven’t posted much this week and I am barely keeping up my posting targets, so I shall post and run.

Many people like going out on Friday after work and letting off steam, but I want nothing more than to go home. I have a feeling that a lot of people feel this way but go out because of pressure from their colleagues/friends. Who else agrees with me?

So, as of today I have 11 weeks until the end of my contract. 11 weeks doesn’t sound like much time, especially considering how fast a single week goes by. Sometimes I think a week is an odd period for us to plan our lives by. I’m all for the two days off in the middle, but you often set aside a week to do something, or expect to have achieved a significant amount between Monday and Friday, but Monday arrives and before you know it, it’s Friday already. Not enough time to have really crossed many tasks off your to do list. I know this seems like an odd statement, and a bit like an old person/unoriginal person thing to say (“oh how time flies”), but if some people can argue that we shouldn’t count by tens* I think we can reconsider the week as well.

Right in the middle of that 11 weeks we have more events planned than for the rest of the year, and they are the kind of events that require more planning than usual. It’s going to be a pretty crazy few weeks.

I haven’t posted a photo in a while, so here are two:

This is a photo taken from my desk. I have a nice view, and it’s especially great at the time of day that this photo was taken. As the goes down there is the call to prayer and everything turns a bit magical. I have gone on about Aceh doing the 6-7pm slot better than anywhere I’ve ever lived, but no research has gone into that claim. In fact, I think the whole world looks pretty good as the sun goes down.

This is a photo of my regular becak driver Rijal and a pineapple tree that made me laugh. It’s tiny and the pineapple is huge. Hilarious no?

*The link I should have given about the Duodecimal system is here. Please follow the other link, it’s the best thing you will ever read on the internet…ever. If you don’t read it you are a heathen

from sharia dress code to PM dress code: How men control my wardrobe.

Another PM-related crisis. I received the official invitation today and the dress code is FORMAL.

  1. We’re in Aceh. If anyone brought anything formal with them it won’t look formal after being washed by being beaten against the tiles by the laundry lady.
  2. It’s at 2pm on a Saturday afternoon! How can I do formal in 35 degree heat?

I have one very nice skirt that I’ve only worn maybe once or twice here (meaning that it’s too nice to wear anywhere in Aceh, which is probably what makes it suitably formal), but it only barely covers my knees.

Question 1: Do I reduce the Sharia compliance to be PM-Dress-Code-compliant?
Question 2: If I am meeting the PM that means I have to wear stockings right?

Rock n Roll Sharia style

A few weeks ago there was a concert in Banda Aceh. Two of Indonesia’s biggest bands, Nidji and Peterpan performed at the stadium to a crowd of millions!

But there was a problem. Some of the millions were boys and some of them were girls. Whatever could the authorities do to keep this event free from inappropriate mingling of the sexes?

Put up a fence of course:

Girls on one side, boys on the other please.

But there will always be bad eggs. And they do things like this:

Blatantly ignoring the spirit of the fence, this couple stood next to each other.

But it would only get worse. Next time they should build the fence out of bricks. Surely it was the sight of sexually promiscuous women that led this otherwise good man to behave so poorly:

(to clarify, this is my friend Michael jumping the fence, but he wasn’t the first to do it, and was by no means the last. There were many compromised men in attendance that day).

It seems that no matter how much you try to steer people to the path of righteousness, they are too evil or stupid to know better:

This couple knew that holding hands was wrong, so they covered their heads in shame.

But seriously, many more awesome things happened that day. By the end of the concert there were more boys than girls on the girls’ side of the fence, and there was a lot of evil dancing, girls taking off hijabs, boys taking off shirts, and lots of people getting very silly. This was youth rebellion Aceh style….and all over by evening prayer (6.30pm).