Ternate is a tiny island between Sulawesi and West Papua and is one of the 9 kebupaten (districts) and many, many islands that make up North Moluku. Here is a map from Wikipedia to give an idea of just how far northeast Ternate is.
On this map, you can see the larger islands but there are also many other islands which are way too small to map!
Flying into Ternate, what immediately grabs the eye is the enormous volcano right in the middle of the island. This is Gunung Gamalama and it is definitely an active volcano.
The largest eruption recorded was in 1840, but more recently eruptions were in 1994 and 2011. Yesterday I passed empty lava river beds which prior to 2011 had houses built on either side but were totally destroyed in the 2011 eruption.
Where the houses once stood has now become an area from where volcanic soil is sold.
I am staying in Ternate with a good friend of our family, Ibu Esty, her husband, Bapak Rustam Hamzah, and 6 of their 7 children. I have been given the guest room which takes up over a quarter of the upstairs space and includes an ensuite bathroom of gigantic proportions. I have yet to work out how everyone else fits into the remaining 2 bedrooms, but they assure me the guest room is solely for guests! I certainly hope so as I feel incredibly guilty sleeping in a monster sized bed as well as using the adjoining bathroom all by myself! Ibu Esty, though, is the perfect hostess and adores having not just a tamu (guest) but a western member of their family to stay which is super special. My father visited Ternate almost 20 years ago to attend Ibu Esty & Bapak’s wedding and in their eyes that makes my father a member of their family. They were so honored that he made the trip to Ternate for their wedding, that I, by association, am family now too.
However instead of attending a wedding while here, I am incredibly privileged to be here in Ternate during the last week of the Muslim Puasa (Islam fasting month) and will then join the family for Lebaran.
The origin of the word Lebaran (or Idul Fitri) is:
“Idul Fitri” is the Indonesian spelling of the Arabic “Eid al-Fitr”. “Lebaran” is the local name for this festive occasion, derived from the Javanese and Sundanese word ‘lebar’
which means “abundance” or “many” to describe the abundance of foods and delicacies served to visiting guests; family, relatives, neighbors and friends during this festive occasion.
An explanation of ‘Eid al-Fitr (Lebaran) from Wikipedia is as follows:
Eid al-Fitr is also called the Feast of the Breaking the Fast, the Sugar Feast, the Sweet Festival and the Lesser Eid. It is an important religious holiday celebrated by Muslims worldwide that marks the end of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting (sawm). The religious Eid is a single day and Muslims are not permitted to fast that day. The holiday celebrates the conclusion of the 29 or 30 days of dawn-to-sunset fasting during the entire month of Ramadan
I have never experienced Lebaran with a muslim family before. The 2 calendar dates for the Lebaran holiday are the 8th & 9th of August and the family plan to gather on Tidore (pronounced tea-door-aye), one of the many nearby islands here. Ibu Esty is one of 7 children and her mother proudly told me last night that all 32 of her grandchildren will be joining us for Lebaran on Tidore.
While the calendars all state that Lebaran is over these 2 days, the government has yet to officially inform the people exactly when the puasa finishes. An announcement will be made soon and it is looking likely that the last day of fasting will be the 8th. The official date is lunar based and will also be based on the advice of muslim clerics from other Muslim countries. All muslim dates here in Indonesia seem to be highly controversial as Indonesia being partly in the southern hemisphere has a slightly different lunar calendar. The fanatics seem to be always arguing over technical details while the majority of Indonesian muslims are happy to go with the flow.
One of the challenges of visiting a muslim family during the fasting month is the issue of food. Everyone in this house is muslim and all to some degree are fasting. The young children fast for a part of the day and the length of time they choose is entirely a personal decision. Whatever they manage is celebrated by their parents. Of course their 18 month old son is not fasting and Ibu Esty claims not be fasting but I get the distinct impression this is purely to put me at ease and to accompany me while I eat between sunrise and sunset. Even as I type this, one of the pembantu’s (maids) is in the kitchen cooking my lunch!
This is the rest of the lunch and in the background you can see the table we will eat it! The smell of the delicious food is making me so hungry! It must be so difficult to fast in Indonesia where the smell of food is everywhere.
Time for lunch, so will finish this blog and free up the table for the delicious food I am about to be served.