As I woke, my first thought was, “Wow, today is Lebaran!” and then I realised that the last thing Bu Esty had said to me last night was that we still hadn’t received the official announcement from Jakarta to confirm that the crescent moon had been sighted so there was a slight chance that all the cooking and preparation that day may have been for nothing. So I came downstairs to ask if today was Lebaran. Surprisingly it was totally deserted downstairs which is very unusual. No Iba in the kitchen. No Aja sweeping the floors. So I returned to my bedroom upstairs to wait. It turned out to be the quiet before the storm!
Once everyone was awake and moving, there were people everywhere and it became obvious that it was indeed Lebaran. While receiving the family and neighbours who were dropping in to wish us all a Selamat Hari Raya Lebaran (Happy Lebaran) we all donned our best clothes. Today in Ternate, it is one of those hot steamy days where just the thought of going outside is enough to make you sweat buckets. So while all the other women in the house are wearing synthetic clothing from head to toe, I am wearing a long cotton skirt and a cotton shirt with short sleeves with open toed shoes. I did try on one of the long sleeved shirts Bu Esty kindly gave me to wear today but unfortunately had to change out of them straight away as they just made me feel even hotter. Bu Esty and her eldest daughter wore matching outfits of a long blue skirt, a red long sleeved shirt and matching kerudung (head scarf) over a jilbab.
They both finished off their outfits with very high wedges and huge matching bags. Her younger daughter wore a beautiful purple outfit with matching jilbab. All the sons except for the oldest wore matching shirts, long pants and red Angry Bird converse style shoes. Un, the oldest son, wore a white Muslim shirt over jeans.
Once everyone was dressed, we headed over to Bu Esty’s mum’s house where it was packed with family. Considering Bu Esty is one of 7 children, it was no wonder there were so many people! Bu Esty’s Mum then began what turned into a marathon photo session. After I had my photo taken with Bu Etsy’s parents, everyone joined us for a whole family photo. Everyone was dressed in their very best clothes and some families wore matching outfits. One family of 4 turned up all wearing clothes made from the same material. They looked so smart and oh so hot as the material was synthetic. All the women wore head coverings, no one the same! An amazing variety. Then the group photos began, all with me in the centre! If I tried to stand towards the edge of the group, I was gently pulled to the centre of the group where whoever was on either side would wrap their arm around my shoulder or waist.
After every possible group combination had been thought of, we piled back into the family car an headed home where friends and neighbours were waiting to greet us.
While the women changed out of their hot formal clothes, Iba started piling the food on the table and the younger sons had something to eat, before the adults sat down to something to eat. Usually we eat fish and vegetables however because today being a day of huge significance, it is mainly chicken and beef. There is also a fish dish served because I don’t eat chicken or beef! I am always looked after so well!
While we are eating lunch, I realise that this is the first time In Ternate that I have eaten during the day with Bapak! The puasa has definitely finished! A steady stream of neighbours begin to pass through the front doors. One family in particular fascinated me. They have 2 young children who are true ragamuffins. They seem to roam unchecked most of the day in our neighbourhood. Today they were wearing new clothes although their hair which surprisingly has blond streaks was still wild. Looking at their hair, I wonder if they have Dutch ancestry.
The families that visited while we were eating were invited to join us which they did willingly although were a bit uncomfortable about eating in front of me! After they had finished eating, and after having their photo taken with me, Bu Etsy gave the young children some money as is custom for Lebaran and I gave them a Christmas candy each which I called ‘permen dari Australia’ (Australian Lolly).
We then managed to get some quiet time to relax. I started this blog (while it is still fresh in my mind) and everyone else got changed again! The children vanished and when I asked Bu Esty about it she pointed out the obvious! They were all out visiting so they could get more lollies and money. Esty is giving each visiting child Rp5000 (AUD50c) but I bet the poorer families give much less than that! Considering that small packets of food from the warungs cost between Rp500 – Rp1000 (AUD5 – 10c), they will be able to get a small hoard of junk food for RP5000!
Suddenly everyone became busy in the front room preparing for a group of visitors. Bu Esty donned her kerudung once more while Bapak set up a fan and a cooler next to the lounge chairs. The women set up a small table as a smorgasboard complete with plates & cutlery and drinks. Soon after this, a group of 3 western men accompanied by about 6 Indonesians appeared. After shaking hands, they were handed a plate and invited to have something to eat. The look on their faces when I showed my face was almost as funny as when I handed a plate to one of the Indonesians and then in Indonesian invited him to eat! Not what they expected at all. I thought that I would leave them in peace to eat but then I remembered that in Indonesia, you leave as soon as you have finished eating, so I sat down in one of the empty chairs to discover where the western men were from and why they were visiting Ternate. In Indonesia, questions like this are not considered rude, in fact had I not made an effort to talk to them and quiz them, that would have seemed impolite and arrogant in Indonesian eyes and I am so glad I did talk with them.
The whole group were here to deal with the ship which capsized last week causing a gigantic oil spill off the Ternate coast. The man sitting next to me arrived this morning from Singapore to give advice about salvaging the ship. Sitting next to Bapak is the owner of the shipping line and he spoke excellent English. The 2 men on the next couch included one who was representing the insurance company and one who was here to look at the environmental damage done by the fuel spill. Soon after they finished eating, Bu Esty’s father joined us and I discovered that he has long standing ties with shipping here in Ternate. After expressing regret that the ship capsized off the Ternate coast and asking for his apology to be passed on to the villagers who he guessed would be unhappy with the remaining petrol fumes, the group said their goodbyes and headed off to a meeting with Pertamina,the oil company. What an unexpectedly interesting group of people they were!
We are now relaxing again waiting for the next wave of visitors. Bapak and Bu Esty are looking through their photos in front of the tv while I sit and blog some more!
After an afternoon nap, I woke to more visitors in the font room. I joined them to discover that one of them works with Pak Amir on Halmahera at the Newcrest mine. I had hoped to send Salam kepada (regards to) Pak Amir but it turns out that our visitor will not be returning to Halmahera till September as he is getting married shortly! I ‘met’ Pak Amir who works on the nearby island of Halmahera when he commented on my very first blog about Ternate. Apparently he has known Bu Esty since they were young and since writing his comment, he has been teasing her Bu Esty via texts whenever her name comes up in my blogs!
Once the visitors had left, we headed with the 4 youngest children out to do some visiting ourselves. We firstly headed to visit Aja’s mother, which is a tradition that the family have been doing for many years. Aja has worked for Bu Esty & Bapak for many years, in fact she has worked here so long that she met my father when he visited nearly 20 years ago. Aja’s mother lives not that far away in a typical local house. Just inside the house, is the visitors sitting room with a formal lounge and coffee table and then off that were several bedrooms with curtained doors. To the right was an adjoining room with a large dining table which had been pushed up against the wall at one end and at the other end were 2 tv’s and in front of one were 3 boys playing a soccer playstation game. On our arrival, Bu Esty’s children took the right hand of each of Aja’s adult relatives and touched it to their forehead to show respect. Adults greeted each other either by grasping each others hands in both hands or my ‘kissing’ each cheek depending on how close they are. After the greetings we sat down and were presented with a glass of coke and a slice of layered chocolate sponge iced, decorated with chopped peanuts. On the table were the traditional glass jars of different types of biscuits found in every house over Lebaran. Most are sweet but one of my favourites is slightly salty and garlicky.
After chatting for a while and then taking some photos, we hit the road again. This time we visited one of Bu Esty’s cousins. We arrived at the same time as another visitor, however he was there to visit the cousin’s husband, so after the introductions and a very brief polite chat, the men retired to the front verandah with the children while Bu Esty disappeared. I followed her after a while much to everyones amusement and slight embarrassment! Guests usually stay seated in the formal sitting room and don’t go off wondering around behind the scenes! I found them all in the kitchen chatting while cooking some fish for me as the only other food on offer was beef and chicken. Once the fish was cooked, Bu Esty, her cousin and I went to the dining room where a selection of very Indonesian food was waiting for us. There was a delicious potato, tempeh and carrot dish which I enjoyed eating with the spicy santan (coconut milk) liquid from the chicken curry dish. Afterwards we enjoyed a small cup of es buah (fruit salad in a condensed milk liquid).
While we were eating, Bu Esty’s cousin told me that her house had been rented for 2 years by a Dutch couple. Their house was really lovely and I could see that it would appeal to Europeans. In true Indonesian fashion, as soon as we had finished eating, we said our goodbyes and headed home. The children were all quite tired and the youngest in particular, Vozzer who is only 18 months had done particularly well, but was definitely ready to head home.
No sooner had we walked in the door, than more visitors started arriving. While Bu Esty & Bapak entertained their guests, the children sat on the front verandah counting their money. I was amazed but not that surprised to hear that Berliana had been given Rp175.000 over the day. While this is only worth AUD$17.50, the value is more like $175.00 here in Indonesia, so it was a very impressive haul.
Thus was my first Lebaran in Indonesia. Little did I realise at that point that it was only partly over!