Lebaran ( Eid al Fitr )- Fri Sept. 10 evening
My first thought about today is: I really need to get sandals.And cooler clothes. And some sort of 'expander tank' for my stomach.I spent the day with Pak Herizal's family, eating a full meal plus birthday cake there and then going on to visit several relatives' homes and finally Pak Yani's ( The other IAIN teacher/administrator who has been helping me all week ) - all offering tables-full of delicious-looking special holiday dishes and drinks which I could barely sample, I was so full ( hope I didn't offend anyone! )Back to the shoes, though:while everyone else was instantly and effortlessly slipping out of and into their sandals at each home, I had to deal with the clunky black tugboats that pass as my footwear.None of the homes had AC ( it seems few Palembang homes do ), and in my long-sleeved shirt ( pretty much all I brought, thinking short sleeves would be unacceptable at work based on past experience in Muslim countries ) I was sweating copiously for most of the day though everyone else looked perfectly comfortable.Hopefully my body will gradually adapt?
Don't let the above paragraph give you the wrong idea;it was a totally interesting and enjoyable day, surrounded by crowds of smiling people who have known and loved each other for all their lives and obviously were happy to spend time visiting with each other.Kids were running everywhere when not looking curiously at me.Conversation - which I was included in, even if it took some translation - was nonstop.I did try out just a bit of the Indonesian I've tried to memorize.Several speak English well; in fact one woman recently returned from 10 years doing hospice care in Orange County and is crazy about Jeopardy/The Price Is Right/LA Lakers.I did get a question I'd been waiting for in all my conversations so far here: what do I think about the Koran burning threat in Florida?Otherwise it was just talk about family and my past travels, especially in the Middle East.Highlights food-wise were…everything I ate, basically.But I'm especially happy that after a week of people asking me if I'd tried pempek yet, I can finally say that I have - several varieties.At Yani's house I made the mistake of 'knocking back' a small bowl of the accompanying sauce ( since I saw others around me do it, no problem ); after a brief second of thinking it was only sweet, the chili kicked in and about took my head off.My shocked look ( which I may have exaggerated a bit ) had the roomful of expectant watchers laughing.They also told me today was a special day for them because I was the first Westerner who had ever visited their home.
I was able to show Herizal's kids some of the photos in my Facebook albums, including ones of Oregon, and add them as Facebook friends so they can see the photos anytime they want. They all seemed to be instantly comfortable with me, even the baby.I can't remember the last time I got to spend time around a whole bunch of kids: it made me realize how much I miss it.Herizal's wife also speaks English well ( they lived in Australia while he was in grad school ) and in between all of her work in the kitchen we still found time to talk - as well as in the car driving back and forth.I hope I get to spend a lot more time with the whole family - it's just fun to be around them all.She said she and Herizal had prayed before I came that it would work out alright having an American come - they though the new teacher might think everything here was too 'humble'.I hope I eased her anxieties.
I'll also remember seeing the hundreds and hundreds of people streaming down the narrow streets toward the neighborhood mosque as we arrived at Herizal's house around 7 am.Turns out even the streets around the mosque were packed with people praying.
Tomorrow they'll pick me up around 10 for more visiting. I'll just skip breakfast.No dinner tonight - that should go without saying.