Selamat Hari Raya Idul Fitri

The Muslim holy month of Ramadan has come to a close, and everyone is travelling from out of town to be with family. During Ramadan, Muslims typically wake up to a small gang of neighborhood kids that march around with drums and shout BANGUN—wake up! to remind everyone to eat. So everyone will bangun pagi and start the day before 3am with a meal before the sun rises. As soon as the sun’s up, puasa begins, and everyone fasts (no food, no water) until roughly 5pm, at sundown, when they buka puasa, or break fast, with a big meal. During this month, there’s also a focus on reading the Quran (the Muslim holy book), prayer, and spending time with family.

Idul Fitri is the Indonesian spelling for what most people know as Eid, the week-long celebration following the end of the the fasting month. It’s also called Lebaran, or just Hari Raya. So while many Muslims will say Eid Mubarak (“Happy Eid”), in Indonesian we’ll say Selamat Idul Fitri. Basically, it’s a week full of apologizing for the past year’s mistakes, asking for forgiveness, shaking hundreds of hands, and eating lots of snacks. It’s a time to spend with family, and to go to the mall. (Indonesian mall culture is a thing. Such a thing.)

I took off for Kediri for two nights at the start of Hari Raya Idul Fitri, which started on June 5 this year. I wanted to spend a couple of days visiting my training host family. Their neighborhood in Kediri is much more desa, or village-like, than where I live now, so I wanted to see how they celebrate Hari Raya. Also, most members of my family in Madiun are Christian, so we don’t celebrate quite the same. I got to Kediri on the last day of Ramadan. That night, we broke fast and then the kids set to the streets with torches (I’m not kidding), and threw poppers on the ground, setting off sparks. Kids usually start practicing fasting around age 8 here. So as soon as Idul Fitri commences, the celebration feels like a reward for their month-long effort. Later that night, a cousin came over to paint our hands with henna.

Kediri Idul Fitri6On the first day of Hari Raya, people open their doors and stock their coffee tables with glass containers of cookies, crackers, dates, and all kinds of snacks. They prepare tiny envelopes filled with 5,000 and 10,000 rupiah notes to hand out to small children who pass through. Then, people practice silaturahmi. This roughly translates to “connect with family.” Neighbors, family and friends jalan-jalan house to house, kick off their sandals, shake hands, take a seat on the floor or bench, say mohon maaf lahir dan batin, make obrolan ringan (small talk), eat a cookie or two, sip some guava juice, and then move on to the next house. Rinse and repeat.

Here are a few moments of silaturahmi from my visit to Kediri. During that time, I thought I’d track how many times I was asked if I was married, but I lost count. Once I say “no,” I usually wait for someone to correct me with belum (“not yet”), and following a beat of silence, they usually ask me what I’ve already eaten that day (food being the second most important topic after marital status). But I lost count. Visiting dozens of homes in a single morning makes for lots of obrolan ringan. It’s a transaction: personal questions in exchange for free snacks. In this case, I’m okay with it.

Kediri Idul Fitri 1
Wonorejo, Kediri is a town where everyone knows everyone, not unlike small town Tehuacan, Mexico, the last place I taught abroad. (Except in that context, we would joke that it was pueblo pequeño, infierno grande—small town, great hell—there’s really no escaping small town gossip). I rarely know everyone I agree to take a photo with, but there’s really no way to get out of photo ops in a small town like this—especially not on a holiday. Indonesia is sometimes called “The land of smiles.” Gotta embrace it!
Kediri Idul Fitri7
Check out this snack spread. There’s usually kerupuk (a fried/puffed rice cracker), peanuts, and moon-shaped peanut butter cookies called kue kacang. 
Kediri Idul Fitri4
Bu Titik is to my left, and her daughter and grandchildren to my right. She and her husband hosted another volunteer during our training, and often treated us to sate ayam and so, so much food. Since I’ve been in Madiun, two more neighbors had babies—this is just one of them!
Kediri Idul Fitri3
Bu Yuyun also hosted a volunteer last year. During training, we studied Bahasa Indonesia at her house every day for four hours. That’s a lot of hours spent studying—and napping—on this bench. It was nice to stop by in a completely different context and eat most of her kue nastar supply—the most delicious pineapple-filled cookies.
Kediri Idul Fitri2
Zeni is a true hero. She was my group’s Cultural Liaison during training. She made sure we stayed on schedule, and stayed alive—by stopping traffic on the busiest road when I accidentally looked the wrong way before crossing. (People drive on the left side of the road here. It was news to me.) She and her little sister wear matching dresses for Hari Raya—this is a fun tradition in Indonesia, where families pick out matching batik for some pretty spectacular holiday photos.

Following a few days in Kediri, I made my way back to Madiun. Except the usual 3-hour trip across two bus routes stretched into an eight-and-a-half hour journey, punctuated by two hours spent waiting at a police station for the second bus, where I was forced to make small talk with six police officers who had nothing else to do (literally my worst nightmare). I can’t say I wasn’t warned—this is the busiest travel time in Indonesia, as more than 87% of the population is celebrating the biggest holiday of the year. It’s just like Christmas traffic in the States. I’m grateful for the bag of banana chips that Ibu Ika stashed in my bag before I left. Banana chips are sustenance for endless bus rides.

Madiun Idul Fitri
When I got back to Madiun, I joined Bu Lestari, one of my counterparts, for lunch with her extended family. Bu Lestari comes from a large family full of women—these aren’t even all of her sisters! Two of her sisters are also teachers—English language and Special education. We ate nasi pecel and snacked on watermelon at her sister’s cafe just outside of the city. It was fun to finally meet all of the ladies I’d heard so much about. 

Selamat Hari Raya Idul Fitri to everyone celebrating, and thank you for including me in the festivities. I’m taking off for a short solo trip this week before getting back to school—more photos to come. ❤

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