Friday, March 5, 2010

Zikr Session

Last Tuesday morning, I was invited to go to a Zikir session. For those who don't know, Zikir means "remembrance" in Arabic and it is a ritual whereby chants are sung to the Prophet Muhammad, perhaps accompanied by a lecture. This session was held in someone's house in the backyard. It was a huge house, with a giant backyard by Indonesian standards. Indonesian houses don't typically have very big backyards, even this backyard was smaller than the one at my old Pinewood house. But, it was completely carpeted and had a luxurious canopy shading us from the heat of the sun. The event was really for women, so there was a group of about 80 women and about 10 husbands/brothers sitting at the back.  The session began with a female chanting group.  They sang songs accompanied by a small handheld drum.  They were great, singing with clear, beautiful voices.  The contents of the speech by the Ustad were lost on me, but I was able to ascertain that he was an excellent speaker.  He would periodically break up a serious point with a joke, he would respond to comments from the audience or to distractions, such as children being naughty.  He also had two accomplices who arrived midway through the speech.  He used them for rhetorical effect, asking them questions, and occasionally letting them break into his sermon with their own interjections, which obviously supported the Ustad’s own message.  Afterwards, we had home made Padang food! (for a description of Padang food, see the post called Kelapa Gading, Glutton’s Paradise).  I saw this Ustad a second time at an immensely crowded event at the Ghadafi Islamic Centre located in Sentul just outside Jakarta.  I don’t know what the Libyans are doing building mosques in Indonesia but that’s another story.  

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Sekolah Alam

So, I visited another school as a guest and gave a short lesson to some 7th graders. The school was called Sekolah Alam, which means 'nature school'. The whole thing got set up because one of my students' kids go to that school. It is located in Cinganjur (say it ching-anjoor) which is still in Jakarta but quite a distance from Kelapa Gading, my area. The school grounds are great, lots of trees and greenery, and no classrooms! The classes are held either in the courtyard, everyone sitting together in a circle on the ground, except the teacher who gets to sit on a raised dias. I asked the kids if the teachers usually stand, or sit on the dias. They said "Whatever you feel like, some teachers stand, some sit, it's up to you." which is a very typical Indonesian response. The stereotype of tropical cultures being thin on formality is abundantly evident here in Indonesia. So, I sat on the ground and didn't use the microphone that they made available, as I felt that would depersonalize it slightly. I asked the kids to get in groups and create some questions. They were very eager to ask their questions. This school does not have any foreign teachers, thus it was a unique experience for many of these students, to be able to ask a "bule" (Indonesian for European/Western foreigner) any question they wanted. The questions ranged from the mundane to the sophisticated. I particularly liked questions like "How do they deal with garbage in your country?" and "How long do you think it will take Indonesia to become like Canada?" I taught two classes in a row, the first was slightly higher in skill level while the second was a little lower with several special needs students. It was a little challenging to teach the second group, but there were several assistants helping out, so I had lots of support. After the lesson, I was driven directly to work through the thick of Jakarta traffic. I was prudent enough to tell them that I had to leave by 11am, even though I didn't have to work until 2pm. I made it with time to spare, but it still took more than 2 hours! My parting gift was an enormous bag of rambutan, fresh from the tree! They were crawling with ants, and I had to head off a near infestation of the teacher's room, but they were the most delicious rambutan I've ever had. Incidentally, rambutan means hairy in Indonesian, and is also the very apropos name of the fruit.