Thursday, November 8, 2012

Monthly Update 2: Exchanging Holidays

 So it hasn't been a whole two months yet (just 6 weeks) but I have to write my highlights by the 9th of each month so I've already sent in my second:

This past month has been an exciting one, with two big holidays, one Indonesian and one American. I guess that's the beauty of living with two cultures, you can have one huge holiday on Friday and another on Wednesday!  Friday the 27th was Idul Adha (Indonesian spelling of Eid al-Adha) the second biggest Muslim holiday, and Wednesday the 31st was Halloween. Both holidays brought new experiences for me, even though one I have already been celebrating my whole life.

First, I'll start with Idul Adha.  This holiday is the festival of sacrifice and is celebrated every year by Muslims on the 10th day of Dhuj Hijja (one of the months in the Islamic calendar). This year the holiday fell on the 25th of October, but the day and month changes each year on the regular (Gregorian) calendar.  The holiday goes along with a story in the Qur'an and commemorates the sacrifice that Abraham was willing to make to God by sacrificing his own son. God honored Abraham's faith and loyalty by giving him a sheep to sacrifice in place of his son. The holiday is celebrated by people sacrificing a sheep or cow (if they can afford it) and then sharing the meat with the poor and needy in their community.

My experience with Eid actually began on Thursday when I decided to fast with my host family! My host mom explained that fasting helps you to understand the hunger or struggle of impoverished people (who after the Kurban on Eid you give the meat to). Also fasting is a sort of cleanse, and you can even break the fast by being mean, rude, or just thinking hateful thoughts. I never knew that fasting was a mental practice as well as physical! In order to fast I woke up at 3:45 am to eat suhur (early breakfast before dawn), during which I tried to drink as much water as possible and fill up on rice, so that I would last through the day.  After I had sleepily stuffed my stomach, I went back to bed for another hour until I had to wake up to get ready for school. Luckily, my school decided to let us out early that day (at 10 am!) and the rest of the day I spent hanging out with my friends and going to practice for an extracurricular I'm in (I'll talk about it in a post later). I was occupied enough to not think about being hungry! I was so glad I didn't have to sit in class the whole day, because it gets really hot in my classroom in the afternoon since there is no AC. 

All my friends at school were really surprised and impressed that I was fasting, and one even asked if I was Muslim- sucessfull cultural immersion!!! Though most people weren't fasting (its an optional fast), some of my friends from school were and they invited me to break fast at a delicious sushi restaurant. my favorite :)

The next day I woke up to the sound of all my aunts, uncles, and cousins upstairs talking and laughing. To my surprise they had all (about 10 ppl) somehow managed to spend the night at our house.  A few of them slept on the couch, and my family hadn't even ask me to share my room with someone!They are too polite! I hung out with my extended host family in the morning, and then watched my family's Kurban (animal sacrifice) in my front yard.  These two men came over, led the goat through my house from the back yard to the front yard, and then tied up its legs so that it could be killed.  (Also the night before I heard the goat making whatever noises goats make all night long! I think it even woke me up once if I remember correctly!) 

About to perform the Kurban, first a prayer is said, and then the animal's throat is slit- there is a very specific way you must kill the animal down to the sharpness of the knife.    
After I watched the Kurban, I walked around the streets near my house with my host sisters and cousins. We went by a mosque where there was a big tent filled with animals, and all the kids playing nearby waved and tried to talk to me as I went past.
When I got back to my house, the goat had already been skinned and cut up, and it just looked like normal meat from the store (plus intestines-which you eat here), not like something that been living 30 minutes ago!
 A little later, I helped chop the meat and some vegetables with my host uncle and our maid, in order to prepare sate kambing- Indonesian spicy goat meat kebabs. The rest of the day was spent eating, chilling with the family, and eating some more!

A few days later was Halloween, and even though I planned really last minute It was a lot of fun and I was happy to share some American traditions with my host family!  After school on Wednesday, I invited Hamza (the other YES student in Bandung) over to figure out something to do for Halloween. We went to a supermarket down the street and we're so happy to find pumpkins (my host mom warned us there may not be any!) even though they were a bit small. We bought two, along with some birthday candles, the only knife we could find with the saw tooth/rough edge, and some Oreos which Hamza can't go more than a day without. My younger sister, Amanda, helped us gut and carve the pumpkins, a task that was much more time consuming than I remember it being in the U.S. (we ran into several problems along the way). Both Amanda and Hamza seemed grossed out that I used my hands instead of a spoon to scoop out all of the goop from the pumpkins, but that's the most fun part!

After carving I wanted to cook the seeds. Hamza also thought this was weird, so maybe it's a Southern thing. Usually the seeds are baked in the oven with salt or sugar, cinnamon, and butter, but since there is no oven at my house here I had to settle for fried seeds. Let's just say the results were interesting. 

One of our pumpkins was a regular jack-o-lantern while the other was supposed to be a Pochong (Indonesian Ghost) but it didn't exactly work out. Maybe you can still see the resemblance?

I almost didn't do anything for Halloween here, because I was busy and it came before I knew it, but I'm really glad I made an effort to make something happen! Celebrating these two holidays was what being an exchange student is all about!

Links on the origin and traditions of Eid al-Adha:


  1. God Bless this little Soul into Heaven, deepest condolences to her family and friends, near and far.

  2. I don't know you at all--but I'm part of the State Department travel abroad community (NSLI-Y alumni) and I feel as though I could easily have known you. My condolences to your family and everyone you were close to--it's so incredibly tragic that your life had to end before you had even started. And your host family, and your real family--I can't even express how upset this makes me.