Of course, we’re the proverbial strangers in a foreign land. I could say the same about most anywhere we might visit, but it’s unlikely that we’d be there for as protracted a length of time, or that we’d be trying to live, as we are here, like fulltime residents.
I realize that my biased perspective is atypical when compared to most locals, and am thankful that I have the luxury to observe, engage with, and wonder at the quirks and peculiarities unique to Sukadana. Witnessing Eid al-Adha, one of the major Islamic holidays, was a real cultural treat.
Many women wear hijabs, and as a sign of respect to the cultural norms here I was instructed to not wear anything above the knee or elbow, or that shows cleavage. There are days (okay, every day) that the stifling heat makes me want to rip my pants off, but I remind myself that the wardrobe restriction probably reduces my total number of mosquito bites (take note, Mom!).
Eid al-Adha, or Feast of the Sacrifice, is an apt translation. The holiday is one of the few times per year that many families indulge in meat, which is considerably expensive to raise and/or purchase. In addition to a lengthy morning service at the mosque, families observe Eid al-Adha not unlike how we celebrate Christmas: festivities start the night before after prayer, with lots of informal house parties. Startlingly young children run around brandishing sparklers and poppers.
After the morning service, families both host and visit parties. We stopped by a party graciously hosted by an ASRI staff member and his wife, sitting on a woven mat on the floor and enjoying special holiday foods including stewed goat (rendang), crunchy fried cookies and crackers, and sweet sticky rice of many stripes: sticky and wrapped in papery green leaves, sweet and nutty and shaped into triangular logs with coconut custard, and plain and wrapped in delicately thatched little boxes.
Throughout the day and absent responsibilities at the clinic, we came and went via bike from our house to various destinations: the café next to the clinic for breakfast, the beach for kelapas (coconuts), a house party, and a cruise around town. Each time we passed the Islamic preschool across the street, we witnessed a major goat slaughter at various stages.
At times the schoolyard was crowded with people of all ages, goat legs spinning in the breeze, blood and drippings caught by blue tarps. By the end of the day, the crowd had thinned to a few women and the only goat that remained was a small pile of fur and ears. Nose to tail eating is a necessity here!
A few ASRI staff had warned us that Sukadana’s resident goat population would be significantly reduced after the holiday, and they weren’t kidding (sure, pun intended). Goats here are primarily raised for meat, as their diets are of insufficient quality for them to produce milk. Apart from canned sweetened condensed milk (a staple here), dairy isn’t a large part of the local diet.
Given the crowds, the amount of trash and requests for pictures with the tall white people was unprecedented. Our favorite kelapa purveyors even ran out! An unexpected consequence of the holiday was the unavailability of fresh food for nearly the whole week, as many people make the two-day holiday a much lengthier affair. For days we were unable to buy fresh fruit and tempeh, or pick up George’s favorite breakfast (four doughnuts and a blended iced coffee) from the little café next to the clinic. Oh, the horror!