Category: General

Ramadan and Idul Fitri

Indonesian Muslim girls
Reconnecting with friends...

Visitors to Indonesia this time of year hear a lot about Ramadan and Idul Fitri.

Travelers know Muslims don’t eat from sunup to sundown during Ramadan – translating into difficulty in finding food throughout the day in some locations.

Some communities ask non-Muslims to refrain from eating and drinking in public places.

From the outside looking in, it can seem like quite an inconvenience to some travelers, and they are happy to see the end of it, only to be unexpectedly inconvenienced again by Idul Fitri, or Lebaran as the holiday is also known.

But what does Ramadan, and the holiday that follows it – Idul Fitri – really mean to Muslims, and how can non-Muslim travelers gain a greater appreciation for what’s going on around them while they’re scurrying around looking for a restaurant that’s open?

Ramadan is a yearly period of reflection and self-evaluation. Muslims take a long, hard look at their lives, and try to make corrections in areas they feel they need to improve themselves.

iftar indonesia
A group of friends gather for Iftar - the breaking of the fast.

They look at relationships that have gone wrong, offer forgiveness when they have held a grudge, and seek forgiveness for wrongs they have committed against others.

One’s habits are scrutinized, and the unproductive ones disposed of.

Ramadan is also a time to reconnect with friends and family by gathering with them for the daily Iftar, or breaking of the fast, at sunset.

Ramadan is not simply refraining from food and drink during the day – it’s also a cleansing of the thoughts – negative thoughts, actions, and words are avoided. It’s a time Muslims forge their faith, and temper their obedience to Allah (God).

When Muslims go about their day during Ramadan, they try not to fall into the usual human habit of talking about other people. They try not to look at the opposite sex in a lustful way. They try to add an extra measure of honesty in their business dealings. They try to keep away from what they consider sinful behavior, and they try to treat others with more love and respect. In short, they make a serious effort to be perfect people.

Fasting is also a time to experience what it’s like not to have food, and helps them develop a sense of empathy for the less fortunate, as well as gain a greater sense of gratitude for what they have. Ramadan is a time when charitable giving is at its highest, in a way that’s similar to Christmas for Christians.

These are some lofty goals – just thinking about developing ones character into perfection is a bit daunting, let alone setting out to accomplish it. Personally, I applaud the courage it takes to look at one’s self with a critical eye, and the audaciousness it takes to head down the path of change.

How successful are they? Who am I to say? For me, it’s the intention that counts. I don’t mind waiting until evening for my favorite restaurant to open when I know what people are striving for.

Here in Jogjakarta, the ceremony of Grebeg Syawal concludes Ramadan with a parade of traditionally uniformed Kraton guards (Kingdom guards).

After Ramadan, Idul Fitri is a time when families and friends gather from far and wide to celebrate having completed this difficult time. Indonesia is on the move – public transport is packed, traffic is snarled, and hotel rates triple. For the tourist it’s a good time to lay low, somewhere quiet, until it’s over.

This year Ramadan began on August 10th and will conclude on September 9th. Idul Fitri will be September 10th and 11th, but the week following Idul Fitri will also be a busy (and expensive) travel period in Indonesia.

Surabaya Street and other Jakarta Shopping Tips

Jakarta is chocked full of places to shop. Besides the glut of modern malls, there are enough specialty markets in Jakarta to keep a dedicated market Rambo engaged for months.

If you’re really wanting to explore Jakarta’s markets in detail, Gagus Ulung recently published, Pasarnye Jakarte, 100 Tempat Belanja Barang Khas & Grosir Di Jabodetabek. In English – The Markets of Jakarta – 100 Special Places to buy Goods & Groceries in Greater Jakarta. It’s in Bahasa Indonesian, but there is plenty of pictures, so it’s easy to understand what each market is all about; addresses are also included. Most of the bookstores around town have it.

I have my favorites too, but there are not nearly 100 of them.

First on my list is Surabaya Street – a combination antique and flea market. On Surabaya street you can buy a old cannon, a steering wheel from a 18th century schooner, heirloom body armor, traditional handicrafts (carvings, puppets, musical instruments, art) jewelry, or a suitcase – pretty much anything.

One word of caution though – if you’re really looking for antiques, they are there, but there are also plenty of replicas.

Surabaya Street Jakarta

Surabaya Street Jakarta

Surabaya Street Jakarta
Alfin Com, Jl Surabaya 182 Ph:0858 85548425

One of the friendlier shopkeepers, Alfin (photo above) is a really nice guy, and his English is good. Look him up while you’re there – he may be able to help you find what you’re looking for. I cannot vouch for his business practices though, as I have not bought anything from him.

Surabaya street is in Central Jakarta in an area known as Menteng. It’s open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. everyday. Every taxi driver should know where it is.

Other Noted Markets

Pasar Baru is one of the oldest markets in Jakarta. It has shoes, textiles, clothes, household goods, sporting goods, and a number of other things at very good prices. Located in Central Jakarta.

Sarinah Department Store was the first department store in Jakarta. In addition to the variety of modern goods, it has two floors of traditional items from all over Indonesia. Located in Central Jakarta.

Pasar Tanah Abang features all things imported from Arab countries. It’s located in Central Jakarta near Plaza Indonesia Mall. Its huge, lime green building is hard to miss.

The artists of Pasar Baru Lukisan Potret will sell you original artwork, or accept a commission, and paint something just for you. It is in Central Jakarta on Jl. Gedung Kesenian. Another place to find all kinds of artists is at Pasar Seni Ancol in North Jakarta in the Ancol Recreation Complex, where you’ll also find a traditional Shadow Puppet Workshop.

Coin collectors congregate at Pasar Baru Uang Kuno, on Jl. KH Samanhudi, in Central Jakarta.

Pasaraya Grande is a huge, modern department store where you can find all kinds of things. Of special interest to travelers is the two floors of traditional handicrafts. It’s located in South Jakarta in an area known as Blok-M.

Pasar Rawabening Batu Akik is one of the regions largest precious stone markets. It’s located in East Jakarta on Jl. Bekasi Barat, Jatinegara.

Jakarta is a city of specialty markets where entire streets are dedicated to one product. I probably could not find them again, but as I was sitting in a taxi, I have spotted streets of wheel chair shops, BB gun shops, dolls, car upholstery, and just about everything else you can imagine.

For the urban shopper, Jakarta is certainly a mecca of opportunity. The American Womens Association has published 30 years of Jakarta shopping wisdom in The Jakarta Shopper’s Guide, available at Kinokunia bookstore in Plaza Indonesia, or at their center. Call 021 718-1877 for directions.

Enjoy your Jakarta shopping experience!

Cilincing Village Jakarta and The Red Nose Circus

Located just minutes away from Jakarta’s glistening skyscrapers – the beacons of Indonesian wealth – lies the seemingly hopeless slum of Cilincing, but Red Nose Circus is working to change that. They’re using circus to teach the children of this slum essential life skills, and in the process giving its children a vision of hope for their future.

Officially, Cilincing is uninhabited. It’s in the flood plane into Jakarta bay, and is zoned industrial agriculture. However, thousands of people do live in the shadow of Tanjung Priok Harbor, the busiest port in Indonesia.

Cilincing Village - Jakarta
Cilincing Village - Jakarta

According to an abstract published by Hendro Prabowom, Heri Subrapto, and Teddy Oswari of Gunadarma University in Jakarta, the waters of Tanjung Priok, where untreated sewage and industrial waste freely flows, contain some of the highest levels of lead and mercury poisoning in the world.

Yet, it’s in these very waters that the people of Cilincing spend their days…

the adults fish…

Cilincing - Green Mussel Cultivation
Fisherman carries bundle of Green Mussels.

…and the children play.

Cilincing Jakarta
Cilincing children swimming in Jakarta Bay

Green mussel cultivation is their major source of income, as is fishing. As it was explained to me during my visit, the fishermen do not actually own what they catch – it’s more of a sharecropping arrangement in which one party owns the equipment and fishing rights in Jakarta Bay, while the people of Cilincing supply the labor.

And labor they do! The day I was there, I watched as the men carried load after load of fish and mussels to the women and older men who would then spend the day processing them. Some would clean the mussels, while others dried the fish in the sun.

Cilincing - Fish Drying
Cilincing - fish drying tables seem to stretch on forever.

Cilincing - Fish Drying Workers
Workers find ways to shield themselves from the hot sun.

Cilincing - Processing Fish
Processing the daily catch.

Cilincing - Processing Green Mussels
Group Processing Green Mussels

When I arrived in Cilincing, the first thing I noticed was the complex smell of oil, saltwater, sewage, and fish mingling in a way that strained my senses.

Then there was the constant barrage of smoke from the mussel boilers stinging my eyes.

“This might be a long day, but if they can live here for a lifetime, I can surely manage a day,” I thought, as my friends and hosts for the day, Dan Roberts and Renny Antoni led me through the twisting alleys of the village, paved with mussel shells, to the Red Nose (Hidung Merah) Circus Project.

Cilincing Red nose Circus
Red Nose Circus Classroom

They worked hard to raise the funds to build the facility. There is one large room downstairs equipped for circus training, and two rooms upstairs that are used for teaching English. The walls of the circus training room are adorned with murals that the students designed.

cilincing red nose circus
Intense Concentration

Red Nose Circus is a Social Circus, envisioned by Dan as a tool to help children develop essential skills.

For example, learning to juggle develops perseverance, acrobatics develops teamwork, and clown develops self confidence.

It also gives children something positive to be a part of, a place to belong to, and an environment in which to prove to themselves that they can do, they can learn, and there is hope for the future.

cilincing red nose circus
Careful with those knives!

As I watched the children perform what they had been taught, I was impressed by their enthusiasm, and their energy. They clearly had come to see Red Nose Circus as an integral part of their lives and this center as their home.

cilincing red nose circus jakarta
Dan Roberts teaching the Acrobatic Ladder.

Dan spent his high school years in Jakarta and wanted to give something back to the country that he felt significantly impacted his development as an individual. So, in 2008 he returned to Indonesia with $2000 and a dream.

Today, after a lot of sweat, tears, stress, courage, and persistence, Red Nose Circus is a success and widely recognized by influential NGO’s and government agencies as being an organizing worth noticing, and more importantly, worth funding.

Cilincing is a squatter’s village that has been there for 40 years. But, one day the government bulldozers may arrive to clear it away, as happens in Indonesia. I’m sure that insecurity rests in their hearts but you’d never realize it by watching the hum of activity in the village.

When I left around 4:00 pm, the fish were still drying in the sun, the mussel pots were still boiling, and people were still sitting in groups processing the mussels. That’s the way it was yesterday, and the way it will be tomorrow.

With the help of Red Nose Circus these children may have a different future – perhaps that gleam I saw in the children’s eyes was a vision of a new, more exciting possibility for their future – maybe it was the gleam of hope.

cilincing red nose circus jakarta
The Children of Cilincing and Red Nose Circus.

Additional Web Resources

Red Nose Circus Blog

Circus Stances, an article by Time Out Jakarta.

Red Nose Circus on Facebook

Slum Kids Juggle Learning and Fun, an article by The Jakarta Globe.

Surya Slims Stage Playground Festival 2010

If you’re looking for a musical escape, or want a different nightlife option in Indonesia during the coming month – you may want to check out Surya Slims Stage Playground Festival 2010. Over the past couple of years, it has been getting better and better – 2009 was fantastic – 2010 promises to be even better. This year’s festival has many international bands and DJs.

They’re kicking off this year with a road trip around Indonesia – here’s where you can catch the show:

Date:24 July
Venue: Entrance
Bands: Cagedbaby a.k.a. Thomas Gandey (Southern Fried, UK)

Date:29 July
Venue: Coyote
Bands: Cagedbaby a.k.a. Thomas Gandey (Southern Fried, UK)

Date:31 July
Venue:Embassy & Hugo’s
Bands:Vika Kova – MC & DJ set (NL)
Rock N’ Roll Mafia – live
Adith RNRM

Date:6 August
Bands:Pase Rock (Dim Mak, US)

Date:7 August
Venue:Maja House
Bands:Pase Rock (Dim Mak, US)
Remy Irwan
Adith RNRM

More information is on their Facebook Fan Page.