Saat November–Moments of November
This post is going to be a little more casual. Hmm, what happened in November…
Two wayang performances–one of my counterparts is a dhalang, a puppet master of the traditional shadow puppetry artform. The performances are all-night affairs. I followed two nights in a row and performed in each show. For the first show, I sat on stage as the dhalang’s assistant (hands him puppets for the next scene, etc.; I even had to fix the stitching on one of the puppets during the later hours). I was given about ten minutes to play the part of dhalang, introduce the sinden (traditional Javanese singers), and give my own vocal performance of the Javanese song Prahu Layar. For the second performance, I sat as a part of the audience and came on stage only to sing Prahu Layar again during an intermission. I’ll provide more on these performances later (I know, I’m full of promises on this blog).
“Wayang kertas“–Wayang means puppet, and the artform is usually referred to as wayang kulit because the puppets are usually made out of kulit (leather). I thought it would be fun to make my own wayang character out of kertas (paper) to use during the aforementioned performances. I used the traditional wayang character Bimo–most Javanese characters, including Bimo, come from the Mahabharata–as a stencil to wayang-ize Uncle Sam, who became known as Paman Sam to the teachers in the office who watched me make the puppet. I also decided to turn wayang kertas production into an assignment for my Seni/Budaya (Art & Culture) classes. Every student made his/her own wayang puppet. Some were more original than others. When the assignment is done, I’ll share more information and photos about that too. My first Paman Sam was left with the sinden after the second wayang performance, so I’ll have to make another.
Thanksgiving dinner at the U.S. Consulate–Nothing can top a Thanksgiving spent with old-friends and family, but dinner at the U.S. Consulate’s residence was definitely something to be thankful for. All of the volunteers gathered in Surabaya for the meal. Peace Corps planned two small service projects during the day, which gave us a chance to see a different part of Indonesia. One service site was a Christian organization that takes care of disabled children, and the second site was an orphanage. Catching up with fellow volunteers was a pleasure as usual, and the food was fantastic. You wouldn’t have known you were in Indonesia based on the menu: turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, and all kinds of pie. I don’t know where it came from. I also don’t know how heavily nonstalgia and hunger were acting as spices, but I couldn’t help but feel that that dinner would have been great back in the U.S.
House of Sampoerna–The “House of Perfection” is production facility for Sampoerna, one of Indonesia’s nicer sigaret kretek, clove cigarette brands (kretek is supposed to be an onomatopoeia for the crackling sound of burning clove; thus sigaret kretek means “clove cigarette”). Sampoerna’s pride is that every single one of their cigarettes is hand-rolled–every single one. Visitors to the facility can walk through a small museum of the company’s history and look over one of the eight production rooms. Sampoerna was started by a Chinese-Indonesian, so a lot of the symbology in the company’s logo and slogans has Chinese roots (e.g.., dji sam soe is Chinese for 2-3-4, which represents the types of tobacco used in Sampoerna’s sigaret kretek. Watching the rollers, cutters, and packers in the production room was like watching real-life in fast forward. The hand movements were so fast, you’d never believe it was in real-time if I were to show you a video (which I’m not able to because photography and video are not allowed). Because Sampoerna started around the time of the Indonesian revolution (recently bought out by Marlboro), and adjoining building on the same campus houses a small art gallery of revolution photography. I was rushed for time, but it was interesting to peak glances at mid-50’s Indonesia.
For someone who will be in Surabaya for a few days, House of Sampoerna is a pretty decent way to spend a few relaxing hours for free. The aromas were surprisingly nice, and you just might be tempted to try a kretek. I should really cross-post travel information plus a little more on PC-Indonesia’s travel blog as something to do in Surabaya.
Harry Potter dan Kamar Rahasia–Yep, I started reading Harry Potter in Indonesian with the intention to reinvigorate my language acquisition. Why Harry Potter? Why not? Why the second book? Because Gramedia was out of the first one. A better answer to “Why Harry Potter?” is: while eating dinner one night in Surabaya with Indonesian members of the PC-Indonesia “Steering Committee,” I was informed that the Harry Potter books are some of the most well-translated pieces of English literature you can find in Bahasa Indonesia. On top of that, the language is relatively simple, and the story could be entertaining enough for me to engage my young host-sister and brother in reading (they’ve seen the Fifth movie several times). I also have electronic copies of all seven books in English, so I can reference the originals if I need help searching for a translation. I’m two days and twenty pages into Kamar Rahasia, and there are already several words that are sticking. Unfortunately, most of them are words like penyihir, peri,and bekas luka, which mean magician, fairy, and scar, respectively. These words don’t come up in daily conversation very often, but it’s something, right?
SEISAN and SWARM–For those in the geoscience community wanting to follow my research, these two publically available seismic analysis software programs are up and running at the Raung volcano observatory. The staff can now record and keep track of earthquakes under the volcanoes on the computer rather than the paper records. This provides many advantages–beyond appearing more technically savvy–such as determining the location and frequency of earthquakes. In turn, the post can better describe the movement and type of activity under the volcano. All of this was practically impossible with paper records.