"So if I am able to preserve this writing of mine…I would like you to give it the title 'House of Glass.'"

Ramadan 2012 (East Java, Indonesia) [Updated August 14, Day 25]

This is the banner over the bridge entering my village. The best translation I can come up with is ‘Enjoy Investing Yourself in the Fasting Ritual. Please respect those who are fasting.’ The first sentence (top two lines) is pretty loose.  (Muhammadiyah is spelled wrong).

Note:  Ramadan began on:  the evening of Th 19 July 2012 for Indonesian Muhammadiyah Muslims.  And on the evening of Fr 20 July 2012 for Indonesian NU Muslims.  It is scheduled to end on Sa 18 August 2012.  ||  Catat:  Ramadan bermulai sore Kamis 19 Juli 2012 kalau Muhammadiyah.  Bermulai sore Juma’at 20 Juli 2012 kalau NU.  Rencana selesai Sabtu 18 August 2012.i

More accurately, this is Ramadan 1433H – since Ramadan is a month (the 9th month) in the Islamic calendar.


I’ll use this post to update you on the happenings of Ramadan.  I’m going to make a concerted effort to journal and catalog the daily activities this year (sorry Elle, I’m stealing your idea). The content is raw. There is some filtering and re-wording from my notebook to word processor, but it’s more or less how I wrote it from the initial experience. I plan to keep the entire month in this post.


Other PCV Ramadan blogs:  Elle (diaries) (Tarawiih) |  Amy and Will  | Sarah (diaries) | Ryan Good |


Th JULY 19 (Ramadan scheduled to start in evening)

1545h—I still don’t know if tomorrow will be the first day of Ramadan or not.  The Islamic calendar is based on lunar cycles; each new month starts with the new moon.  Dates are projected in advance to mark printed Gregorian calendars, but precise measurements taken around Ramadan can alter the beginning and end of months by a day.  The printed beginning of Ramadan is tomorrow, and Muhammadiyah has already announced that it will follow that projection regardless of measurements taken this evening.  NU, the Islamic organization that most of the people around me follow, is still undecided.  The government will make an announcement later this evening. … What happens if it’s cloudy? How do you measure lunar phases without visibility?  My host-father says they use instruments.  I think he means people use the instruments where it’s not cloudy — there’s bound to be clear skies somewhere in Java this evening.

1941h—The government just announced that two degrees of the waning crescent were still visible.  The new moon will occur tomorrow night, and the first day of fasting will not be until Saturday.  Uncertainty similar to this year’s opening of Ramadan occurred at the close of last year’s Ramadan.  On the last scheduled day of fasting in 1432H (last year), there was some discrepancy on whether or not the new moon phase was complete.  Muhammadiyah decided to stick to the printed schedule and ended the fasting, but NU adhered to more precise measurements and government declarations and extended Ramadan by another day.

Fr JULY 20 (Ramadan starts in the evening; fasting begins tomorrow)

~1730h—The first day of NU fasting is tomorrow.  Does that mean Ramadan starts now or tomorrow morning?  I’m not sure how that works. I suppose the new month turns over as soon as the new moon phase is complete, and that means it is already Ramadan.  Whatever the case, fasting begins tomorrow.  Community members have gathered at the pondok next door to my house to pray.  I joined the men (there were only nine of us) in the garage.  We were greatly outnumbered by the women who used the main room of the house.  My host father’s car is pulled into the garage and is immediately to my left.  This is the only garage I’ve been in that has tile floors.  We are sitting on an oriental rug.  The rug is large enough to cover the whole garage floor, but it is currently folded over to make room for the truck.  (This is the only garage I’ve been in that has a rug).

Sa JULY 21 (Day 1)

0156h—A pack of kids wandering the street passed by my house banging on drums.ii  I was excited to hear them.  This is my favorite part of Ramadan!  I’ve gone days without meals before, but when else will I live in a place where kids roam around streets unsupervised at two in the morning with the intention of waking you up?  I’m too drowsy to go meet them. … Up to eat sahuur – the pre-dawn meal eaten before the beginning of a fasting day.  I’m gonna make Kraft Mac&Cheese.  Hopefully there will be some left over to break fast with. …  This will be my eight year old host-sister’s first full fasting experience.

0544h—Sophomore Ramadan mistake:  I didn’t drink enough water this morning.  I’m parched.  Today will be tough.

~0900h—Finally wake up after sahuur.

1256h—I can’t believe it’s already one o’clock.  What have I been doing all day?  I told myself I would not let Ramadan be an excuse to be lazy.

1646h—Anwar and Dian showed up to play basketball. We played until it was time to go home before maghrib. We all had plenty of energy to play. Before Anwar and Dian arrived, I had been working

1723h—Arrive home. Family has already served up food. I ate a date, showered, and chowed down: kolakiii, left-over Mac&Cheese, soup, rice, tempe, sambal; lots of water in between….Isna wasn’t nearly as excited about maghrib this year as she was last year. I remember last year she would practically run to the rice cooker. She’d have a big smile on her face and say, “Mister, maghrib!” Maybe I missed the initial excitement today because I came in late. Or, maybe she’s just a seasoned veteran now….The giddiness may have been gone, but people are so cheery immediately after maghrib. We just ate!

1816h—Brush teeth, drink more water.

~2230h—Fall asleep.

Su JULY 22 (Day 2)

0230h—Alarm wakes me up. Nobody else in the family is awake. I haven’t heard any kids walking by with drums. Did I sleep through everything? This is impossible; it’s only 0230h. I didn’t take notice of the time yesterday, but sunrise shouldn’t be until ~0400h. The family was up at 2:00am yesterday. Are they just sleeping in? I go ahead an eat.

0316h—The family finally wakes up to eat sahuur. I take the opportunity to add an orange and more water to my diet…..Talk with my host-father about Ramadan elsewhere in the world. Fasting ends in New York City around 8:00pm. Isna turns around from the TV and looks at me like she never wants to go to New York. Aduh, kok gila!iv

0541h—Back in bed.

0752h—Wake up again. I don’t feel rested.

0941h—Wake up again again. Feel much better. There’s no way fasting for one day has affected my energy this much. The disruption in the sleep schedule plus a psychological element (everyone talks about being lethargic during Ramadan) are probably to blame.

Afternoon—Loading RMySQL onto my computer to read seismic data. Reading Pramoedya’s Footsteps. I took a nap at some point.

1529h—Eight boys and one girl have shown up to play basketball even though there is no scheduled practice. Two more boys and three more girls soon arrive….1600 – Practice starts. It’s difficult to go back and forth between the boys and the girls. Both need attention….1655 – Practice ends.

1710h—Leave for home. Shower and take sheets off the drying rack outside. Ibu calls maghrib while I’m making my bed. I heard the drum from the nearby mosque, but I didn’t note the time. Eat dinner with Desi and Isna. Adip joins and asks if I will follow Teraweeh prayer. I answer “maybe.”

1823h—Family heads next door for Teraweeh prayer. I don’t follow. Instead I read from Footsteps. I make it to at least 1910h, but I fall asleep at some point….

2043h—I appear to have fallen asleep, but now I’m awake again. I have a text message from Bu Binti. She asks if I will follow to Pondok Ramadan at 6:45 the follow morning. I don’t really want to, so I answer “Insa’Allah.” I do plan to go.

M JULY 23 (Day 3)

0110h—I’m awake again. Actually, I’ve kind of been awake the whole night. The afternoon/evening naps have made it hard to sleep…. 0130h—Go ahead and eat sahuur. Try to fall back asleep. Mildly successful….0245h— Snack some more….I haven’t heard any kids pass by this morning either. I remember them every morning last year. Try to fall asleep again.

0645h—Binti is calling. I rush to get ready and head off to school for Pondok Ramadan. I feel like crap. My head has that empty fuzzy feeling associated with exhausting. My eyes sting, too. Binti calls seven times and sends two texts between 0645h and 0700h when I arrive at my school. I’m irritated.

~0730h—Turns out Pondok Ramadan is actually at a Pondok down closer to Genteng. Binti drives me there. Now I understand why she was worried that I was late. The first hour at the Pondok are spent wandering around from building to building trying to figure out where the Grade X students go. Once everyone gets situated in a building, the teachers take attendance and copy it onto two different pieces of paper. Confusions and arguments then ensue about how collect and record the money each of the students has paid to offset the cost of the maghrib meal that will be provided by the pondok at maghrib….The whole time I’m not able to interact with students. They are already inside studying or being lectured about Ramadan and the Al-Qur’an. I walk around the pondok campus and chat with a few of the residents….It’s 0930 before this is taken care of. Conversation ensues with the teachers, and it’s actually pretty entertaining. My mood improves…1045h—I finally leave with the teachers.

Morning/Afternoon—Footsteps & R programming for work back home.

1430h—Play a bit of volleyball with a 12th grader, former student Dimas, and Pak Fitrian. I’m a lousy volleyball player – especially today….I eventually resign from the game to rest. My head still hurts. I try to read, but I fall asleep. I realize the sleep is coming, and I try to shake it off. I can’t. It’s unavoidable. I can’t even adjust myself into a comfortable position.

~1600h—Anwar, Iqbal, and Rifky show up to play some basketball. Running around and shooting rids my head of its cobwebs. We play for about 45 minutes, but Rifky appears to be feeling week. We stop and prepare to go home. Rifky has to sit down for 5 to 10 minutes to recuperate. I ask him if he plans to go back home for maghrib. He says yes. This worries me because he lives a solid thirty minutes away in Glenmore.

~1723h—BERBUKA!!! I’m hungry and excited. The family and overall atmosphere is still more relaxed than last year. I eat way too much.

Some time after maghrib – I have energy again. Host-father and I start a spontaneous exchange of English and Arabic lessons. I learn to say, “I’m fasting for the entire month.” I help him translate and prepare the introduction of an upcoming speech into English (Your Excellency, etc.).

Tu JULY 24 (Day 4)

0633h—Shit! I’ve just woken up. I’ve slept through sahuur….0735h—Now I’m up for good.

1333h—Pretty hungry, but also pretty psyched that I didn’t take a lunch break to disrupt productivity. I’ve been working on characterizing seismic records from Ijen as well as completing ‘The Great Clock of Craziness’ – a little crafts project to help students tell time. Last year, a PCV ID-4 solicited short interviews from Muslims in the United States. A Ghanaian acquaintance of mine in D.C. responded with his take on diligence and focus during the fasting month. Whereas the assumption is that work effort decreases, this man claimed he become more productive because there were no lunch and snack breaks. Today I can relate.

1515h—I was about to leave for Pasar Ramadan in Genteng but two students showed up just as I was headed towards my bike. I play basketball instead. I haven’t eaten all day, but my energy is good. I leave at 16:55

1723h—Maghrib drums. I look at my watch this time; it’s 1723h. Sita and Dessy have returned from Pondok Ramadan, so I eat dinner with them. Adip joins. I ask Sita and Dessy about their Pondok experience. What did you study? What did you do? Sita answers that they studied the Al-Qur’an, the life of prophet Mohammad, and the purpose of Ramadan. Did you enjoy it? Sita, who usually has a positive attitude, says it was fun. Dessy, who is generally a little cuekv, says it was boring.

After maghrib—More English/Arabic lessons with bapak: “Are you fasting?” “Eat!”

2121h—In bed, but I can’t sleep.

W JULY 25 (Day 5)

0230h—Alarm goes off again. I’ve been in and out of sleep since 2121h last evening.

0334h—Eat sahuur. Fall back in bed. I remember peeling an orange, but that’s about it.


0917h—Bike over to SMP Ibrahimmy wear Bu Binti is chaperoning Pondok Pesantren. Chat with her and three other teachers. One is new, Bu Titis. She is an Arabic teacher, so I practice my two phrases. She shows me how to write and pronounce the alphabet, but it is far from committed to my memory. The alphabet confuses me. It’s easy enough to recognize characters if they are by themselves, but it’s a different ballgame when they get used in words. It must be like trying to recognize cursive letters in an English sentence when all you’ve ever studied is the Times New Roman alphabet….”Why are you interest in learning Arabic?” “Because it’s an important world language. Not many people in America can speak it, but America is deeply involved in political issues with Arabic speaking countries.” “So, it’s not to study Islam?” “No.” “Oh, maybe later right?” “Maybe.”

1036h—Travel back to school and work on teaching material with Bu Binti. Conversation turns to travel to Mecca. “I hope you can go to Mecca some day.” “I can’t go to Mecca, bu.” “Why not? Just to see?” “You have to be a Muslim to enter Meccas.” “Oh yah? Where did you get your information? Who knows about that?” “I think I first learned from a high school teacher. It’s the world’s knowledge. Many people know this.” “I didn’t know this. I learn it form you just now. So maybe I can not go to Bethlehem because I am Muslim.” “No, you can go to Bethlehem. Mecca is the only city that I know of that keeps people out because of religion. You can still go to Bethlehem. In fact, I think most people who live in Bethlehem are Muslims.” “Oh yah?”

1538h—I hear motorcycles head out to the basketball court, so I go out there for practice. Nine boys and two girls show up. Practice turns out to be pathetic. The effort I get is sub-par. I am so impressed by their persistence to show up during Ramadan that I kind of forget they haven’t eaten all day, so I carry the same expectations I had outside of Ramadan. I am annoyed with their performance in layup drills, so I make them run. This just about kills them. We take it easy for the last thirty minutes. I leave school around 1720h.

1738h—The team may have been lethargic, but I’ve felt great all day. I go ahead and take a mandi around maghrib. I change my clothes and roll my cell phone into the front fold of my sarong like I was taught in Batu. I’m in no hurry to eat. I’m not hungry at all. I decide, however, that it would be an appropriate step to learn “I’m hungry/I’m thirsty” in my Arabic lessons, so I put on the front that I can’t wait to eat. As I dish up some rice, my cell phone happens to jingles to signal the arrival of an sms. I say, “I’m so hungry my stomach is singing!” (I promise people laughed)….English/Arabic lessons continue while we eat on the mattress laid out in front of the TV. I learn the Arabic pronouns. Arabic differentiates between you/they depending on whether or not you are referring to one person, two people, or more than two people. How cool! Sometimes I wish I could do that in English. Unfortunately, Arabic only has one word for ‘we,’ just like English. I enjoy the ability to separate out kita (includes the audience) and kami (excludes the audience) in Bahasa Indonesia. English should adopt these two functionsvi….Arabic is hard for me to pronounce. Likewise, English pronunciations are difficult for bapak. The difference between ‘sh’ and a hard ‘s’ is especially cumbersome. You could provide all of the coaching in the world, but bapak will always shit while he eats….Turns out I wasn’t the only one to sleep through sahuur yesterday. Bapak missed it too.

Th JULY 26 (Day 6)

0336h—Bapak wakes me up for sahuur. I eat and don’t go back to bed. I read and do some work….0505h—Leave by bicycle for train station. Buy tickets for upcoming day trip to Jember. Station has had small renovations. Several people in front of me are denied the opportunity to purchase a ticket because they have not brought their KTP (residency ID card). The older man directly in front of me is buying tickets for himself and his son, and he keeps telling the ticket agent that “it’s no problem” that he didn’t bring the son’s ID card. He is turned down and must leave. I sympathize with him. You can’t seriously expect people to carry around other people’s ID cards just to buy a train ticket! Either Kereta Api’s new regulation is seriously flawed, or this teller has misinterpreted the requirements. I show my KTM and get by with no problem. I thought Universitas Muhammadiyah was just being cute when they gave us those things a year ago, but it’s been a huge help. Makasih!

0938h—Go around with Pak Yudan to pick up chaperones from Pondok Pesantren. We get flagged down by a police barricade, and I am fined Rp50.000 for not wearing a seat belt. What is Ramadan? The month of transportation regulations?!vii

1546h—A fairly unproductive day. I reviewed the Arabic alphabet and worked on a few other things inconsistently. I decide to bike around and check out the supposed Pasar Ramadan at the main intersection of Genteng. Bapak says that the new Genteng bupativiii is a devout Muslim and has supported the idea of a large afternoon market to sell snacks for breaking fast. Last year there was a small Pasar Ramadan six kilometers north of my site, so I’m excited to see what activity is buzzing in a bigger part of town….Nothing is really going on. There are an abnormal number of drink stands peddling kolak-like drinks, but there’s no concentrated market. I don’t need any of that; ibu’s kolak is delicious. I don’t see much in the way of aneka goreng, fried snacks, so I head to my usual stall and pick up apples and mangoes.

1724h—I want to continue Arabic lessons, but I don’t have the energy to keep up with the excitement that it draws from my family. I wasn’t tired or hungry today, but bapak is trying to move forward with phrases at a break-neck pace. I still don’t understand the alphabet, so it’s hard for me to internalize the oral lessons without the ability to graphically represent it in my mind (I’m just guessing with Latin characters, which don’t work so well with foreign pronunciations). Bu Titis said she would bring me a beginner’s Arabic textbook tomorrow. That should provide a structure to work off of.

1914h—Host sister tells me that eating a lot of taro will make you fart a lot. Taro is a type of sweet potato snack I’ve been chowing down on the last few days. Isna’s comment not only exemplified how open discussions of bodily functions are commonplace in Indonesia, but it also explains a lot about yesterday.

Fr JULY 27 (Day 7)

Oops…I wrote down nothing today.

Sa JULY 28 (Day 8)

0336h—Wake up, eat, go back to bed. I don’t remember any of this.

~0800h—Up and ready to go. At school by 0930. Continue to work all day. This is my most productive day of Ramadan. I was hungry, but I didn’t feel like it decreased productivity.

1710h—Text from a friend living in Thailand. Do you want to Skype in fifteen minutes? Okay. I run across the street to get warung food since I wont make it home for breaking fast. ~1730h—Skype and eat berbuka. The chicken leg I have is a little cold.

1938h—Head home and pretty much retire straight to bed.

Su JULY 29 (Day 9)

0326—Wake up, eat sahuur. Headed in to Jember today to meet up with another volunteer to work on the English textbook a few volunteers are putting together. I have a train ticket from my site to Jember and a return ticket for later that evening. For the morning trip, departure is 0555 and arrival is 0809. I’d pay attention to the times of the train schedule for the full affect of this post.

0505h—Bapak drives me to the train station….0557—Train arrives. Leaves by 0600.

0810h—My right sandal hits the Jember platform as I disembark the train (0812 according to digital Jember station clock). Right on time – we’ve actually made up time! This is why I love the trains.You gotta keep tight schedules when everything runs on one set of tracks.

0900h—We try to find a place to work. Our first option, the university library is closed because it is a Sunday during Ramadan. The bookstore we are referred to has some benches to sit on but no desk or tables. The library is closed because it’s a Sunday—it’s closed every Sunday. These are all problems we foresaw, so we head to a mall. We’re banking on the fact that the cafe wont be busy during Ramadan…

~1145h—The cafe is incredibly busy. There’s a ton of people eating and drinking. I see two women smoking cigarettes, which doubles the total of female Indonesian smokers I’ve witnessed in the past 1+ year. There’s no way to prove that most of these men and women are Muslim, but percentages suggest almost all of them are. There are a few examples of clear transgressors. One woman two tables over is wearing a jilbab and sipping on a frappuccino. Later, my bapak will explain that even if she was hadas (ritually impure to fast; i.e., menstruating), she should be respecting the custom by not eating in public. His only conclusion is that she is from Madura – the Madurese are apparently lazy Muslims. Other notes: a lady wearing a burqa drags a petulant child from the arcade.

~1515h—Head back the alun-alun – though it appears to be spelled alon-alon everywhere in Jember. Chat and hangout until maghrib draws closer. There are a few groups who have pic-nics prepared on the grassy portion of the alun-alun. One group is playing drums….Pick a warung and order food. It comes out shortly before maghrib. Break fast at ~1724h.

1910h—I head to the train station. Scheduled departure time: 1925h. Scheduled Arrival time: 2138h.

1922h—Train arrives….1927h—Train departs. It’s nice to be able to expect things….There’s a nice lady sitting next to me on the train. She asks really good questions about Peace Corps and why I’m here. She’s headed into Banyuwangi in order to be ready for an early morning of work in the city. There’s a student across from us also headed to Banyuwangi. The guy directly across from me is transporting chickens. One appears to by a Javanese fighting cock. I discovered it was on-board when it pecked at my leg underneath the seat….I’m tired, and despite the good conversation, I doze off. I feel bad that I’m exiting this nice discussion via sleep.

2144h—Wake up. Shit! The woman and the student are asleep. The chicken man is gone. They were the only people who knew I wanted to get off at Kalisetail! The rest of the people on the train would probably assume I’m also going to Banyuwangi to catch the ferry to Bali. And that’s where it appears I’m gonna have to go because there’s no other stop to catch a bus back to Genteng. Banyuwangi is an hour and a half past my stop. I’m really hating myself for screwing this one up.

2146h—The train starts to slow down and pull into a station. It’s dark outside, so I can’t see any landmarks.

2146h—YA ALLAH!!!! IT’S KALISETAIL!!!! HOW ON EARTH IS THE TRAIN LATE?!? I don’t even care. I jump out of my seat, and practically jump over the chicken guy (who had not left but simply moved to the aisle next to the door) and onto the platform….Bapak and the kids are waiting to pick me up.

M JULY 30 (Day 10)

0533h—I’ve slept through sahuur and better for it. I’ don’t feel incredibly well rested, but I needed the sleep more than the food. Classes resume today but on a shortened Ramadan schedule.

0607h—Show up to school, but things are pretty quiet. Realize classes have been pushed back from 0645h to 0730h for Ramadan.

0730h—Teach first class.

0820h—Teach first half of second class.

0845h—Twenty five minute break period. The tarps are set out for group prayer in the courtyard. It’s unclear to me whether or not this prayer period is required. Only about half of the students are there. Perhaps it rotates each day.

0910h—Teach second half of second class.

0935h—Teach third class….Class ends at 1025h. Vice principal enters ~1015h. He is scheduled to teach physics to this class next period. He must go around to collect information on Pondok Ramadan attendance (refer to the confusion I wrote about on M July 23). Can we cover for him? We continue our English lesson until classes end at 1050h.

1050—After school prayer is required for everyone, but it’s raining. Students are allowed to go straight home.

1130h—I head home. I’m exhausted and incredibly thirsty. Is it because of the extra demands of teaching? Or is it because of yesterday’s long day and the fact that I skipped sahuur? I try to read from Footsteps, but I quickly fall asleep.

1513h—Wake up and prepare for basketball practice at 1600h.

1600h—Practice starts. Twelve boys and ten girls! Ten girls! Some of the girls are pretty good. I’d like them to be instructing some of the boys, but they are too shy. It’s difficult to manage this many kids at one practice.

1657h—Practice ends. I head to a student-athlete’s house for breakfast.

1816h—Head back to school to finish work and send a few emails.

Evening—Bring out Arabic note cards to study. This draws the attention of Isna, Dessy, and Sita, and impromptu English/Arabic/Indonesian lessons begin….Dessy and Sita are apprehensive to retire to their room because it is currently occupied by several ghosts.

Tu JULY 31 (Day 11)

0546h—Wake up. Slept through sahuur again! Bapak and ibu are talking in the kitchen. The news I receive from them is flat-out unbelievable. Nobody in the house – a house of seven – woke up for sahuur. Across the ages seven to forty-five, seven people in one house slept through sahuur. “Satu rumah tidak sahur.” I feel like this should be on the national news.

0730h—First and only class of the day….1030—Principal calls a teacher’s meeting. Doesn’t affect my schedule, but there are no classes for the last two classes of the day are consequently canceled.

1410h—Head to bank in Genteng. Buy gorenganix for the family from a road-side stand on the way back home….~1515—Go for a run. First run in a long while. It’s easy.

1724h—Maghrib! Everybody is laughing because there is tons of food. Ibu has, for some reason, prepared new food for mahgrib even though this morning’s sahuur meal is untouched. We have kolak, two cookers full of rice, two woks of vegetables, gorengan purchased by ibu, the gorengan I brought, and a healthy supply of krupuk.

1846h—I bring out the flash cards I’ve made to study the Arabic alphabet. Isna tells me my calligraphy is already really good, but my pronunciation is poor. She coaches me and even brings out a chalkboard for a bit. Ibu suggests I join Mbak Farida’s afternoon Arabic lessons for the SD children. “Farida is a good teacher. There is never a dull moment in her class.” I know Farida. I think I will try to join when it doesn’t conflict with basketball. Ibu also suggests I look for an Iqlo’ – a common book for learning to write and read Arabic. She can’t find any of the family’s copies, so I may have to look in Genteng tomorrow. I show Ibu the book the Arabic teacher at school gave me, but she says it’s not so good – that’s a feeling I had already developed myself….1856h—Family heads to Taraweeh prayer.

2054h—In bed and ready to fall asleep. Early.

W AUGUST 1 (Day 12)

0201h—Wake up without alarm. Good night’s sleep. Eat sahuur and have desires to watch olympic badminton, but the channel is mostly providing desk analysis, not competition. Lie back down to bed….0337h—Get up….0630h—At school.

0730h—School starts….0950—First and only class of the day.

~1500h—Lie down for a quick nap on the floor of the kantor guru….1546h—Out there for basketball practice. There are 14 boys and 12 girls. Hisyam, one of the gym teachers has shown up to help with the girls. This is a huge relief….1630h—Practice is called early because staff has some event and they need to lock the school up.

1646h—I end up going with a group of the younger teachers to berbuka. The house we are going to is quite a way from school, and the next thing I know, I’m in a car streaking down the road as a part of the crazy pre-magrhib traffic….1537h—Arrive at the house and break fast….~1645h—Shoot off fireworks in front of the house. Am I the only one concerned about the power and telephone lines directly above us? Our daring antics are outdone by the people across the street. Two men are sitting on the floor of their living room shooting fireworks out of the open door and into the street….1930h—Head home….2022h—Back home. Eat a little more and go straight to bed.

Th AUGUST 2 (Day 13)

0230h—Wake up on alarm. Get up and eat alone. My entire body feels sore – probably from the run two days ago and playing basketball and volleyball yesterday.

0730h—School starts….0950h—Teach first and only class of the day….1149h—Hunger pangs. Get really tired all of the sudden. I have to put my head down and rest. Sugiyono comes over and asks if I’m hungry. I tell him I’m very hungry.

1301h—Head to train station to buy ticket to Probolinggo. Kereta Api has their identification regulation sorted out. You only need to provide the ID#, not the actual card.

1435h—Lay down for a nap at home…~1515h—Really hard to get up. My whole body hurts, and I’m mentally exhausted….1536h—Getting up is still difficult….1538h—Force myself out of bed. Run to basketball practice….1701h—Come home, mandi, change clothes….1725h—Magrhib; break fast. Review Arabic with bapak. I now have a decent grip on the alphabet, so I’m more comfortable with the phonetics when words are written in Arabic script. Some letters are unrecognizable when they appear combined in words compared to their base form (the same way a printed ‘s’ is different to a cursive ‘s’). This is still difficult.

2100h—In bed.

Fr AUGUST 3 (Day 14)

0326h—Wake up, eat sahuur, and go back to bed. I’m not hungry, but I have weird dreams of eating. In the dream, I’m drinking raw eggs (Rocky style), so it’s not even appealing. Maybe this is my body telling me I didn’t need to eat.

0636h—Wake up and rush to get ready for school….0707h—Arrive at school, but I’m late. I didn’t realize that the Friday schedule would be different. Classes started at 0700h. Eat seems like a large number of other students and teachers are late as well. I feel guilty because Bu Binti reprimands several students who come in late after me. Class lasts until 0810h….0915h—Second class starts.

~1330—Bike into Genteng to buy an Iqro’ – the book ibu has been telling me is a good tool for learning Arabic. I buy the small-print version that contains the first six chapters for Rp 6.000. It’s a black and pocket-sized….1435h—Go for a run…1536h—Join pondok lessons where SD/SMP kids are learning to read the Al-Qur’an. I’m coached on pronouncing the alphabet by a former student.

1717h—Magrhib??? I think the local mosque has jumped the gun a little; it’s way too early according to my watch….1841h—Family leaves for Taraweeh (they’ve been doing this every night around this time)….~2100h—I’m in bed.

Sa AUGUST 4 (Day 15)

0222h—Wake up and eat. I’m the only one awake. I stay up and read Footsteps. Later, I will I head to Probolinggo (~4 hours away by train) with the intention of catching Kasada like I did last year.

0446h—I decide to walk to the station instead of riding my bike. Scheduled ticket times are a 0555h departure and a 0959h arrival….0548h—I arrive at station….0551h—Train departs. I’m sitting in the first car behind the engine….0926h—Pop! Loud noise from the engine, sudden and brief whiff of burning oil, immediate deceleration. We come to a complete stop having just made it across an intersection with a road. I hop out and examine the front engine with the Kereta Api and a few other passengers. The doors to the middle compartment of the engine have either been blow open or opened by staff. The top cover to the middle section is open and the metal cover is nowhere in site. It’s clear we’ve blown a gasket – which I use as a technical term for an engine component that I’m not familiar with. There are chunks of a large metal washer – about three heads in diameter – everywhere. Some chunks are larger than my fist, but most have been blown to file-sized shavings. There large metal tube that this washer was supposed to hold together is dangling. There is oil leaking everywhere….I’m thinking there’s no way I’m going to get to Probolinggo anytime soon.

1032h—I see an engine coming from the east. I’ve never seen spare engines hanging out at the train stations waiting to be used, so I ask a guy in an official looking cap where it came from. He says from Sri Tanjung – the name of another train on this track. I figure I must have misunderstood him. Otherwise, what are the Sri Tanjung passengers doing? I let somebody else figure out and worry about this question….1037h—We are hitched to our new engine….1044h—New engine begins to push us away….~1100h—We arrive at the next station, and the engine that pushed us in speeds off back in the opposite direction….1137h—Sri Tanjung and its passenger cars arrive. It turns out our savior really was the Sri Tanjung engine. It ditched it’s cargo to bring us in. All abandoned passengers from my Tawangalung train are permitted to board the Sri Tanjung free of charge….~1200h—Arrive in Probolinggo. This is two hours behind schedule, but I’m frankly amazed I’m not still sitting on a railroad tie.

…It’s a long story, but it turns out Kasada was last night. I’ve missed it and so have the other volunteers that I convinced to come in for it….

1722—Berbuka sirens in Probolinggo….Walk around after dinner. There is a large parade in the main street of Probolinggo with students dressed in fancy attire and playing music as they would to wake people up for sahuur.

~1730—Head to a nearby volunteer’s site instead of heading all the way home.

Su AUGUST 5 (Day 16)

A hellacious day traveling back to site. I didn’t write any notes, and I’d care not to reflect on the journey….

***writing more than one week later—I should note that I woke up for sahuur at to find a whole family of Madurese sleeping on the front porch of Josh’s house. Turns out they are family members. Two mattresses and a mat were pulled onto the porch for the family to sleep on. The family brought really good food with them. They are dressed really well for ~0300h in the morning.

M AUGUST 6 (Day 17)

~0400h—Bapak wakes me up and says there is still 10 minutes. Eat. Go back to bed. Fall asleep with door wide open. My feet are at the headboard, and I’m on my back so that I’m facing the open house….~0630h—I’m suddenly awoken by the eerie subconscious feeling that someone is standing over me. I open my eyes – not with much conviction as I’m too sleepy to be really concerned – and sure enough there’s a man standing in my door frame. He’s wearing a grey polo with thin blue and green horizontal stripes, a blue baseball cap, and most notably, a wide smile with more energy than what is present in my entire body. The man asks if I’m awake. I don’t know if I said yes or no; the correct answer is that I’m somewhere in between; my answer was mumbled and probably incoherent. My only semi-concious thought is that I hope this man is simply one of the family’s gawking friends who has come over to chat with bapak. I mumble some greetings and pleasantries and put my head back down unconcerned by this visitor in the way only exhaustion can allow you to be. Even then, I can’t shake the notion that this man is still in my door frame, so I open my eyes once again and sit up. I don’t know if it’s been seconds or minutes since I last acknowledged this man’s presence, but he is still there. This time the man clearly announces he is with the Kepala Desa, and I suddenly become aware of the gold letters and insignias embroidered on the ball cap. He is not here as a friend of bapak’s. He is here for me. He asks if he can come into the room, and I grant permission. He plops himself right down next to me on the bed so that we’re closer than a dating couple at the movies. By the Kabupatan’s demand, he has been sent to my house to acquire information on resident foreigners. The sheet he hands me has spaces for eight people. I’m the first, and I predict, the only one who will be filing out this sheet. There are columns for name, passport number, occupation, something else, and address. I left my name as ‘Jay Wellik’ – uninterested in adhering to legalities. I consider making up the passport number, but I don’t remember how many digits it is supposed to be.x I have no desire to dig for my safely hidden Peace Corps-issued passport, so I grab the expired one that I have readily available. I’m a guru, so I write that down. After pausing on the next blank, I was offered a suggested response. I don’t remember what this column’s header was, but I took the suggestion, wrote it down, and now have no recollection of what it is I wrote. I left the address empty, which my visitor points out suggesting that I should complete the row. I tell him he can fill that out the address on his own since he made it to the house. Part of this answer comes from irritation; another part comes from the fact that I have no idea what my host family’s address is. If I had to guess:

  • 3 Plots Down from Lapangan, North Side
  • 2nd Street North of Bridge
  • Jalen, Banyuwangi
  • East Java, INDONESIA
I’m not pushed to fill out the address on my own, so I fall back asleep – my door is still wide open.

~0830h—Show up at school. Today is Nuzulul Muhammad – the day to celebrate Muhammad receiving the Al-Qur’an from Allah. The first four periods of school – which makes up two of my three classes today – have been canceled in deference to the students reading the Al-Qur’an in the courtyard. The students read quickly, so we still got half of my second class in. The rest of the day continues as usual.

…stopped writing things down at this point….I went for a run in the afternoon leading up to maghrib. The sky was overcast, and the weather was magnificent.

Tu AUGUST 7 (Day 18)

0311h—Adip wakes me up for sahuur. Eat. Go back to bed around 0330h.

0700h—Arrive at school….0730h—First and only class of the day….Vira and her friend Bela invite me to their pondok after school for breaking fast. This is no small invitation. Peace Corps encouraged us to visit our students at their residences, but all of my requests to visit Vira’s pondok had previously been turned down. “I’m sorry Mas. It’s very conservative. I think some of the women would feel uncomfortable if you came.” I’ve finally been allowed in, but I am warned not to be shocked if I see people wearing the burqa.

1414h—Go for a run. Beautiful puffy cumulus clouds dot the clear blue sky, but they provide no shade from the heat. It’s brutal, and I suffer through….At home, I try to relax by reading House of Glass. I quickly fall asleep sitting upright in my chair. I’m eventually awoken by the loud crack made when the book finally slipped through my hand and hit the tile floor.

1639h—Head to Vira’s pondok for berbuka. All of the Kelas XII Pramuka (scouts) are present. This is a group event, which steals a little bit of the invitation’s significance. I’m still happy….What does this pondok look like? It’s not far off a main road, but it gets quiet really quickly. There is not a single decibel to evidence near-by traffic. I hardly even recognize the Genteng I’m looking at from the porch behind the kitchen. There’s a large soccer field behind a school over the pondok’s low back wall. The field is trapezoidal and big enough to contain multiple full-sized football pitches. I think I’m looking SSW, but I’m disoriented. I can’t figure out how the geometry works to allow a field this big behind the jalan raya. There are rooftops beyond the soccer field. They are tall, and I can’t make out a part to identify a road. Working from the back of the complex to the front, there is a boarding house, a small U-shaped central building, and a mosque plus a few adjacent structures. The U-shaped building contains the kitchen in one wing, a prayer room in the bottom section, and a few other rooms in the other wing. The boarding house is very simple. It seems to be constructed out of the cheapest materials available. It is one of the cheapest looking housing structures I’ve seen in Genteng. The doors are made of plywood and don’t fit the frames. I don’t remember if there were windows. Vira seems quite fond of it. It may be simple, but its also more than adequate. The complex has a radio station as well – a small building likely equipped with a microphone, maybe a computer, and some sort of signal processor/amplifier. The banner advertises Islamic programming, but I don’t take note of any details or the broadcasting frequency. The size of the antenna to the side of the courtyard outside the mosque suggests that the station has a significant listener-ship and funding base. It’s at least ten meters high with the standard red and white alternating sections. Thick guy-wires are anchored on the edges of the dirt courtyard, and I imagine kids have fun climbing on them or hanging from them near the ground….Is the pondok conservative as I’ve been led to expect? I don’t know. I’ve only seen two adults since arriving – both women, one wearing a burqa. Today there are just a lot of high school students. I know several of them, and they do appear more well behaved than usual. There is less shoulder and thigh slapping and other flirtatious behavior across the sexes. Two of my students from the basketball team who have only prayed for five minutes long after eating in the instances that I broke fast with them before, follow the group and pray for ten-plus minutes before eating….1719h—Mahgrib is called but because students pray and haven’t actually finished cooking, we don’t eat until 1739h. The food was incredible and worth the wait. Chicken smothered in a thick, blood red chili sauce. Cosmopolitan ice-cream is served as desert – yes, ice-cream.

~1900h—Return home….2203h—Text message from Anwar: USA vs. Argentina, Channel TVRI. Nobody else in the house is awake, so I decide to watch the game. It was quite boring and the number of three-pointers attempted left little in the way for Anwar – and any of the other kids watching the game – to learn from….I can’t really sleep, and I decide to eat again and call that tomorrow’s sahuur. Go back to bed around 0130h.


W AUGUST 8 (Day 19)

0638h—I ate last night after watching the basketball game, so I planned on sleeping through sahuur. I don’t know if anyone tried to wake me up or not. I had my door closed, and I was out.

0720h—At school….0942h—Teachers are called in for a meeting. My first class is scheduled for 100h, so there is no chance that is happening….1036h—Meeting ends and the loud (LOUD) speaker announces to go straight to Period 7. There’s still technically 14 minutes left on my English class according the schedule, but it has been skipped over completely.

1435h—Go for a run planning to end at school for basketball. Only nine boys show up for practice today. Hisyom coaches the girls. I think there were about eight of them….Come home and break fast. I think the drums sounded around ~1725h – fairly close to the official time.

2120h—Decide to stay up and watch Russia v. Lithuania in Olympic basketball, but I spend the duration of the game writing letters to PCVs. I’m up late again, so I might as well have a big snack and call it sahuur. I’m slowly turning Ramadan into a one-meal-a-day month. Go to bed….0039h—Last look at my watch.

Th AUGUST 9 (Day 20)

0639h—Wake up well after sahuur. I had no intention of eating, but I was planning to get up and drink a healthy sum of water. I guess I’ll just have to deal with it little hydration today….My door was cracked last night, so it’s almost certain that somebody tried to wake me up – unless again the entire household slept through sahuur again.

0720h—At school. 0950h—First and only class of the day….~1100h—Head into Genteng to withdraw cash, buy fruit, and buy a new SIM card. Sending out the Ramadan Fun Facts is killing my pulsa, and I’ve just learned of a new Telkomsel SIM plan (A’s Madura) that provides significant pulsa bonuses in exchange for a relatively high up-front cost. The math is easy: even with the cost of a SIM card four times the usual rate, expected savings on pulsa will quickly make the card worth it.xi …1224h—Watch female students practice a sort of Gandrung dance for an upcoming Hari Merdekaan (Independence Day) carnival.

1707h—Head to student’s house for berbuka….1719h—Drums for maghrib. Eat….My energy level is very low….1907h—Arrive back at home….2303h—Falling asleep.

F AUGUST 10 (Day 21)

0300h—Wake up with alarm. Eat a mango and an apple – the result of yesterday’s trip to the pasar – plus some rice, krupuk, and tempe.

0536h—At school early….0700h—First class starts….0915h—Second class starts.

1157h—I’m no longer skipping lunch. Lunch simply doesn’t exist. There’s nothing to miss (though I do have a short craving for french fries around this time).

1458h—Go for a run starting at MAN. End back at school and find Dian, Daren, and Anwar playing basketball. We play 2-on-2 until 1527h. Daren, who has been sick the past week, is clearly dragging.

1615—Anwar and I head to student’s house in Sempu for berbuka with his Grade XII class. We take our time on our bikes. Our conversation mostly centers around how hungry we are. He encourages me not to be shy about eating a lot at maghrib. He says he isn’t going to be shy about it because he’s really hungry. I’ve noticed that people eat relatively small portions at these dinner parties – especially in relation to how much food is provided. This is probably healthy – there are a lot of stats about health complications from over-indulgence at sahuur and maghrib during Ramadan. I generally follow suit by only taking a little food and then eating again later at home. Another statistic – about grouse food waste during Ramadan – couples with the observation that most of the sustenance I’ve seen at dinner parties so far has gone untouched. With this, I decide that I wont be bashful in serving a large portion tonight.

1720h (By my watch)–Mahgrib. Our current location is on the main road next to the train station, and traffic drowns out the noise of the local mosques. Because of this, there is no clear, communal indicator of when it’s time for maghrib. Everyone’s cellphone has a different time, so there’s discrepancy amongst the guests. We break fast at 1720h according to my handphone, 1725h according to Anwar’s handphone, and 1733h according to another student’s handphone….This environment is much more relaxed than the experience of the pondok a few nights ago. All of these students are IPS – the Social track in the Indonesian school system. Only three of ten girls are wearing a jibab. Nobody leaves to pray at maghrib, and nobody excuses themselves for Taraweeh later in the evening….Last night was also fairly relaxed. Eleven of Twelve were wearing jilbabs at last night’s dinner, but I only noticed a few students go out for Taraweeh. I don’t know how much of this has to do with the collection of students versus the strictness of the host family. I think a lot of it has to do with the host-family’s expectations.

Sa AUGUST 11 (Day 22)

0311h—Wake up with alarm. Eat. Manggo. Krupuk. Some noodles. Back to bed….0726h—Wake up again.

1005h—Arrive at school. I don’t teach today, so I decided to stick around the house and read during the morning. I’m looking forward to a relaxing evening of being able to berbuka from the comfort of home and do things on my own schedule…1513h—Return home. Bapak asks, “Do you have any plans for this evening.” I’m quite relieved to tell him, “No, tonight I have no plans.” “Oke, we have an invitation to break fast with the bupati at the NU mosque. We can leave at 1615h.” “Oh….”

1638h—Arrive at mosque. Bupati and a few other people give speeches. There are hundreds of people gathered under and outside of the tent structure on the grounds of the mosque. The emcee announces that everyone will pray at maghrib before indulging in the full meal. Eating will be followed with a special reading of the Al-Qur’an. I don’t tell bapak quite yet, but I have no intention of staying for the Qur’an reading….1719h—Mahgrib. Everyone consumes the iced-tea cup and dates provided upon entrance. Bapak heads inside the mosque to pray with the scores of people present. There’s not enough room in the mosque so men and women are lined up outside waiting for their turn to enter. At this point, I lose track of bapak. Eventually, 1801h rolls around, and I still don’t see bapak anywhere. I send him a text, and he replies saying that he grew impatient and decided to go home for berbuka. He thought I would want to stick around for the ceremony afterward. I only came to this thing because bapak informed me the invitation, and as I said before, I have no desire to stick around to listen to people read the Qur’an. Most of the food is gone at this point, but there is still some soup, so I eat a little bit. Once at home, bapak further explains, “It was too crowded, and I didn’t want to break fast with a bunch of people I didn’t know.” Tell me about it dude….

Su AUGUST 12 (Day 23)

0636h—How many days have I slept through sahuur now?

1236h—After waking up initially, I started to read but that activity collapsed into an extended nap. Now I’m awake again….~1430h—Go for a run.

1534h—Mandi. Reflect on today’s excessive sleeping and the exhaustion over the last couple of days. The past three berbuka dinner parties have all entailed the same trend for me mentally. Leading up to berbuka, I feel happy to be invited to the event, but I sort of dread the social aspect involved. Most of these events are upon the invitation of students I know, but I don’t know a large majority of their friends. At the dinner party, I feel some what irritated leading up to maghrib. I wish I didn’t have to answer all of these questions about America, etc. I eventually come around mentally – I usually have to consciously force myself into an attitude adjustment – and start to enjoy myself. I can’t help but notice that the change in mindset comes after I’ve consumed food. So the question is, what is causing my exhaustion and lack of enthusiasm leading up to these dinner parties? Is the altered sleep and dietary habits of Ramadan finally catching up to me physically? Is the constant wave of social functions starting to grind on my normally introverted personality? Is this just a natural period of low energy that might be experienced independent of the first two suggestions? Is running really taking that much more out of me? The trend is continuing today. I’m not too thrilled about going to tonight’s berbuka with the teachers – especially since I know I will be faced with more invitations from the crowd of younger teachers to attend their Monday berbuka. My lack of enthusiasm for these two events has nothing to do with the people or the idea of a dinner party; it’s just been so many now.

1646h—Arrive at school for berbuka. It was scheduled to start at 1600h, but I intentionally showed up late. One, to avoid the anxiety of an hour and half’s worth of waiting before berbuka. Two, because everyone else is gonna show up late anyways. Indeed, about one-third of the crowd arrived after I did….This event is just like all of the other meal functions that the school hosts once a month except this one is not a teacher’s house and family members are largely absent. The men sit on one set of tarps outside the principal’s office, and the women sit on another set of tarps. Pak Kosim, the principal, begins to talk ad naseum. I use the first five to ten minutes to assess my Bahasa Indonesia listening capabilities, then I start to tune him out and exchange text messages with a few volunteers. I’m not the only one texting….1719h—Pak Kholik, the vice-principal, interrupts Pak Kosim to tell him it’s maghrib. Pak Kosim ends his stream of announcements without conclusion, and we break fast. Water cup, dates, fruit/sugar concoction, orange (which I’m super excited about), coffee, and chicken & vegetable box dinner. Enak. Again, I feel my mood improving, but this time it’s also attributable to the fact that I realize tonight’s berbuka will not involve a group prayer session. Most of the teachers are actually leaving directly after maghrib – taking their meals to go back to their families….Informed that my host father will be hosting a special reading of the Al-Qur’an at our house tonight. Another feeling of dread. Return home. Ibu says the reading will be in the pondok next door. Relief.

2130h—Head back to school to watch the Olympic gold medal basketball game and Skype with my parents. First live contact with the United States since the beginning of Ramadan….~2300h—Head back home….~0130—Finally go to bed after reading and writing. Set alarm for 0300h with the intention of scrambling awake to (how Elle might say it) zombie eat.

*side note: I told the younger crowd I would be at Mas Amin’s house for berbuka tomorrow night. What am I doing? Tuesday is mine, I swear.


M AUGUST 13 (Day 24)

0710h—Dammit. There will be no zombie meal today.

…Didn’t write much today….

~1500h—I had no intention of going for a run today, but the weather was too beautiful. Overcast and almost ‘cool.’

~~1630h—Decided to renege on my dinner party invitation for the evening. I’d much prefer to be at home today. Cook Spongebob Square Pants Mac&Cheese newly arrived from my mother in the United States. The host-kids get a huge kick out of it as Sponge Bob is wildly popular hear….1721h—Maghrib. Leisurely eat dinner with Adip, Isna, and Sita. It’s good to be at home tonight….Fall asleep sometime between 200h and 2100h.

Tu AUGUST 14 (Day 25)

0035h—Wake up….Reading….Eat again as I have a feeling I’ll fall asleep and not be up before sahuur.

…Didn’t write much today….I’m getting tired of the whole diaries thing….

1635h—Head to Bu Binti’s house for berbuka….1955h—Head home. Conversation about currency somehow arises with Adip and the family’ grandmother. I show them a $1 bill from America, a $2 dollar coin from Hong Kong, a ¥5 note from China, and a 20 note from the Philippines. The grandmother looks at George Washington and says, “Oh, America’s first president was a woman!”


W AUGUST 15 (Day 26)

0307h—Wake up for maghrib. I don’t feel good. My stomach is upset, and I’m exhausted. I wouldn’t say I walked to the kitchen; I stumbled and shuffled to the kitchen. I only eat a little. Back to bed quickly.

0954h—Wake up again. I’ve been sprawled on my bed covered in the heaviest blanket I’ve got – the blanket from the United flight between San Francisco and Hong Kong. My door has been open and the light has been on the entire time. I’m pretty sure I hear Mas Ion – one of the younger gym teachers at school – talking to bapak somewhere inside the house. I can’t make out where the voices are coming from, and I determine that getting up and checking the two possible rooms would require too much energy….Later Bapak confirms that it was Mas Ion, but he doesn’t say what he wanted.

1608h—Some kids were supposed to show up to play basketball today, but it’s raining. Nobody has come yet….~1630h—Anwar and Dian arrive. We play basketball for ~15 minutes (I’m really struggling today). Head home.

…I didn’t write anything today, and I’m typing this diary entry several days after the fact. I don’t remember what I did today. Given this and the fact I wasn’t feeling well, I probably read and slept most of the day.

1724h—Break fast. Dates, Some water, kiddie-sized serving of soup. Kolak. Back to sleep.

1945h—Wake up. Convinced it’s the next morning, and anxious that I slept through sahuur again. Nope, it’s still pretty early in the evening. Now my sleep schedule is really off because I don’t go back to bed until 0037h.

Th AUGUST 16 (Day 27)

0236h—Get up after short and weak sleep. Eat a little rice.

0846h—At school to get some work done. I feel better but not great. The day isn’t very productive. There is a berbuka dinner at Dian’s house later this afternoon.

~1615h—Anwar shows up at the basketball court. His uncle died this morning in a car accident near Semerang, Central Java. The body will be brought back to Genteng tonight for burial.

~1700h—We head to Dian’s house for berbuka. The attendees are Anwar and Dian’s old SD (elementary school) classmates. They are by far the rowdiest gang I’ve broken fast with – or maybe I’m still just tired and slightly ill. I don’t eat much again.

~1830h—Leave Dian’s house. Anwar asks me if I want to stop by his Aunt’s house for the wake. It’s on the same street as Anwar’s house. I agree to stop by. Like any Javanese wake, every conceivable friend and family member has come to visit the house of the deceased. All of the furniture has been moved outside of the house to the front of the road. Plastic lawn chairs are also scattered about to provide seating for all of the people, which easily total above one-hundred. Three people are slowing down traffic in front of the house to protect those coming to, attending, and leaving the wake. Two of them are actually wearing reflective green vests like a parking attendant and have fluorescent orange wands. The third is holding out an old cookie-tin for those passing by to drop monetary donations. This road is not large, but it is often traveled by large trucks. Traffic has completely bottle-necked. Inside the house are a group of older women and the immediate female family members. There is a dinner-sized wooden table covered by a woven mat. This is where they will bring the body to prepare it for burial. There are white sheets on the dresser nearby. When my language group had our practicum teaching experience in Batu, we saw one of the religion classes learn how to properly dress a body for burial according to the Islamic tradition. It involved multiple white clothes folded and placed in a particular way, but I’m not able to describe it in any more detail. Outside, there are also two large tubs of water, which I assume will serve some function in the ritual. The Javanese casket – or at least the device that is used to transport the body to the cemetery – is also sitting on the side of the road.


0212h—Wake up on my own (or maybe coincident with tetek from the neighbors across the street). I feel well-rested and energetic. Encouraged by my new-found health, I eat a large breakfast.

0745h—Head to Stadion Maron for the Upacara Bandera (flag ceremony) to commemorate Indonesia’s Independence Day. During training, my language instructor detailed all sorts of festivities that are common on Hari Merdekaan. I will never be able to see a lot of those because last year’s and this year’s celebrations are more subdued since they coincide with Ramadan. People don’t have the energy for the involved activities that were described. This year’s celebration is especially simple since it is also a Friday. Muslims must pray ~1030h on Fridays, so there will only be a flag ceremony – no skits or reenactments of the revolution like there were last year. Even so, the event manages to take over an hour and a half. All of the junior high school and high school students are in attendance in their uniforms. They have been there since 0700h but the event doesn’t get under way until ~0830. It’s hot, and several of the kids are passing out. Each school’s nursing unit is on-hand to assist these unfortunate ones to the cover of tarps at the back of the stadium. It’s unclear to me whether or not these students will be given – or whether they will accept – water or food due to Ramadan obligations. Illness is certainly a valid reason to break fast, but some people are stubborn (I fall into that category after the last few days). Whether the people who really need water will take it is one matter, but some of these ‘feinting’ students don’t look legitimate to me. It’s hot, and the ceremony is prolonged and (dare I say) boring. A few of them are attended to after making just a few lackadaisical movements, and they don’t put up much resistance when the med crew helps them away. One eleventh-grader from my school that fits into this category is being helped away by two medical assistants. One of her friends, also a part of the medical crew, recognizes the girl is not in true need and slaps her on the shoulder and says, “Your not ill!” with one of those, “you’re really pulling one over us right now” expressions, but she backs off – possibly after considering how insensitive she might seem if the girl really is about to pass out….My own illness has hit me again. It’s sudden and very uncomfortable. I make it through the ceremony, but it’s a zoo. There are thousands of people at this event, and we’re all trying to leave through the same exit. I would like to stick around and watch the madness, but I feel compelled to get home….Spend most of the day sleeping or reading – mostly sleeping.

~1720h—Break fast. Feeling better, but I only eat a little. Adip, Isna, and I start a discussion that originally follows run-of-the-mill eight-to-ten year old topics – Who is your favorite superhero? – but the conversation eventually turns to my family’s farm in Iowa and then Chess strategy.

Sa AUGUST 18 (Day 29)



Belum mas/mbak!


Belum mas/mbak!



Belum mas/mbak!



Belum mas/mbak!

############# FOOTNOTES #############

############# FOOTNOTES #############


ii# Later I learn that this tradition has an onomatopoeic name: tetek.


iii# kolak—A common word used to describe a sugary drink served to breakfast during Ramadan. My host-ibu’s cola consists of papaya, banana, and cassava sliced up and mixed into a thick liquid flavored with sugar and ginger roots. It’s delicious.


iv# (Wow, that’s crazy!)


v# cuek—This is a great Indonesian word. It means “I couldn’t care less/too cool for school/apathetic.”


vi# …because our language needs to be more complicated…[sarcastic card]….


vii# The holiday after Ramadan, Idul Fitri, is the biggest travel time in Islamic/East Javanese culture. People are pretty much at their residence for Ramadan though.


viii # bupati—regency head; at one point, the position was a puppet for the Dutch colonial government to make it seem like they were giving authority to the natives; liberals had a deep disrespect for the bupati position; I’m not sure how the image has changed overall.


ix# gorengan—fried foods


xSurprisingly, it’s only 9 characters long. There are ~300,000,000 people in the United States. If every U.S. Citizen had a passport, the population would only have to turn over three times for the numbers to be exhausted. Surely, the percentage of U.S. Citizens with passports is way, way less than 100%, but I can’t even begin to guess what it actually is. Still, I have a hard time not imagining this nine-digit system needing expansion soon.


xi# In the first two days with A’s Madura, I’ve sent over 300 text messages (because of Ramadan Fun Facts) and only used Rp 1.200 pulsa. The same amount of texts could cost me upwards of Rp 10.000 pulsa with the old card.


8 responses

  1. Psssh, glad my idea could serve as a platform for inspiration! I look forward to reading your version of “The Ramadan Diaries” — remember, it’s all about being honest with yourself!

    2012 July 21 at 07.38

  2. i love this jay, the raw thoughts makes me feel less crazy.

    2012 July 25 at 04.02

  3. Made me laugh! The singing stomach reminded me of your kitchen sink water sprayer prank and your poor bapak who shits while he eats. I heard Binti’s beautiful voice in the conversation about Mecca.

    2012 July 26 at 14.48

  4. Eka

    ah, when I read cola and the description, I had a hard time understanding it, then I got it. The correct spelling should be kolak 🙂 and damn it how I miss it so much 😥

    2012 July 27 at 07.02

    • Jay Wellik

      Thank you for the correction. I had already changed the spelling in my own notes to ‘kola’ to reflect Indonesian spelling phonetics, but I was not aware of the final ‘k’. This will be changed.

      2012 July 27 at 07.12

      • Eka

        hmm, you know what, I could be so wrong, but it may be because the way the javanese pronounce words, that the end K is not clearly pronounced, hence you didn’t notice it. I remember one time, I had to ask a guy who was recording some narration for me, to re-record a line because the way he pronounced “kotak” sounded so javanese (the ending “k” wasn’t clear). Now I am so curious if all you speak Indonesian with a javanese accent 😐 Just read a blog from the other volunteer (is it Bart?) who’s now in West Java, his new friends said he has a javanese accent! Then I also remember watching a youtube video of one of you delivering a speech in Indonesian during your swearing-in ceremony (I think) and I was thinking oh my God! He spoke with a javanese accent! On one hand, it means good students to be picking up such details, on the other hand it’s like not the standard Indonesian Indonesian. Pardon me for being the snobbish Jakartan 😛 btw in case you’re wondering if I am stalking you guys, I am just super duper bored, hence the blog walking 😛

        2012 July 31 at 09.49

  5. Pingback: 2012 Ramadan Fun Facts & Trivia « PC Indonesia Raya (Jay)

  6. Pingback: 2012 Ramadan Fun Facts & Trivia « PC Indonesia Raya (Jay)

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