Thursday, August 2, 2012

Questions Answered and Stinky Fruit

After yesterday’s ehausting adventures, we were happy to have a late start.  Indonesian children attend school on Saturday, so we were able to meet with Cendekia’s leadership students for an informal question and answer session.  It was neat to see them out of their uniforms; we were particularly taken with a girl in a beautiful pink veil who was eager to get to know us.

Our discussion proved extremely informative.  The eight girls and nine boys provided answers to many of our lingering questions:

·         *Grade A National Exams are a big deal.  They determine placement into universities, and 96% of these students will attend college in Indonesia and 4% abroad.
·        * They are proud of their achievements in the Science Olympiads, and will send a student to Italy for September’s competitiion.
·         *Their slogan is ‘Unity in Diversity’
·        *They enjoy their weekend events-that’s when they have elective classes, competitions, and even a type of ‘prom’, although no dating is allowed.
·         *They put on their own verion of ‘Gakic’, or Olympics, with competitions in basketball, chess, softball, soccer, table tennis, badminton and sprints.
·         *They feel the biggest problems in Indonesia are traffic, pollution, money for education, and corruption in government.
·         *The girls feel that the boys get special treatment; for example, they are allowed to stay outside two hours later than the girls.
·         *All students want to go to college, and all said their parents attended college.
·         *They don’t like the US involvement in Afghanistan, feeling that the war is an attack against Muslim brotherhood.
·        * They don’t feel like they have much choice.
·         *At school, they’d like to change the food, their limited access to technolgy, and the ban on cell phones.
After a rest at the hotel, and a yummy lunch out, we began the journey to our host’s house for ‘break-fast’.  The 20 mile trip took an exhausting two hours, battling road constuction and traffic. 

We enjoyed what Yuna called ‘common food’-several types of mango, Durian fruit, dates, green beans, potato coconut chili chowder, rice and fried tofu and tempeh.  I’m surprised at actually how little they eat after fasting all day; we keep expecting them to gorge themselves.

After a tour of her home, we visited the ‘Golden Mosque’ just a few miles away from her house.  Built seven years ago, Yuna described it as ‘just appearing one day’, which seems unlikely due to the grandness of the buildings.  

We toured the women’s section as they were praying,a nd saw the turrets made of gold.  Adjacent to the mosque sat a large meeting house and a mansion the likes of which I hadn’t seen in Indonsia.  Yuna ‘used our name’ to talk to the security guards and found out it was built by a Middle Eastern woman as a gift to the country, but she lives abroad.

We expected a shorter ride home, but again spent two hours traveling back to the hotel.  Although interesting to see Indonesian night life – I’ve never seen a more crowded McDonalds-we were eager to get home and pack for the next day’s departure.

The importance of relgion in Indonesia’s culture and education system continues to fascinate me.  It’s sharp contrast to our laws separating church and state make it difficult for me to comprehend.  I often find myself wondering what it would be like if students weren’t blatantly separated and identified by religion, and if it causes discord amongst the population.  At our hotel it seems like the locals are either Christian of Buddhist-we see very few veiled women walking around the mall or working in the hotel itself.  There is such a serene beauty in the calls to prayer, and the unison with which they gather together in the mosques.  I wonder if that unity excludes diversity, or as the students say, they are able to overcome it.  I think there are more veils in Indonesia than just those worn by Muslim women, actually.

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