Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Music and culture, Sunda style

Traditional horse carts along the street
Friday, June 26, 2015
The morning starts with a tutorial in Bahasa Indonesia (language) for half an hour from Ibu Asih. My head swims with unfamiliar sounds. I have more words in my arsenal after each time, but long conversations still go right over my head. It’s easier to use the words we know because they are a limited set of sounds. Once Indonesians toss in descriptors and words we don’t know, I get lost.

W and I have some errands to run before the Bundas returns in the evening. They’ve spent 4 weeks in SE Asia, exploring and adventuring as a family. Having people from Seattle here is a real treat: it reminds us that we are “normal” somewhere in the world.

Home-cooked mie goreng and salad bar
After a morning trip to stock up on groceries, we have a visitor. Dr W comes over to discuss the future of the neighboring lot. She’s erected a compost station and intends to grow vegetables in honor of her late husband, who was a scientist. We’d like to work together to beautify the neighborhood.

I’ve brought dozens of packets of organic seeds from Molbaks. I’ve been sorting them into small bags, separating flowers, vegetables, and herbs. Dr W calls the Ibu-Ibu (neighboring women’s group) for permission to build terraced raised-beds where we can try out the seeds. Then – if the plants grow well – we’ll distribute the produce and seeds.

Meanwhile, with ingredients from the fridge, Ibu A makes the most amazing mie goring (fried noodles) for lunch for all of us. She takes leftovers home for her family, as usual, though they won’t eat until after sundown.

We’ve begun to stock an divided Tupperware dish from the 80s with salad bar ingredients, which puts color on our plates.

“Bulés like salad but we don’t eat many raw vegetables,” she tells me. She thinks lettuce tastes terrible but we crave it.

W joins the hiking group in the afternoon and turns his ankle by stepping into a hidden hole.

Beautiful costumes
We’re speaking at a nearby service for the next two weeks so we meet up with organizers and potential scripture readers. Lunch is at Miss Bees before we walk home.

We’ve been invited to a Sunda celebration with traditional dance and music put on by a nearby school training children and teens in cultural activities. W walks to the side of the room but I join the women sitting on the floor. They pelt me with questions about where we’re from, why we’re here, what we do, how long we’ll stay, how old we and our children are, whether we have grandchildren, and … many more.

Luckily two young women interpret when I resort to dumb smiles and nods. Partway through the program, they pull W and me to the front to join in their dances. It’s the first time W’s been called up to dance. He points his thumbs up and shuffles a bit. I’m busy try to figure out how our hands and feet are supposed to work together. Sitting on a piano bench since childhood, I never learned to dance – watching us is probably painful. And funny.

A friendly and attentive audience
We apologize to our host. “Not to worry,” he whispers. “The point is participation.” Maybe. We know how stiffly our tribe moves compared to our African family. No comparable body rhythm in us, sadly.

It’s considered impolite for women to cross their legs so I put my feet to one side – and when my hips cramp and my ankles fall asleep, change sides. Ohhhh, we are not used to sitting on the floor!

The group of about 100 breaks their fast with sweet fruit in juice. Everyone takes a boxed lunch home. When the conference center clears, we meet up with the school instructors and organizers at the Rumah Makan Ampera, Lembang. What great food and company.

Note the traditional rush weaving on the walls

First, we're served vegetables to cool down the hot sauce (sambal) with krupuk (crackers.

The base of any good meal: rice

Family-style options for 4: chicken, tofu, tempeh, and corn fritters
Another language lesson, this time reviewing 4 new words I’ve marked on flashcards. We break our fast with lunch at Carnivore.

"How many servers does it take to change a lightbulb?" In this case, four.
W orders a doughnut burger. Sounds awful to me but he says it tastes strangely okay.
Bundas enjoy music so we go to a Sundanese concert put on by a big art school in east Bandung. The pupils range from youngsters to adults. The orchestra and soloists play a variety of instruments we haven’t seen beyond Indonesia.

The anklung band
For example, the anklung is an Indonesian invention with materials at hand. Bamboo tubes are cut to size to obtain the correct pitch. Sunda tonality is pentatonic. I’m just beginning to listen so I can distinguish the instruments, rhythms, and melodies. It sounds like a cacophony to our untrained ears but it is pleasing not off-putting.

We snag a popsicle (other options include tea, coffee, water, and juice) on our way into the open-sided amphitheatre. Wood pillars and a tall rattan roof channel the breezes across the wood-slat seats. After an hour, the grooves in the seats are hurting my bottom. I scoot back onto the concrete riser floor behind us as the children sing and dance and play.

Traditional dances
The son of the school founder is continuing his father’s mission to promote culture and train locals in the arts. At the end of the program, he invites audience participation. The children hand out one pitch set to each viewer for an anklung play-along.

The conductor demonstrates single shake, the short “brrrr”, and the long kling-a-ling-a-ling-a-ling. He and tells us to look at our bamboo rig for a number : each number has a matching hand signal. We clatter and clang, trying the three lengths of sound before combining tones into chords. It sounds like a room full of bamboo wind chimes.

Somehow, I get two notes: #6 and #7 (A and B). The folk melodies are simple and global – Hänschen-klein, movie themes, and more. He mocks our ineptitude with, “You are our best students ever!” haha. Not likely. We laugh along.

The mix of beauty – puppets, costumes, sounds (yup, ear plugs as usual), and traditional movement – gives us a glimpse into the rich arts of Indonesia. I send video clips to our granddaughter of little girls in ‘princess’ dresses who whirl, stomp, and glide across the floor in dances from many islands.

Young boys mimic a war dance, tossing shields in the air and motioning with wooden spears. I anxiously watch the one flailing a stout pole near the head of another student. His lunges miss and contact is avoided. Whew.

Three out of five can dance ...
Oh no, more dancing! Little girls and boys pull audience members onto the open floor, where we start with a conga line and tunnel of hands. The little girl who has snagged me (over my protests) is an excellent leader. She may be about 7-8 years old, but her hands initiate me into clapping, tapping, and swooshing our hands and leads me step-step-step around the floor. Her black eyes sparkle as a clue when we are about to change rhythms.

W uses his camera as self-defense, warding off participation by taking pictures. It is good fun all around. Certainly we’ll come back with work teams and guests.
Bright and beautiful: the children of Indonesia
We skip the planned evening hike: we’re not at he house until 4, plus W had twisted his ankle last time and needs to rest it.

We get wind of the birthday celebration for the lead pastor of IESJakarta and have our driver take us to Jakarta. The driver hangs out with all the others in the courtyard. He says many are Sundanese and they have a good morning together.

It’s a joy for us to be at the staff meeting, seeing all the dear faces of those working on behalf of Jakartans and beyond.

The food is amazing: the hospitality is organized by Gigi, wife of the birthday celebrant. She knows how to spread a feast. This time she offers sate, cheeses and Hong Kong pate with crackers, followed by a Mongolian barbecue. It’s topped by cakes and ice cream. We are so stuffed that I can’t eat supper later in the day.

Selamat ulang tahun, Pastor Dave! (Happy Birthday.)

We drive home – on the shoulder, in the lanes, and between the lanes of the highway as usual – and are back in Bandung by 5pm. Our driver heads home to break the fast with his wife.

“Do you want to walk to pick up some things?” W asks me. Is he kidding?

He heads off with the Bundas. They explore and eat out, while I enjoy the quiet and mangos for supper. They’re back about 7pm. I’m so glad I stayed home!

Read more:
*The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end. Lamentations 3:22 ESV

*Rise up, O God, plead your cause. Psalm 74:22 ESV

*You are my hiding-place and my shield; I hope in your word. Psalm 119:114 ESV

*For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. Matthew 20:1 ESV

*The Lord is faithful; he will strengthen you and guard you from the evil one. 2 Thessalonians 3:3 ESV

Moravian Prayer: Almighty God, you are our refuge and strength. Please forgive us our impatience and ingratitude. Fill us with peace so that our hearts can let go of negativity. Although we may not always agree or understand, help us to know that you answer in love.

O Ancient of Days, there are times we grow frustrated with your answers. There is nothing to fear when you are near. Forgive us when we forget such faith during troubled times. We pray to remain steadfast in our love and faithfulness to you. Amen.

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