Celebrating Hari Raya with new friends

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Quite a weekend, culturally speaking. August 19, as I write this, is the day after the Ramadan fasting ends. Sort of like a Muslim Christmas. Friday and Monday are also holidays and I was able to take the day off Friday. Many people take this time to return to their homes (kampung) to visit with family and exchange gifts. Millions of people were in transit, many of them on motorbikes. The roads are crazy. Many of our employees have taken one- or two-week vacations.

My friend, Putrie, left this morning for Medan to stay the week with her daughter, her


mother and other family. Much like the U.S. at Christmas, the air fares here are much higher during this period. The mosques will be blaring chants and music all day today, as opposed to just morning, noon and dusk. Interestingly, on the way to dinner last night (see below), we passed a mobile mosque (looked like a modified bus) that goes from neighborhood to neighborhood for services. Hidayat, our driver, who took me to Mike’s for dinner, said he and his family would be going out door-to-door last night to do their version of Christmas caroling.

Dinner at Mike and Becky’s

I’ve posted previously about having dinner with Mike and Becky. They invited me again (go figure) and I was more than happy to join them. I brought along a couple of Hari Raya gifts – an Easter-like baskets of sweets for the kids and a hardcover book about Batam for Mike.

Mike had prepared veal shanks, braised and cooked slowly for a couple of hours in a

Mike the chef

tomato sauce. with mashed potatoes seasoned with garlic and Parmesan cheese. With a nice Chilean white wine. He sent me pictures earlier detailing the whole preparation process. We were joined for dinner by Becky’s mother and brother, Jeffrey, and two out-of-town visitors – Becky’s cousins, one who lives in Jakarta and the other who lives in Holland.

Mike is a pretty generous guy. When I told him my laptop had died, he presented me with an HP notebook he doesn’t use just in case my laptop is doomed for good (I’ll find out Tuesday).

They have four dogs that roam the house and follow you everywhere. I had been warned

They have four dogs. I think this is T-Rex

on my first visit that they were normally not very friendly to strangers and that T-Rex, in particular might bite. But by the end of that first evening I had them eating out of my hand. T-Rex took to me again and gladly accepted ice cubes in my hand as I waited on dinner. The dogs were a bit skittish because there were a lot of fireworks going off in the neighborhood, part of the celebration (sort of Fourth of July at Christmas).

When we were done, Mike drove me back home, with Becky and her cousins in the Hummer’s back seat. The streets were still busy and I was told the main parts of town would be crowded with people celebrating the holiday and the end of the fasting. Mike drives his Hummer like he’s on the streets of Iraq – fast and aggressively, lights flashing, noises coming out instead of a horn, and Mike occasionally grabbing a microphone to say something in Indonesian through the outside speaker.

This morning, the restaurant was closed so I made my own coffee (plunger style), hooked

Doug’s son, Kevin in the middle

up my new laptop, and finally went to the office to do this post. Doug showed up and said some of the locals were sharing Indonesian breakfast with anyone who showed up and that I would be welcomed. This is the tradition here, with people visiting friends and family to share food and gifts throughout the day. Doug’s wife, Yohanna, and children were there, along with a dozen or so other adults and kids I did not know.

I was presented with a plate of sticky rice and chicken, cooked in a coconut milk gravy.

Yohanna, Louie and Doug

Also had a piece of fried rice cake. The sticky rice did not look like rice at all, more like boiled potatoes. There were other foods but they were spicy and neither Doug or I like spicy foods and Yohanna knew this.

Life is expected to get back to some sort of normalcy on Tuesday. Hari Raya by the way (see headline) is one of the names for this holiday. The others are Idul Fitri and Leboran.

And, finally, yes, ladies, Putrie is my girlfriend. She’s 30 and her daughter, Jenny, is 7. She is from Medan, the third-largest city in Indonesia. She works for a real estate company in Batam Centre, about 15 minutes away; lives in that area, too.

Selamat tinggal (goodbye)

About 2bagsandapack

Lifetime journalist, author, magazine editor and publisher, now semi-retired and traveling the world. My plan, after living in Costa Rica for 14 months, was to visit a new country in southern Europe every three months to experience the culture and the challenge of adapting to a new environment, while on a fixed income. That plan was sidetracked when I was offered a job in Indonesia, providing an opportunity to explore Asia. Indonesia lasted for a 4 wonderful years but I have now moved on to Hua Hin, Thailand.
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