I had an opportunity recently to take in some local custom and, of course, was ready to go.
Actually, I was a little hesitant. This excursion would put me in danger of dealing with an unknown situation with my only lifeline a woman who spoke barely decent English. Horrors!
The occasion was described to me as a “naming the new baby” party. I didn’t realize until I was there that I had agreed to go to an Indonesian-style baby shower. At a local home in a local neighborhood. Even after eight months in country, I had yet to experience this.
The mother was Putrie’s cousin, Dini. Her cousin’s husband works for the government in
the land office. (Don’t ask, I don’t know.) They already had a son, about three our, and now a daughter, less than a month old.
Their home was in a neighborhood of what might be characterized as a middle-class neighborhood here. Nothing much to look at outside, including the hosts’ home. Inside, however, their home looked like any middle-class American family home – a stereo on a shelf on one wall, another wall with shelving containing trophies, photos and stuff, fake paintings and real family-related plaques everywhere. Just your usual “look at what I’ve done in my lifetime” kind of stuff (been there, done that). The only difference was that, besides the bookshelves, there was no furniture.
There were several rugs spread across the floor, so that almost all the 10×20 living room area was covered. There were entryways to three other rooms, but I did not wander. When I arrived, the floor space was completely filled by guests, almost all with traditional Muslim head coverings (hijib). I was definitely an outsider.
Interestingly, the sit-on furniture – sofas, easy chairs – were outside on a covered deck. I’ve observed that it’s common to have only floor sitting in the living room – no sit-on furniture. Maybe it’s the cost, maybe it’s what they’re used to. I’ll have to research that.
There was a nice spread of food available, but since I had just eaten, and because I’ve learned that it is almost certainly going to be too spicy for me, I said no, despite repeated pleadings. I probably offended my hosts but it would have been worse if I had eaten the food, as I tasted some that was supposed to be sweet but had a hot mouth attack. There were also a lot of flies testing the meal. Not unlike a lot of out-in-the-country barbeques I’ve been to in the States.
Our hosts were a young couple, Diny and I don’t know her husband’s name, who were celebrating the naming time of their new daughter. It was obviously a big deal, which I understood when I was asked, very indirectly, to wear long pants. (“You look so good in those pants, darling!”) I expected people coming in periodically, not a mass of people when I arrived. With my camera. Looking pretty obvious.
So you smile. and nod. And stay outside on the deck.
Before long, the mass of people inside started praying, which I think was their final prayer
to the new baby because they began to leave right after the prayer ended. Once that group was gone, the floor was swept and Putrie and I ventured inside and sat on the floor. Did I mention I’m not very good at sitting on hard surfaces anymore?
One thing I didn’t do was bring a gift.
We tried to get into the mall before we went to the party but the here was no parking, so we went without a gift. One of the side rooms at the house was filled with gifts from all the people who were there. I hope that my uniqueness to the situation overcame my lapse in gift giving.