Reflections on Ramadan

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Mesjid Istiqlal, the largest mosque in Jakarta, and in Southeast Asia.  

Ramadan is the Muslim fasting month, culminating in Eid al-Fitr, and is the most important holiday for Muslims around the world.  Commemorating the revelation of the Qur’an to Muhammad, the observance of Ramadan is one of the Five Pillars of Islam, alongside a belief in Allah, the five daily prayers, Hajj, and charity.

I have spent the last three years in Indonesia, the most populous Muslim-majority nation in the world, first as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant (ETA), and later as the ETA Coordinator.  However, due to the timing of Pre-Departure Orientation in D.C. each year, I have never been in Indonesia for any part of Ramadan.  This year, I pushed my return date back a bit, so that I could take in some of the Ramadan traditions practiced in the country that has become my second home.

Now, I did not remain in Indonesia for the entirety of Ramadan.  Because my research visa had come to an end, I needed to first leave Indonesia and re-enter with a tourist visa.  Rather than buy an international roundtrip ticket solely for the sake of getting a tourist visa, I decided to travel for two weeks in Cambodia and Thailand first, and so I actually spent the first half of Ramadan in countries where Muslims are a minority, much like in the U.S.  Interestingly, I happened to choose a hostel in Chiang Mai, Thailand very close to one of the few mosques in the city, and so I still heard the call to prayer and regularly met folks on the street who were headed to evening prayers at the mosque, or meeting at the several restaurants along “Halal Street” (as the sign proclaimed at the entrance) to break their fast together.

In Indonesia, I split my Ramadan experience between three cities.  I spent the first few days of Ramadan in Jakarta before leaving for Southeast Asia, and spent a few more days there after my trip.  I then headed off to Sulawesi, where I spent a few days in Manado with friends who have moved there, and then spent the last days of Ramadan, as well as Idul Fitri (the Indonesian spelling of Eid al-Fitr), in Gorontalo, my second ETA site.

While in Indonesia, I did join my friends in puasa (fasting, in Indonesian).  The first meal of the day is taken before the first prayer, or Fajr.  This pre-dawn meal is called Sahur, and in many communities children march through the neighborhood banging on drums and calling out “Sahur!  Sahur!” to remind people to wake up and begin their fast.  While there are neighborhoods in Jakarta that do so, because I live in a tall building I was not able to hear them.  The first time I heard this call was in Manado, and I was pleasantly surprised at the energy the children had, and the happiness with which they took to their task, even so early in the morning (as someone who is definitely not a morning person, I would probably have been too groggy to have done well, had this been my task).  Once azan (the call to prayer), is heard, everyone clears away the breakfast dishes and prepares to pray.  When fasting, Muslims of course do not eat or drink, but they also refrain from sex, swearing, and even negative thoughts.  It is not uncommon for friends of Muslims to join a day or two of fasting, and it truly is an excellent exercise in self-control (try sitting in the hot Indonesian weather with no water, brain frazzled by a dialect of Indonesian you haven’t spoken in a few months, and thinking only positive thoughts), at the very least.  For someone who is Muslim, while self-control is an aspect of fasting, it is only one small part of this month of added prayer and reflection.

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Buying jajanan on the street.

Later in the evening, after the sunset prayer, or Magrib, it is time for buka puasa (the “opening” or breaking of the fast).  This might be done alone, but is often done together as a family, or perhaps at the local mosque.  In Indonesia, most people buka puasa with jajanan (snacks), usually of the gorengan (fried food) variety.  Sellers line the streets in the hours leading up to buka puasa, so that people can buy the foods on the way home.  Buka puasa bersama (breaking the fast together) is also a very popular practice in Indonesia, and I regularly did so with friends and other community members.  It is not uncommon for non-Muslim friends and co-workers to join for buka bersama, and while in Manado, which is actually a Christian-majority city, I participated in a buka bersama with my friend and some of her university friends, at which everyone attended was of a different religion, naturally leading to a questions and discussions which I do believe were highly illuminating for everyone present.

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Breaking the fast after Tarawih.

Throughout Ramadan, many Muslims seek to improve their practice and their understanding of the Qur’an.  Many of my friends spent additional hours studying the Qur’an, for example.  Another common practice that I experienced while spending Ramadan in Indonesia was Tarawih.  Tarawih is essentially extra prayers performed during Ramadan.  These are usually done in sets of eleven or twenty-three rak’ah[1], and while some people perform Tarawih alone, but many do so at the local masjid (mosque).  I was fortunate enough to be invited by friends to observe Tarawih twice, once at Mesjid Istiqlal in Jakarta, and once in the musholla (prayer room) behind my friend’s house in Manado (which her grandfather had actually built).  The sense of community Is especially strong, I feel, during Tarawih, which was a privilege to witness.

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Tumbilotohe.

I spent the last week of Ramadan in Sulawesi.  After spending a few days in Manado to visit friends from Gorontalo who have since moved there, I headed to Gorontalo for the last two nights of Ramadan.  I especially wanted to spend the last few nights of Ramadan in Gorontalo because I wanted the chance to observe Tumbilotohe, a very special form of adat (tradition) in the city where I once served as an ETA[2].  Tumbilotohe is usually translated to “Nights without Darkness,” and it takes place during the final three nights of Ramadan, throughout the province of Gorontalo.  Throughout Tumbilotohe people line the streets outside their houses with oil lamps.  The belief is that these lights will attract the attention of angels to Gorontalo, and the timing of this festival is due to the larger Muslim belief that acts of ibadah (acts of devotion) have more value during the last days of Ramadan.  In more recent years some communities have replaced the traditional oil lamps with fairy lights, and instead of traditional noise makers children now also run down their streets with sparklers, but the essential spirit of the celebration remains the same.  After hearing so much about this celebration from my friends in Gorontalo, it was a blessing to be able to finally be a part of it.

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Listening to the khutbah.

I remained in Gorontalo for Idul Fitri.  One of my co-teacher’s husbands was giving the khutbah (sermon) at one of the local mosques, and so I joined her and her family for sholat Idul Fitri (Eid al-Fitr salah, or prayers).  From what I could understand (I still find it difficult to understand Indonesian when spoken through a microphone), her husband spoke of the importance of remembering the lessons of Ramadan throughout the year, and of continually bettering their practice, not merely during the month of Ramadan.

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Doa Lolipu. (Photo credit to my co-teacher.)

Following sholat Idul Fitri, my co-teacher’s husband, and as such herself and her family and myself, were invited to the home of one of the men who had helped lead the prayer.   We were joined by other important men associated with the mosque, the leader of the community in which the mosque was located, as well as their families.  What followed was another tradition unique to Gorontalo, doa lolipuDoa means prayer in Bahasa Indonesia (generally, in comparison to sholat, which is the Indonesian spelling of salah, which is Muslim prayer), and lolipu is Bahasa Gorontalo (the language of Gorontalo), translating to something along the lines of “our city.”  Two men led this special prayer, and afterwards men of especial importance were given nasi kuning (yellow rice) and tili aya (a sweet dessert), two dishes commonly found at almost every acara in Gorontalo.  Once this ceremony was complete, everyone was invited to share the nasi kuning and tili aya, as well as several other dishes that had been set out.  My co-teacher explained to me that this same ceremony would occur near every mosque in Gorontalo, with those who had led that day’s prayer.  Doa lolipu is quite common in Gorontalo, and also occurs when someone dies or when there is an important event in the city.  Idul Fitri is, of course, another important event.  This sort of ceremony may not necessarily occur in other parts of Indonesia, though other areas might have their own adat regarding Ramadan as well.

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Me with the family of one of my co-teachers.  

The rest of that day, as well as the following day, was spent visiting.  Alongside my co-teachers, we went from house to house in the neighborhood, wishing everyone a blessed Idul Fitri, and exchanging the phrase “Mohon maaf lahir dan batin,” which essentially means, “Please forgive the sins of my body and soul.”  There is food in every home, and we were encouraged to eat everywhere we went (and we, in turn, encouraged people to eat when they came to us).  When visiting family, my co-teacher and her husband also gave jakati (gifts of money for family members, in larger amounts for adults and smaller amounts for children).  Everywhere we went, when a new adult family member entered the room, children would immediately gather, shouting, “Jakati! Jakati!”  We also visited the tombs of her father and her husband’s father, to pause and pray.

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Another “family photo.”  

While the first day of Idul Fitri was largely dedicated to family and neighbors, the second day was devoted to visiting friends and co-workers.  This day was especially special for me, as it entailed many visits to the homes of other teachers from the school where I used to teach.  These are the people who became my family while I lived there, and so as wonderful as the visits to my co-teacher’s family were, it is these visits that brought me the most personal joy.

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Some of the teachers who took me into their homes during Ramadan.  

Ramadan is an extremely special time for Muslim’s around the world, and it was a privilege to witness some of the different practices across this vast archipelago.  I am incredibly grateful to everyone who opened their doors and their hearts to me, making Ramadan 2017 an unforgettable time for me as well.  Terima kasih (thank you), and mohon maaf lahir dan batin.

[1] A rak’ah is essentially one set of salah, including the movements and prayer.

[2] I actually wrote an entire blog about Tumbilotohe, which you can find here.

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A Love Letter to Trans Jakarta

Dear Trans Jakarta,

You are probably my favorite part of living in Jakarta.  There I days when I truly wonder if I would have survived living in this city, if not for you.

IMG_2587I love your cool, air conditioned cars.  After walking along the streets of Jakarta for mere minutes, sweat drips down my back and my face, soaking my shirt and putting streaks in whatever makeup I was foolish enough to try to wear.  (What can I say?   I am a northerner trying to live in a tropical climate: my body still isn’t sure what to do with this equatorial sun.)  Stepping into a trans car is a blessed reprieve from the heat, and as soon as I naik (board), I feel my head clear and my skin give a soft sigh of relief.

I love how much of the city you have already reached.  I know that I am lucky to have recently moved to Jakarta, because not long ago the bus corridors did not reach as many places, and the lack of connecting corridors made the travel time for many too long for them to feasibly use the Trans system.  But as you continue to expand and more people are able to ride the system, it will make sustainable public transportation options truly feasible for more of Jakarta.

I love how cheap you are.  For IDR 3.500, I can go from one end of the city to the other.  Transportation in Jakarta does tend to be quite inexpensive, at least when compared to other capital cities around the world, but I the only options I have found that might be cheaper than the Trans are the rickety Kopaja buses overflowing with passengers that still pour back smoke into the air, and my feet.  As someone who is paid by American standards, but whose friends are mostly Indonesians being paid Indonesian wages, this is especially important: while I arguably could take a taxi wherever I wanted to go, my friends cannot; but with the Trans system, we can all travel in comfort, together.

IMG_2590I love that you have spaces that are khusus wanita (special for women).  Whether it is the front of regular buses, or the bright pink female-only buses with the massive lettering on their sides proclaiming “These Girls are Smart!,” I am so thankful that this spaces exist.  I plan so many of my days around trying to avoid street harassment, and knowing that I can travel from one part of the city to another in the relative comfort and safety of female company is one of the reasons I feel able to explore all this city has to offer.

Jakarta is not my favorite city that I have ever lived in, but there are interesting elements of the city very much worth exploring.  But the pollution, heat, and harassment of this city often make it hard for me to convince myself to leave the clean, cool, safe confines of my apartment.  I have long conversations with myself, trying to persuade myself to leave.  There have been days when the TransJakarta system is the piece of the puzzle that gets me out of the house, and I would have missed out on so much, if it did not exist.

Thank you, TransJakarta.  There is little in this city that I will miss when I leave.  But I will miss you.

Love,

Grace

 

“F#$% you, Mister, I love you!”: My Experience with Street Harassment in Indonesia

Eyes sparkling, smiles stretching from ear to ear, bare feet kicking up dust, the three boys chased after me as I passed on my sepeda (bicycle).  “F#$% you!  F#$% you!”  They shouted.

As an English Teaching Assistant in Gorontalo, this was an almost daily occurrence, as I always passed the same areas during my bike rides.  I often stopped, and tried to teach the boys other phrases in English, and to explain to them that what they were saying was tidak sopan (not polite).  I began to hear “Hello!” and “How are you!?” much more frequently as my grant continued, but I was never quite able to eliminate their cheerful calls of “F#$% you!  F#$% you!”

There were days I was able to remain amused by this, and recognize that this phrase was probably one of the few phrases these young boys, probably no more than eight years old, knew in Bahasa Inggris (English), and that their intention was simply to be friendly.  Those were the days I would stop, engage, and try to educate.  But there were also plenty of days when I simply could not stand hearing them, when their favorite phrase would grate on my soul.  Those were the days I would grit my teeth as I forced a smile, and passed by with simply a nod in their direction.

My different responses to these three boys depended almost entirely on how much I had been harassed that day.  Now, to be clear, harassment was not the only factor that might cause me to be frustrated: feelings of homesickness, frustration with co-teachers, embarrassment at cultural misunderstandings, or perceived failure in my capacity as a teacher might all make it much harder for me to be my usual happy self.  However, I must confess I was immensely more adept at reflecting on these feelings, learning from them, and letting them go.  But the feelings of lack of safety and being so intruded upon that stemmed from being harassed were much more difficult for me to let go, and this was in part due to the frequency of the harassment I experienced.  While I might have whole days where I felt I was beginning to understand the culture I was in, or I might finish the school day feeling that the day’s lesson was successful, there was not a single day when I did not experience some form of harassment.  This daily struggle throughout my three years in Indonesia weighed down on me, and without reprieve, there were days when I invariably broke.

While I don’t want to imply that certain forms of harassment are harder or easier than others, there is no denying that the harassment I experienced was not always the same.  I have spent hours reflecting in my journal, and through conversations with fellow ETAs, trying to piece out what forms the harassment I received might take, and the motivations behind them.  This is not easy task, as harassment, especially in Indonesia, especially of foreigners, is immensely complex, and my constant inability to draw any conclusions is part of the reason it has taken me so long to write this post.  However, I eventually concluded that there were three forms of harassment I was most likely to receive: sexual, gendered, and race-based harassment.

The sexual harassment I’ve experienced in Indonesia was, frankly, the same sh@# I regularly contend with at home in the U.S., even if the way it presented itself was somewhat different.  Cat calls do have a different sound in Indonesia, more closely resembling a sharp hiss than the whistles that are more popular in the U.S., but the intent, and the way men look me up and down, undressing me with their eyes, is the same as that which I have been experiencing in the U.S. since middle school.  More than once I have had men on the street, whom I have never met before, ask me to have sex with them, sometimes in English, and sometimes in Indonesian.  The first time I experienced the dreaded “palm scratch” (this is when a man scratches the palm of a woman’s hand when they are shaking hands in greeting; it is an offer for sex), I’ll admit that I did not let another man shake hands with me for weeks.  For a few months during my second grant, there was a man who would follow me to and from school every day, throw rocks at my door—shut and locked because of him, even though I would have preferred to maintain the open-door policy so common in Indonesia—in the evening, shouting for all to hear that he planned to marry me, and stand, smoking and leering, outside the windows of my classrooms while I was teaching.  Though I was able to enlist the help of neighbors and teachers to keep him away from my house and the school grounds, I was unable to eliminated his presence in my life fully until he moved to another city, and even then, I never truly felt safe in and around my neighborhood.

The packaging may be somewhat different, but inside this sexual harassment is the same.  In Indonesia, I was just as likely to be harassed if I was wearing conservative clothing bought at a Muslim boutique as I was if I was wearing a t-shirt and cropped pants (which is as much skin as I dared show in my conservative ETA sites), just as in the U.S. I was just as likely to be harassed in my unflattering convenience store uniform as I was in a sundress; and in both places, if I complain about harassment, one of the first questions I am asked is “What were you wearing?”  Also like much of the U.S., there is the assumption that this treatment is permissible, and that women have the responsibility of dealing with it, of thinking of it as a compliment.  It seems we women cannot escape the “culture of men,” as one Ibu in Malang put it, shaking her head as she explained to me[1], “Actually, they should not be this way.  Malang is in Java.  Javanese culture teaches men to respect women.  But they do not.  Malang is majority Muslim.  Muslim culture teaches men to respect women.  But they do not.   It is because of the culture of men, which somehow is stronger than the other cultures these men belong to.”

This “culture of men,” or what would be called male culture in the Western world, not only was most likely one of the root causes of the sexual harassment I experienced, but also played in to what I have decided to call gendered harassment.  I want to differentiate it from gender harassment, although I probably experienced that as well, as I wasn’t necessarily being harassed for my gender, but rather was experiencing a certain level of harassment because of my gender.  The difference is slim, but I do think is there.  Often, this harassment mirrored the harassment I would experience as a foreigner, which I will get to in a moment, but it was more persistent than what I believe men might experience.  Someone might follow me on my walk to work, pestering me with questions, asking for photos, even after I had repeatedly said that I wanted to be left alone and was trying to walk as fast as I could, practically leaping over the holes in the Jakarta sidewalk, in an attempt to be rid of the person.  I am very much convinced that people would not be so adamant in harassing me if I was a man.  I am not saying that a man will never experience this kind of harassment, but there is something in the power a man inherently holds in society—especially in a place like Indonesia, where gender roles are much more divided than they are in the U.S.—that means he is usually listened to when he says no.  As a woman, I do not command the same respect, and so it is harder for me to stop the harassment aimed my way.

Perhaps the most common form of harassment I receive is race-based harassment[2]Bule is a term used for Caucasian foreigners in Indonesia, and it is a word that I have heard shouted at me every. single. day. since I arrived in Indonesia.  Because I am a bule, people call out “Mister!” at me wherever I go[3].  Teachers and students pinch my nose, squealing “Mancung!” (this literally means “long nose”), telling me how much they wish their nose was like mine.  I have more than once had babies pushed into my lap when trying to lesson plan in cafes, and I cannot count the number of times I have been in the middle of a conversation with friends when someone has come up behind me a dragged me into a photo with them, without asking permission and without introducing themselves.  Kenalkan dulu,” (“Introduce yourself first”) has become my mantra when it comes to photos.  I am not going to let someone take a photo with me, so that they can post all over social media and gain social points with their peers, if they aren’t going to at least tell me their name first, and listen to mine.  If the people are asking are clearing in high school, I make them ask me for a photo and introduce themselves in English, as I know that all high school students in Indonesia are required to study English.  Sometimes I have to help them, and that is fine, but I feel they might as well get something more valuable than just a photo from meeting me (though they may not see the value of these two things the same way I do).  And if people don’t ask, and try to force me into a photo, they don’t get a photo, but get a lecture on politeness instead.

I was once at a lampu merah (red light) on my motorbike when a man pulled up beside me and shouted, “Mister!” at me; I nodded in his direction, but kept my focus on the traffic light.  After shouting at me a few more times, and being clearly unsatisfied with my response, he reached across the space between us and pushed me.  Mostly due to my shock at this treatment, I and my motorbike fell just as the light turned green, and were pushed forward by the car in front of us.  Somehow, I managed to escape with only scrapes on my hands and what I am pretty sure was a broken toe, all of which I was fortunately able to treat on my own with supplies from the local alpotek (apothecary, or medicine shop).  While not all forms of race-based harassment are so physical or so extreme, the fact is they can me just as dangerous as other forms of harassment.

The bule treatment, as I have come to call this race-based harassment, is not only the most common form of harassment I receive, it is also by far the most complicated.  I am targeted and harassed because of the color of my skin, but part of the reason why I am harassed is because of years of colonialism and Western media causing Indonesians to internalize the idea that I am more beautiful because I have lighter skin.  The harassment I receive is different from that received by foreigners of color, again largely due to history and media, and even the harassment different people of color receive is never quite the same.  Someone who is African-American, for example, would be subjected to harassment that looks different from that experienced by someone is or presents as East Asian.  The issue of colorism[4] is one all ETAs must contend with in different ways throughout our time here, and the way it plays into harassment is just one of them.

The lines between these kinds of harassment are not always clear cut.  For example, I am more likely to be sexually harassed in Indonesia than an Indonesian woman because I am foreign: Western media portrays women as highly sexualized and sexual, and while I recognize that is some ways this can be empowering, the way it has been interpreted in Indonesia is that Western women always want sex, and this adds to the idea that men have permission to harass women.  The intersection of these different harassments and is why I eventually realized that I would always experience the most harassment if I was alone, a little less if I was with a foreign female friend, yet again a bit less if I was with an Indonesian female friend or with a male foreign friend, and almost none if I was with a male Indonesian friend (though being alone with a man after dark could, in turn, create endless gossip if I was in a smaller community).

If there is one thing that is simple and clear about harassment is this: it sucks, and I, and no woman, no person, should ever have to deal with it.

I have learned to stop feeling guilty when the harassment makes me angry, and I “lose face[5]” by yelling at someone on the street.  I have tried to educate when I can, and where it is appropriate for me to do so[6].  But truthfully, these are not skills I should have needed to learn.

I see amazing work being done by scores of women, both in the U.S. and in Indonesia, to rid the world of harassment.  I live in stubborn hope that someday girls, and every human, might not need fear walking out on the street alone, wherever they live, and whatever they wear.

For now, I keep my head down on the street, necessary self-protection, but keep my fury alive, fueling my motivation to play my role in creating the world I want to live in.

Go ahead.  Hiss in my direction.  Call me “Mister,” one more time.  See what happens when you do.


I mentioned in a footnote a few Indonesiaful pieces by ETAs of color, speaking to the treatment they receive while in Indonesia, which is very different from what I receive.  I want to put the links to those pieces again here, in order of publication:

“Black Sweet: Grappling with Skin Color in Indonesia” by Nina Bhattacharya

“Where Are You Really From?” by Julius Tsai

“Experiencing Colorism in Indonesia” by Kayla Stewart


[1] I am translating here from Indonesian.  I also want to note that this Ibu was quite special, in the way she thought about these things.  Rarely did I come across women, especially older women, who would place the responsibility of harassment on men, rather than on women.

[2] It took me a long time to decide what to call this form of harassment.  It’s root cause is absolutely in my race: the color of my skin, the texture of my hair, etc.  However, I did not necessarily want to refer to it as racial harassment, due to the connotations racial harassment has, especially in the Western context, and the fact that I do not share the same experience.  However, I was also hesitant to call it “white harassment,” or something along those lines, as that seem to add to the idea of white exceptionalism (why do I get a special name because I am white?), and because it seemed to echo the idea of reverse-racism, an idea I was obviously not trying to convey.  After speaking with several American friends who have also lived in Indonesia, one of them suggested race-based, and feeling that this language offered something of the complexity I was looking for, I decided to use that terminology.

[3] I don’t exactly know why Indonesians only seem to know the male form of address in English.  I always try to correct people, explaining that it is better to say “Miss” or “Missus” to women.  Some days I can find being called “Mister” a bit amusing; other days I want to throw up my hands and shout, “I am a g@# d@#& woman, and proud of it.  So, call me ‘Mister,’ one more time, and see what I do.”

[4] There have also been several good pieces written for the ETA online magazine Indonesiaful by ETAs of color regarding their experiences, such as “Black Sweet,” “Where Are You Really From?” and “Experiencing Colorism in Indonesia,” and I would encourage people to read them.  I also reflected more in-depth about my own whiteness during my first grant, in a blog titled, “Warning, Visibility May Vary, or, Being White in Indonesia.”

[5] In many Asian cultures, including many of those in Indonesia, becoming noticeably angry is a huge cultural faux pas, and one should always exude an exterior that is calm and content.  When excessive emotion, especially of the more negative sort, is shown, a person is said to have “lost face.”

[6] I am a foreigner, and Indonesia is not my permanent home.  I have recognize that such social justice education is better led by an Indonesian, and whenever possible, I take the back seat.

Snapshot: Kota Manado

20170302_165341I have never had the chance to stay in Kota Manado (the city of Manado) for very long.  The first time I made it to Sulawesi Utara (North Sulawesi), I ended up staying in Pulisan, which is a beautiful coastal area, so I am not complaining one bit.  My second visit to Manado was to help judge a couple of WORDS Competitions earlier this year, and my final visit was just recently, to visit friends who have moved to Manado on my way to Gorontalo.

Manado is probably most famous amongst foreigners for its incredible diving.  In order to reach Pulau Bunaken (Bunaken Island), possibly Indonesia’s most well-known diving spot, one must pass through Manado.  Even parts of the city butt up against the ocean, and there are several points that apparently offer great snorkeling without needing to leave the city.  After falling in love with the ocean while living in Gorontalo, I always loved ending up by the ocean whenever I had a chance to visit Manado.

20170305_112320Kota Manado is, without a doubt, a city.  Amongst those who live on Sulawesi It is perhaps most famous for its abundance of malls.  And there truly are a number of them.  Traffic in Manado sometimes echoes that of Jakarta, although my friends tell me the traffic in Manado is largely caused by the excess mikrolet or angkot (a form of public transportation), rather than merely due to overpopulation.

Manado is one of the few majority-Christian areas in Sulawesi, which does make it somewhat different from the places I have lived, all of which have been majority Muslim.  There are churches, rather than mosques, around every corner, and Christmas, I have been told, is a months-long affair in Manado.

Religion may also play a role in the diet of many Manadonese as well.  Pork, of course, becomes an option in a non-Muslim area.  But the Manadonese are famous for eating “anything that walks on land, swims in the sea, or flies in the air,” and there are markets in Manado famous for selling such delicacies as bat, scorpion, rat, and snake.  RW, or dog, is also a common dish in Manado.  Many of these are also not permitted to be consumed if one is Muslim, as they are considered kotor (dirty), but these particular dishes probably have less to do with religion than the cultures of the area that existed long before Christianity or Islam was introduced to Indonesia.

Manado is an interesting place, very different from the rest of Sulawesi, but at the same time it also still feels very much like many of the other areas in Sulawesi.  It is a fascinating place, one I wish I had been able to explore further.