It is so hard to believe that Rebekah and I are now halfway through our stay here in Southeast Asia. It has taken our entire time in country to gain establishment to live in this place. Becoming established has been necessary however we now have much more we desire to accomplish prior to our departure in December. However, I have learned that if nothing else, true accomplishment is gained when we are obedient and faithful in the daily aspects of life and from this glory shall come. As I reflect on the writings of Paul, I am reminded that it is not of myself that good can be offered but rather it is only through His strength, “helping in our weaknesses” that good is brought so that others may know Him. I have also realized the importance of the believing community to be united. Paul wrote that we are to “love one another not of hypocrisy but of devoted love to one another.” This is crucial in daily living.
Followers of the majority religion just recently finished their month of fasting. The week immediately following this time is considered a national holiday. Everybody is off of work and out of school as everybody celebrates by visiting the homes of close relatives and friends. The first day of the week is the most important. This day is for special family members only. Typically the family all gathers in the home of the grandparents. The second day they visit their next closest relative’s home. The third day is for very close friends. The fourth day is for visiting neighbors since your neighborhood is considered a family community as well. The remaining days of the week are spent visiting various other people. We were invited into many homes during this week and so we gladly accepted. We went from house to house visiting with various members of our community. We went to the chief of police’s house, neighbor’s houses and various others as well. While in the homes we discuss the previous month they have just experienced as well as daily conversation of how each other is doing. They all prepare many foods for this special holiday. The food is mostly fried and sugary. They really enjoy these treats. The majority religion of our country requires women to cover their heads. We however do not need to cover while living here. This is so because our country has six official religions. We are recognized as followers of one of these six. Since our recognition does not fall within the majority religion, we are not expected to cover in the same way. We do however choose to display extreme modesty aside from covering our heads since the majority religion is so prevalent here.
As I, along with our closest national friend, was having lunch in the home of some locals, the homeowner asked me if I enjoy “climbing.” I responded by saying that I enjoy leisurely rock climbing. She reacted with great enthusiasm and then invited us to attend an event with her later that day…Independence Day for our country was August 17. However, due to the majority religion, most of the country was fasting during that time. Therefore, it could not properly be celebrated and so Independence Day was just recently celebrated and will continue to be celebrated over the next week. Independence is celebrated through a nationwide tradition. As our country offers many varying cultures on each island, it is this tradition that remains the one true tradition throughout all of the nation’s islands and therefore it holds great importance among the people. The tradition is a display of teamwork among all people. It is called Panjat Pinang. Everyone is to gather around a very large pole carved from the trunk of a tree. The pole is covered in oil and decorated at the top with the nation’s flag as well as “door prizes.” The men of the community are expected to climb the pole and grab the door prizes. However, it is not just one man at a time that is climbing but it is six, seven, maybe eight men climbing on top of one another, using the body of the other as height for reaching the door prizes at the top. The men climb on top of one another’s shoulders of the man below, while at the same time helping the next man to do the same. Because the pole is covered in oil it takes many attempts with the guy at the bottom struggling to hold all of the other men on top of his shoulders…As the nationals saw me, the foreigner, approach the celebrating crowd, they all turned and invited me to join them in their climb. I now realized the reason for the enthusiasm previously displayed from the homeowner who asked me if I liked to climb. Haha. Although, this would have been thrilling, I chose to remain a female face in the crowd, among the other women. The climbing men never made it to the top but the one at the bottom was in tears trying to do so. One man was trying so hard that he even continued to hang onto the pole even after the other seven men below him had fallen. He single handedly took off his shirt, while hanging fifty feet in the air, and from his shirt he made a hook around the pole for him to hang onto. The men are very strong in the way they can grip the pole with their hands and feet. It is an impressive skill that was fascinating to watch. I look forward to more celebrations that are to come! Happy Independence Day!