Part 2: Self-Defense 101: Curfews and Hijabs · 15.12.13 by Madeline H.
Beautiful ceiling art of a local Mosque – Click on image for larger view
The Islamic micro-finance co-operative where I conducted my research is situated in a peculiar corner of the city of Surakarta , in a small, very traditional and extremely conservative neighbourhood with pockets of extremist factions of Islam. I had no knowledge of this information when I first moved into this neighbourhood, only discovering it half way through the research period when I began to realize that the friendly hospitality of some of my local neighbours masked their incessant, persistent yet subtle attempts to convert me to their religion.
Living in this particular community required that I abide by the rules of the neighbourhood, however the existence of such rules was only learned by accidentally breaking them. For example, I was advised by the manager of the Islamic micro-finance co-operative the morning after I had stayed out to a cultural show until midnight, that it was best for me to be home before 9:00pm; a woman staying out past this hour in this area of Surakarta was perceived to be indecent and at risk of danger.
Traditional Indonesian live theatre – Click on image for larger view
Despite my jiu-jitsu training, my life experience and my age, it was my sex that determined my curfew; the 18 year old boys who lived next-door were free to roam when and where they pleased. Out of respect for my neighbours and the manager of the co-operative, (whose reputation would be tainted should I be caught out past my curfew) and not wanting to rock the boat or cause any problems for the collection of my research data, I complied. However, for every rule, there is an exception: I discovered that attending a ladies’ group study of the Muslim holy books gave me the right and privilege to stay out until the wee hours of the morning.
As part of my research and also to build rapport and establish a relationship of trust with my neighbours and potential research participants (some of whom were, at first, skeptical of me and my project) I regularly attended community and religious events. Such events included the ladies’ Islamic study groups, Indonesia’s Independence Day celebrations, religious holiday rituals and festivities (for example the “Feast of the Sacrifice”)** and volunteering with the Mosque’s children’s program teaching kids jiu-jitsu.
The kids having fun at jiu-jitsu! – Click on image for larger view
Although most of my neighbours and all of my research respondents knew I am not Muslim, my daily involvement in these activities gave some individuals a false sense of hope: they saw it as evidence of a deeper thirst for knowledge of the truth that they claim to hold and a desire to convert. They forgot, or chose to turn a blind eye to the fact, that I am nothing more than a business woman and master’s student, there to gather data and write a thesis on an extremely fascinating business topic and with no intent or interest in converting. Yet they did not give up and the invitations to both religious events and to convert began to increase…
It certainly did not help my situation that I wore the hijab, a sign in Indonesia (NOT necessarily a sign in Islam) that one has already converted or is in the process of converting to Islam. What many in my community did not realize is that in order to conduct my research, I was required by the Islamic micro-finance co-operative to wear the hijab; it was not a matter of choice. Unfortunately, a few of my non-Muslim Indonesian friends took great personal offense to my wearing the hijab believing it to be a rejection of their non-Muslim beliefs. In hind sight I realized that these friends were also competing for my conversion; despite my assertions to the contrary, my hijab was their evidence that I had been indoctrinated. Religious tensions are high in Indonesia though they lie just under the surface of a seeming peace; sadly, my hijab caused an irreconcilable difference for one of my non-Muslim friends.
Madeline at the world famous Borobudur Buddhist Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
I found that wearing the hijab affords many benefits. It made going through customs and immigration a breeze and it offered me protection from potentially dangerous situations. One of my married friends living in Surakarta was recently sexually assaulted while on her way home from work. Being a non-Muslim she is in the minority in Indonesia, yet I suggested she adorn the hijab since, in Indonesia, a man cannot touch a woman who wears the hijab (I also suggested she start training in jiu-jitsu or some other self-defence program). Because I wore the hijab I was often told that I was a “good” and “perfect” person, despite my claims to the contrary and the fact that I am not Muslim. In Indonesia today, great respect is given to the woman who covers her head while the woman who does not is sometimes seen as immoral, loose and deserving of whatever abuse may pursue her; after all, “she asked for it” right?
Serenity: Eid al-Adha morning prayers – Click on image for larger view
Thankfully I was never in any physical danger during my time in Indonesia. However, being very familiar with the long and bloody history that haunts Indonesia to this day (as Aljazeera correspondent Step Vaessen explores one part of this long history in this telling documentary) I never went anywhere without my passport and my external hard drive with all my research data. I was always ready, if ever necessary, to leave at a moment’s notice. What I came to realize was that it was not my physical person that was at risk; my freedoms were closing in on me and it was my mind that was at risk. The control of my mind was the ever sought after prize to be won…
**One of the many religious events I attended for research purposes included “Eid al-Adha” or “Idul Adha” (in Indonesian): the “Feast of the Sacrifice” or the annual slaughtering of the cows and goats. The significance and meaning of this ritual is profoundly beautiful in that it brings the community together, young and old, women and men, working as one in order to provide food for the poor. However, the actual event as practiced in this neighbourhood and as I witnessed it brought up questions of humanity and religious brainwashing. The pictures are too unsettling to share and do no justice to the actual event which seemingly fazed not even the youngest child in attendance. I promised to tell ALL but this is one experience from the field that is best left in the field, at least for now…
The Good, The Bad and The Ugly: The Truth About What Really Happened in Indonesia. · 11.12.13 by Madeline H.
Part 1: Sun, Fun and Flying Cockroaches – From our correspondent Madeline Holden
Click on image for larger view – Stained Glass window at a local Mosque…
Paradise defined: living abroad, on a tropical island where the temperatures never go below 25 Celsius, the supply of tropical fruit and local delicacies are endless and the friendly hospitality of the locals cannot be surpassed. Certainly sounds like a dream come true; it beats the rain, drizzle and fog foreshadowing the long, cold, winter snows and the monotony of daily life in Canada. Or does it? There is a saying that the grass is always greener on the other side of the hill…. so let’s investigate the other side of the hill shall we?
I lived abroad in Indonesia, on a tropical island, where the temperatures never went below 25 C, the supply of tropical fruit and local delicacies was endless and the friendly hospitality of the locals could only be surpassed by the friendly hospitality of a Newfoundlander.
Home sweet home bathroom facilities – Click on the Picture
On this tropical island called Java, I lived in the inland city of Surakarta, with unbearably hot temperatures normally reaching 35 – 37 C. With a humidity index of 75 – 80% it felt more like a very uncomfortable 45 C in which it is extremely difficult to sleep, let alone work or conduct research. My living accommodations did not include air conditioning so I attempted to beat the heat by “showering” as often as possible (this usually amounted to 6+ times per day). I “showered” by pouring buckets of room-temperature water over my head while hovering over the squat toilet. Bathing regularly was required given that the endless supply of tropical fruit and local delicacies (including rice 3 times per day, every day) had provoked a 3 month long case of “Delhi Belly”.
Picture – Surakarta Farmers market – no shortage of good fresh food
Being a 4 hour’s drive from the nearest beach, seldom was there a breeze to bring relief or even to blow away the stench given off by the overheated garbage piles decomposing along the street corners and the river banks. This city, as is the case with many cities in Indonesia, seemed to have no recycling program let alone a formal garbage collection service which may be one of the reasons why it is overrun by rats the size of an average Canadian house cat. Thankfully, only the regular sized rats lived above my room in the space between the ceiling and the roof. Their existence was made known to me each night by the sounds of their fighting amongst each other which once resulted in a rat falling down through the open part of the ceiling… My persistent cleaning was to no avail however and I could not get rid of rats much less the flying cockroaches. My modest accommodations had no bed thus I slept on a mattress on the floor and awoke on a few occasions to find cockroaches lying next to me or a rat running across in front of me in its attempt to escape a premature death. It was truly an “all inclusive vacation”.
However, this was not a vacation. I was living in Indonesia to collect data for my master’s thesis. Unfortunately, my chosen research location was not on a beach in Bali and thus such inconveniences and discomforts were to be expected and I learned to adapt. I became a master at killing cockroaches while finding innovative ways to cool off and continuing to search out possible remedies for my gastrointestinal troubles. These minor nuisances/frustrations, however, paled in comparison to the difficulties presented by my chosen topic of research: Islamic micro-finance.
Click on the Picture – Madeline teaching micro-finance at a local University
Islamic banking is a system of finance based on Islamic principles, which, in theory, is designed to provide a more ethical and just financial system whereby the gap between the rich and the poor is narrowed by avoiding interest and encouraging risk/profit sharing funding schemes. Whether or not Islamic banking lives up to its claims of ethical superiority is the topic of a heated global debate and one in which I do not venture to engage myself. Instead I am interested in the anthropological and sociological aspects of Islamic micro-finance as it pertains to the role of Indonesian women. In other words, I want to understand why there is an increasing number of women getting involved in Islamic micro-finance in Indonesia and how these women are empowered or disempowered by their involvement with Islamic micro-finance.
Sounds fascinating, intriguing, and exciting doesn’t it? Even a little risky. Indeed it is. The reality of the risks associated with being an unmarried, non-Muslim, woman, on the wrong side of 30, conducting research in Islamic micro-finance in Indonesia alone and by myself, presented me with some very serious challenges over the past 3.5 months….
Reverse culture shock is often experienced by those returning home from intense, international situations. Madeline Holden arrived back in Canada in early December 2013. This mini-series is one of the ways in which she is working through the re-adaptation or transition process. Ms. Holden is now busy analyzing the data collected and writing up her master’s thesis on Islamic micro-finance in Indonesia. Her first blog post titled “Food, Fashion, and Islamic Finance in Indonesia.” can be read here. You can contact Ms. Holden via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Grinder for sale · 10.12.13 by colin newell
My colleague and friend – Katie Zalazar e-mail email@example.com – is selling her near new Baratza Vario grinder – ideally in the Vancouver or Victoria area.
In her words…
Hey there readers! -
I have a Baratza Vario grinder that I am looking to sell. I won it in a competition but have hardly used it at all. I would love to sell locally in Victoria or Vancouver (or on the island).
I’m wondering if you know of anyone who might be interested in buying a used (all cleaned up!) grinder. As you know it retails for about $470, so I’m looking to sell it for about $400. Any ideas would be greatly appreciated! Note my e-mail above. Thanks!
Colin here – there you have it – help a gal out and get a great grinder in the process!
Getting back on the blog saddle · 9.12.13 by colin newell
A word out to my devoted reader.
No, I am not lost for the World.
No, I have not fallen off of the Planet Earth.
No, I have not been sent off on a galactic mission to save a small sparsely populated solar system.
I am right here where I have always been – a little lazy is all.
And our regular blogging programming will soon return in earnest – with a post from Foreign correspondent Madeline – who has just returned from an academic visit to Indonesia.
So. Your patience will be rewarded.
If you are a regular visitor to these parts, feel free to shout some encouragement or obscenities in the comment field provided below.
And thank you!
Philippine typhoon relief - help needed now · 14.11.13 by colin newell
Typhoon Haiyan – locally known as Yolanda –is the strongest typhoon to hit the Philippines in 2013 and arguably the most destructive storm to hit the region in anyone’s memory. The storm has caused widespread damage, including landslides and flooding. Tragically, among the people affected are those who were left homeless by an earthquake in mid-October.
So, I ask you… I beg of my readers:
Donate to the Typhoon Haiyan Fund
The Philippine Red Cross has been on the highest alert since the typhoon was sighted, pre-positioning supplies, helping with evacuation plans and warning communities. Today, they are working to meet the needs of individuals affected by the storm. It is a tough job – and how can we help? With money.
Canadians wishing to help individuals affected by this storm are encouraged to make a financial donation online, at their local Red Cross office or by calling 1-800-418-1111. Please earmark donations “Typhoon Haiyan”. Funds will be used to support Red Cross efforts in all countries affected by the storm.
Our American readers can pop over here to donate.
International readers click over here for the International office of the Red Cross.
Fall harvest cooking - Slow cooker Chicken Stew with Dumplings · 6.11.13 by colin newell
It is that time of year when it is cold and damp when we arrive at work and dark and wet when we leave work. And what is better than coming home to a steaming hot pot of slow cooked stew!
Only thing you need to do when you get home is whip up the dumplings.
This is a heart warming dish that is perfect for this time of the year – it pairs well with any full bodied Red Wine – like a Cab S.B. – We had a California Sonoma Cab SB that was perfect with this dish. Enjoy and welcome to the Fall home cooking season!
2 kg skinned boneless Chicken thighs
2 cups chopped / diced carrots
2 cups chopped / diced celery
1 chopped onion
2 cups sliced mushrooms
1 teaspoon dried Thyme
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 cans Cream of Mushroom soup (low salt)
1 cup water
Cut chicken into large – medium pieces.
Brown (in oil + pork fat if you have it!) chicken in dutch oven or pot seasoning with salt, pepper and thyme
Remove chicken to crock pot
Saute onions carrots celery in Crock pot (that you used for browning chicken)
Place onions, carrots and celery on top of chicken in the Crock pot.
Put all the sliced mushrooms on top of the veg and chicken mixture.
Stir soup, water, thyme and black pepper in a bowl.
Pour soup mixture over the chicken / veg mixture in the crock pot.
Cover and cook on low for 7 – 8 hours.
2 cups of flour – 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (opt) – 4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt – 2 tablespoons butter – 3/4 cup 2% milk (approx.)
In bowl whisk together flour, parsley, baking powder and salt.
Using pastry blender OR two knives cut in butter into coarse crumbs.
Using fork, stir in enough milk to make sticky spoon-able dough.
Leaving space around each, drop by tablespoon full (dough) onto simmering stew.
Cover and cook (without lifting lid) for 15 minutes or until dumplings are not longer doughy underneath.