Part 3: Love, Laugh, Live and Learn... · 14 February 2014 by Madeline H.
In Indonesia, marital status and the number of children a person has contributes to one’s social status, which is generally, extremely important in Indonesian society. Being childless, unmarried and over 30 with too much education, (high school is often sufficient to find middle-class employment in Indonesia) I was regarded as an old maid and a bit of a social oddity in this particular neighbourhood. There were regular inquiries from different people on why I was still single and when I would be getting married. Whether or not I wanted to get married, had a potential husband in mind, or had the financial resources to do so were all beside the point, reflecting a difference in value systems and the meaning and purpose of marriage.
A beautiful, blushing bride on her wedding day – Click on image for larger view
While the majority of Indonesian Muslims do not practice polygamy nor regard it in high esteem, (there are a few exceptions), technically, both Indonesian law and Islamic law allow men to have up to 4 wives. On occasion I observed suspicious looks hidden behind the friendly smiles of some of the younger, uneducated and educated, married women when I was introduced to their husbands. Though they regularly laughed and joked with me about their husbands taking a 2nd or 3rd wife, I often, and it turns out accurately, wondered if these women regarded me, in my singleness, as a potential threat to their currently monogamous relationships.
The author, all dolled up for an afternoon wedding reception – Click on image for larger view
Thus, in a possible attempt to mitigate the imagined threat that I posed to these women and certainly to secure my conversion to Islam one family proposed to find me a suitable Muslim husband. Since Islam, as it is practiced in Indonesia, requires that both parties getting married be Muslim and since Indonesian law prohibits inter-religious marriages (i.e. both the man and the woman must be of the same religion to marry) I understood the implications of their sincere, yet strategic plan. However, this particular family was genuinely concerned for me, for my future, my status in society and for my spiritual well-being. It was out of this deep, caring, thoughtfulness that they offered me the only thing they believed to be the solution to cure my presumed loneliness.
The bridal party and flower girls – Click on image for larger view
It was a warm evening and I was invited to sit down at their dining room table with the wife sitting to my left and her husband sitting across from me. They were relaxed and smiling. He began by first apologizing, in earnest, that he and his wife had only daughters and did not have any sons to offer me in marriage. I smiled politely, insisting that no such apology was necessary. I was a little confused, a little amused, and yet interested while apprehensive as to where this conversation would lead. The husband, smiling from ear to ear, explained that his wife, who nodded in agreement with an equally eager and loving smile, would search for a man for me to marry. While not sharing their feelings of anxiousness towards my single status, I was deeply touched and honoured that they took my supposedly hopeless situation to heart and were determined to help me. The husband held a prestigious position as a professor at a local university and she worked as a housewife; they were doing exceptionally well financially, were highly respected and well-connected in the community and could provide me with at a least a few good candidates. Though I admit I was certainly, very curious with what sort of suitors they would present me, I was not seriously considering their proposition, and thus I wondered how to respond to such an offer.
Traditional Javanese dressed newly weds – Click on image for larger view
Prior, personal experience in similarly, awkward, situations in Indonesia had taught me that a direct and negative response could sometimes result in the individual(s) becoming offended and in rare cases choosing to vindicate their honour or their standing in the community through passive aggressive means directed at either shaming me publicly or preventing me from being able to complete my research. Empathy, friendly diplomacy and an appeal to the cultural and religious beliefs of the family were required. So, in order to get out of this peculiar situation in which I found myself, I graciously accepted their proposal, however with two conditions.
The newly married couple and their in-laws – Click on image for larger view
Having dated a number of ill-willed and poor men over the years, I decided to take my chances and request a man who was both good (morally excellent) and wealthy (having more assets and cash and less debt than me). As in all negotiations, I believe it is best to aim high leaving a healthy space for bargaining; as the saying goes: “the worst anyone can say is no”. Upon hearing my stipulated conditions, both the husband and his wife laughed nervously and I laughed along with them. Then they told me I was truly a “material girl” and we all laughed again and nothing more was said on the subject; no potential husbands were ever presented.
An Arabian-Indonesian wedding – Click on image for larger view
Debt, financing, investments, wealth, poverty, money: the topic of my master’s thesis. Perceptions of these ideas are often very different from the actual numbers as they appear in one’s bank statement. Being consumers of American movies and celebrity gossip this husband and wife believed that I, like the Hollywood stars they worshiped, lived an enviable and wealthy lifestyle in Canada and that none of their immediate acquaintances could possibly possess more riches than those they had imagined of me. What this couple failed to realize is that, in addition to their mistaken imaginings about my life in Canada, they and many of their acquaintances have, in fact, more assets and cash and less debt than me….
Stay tuned to this space for Part 4 of “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly: The Truth About What Really Happened in Indonesia…” Check out Part 1 and Part 2. You can contact Ms. Holden via email at email@example.com
The Good, The Bad and The Ugly: The Truth About What Really Happened in Indonesia. · 11 December 2013 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
Philippine typhoon relief - help needed now · 14 November 2013 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.
UVic Congress 2013 Main Stage with Buffy Sainte-Marie · 6 June 2013 by colin newell
It has been a busy week at the University of Victoria with the Annual Congress of the Humanities – with some 7000 delegates and their families, the campus and the city as a whole has been hopping with big thinkers, the learned, the curious and the rest of us.
The reality for me, at UVic, is that every day of the year is an adventure in advanced education. Congress 2013 has been more of an amalgam of thought pressed into a tight 7 day event.
Humanities at UVic encompasses the study of English, French, Germanic and Slavonic studies, Hispanic and Italian studies, History, Latin studies, Greek and Roman studies, Linguistics, Medieval studies, Philosophy, and Women’s studies (hope I did not miss anyone!) –
Within the Faculty of Social Sciences is Economics, Anthropology, Environmental Studies, Geography, Political Science, Psychology and Sociology.
Congress is kind of a conference within a conference… plenary sessions, discussions, summits, society meetings, AGM’s etc – and even executive events for the government group known as SSHRC (Social Sciences Humanities Research Council) – they hand out money and often lots of it.
During the event (and because it is a fairly inclusive event) there were lots of family friendly events, food kiosks, entertainment and attractions on campus and in the Capital regional district.
We actually had a main stage on campus on one of the green spaces that featured afternoon and evening entertainment – many of them local and regional musical groups.
The evening headliner on Wednesday was 60’s legend and Canadian-American singer/artist/activist/educator Dr. Buffy Sainte-Marie. She wrote hits like “The Universal Soldier”, “Up where we belong” from the movie Officer and a Gentlemen, “Until it’s time for you to go”, “Bury my Heart at Wounded Knee” and many others. Her significance and place in the history and evolution of the sixties is well documented – but that only barely scratches the surface of what she accomplished in the 70’s, the 80’s, the 90’s and so on. Her 60’s hits are merely an introduction to a life well lived – with clearly many more chapters to be written.
According to her bio, she has recorded over a dozen and 1/2 albums (with clearly more on the way) has charted 1/2 dozen singles and has sold in excess of 26 million albums. She lives a quiet live on the Hawaiian Islands when she is not on tour – and she is currently on year 3 of a 2 year tour!
At 72 years of age, Buffy looks more like a mid-fifties athlete. I had around 2 minutes of her time the day before the concert while assisting her team on her spoken word lecture at one of UVic’s recital halls. Her demeanor is one of peace, harmony openness and inclusion. She was, after all, an educator before she became a musician. She created the Cradleboard Teaching Project – a curriculum that aims to raise self-identity and self-esteem in present and future generations of Indian children by introducing them to enriching, accurate information about Native American people and cultures. (Wikipedia)
Seeing her in concert with her backing band of rocking all-stars was a far cry from my reminiscences of the late 60’s – however dim and youthful they may have been.
If this lady was a Woodstock era folk musician, there was little evidence of it in the 21st Century. Buffy has clearly been keeping with the times and the technology – apparently using Apple computers to compose new music since the 90’s. So, she is on top of things. And her stage shows reveals the energy of a rock star a fraction of her chronological age – kind of a lady version of Mick Jagger.
She launched right into the classics to an appreciative audience of around 3000 folks – many of them clearly a fan of the folk-World-Native genres. It was a spectacular mix of softer songs contrasted with harder edges pieces – all of them with a message. She did write “Universal Soldier” after all – the treatise on the root causes of conflict and who, ultimately, is responsible. (Us, by the way…)
Her 2 hour set included the body of her best work and (she is prolific!) an unveiling of one of her latest songs – so new that all of her band members had the musical chart in front of them!
I can admit this now, that even though I am not from the 60’s (I was a teen in the 70’s) there was something so resonant about her concert, her stage presence, her voice and message that moved me to tear up several times. And I am pretty sure I was not alone.
She has been a messenger for peace (a pacifist if you would…) since the 60’s and has railed against the culture of war and aggression since the early 60’s – it is even generally accepted that she was “black-listed” by the Nixon and Johnson administration – it’s written that Johnson wrote letters to several radio networks thanking them for suppressing her message of peace. Peace (in the 60’s) was considered a threat to the establishment much as it is now. In reality, her messages are as important now as they were then – if not more so.
She sings about love, the environment, a plea for equity, fairness, justice and a livable World community for future generations – the stuff that is often labeled “terrorism” or “Eco-terrorism” by “The Man” here in the 21st Century. Yup, not like that much has changed.
Anyway – seeing and hearing Buffy Sainte-Marie at the University of Victoria was one of the best outdoor shows I have seen in a long time and easily the most meaningful!
Long life and more music to Buffy! She has an incredible schedule – interested in seeing the legendary Buffy Sainte-Marie live? Head on over here to her Tour Schedule
Puccini's Tosca - by the Pacific Opera Company - reviewed · 4 April 2013 by colin newell
In my life I have seen around a dozen opera’s – many of them classical – some of them I fit into the category of Pop Opera (Like Phantom of the Opera – a modern piece with its feet firmly grounded in the 21st Century…) Puccini’s Tosca fits into that classic tragic opera niche – standard elements, straightforward story line – 2 and 1/2 hours and a body count.
Puccini’s tale of tyranny and love has thrilled audiences since its first appearance in 1900. With all the ingredients for classic opera; – lust, jealousy, murder, suicide, love triangles, plot twists, and a memorable and somewhat by the book score.
Many hard nosed purists would rate Tosca as the “beginners opera” – a simple story line, all the basic elements that make up a classic tragedy – something that most people could follow – even if it is in Italian.
I had the good fortune (Saturday afternoon) in sitting in on a casual rehearsal as well as the Tuesday dress rehearsal – there is nothing more entertaining (for me anyway) of seeing (and hearing) the contextual displacement of a story set in 1900 being performed full voice in 501 Levi jeans and T-shirts (on the tenor and the soprano!) and getting to stand stage left a few feet away from one of the principal singers as they belt it out.
But what of the story?
Political repression, revolution, art and deception unfold, as Tosca – played by the very talented Joni Henson – racked with jealousy over an imagined lover from a canvas, she struggles for comfort and reassurance that is fleeting. Painter Mario Cavaradossi (played by tenor Luc Robert) goes head to head with the sadistic and lascivious police chief Scarpia (played with wicked aplomb by Luxembourg resident and singer David John Pike), who only has eyes of conquest for Tosca – who betrays her knowledge in exchange for Cavaradossi’s life… which turns out to be an additional twist and deception. And so on.
There are opportunities for a more complex narrative and story arc in Puccini’s Tosca – but that would defeat the purpose of keeping it simple. It is, after all, true to the formula of tragic opera with no additional decoration or even the bare smidgen of humor.
The cast is well matched and believable – no one voice rises much above another. If anything, Joni (as the soprano) had fire power to spare but held back just enough.
Impressions: Andrea and I did the dress rehearsal. Consequently, it is a lively evening with a large contingent of opera clubs (middle school students, aspiring musicians, University students) making upwards of 75% of the enthusiastic audience. Sold out in fact.
For ticket holders for the main event this week and weekend, I say – strap yourself in for some good old fashioned classic tragic opera that will please newcomers to this old entertainment genre and those veterans of this music form returning for some twists and surprises.
2012 - So you want to go to England - Part 2 - Before you go · 13 June 2012 by Brennan Storr
Before booking your flight (or boat – more on both of these in the coming weeks) you’ll want to know a little more about the people and what’s important to them. In this week’s instalment of “So You Want to Go to England” we help you get to know the people of the British Isles and give you some talking points should you trap one of them in a conversation:
Here in North America the popular vision of an Englishmen is a slender, foppish man with very bad teeth, dressed in tweed and seducing your wife with his ironed handkerchiefs. While in some parts of England that may still be true – Knightsbridge, Colin Firth’s house – the Englishman you’re more likely to encounter on your grand adventure is the one approaching you at the bus stop of a night, wearing a hooded sweatshirt and demanding your wallet.
Not everything has changed however – his teeth, if any remain, will still be bad and he is just as likely to be slender, although this will not be from wartime rationing but rather because running from the police is demanding work.
All right, that may not be every Englishman but it does represent a good portion of young men aged 15-35 and if you don’t believe me I suggest a weekend trip down to the local pub nearest to your hotel. Make sure you have good travel insurance and a blood donor card.
Most Brits are helpful, considerate types who will give you a good steer should you get lost – this is because the sooner you get where you’re going the sooner you leave their country.
They are a reserved people so don’t be surprised when your hearty “Howya doin’?” gets you a cold stare but they open up once you get to know them which, as a tourist, you probably won’t. You can count on them being polite though – unless you’re in that pub I mentioned earlier.
As in North America the people are friendlier in the countryside than they are in the city and if you’re going to make friends it’ll be in the north rather than the south. If you do get to chat up locals you’ll want to know at least something about the local culture so you don’t make an ass of yourself. Here’s a quick primer:
1. Soccer: The English call it “football” and you should too unless you want a pint glass upside your head. Also, don’t tell them you’re a Manchester United fan – this will mark you out as a tourist faster than asking if anyone has met the queen.
2. Politics: In 2010 the English voted out the Labour party headed by Prime Minister Gordon Brown, a man described by columnist and TV personality Jeremy Clarkson as a “One-eyed Scottish c***”. He was replaced with the Conservative party as led by David Cameron, who has two eyes. Under Cameron the government has introduced heavy austerity measures, sharply dividing the country.
Note that while you can pick on Cherie Blair all you want it is still not acceptable to make fun of Margaret Thatcher.
3. ASBOs: Stands for “Anti Social Behavior Order”, a kind of scarlet letter handed out by the courts to society’s rejects.
4.Hoodies: The people who get ASBOs. Not everyone who wears a hoodie is a thug but all thugs wear hoodies. With names like Keith & Trev they’re about as threatening as woodlice when you get them alone but in a group they’re like piranhas with acne. For reference watch the 2009 film Harry Brown in which Michael Caine goes all Paul Kersey on the hooligans terrorizing the council estate he calls home.
5. Council Estates: For the record, “council estates” or “council flats” is what the English call their housing projects. While “Winstanley Estate, Battersea” sounds like a lovely place to take your wife Merridale on a carriage tour it’s actually the English equivalent of Jordan Downs in Watts or Iberville in New Orleans. Most of the folks living here are good, decent people who would rather be living anywhere else, including the surface of the moon, but you still wouldn’t want to be walking around the place at night.
6. NHS or National Health Service: The British system of healthcare has flaws and under Darth Cameron is soon likely to suffer significant cuts but it’s still better you’re going to find in, say, America, where having cancer turns your life into Breaking Bad.
This is irrelevant to the British, who take great delight in picking on the NHS like it was the kid in school who wears sweatpants. It is considered rude to interrupt tirades about the NHS with stories from your home country, like the time an HMO-run hospital refused to treat your daughter’s asthma attack until you could prove you had the means to pay them.
7. Coronation Street: Also known as “Corrie”. This soap opera set in a fictional town in Greater Manchester has been running since 1960 and is practically a religion for English women.
While the cast of most American soaps are so smoothed over they could be mannequins, Coronation Street actually casts ordinary-looking and sometimes even fat people. And I don’t mean Kevin James-fat but “long chat with your doctor about getting a motorized scooter”-fat. Not all the cast are plain of course but it’s nice to know there’s a place for actors who wouldn’t get near an American television unless they were standing on it to fix someone’s ceiling fan.
Temptation will be great but do not – I repeat – do not – mock or in any other way disrupt the watching of Coronation Street. I’m telling you this because I’m your friend and I care about you.
8. Rhyming slang: So you’ve seen a few Guy Ritchie movies and know that being “in barney” means you’re in trouble and that when things go “Pete Tong” it’s time to start looking for the door. As a tourist you should avoid using these and other rhyming slang – rather than making you sound tough or street smart it will signal to everyone within earshot that you are in dire need of what the English endearingly call “a kicking.”
This same wisdom applies to the words “mate”, “blimey”, “guvnor” and “toodle-pip”. In fact if you say “toodle-pip” I will come to your house and kick you straight in the business myself.
9. The Only Way is Essex: The people of England treat Essex county much the same way America does New Jersey – like a redheaded stepchild. Maybe, then, we shouldn’t be surprised that Essex has produced the budget equivalent of Jersey Shore in The Only Way is Essex. It’s not worth my time or yours to name the characters, so just picture a group of twentysomethings who all sound like they’re talking through a mouthful of marbles drinking too much and firing DNA at one another.
After an episode or two of this you won’t have a hard time imagining why the English sometimes debate jack-hammering Essex free from the rest of the country and pushing it gently towards mainland Europe.
I challenge you to watch the clip below and try not to hear the sound of seven trumpets heralding the End of Days.
10. The Royal Family: The surest way to end a conversation with your average British citizen is to start talking about how amazing it must be to have a royal family. The royals are to the English what the Kennedys are to Americans – the good ones are dead and the rest are floating on an ever-thinning cloud of good will.
Now that you’re up to speed on the finer points of British culture it’s time to get serious about making arrangements. Next Wednesday I tell you why you shouldn’t fly with Canada’s flagship airline in “So You Want to Go to England: Getting There – Air Canada”
Comic, humorist, bon vivant and ranconteur, Brennan Storr is a Victoria resident and aspiring writer – from time to time we post some of his incredibly amusing words from LargelyTheTruth.com