The weekends during PST are filled with many different activities and events that our host families have arranged or plan on us attending. My training group has been very fortunate to arrive in Kediri in the middle of wedding season. There have probably been a dozen or so trainees that have attended a wedding so far.

I have yet to go to a wedding but I hear they are quite the spectacle. The one unique cultural event I was able to attend, however, was a circumcision… party… celebration. A sunatan.

Sunatan happens a little later in Indonesia depending on the religious beliefs or personal preferences of the parents; typically around the age of 12 years. And when sunatan happens it is accompanied by a celebration. Similar to a bar mitzvah perhaps. The circumcision itself occurred a month before the party and the party was actually two events rolled up into one.

Isra mi’raj is a celebration of the prophet Muhammad. The Indonesian word for celebration is selamatan. A selamatan can be held for a death in the family, a sunatan, or a marriage. Isra mi’raj was celebrated on Friday and the sunatan on Saturday. The community response to a selamatan varies widely depending on many factors and deserves a completely separate post explaining typical protocols.

Three trainees from Manisrenggo and myself decided to make our way to the village where the event was happening. Finding an appropriate mode of transportation was a bit of a hassle but eventually we had a bapak drive us to our destination. It was only about a ten minute drive.

We arrived in Rembang close to 6:30 in the evening. We asked someone about the event and they pointed us in the right direction. A large tent was constructed in the middle of a road and was filled with tables, chair, and lots of food. A stage was at the end of the tent that had various kinds of entertainers on and off it throughout the evening.

The tent extended off to the left side of the stage as a hall lined with couches and coffee tables. At the end of the hall was an area where much of the food was being prepared as well as the house of the family that was hosting the event.

The impromptu kitchen that was being used to prepare some of the food for the evening
When we arrived we were greeted warmly and immediately started to have food forced upon us (all of which was delicious). Most of the trainees were gathered in the area with couches. The supply of food and snacks was never ending and clove cigarettes (kretek) were lying out on every table for whoever wanted them.

Probably not something that you would find in America
The hall we were in was fashioned with a cloth fabric to provide modest protection from the night. Cloth is good for many things but during the rainy season in Indonesia it doesn’t provide the most anhydrous solution for one’s temporary celebratory structures. We started getting dripped on. Not a big deal, but we were ushered into the house of the hosting family to stay dry.

Manisrenggo resident Abby talking with a few of the Rembang children in the couch hall
We sat down on the living room floor in the host family’s house. It was great getting some time to chat with the other trainees about PST, the upcoming teaching practicum, site announcement, and our site visit next weekend. The entire night was good but it was particularly good then.

The Peace Corps trainees hiding from the rain
It was getting a little late (like eight o’clock, but that’s late for us) so we decided to swing by Rachel‘s house to meet her host family and see how she lived since she was very close. To leave we had to go back through the couch hall, walk in front of the stage, and then out of the tent. As we were leaving the entertainers on the stage saw us and started beckoning for us to join them on stage. I was walking near the end of the group and somehow was singled out to get on the stage.

Beleive me, I tried to resist. But there was a significant amount of pressure to comply with my request to be on stage, mostly from my fellow Americans.
I cannot sing or dance but I tried my best while up on that stage. Luckily I was given grace for my ineptitude with performing due to my status as a foreigner. Eventually I was joined by a few other trainees on stage and we did our part as background dancers while the singer sang her song. Once the song was over we got off the stage and went to Rachel’s.

After a brief stint at Rachel’s house we started breaking off into our smaller traveling groups. The Manisrenggo trainees tried to call a taxi since we didn’t want to bother Abby’s bapak again but couldn’t manage to explain where we were. Abby‘s bapak came to pick us up but we also had trouble explaining to him where we were and in the time it took us to walk from the party to his car we were drenched by the rain. Overall it was an amazing experience and not one I am soon to forget.

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