“What do Indonesians eat?” This is a question I oft fielded after disclosing that I had accepted a Peace Corps assignment, and would be living in Indonesia for two years. Well, the short answer: rice. Indonesians eat rice. Lots and lots of rice.
Idul Fitri is the Indonesian name for the Islamic holiday: Eid. Indonesians also frequently refer to Eid as Lebaran. Eid falls on the first day of Shawwal in the Islamic calendar. Shawwal is the month immediately following Ramadan. This holiday is celebrated throughout the Muslim world. Eid festivities and traditions vary by region, but they typically consist of lots of food, praying, reading the Quran, and gatherings of family.
Time is very important to Americans. Punctuality is a virtue held with high regard for most citizens of the United States. The phrase “time is money,” was coined by the “First American,” Benjamin Franklin, and might as well be stamped right below “In God we Trust” on US dollars and coins. I was raised believing it is better to be thirty minutes early to any event, be it a meeting, doctor’s appointment, or date, rather than thirty seconds late. I’d imagine most Americans feel similarly, though perhaps not to such a degree.
Frequently people will, when speaking about learning the Indonesian language, claim it is a very simple and easy language. While Indonesian lacks anything similar to the abstruse grammatical rules so frequently found throughout English, it is still just as difficult a language to master as any other.
Indonesians are quite the inquisitive people. Upon first meeting someone they are prone to inquire about all sorts of things most Americans would find odd, or even impolite, to ask an acquaintance. Age, marital status, religion, and when you have had your most recent shower or meal are all things Indonesians do not hesitate to ask. These are not questions many Americans would readily find appropriate to pose, even to someone with whom they regularly associate.
“It seems like Ramadan starts earlier and earlier every year.” Well, if it seems that way then it is only because it is true. The Islamic calendar is based on lunar cycles, and one lunar year is about eleven days shorter than its cousin, the solar year. So generally Ramadan occurs eleven days earlier than it did the previous year.
The Javanese word for please is monggo. In Sundanese people say mangga. In both Indonesian and Javanese mangga means mango. So to say mango in Sundanese people say buah manggah, which literally means mango fruit. Explaining this somewhat trivial difference in language was always one of the first things people in Kediri would do when I told them I would be moving to West Java.