Here's the latest from Tuban....
Lots of love, Diana
Peace to you all,
Sorry I haven't written in a while. I am still hangin' out in Tuban. I am mostly busy teaching, or at least trying to teach. Maybe I am getting through to a handful of students. As is true everywhere, some days are better than others. Luckily, I can say that I still enjoy the challenge. The difference between now and before my accident is that I take the English part of my job a lot less seriously. I try to be more of a positive influence in general than just a teacher of English. And I try to keep my mind open to the many lessons life is teaching me while I am here.
It is Puasa now (otherwise known as Ramadhan), the fasting month of Muslims. Activity during the day is less and slower than ever. The "siesta" in the afternoon seems longer. My classes are shorter and fewer students attend. At night, after the evening prayer when the fast is broken, people seem to come alive again. And then at 3am, before the morning prayer, families wake up to cook/eat breakfast and the children sometimes play drums in the streets. I have learned that the three main reasons Muslims fast are (from Clifford Geertz's book The Religions of Java):
1. “to show obedience to the commands of God
2. to experience what it is like to go hungry so one can have greater understanding of what it is like to be poor and not have enough to eat and
3. to steel oneself so that one will be able to take whatever suffering comes his way. It is exercising the soul the way sports exercise the body.”
In the footsteps of so many great spiritual teachers, I am joining in the fast. I find the backwards schedule rather refreshing. Although, as you may have guessed, I do NOT wake up at 3 am to cook or eat breakfast. I am content to eat only the evening meal.
The long drought has finally ended and oh, what a difference the rain makes. The evenings are (almost) cool after the rain and are quite enjoyable, especially with all the liveliness of people who have just broken the fast.
At the end of Puasa comes Idul Fitri. It is not only a Muslim holiday in Indonesia, but is celebrated by people of all faiths. Its main theme is forgiveness. During Idul Fitri, people go around requesting pardon from any injuries they caused, intentional or unintentional, in the past year. And of course, the month of fasting ends and everyone eats. So in advance, let me beg your forgiveness for any harm I have caused you in the past year.
I have done a little travelling in the past month, despite my perpetual fears of driving in Indonesia. I have visited Malang, a cool mountain city filled with the throng of university students. I have also gone to Trawas to visit the Environmental Education Center and to do some hiking in the mountains there. In the forests surrounding Trawas, several ancient Hindu temples and shrines have been uncovered. I had the opportunity to see one of them, a sort of fountain of youth. The statues have all been broken, but the foundation of the fountain remains intact. The water still trickles down from the mountain and out of the fountain. I don't know if I am any more youthful than before, but the mountain water felt quite nice. I also visited Alas Purwo National Park where I re-connected with the ocean. I did not realize how much I missed the serenity of crashing waves on a beautiful (and clean) beach until I was sitting alone on a rock watching an awesome sunset and tears literally filled my eyes.
Fortunately, it won't be long until I am on the beach again. I am going to Bali for a volunteer conference from December 16th until January 2nd. All the volunteers agreed that Bali is probably the safest place in Indonesia right now because of the new security due to the recent bombings. If I don't write before then, I hope you all have a wonderful holiday season. I love and miss you!