March 14, 2012

Neighbourhood Harmonious

On Sunday night I attended our neighbourhood's local "RT Pertemuan" for the first time.  What on earth am I talking about? Well, just let me enlighten you.  Pertemuan just means "meeting", and RT is an acronym for "rukun tetangga" which means "neighbourhood harmonious".  

Local government in Indonesia does not stop at the Municiple level as far as geographical representation is concerned (as is generally done in Canada). It continues a few notches further down to individual neighbourhoods which have representatives called RW's (Rukun Warga - Citizen Harmonious). In each RW there are a number of RT's representing the parts of a given neighbourhood, which (I read) usually consist of 18 to 20 households. When we first moved here, we had to bring our Pak RT ("Mr. RT") copies of our passports and visas, so that he knows a bit about who is living in the community. In each RT there is usually a monthly meeting that all the men attend to discuss any neighbourhood business and whatever else might be worth talking about.

So, off I went to my first meeting, and a few things stuck out to me. The first being that I never realized how dependant I am on furniture meant for sitting such as chairs and couches, that is until I sat on a hard tile floor for about 85 min. Ok, there was a mat, but it was super thin. I never thought it would be so hard (literally and metaphorically) since Indonesians make sitting on the floor look so inviting and comfortable.

I also realized how I still understand so little of Indonesians talking informally and fast paced to each other. Catching every 4th or 5th word and then having to spend a bit of time translating it in your head really does very little helping one understand what is being said. IF women were allowed to such a meeting.  Also, there is the fact that some of what is being said is most likely not Indonesian, but in fact the local language of Javanese. But no problem, as I said to someone recently, I'm not sure if I'm actually understanding more, or just getting used to being confused and clueless...Either way, I AM adapting well!

I should also mention what an interesting concept the whole RT/RW thing is. From my short and limited exposure to the Javanese / Indonesian culture, there is a real emphasis on both relationship both in the family and in the community. I have wondered a bit how much this cultural strength has been a real benefit in unifying communities that have people with such contrasting beliefs. Maybe being proactive in promoting relationships in this manner in each community has helped a little to keep peace over the years.

I really wonder what it would be like for all the 'Dads' in given Canadian neighbourhood to meet once a month and officially chit chat about goings on, drink some coffee, etc. and go home. Yah, I know, for many different reasons it probably wouldn't work and might even seem a little weird...And I can't imagine the 'Men Only' thing going over well either. But then again, it is neat when you can actually understand a bit of why another culture does things differently. And in this case, I think the desire for togetherness and mutual respect in the local neighbourhood here is generally a positive thing. In Canada, I've lived in homes for a extended period of time and not known more than half the people in my immediate community. Kind of sad I must say!

Next week, I'm going to tell y'all why soccer is better than hockey...........joke, go canucks.


Fun...But Slightly Dangerous 

The other morning I went on a little outing with Si & Helena with the loose intentions of stopping at a play place we have previously frequented. This particular play place is pretty nice. BUT, from my Western point of view, it has an element of danger not seen at your local government funded park back home. I kept Simon to the relatively low bamboo poles and pirate ship style rope nets, and fortunately Helena could not climb up the more dangerous contraptions. I know the pictures below look pretty tame, but not pictured are a high rope type bridge that crosses a creak, and a zip line that starts about 40 plus feet up a tower and stops at a coconut tree. I would have to see the zip line in action to see exactly how one prevents from smashing ones' self into the tree at the bottom. Of course, my boys have asked to attempt both.

Interesting useless bit of info:  Indonesian for coconut - Kelapa. Indonesian for head - Kepala.

But hey, they had fun, with no cracked kelapa's and no bruised kepala's, and to Amy's delight the kids were out of the house for a bit! 






A terraced rice field across from the park, you can see some rice farmers taking a break in the bottom left corner.

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