August 31, 2008

Ramadhan - Fasting month

It is still damn busy at the office although the pace is slowing down a bit because tomorrow is already the first day of Ramadhan, the moslem's fasting month. For 1 month, we will be fasting every day from dawn (around 04:30) until sunset (around 18:00). From 18:00 until 04:30, we are allowed to eat (I used to have friends abroad who thought that we absolutely don't eat the whole month! :P).

During the Ramadhan, of course we cannot do any product testing involving food/beverages because a country where the majority of the population is moslem, the odds of finding respondents who are not currently fasting to do the product test is quite slim.

But not only food/beverages, testing personal care products at respondents' homes are usually also postponed until after the Ramadhan. This is because people's habits change during the Ramadhan. For example, you are used to brushing your teeth after each meal. Thus before Ramadhan, you brush your teeth 3 times a day but during Ramadhan, you brush only twice. Conducting research during this period may not capture the normal consumption patterns.

So don't be surprised to see a change of pace in Indonesia during the Ramadhan. These are just a few you should be aware of :

- Schools / Offices may have changed their working hours
For example at my office, our working hours are usually from 09:00 - 17:30, however during the Ramadhan, it is from 08:00 - 16:30. This is to allow the employees some time so that they may be able to break the fast at home.

- Window restaurants are covered
Don't be alarmed to see your favorite restaurant's windows covered. The restaurant is not close, the windows are just covered so that you can't see the people eating inside. This is usually done by restaurants near the street. It is a form of respect to those who are fasting (we don't get to see the people who are eating, so we're not tempted to eat also).

- Clubs / bars are closed
Some clubs / bars may be closed or they shorten their opening hours. This is so that their employees have more time to join evening prayer.

- Restaurants are full in the evening
Where normally you are too busy to meet with friends/family, during the Ramadhan, many people make extra effort to meet & break the fast together. Therefore if you have any dinner plans, it is better to make an appointment first or otherwise eat later, around 20:00.

- Mosques are filled with people in the evening
During the Ramadhan, there are additional evening prayers. Avoid going by mosques around 21:00 because that is when the prayers are finished & the crowd goes home.

- Each tv channel has some kind of special tv show around 03:00 - 04:00
Before we start fasting, we eat first (of course, otherwise where would you get the energy to do all your activities during the day?!). This "morning breakfast" is called sahur. If you are living alone & you need to do sahur, don't worry that you will fall asleep because there are interesting & funny tv shows at this time. The shows usually also have quizzes where people who call-in can win a prize.

If you think it is weird that we change so many things just because we are going to fast for a whole month, well all those changes are made because this month is a big deal to the moslem community. Essentially, the Ramadhan is not just about "not eating", it is about restraining your desires of the physical world and remembering the afterlife. We are encouraged to avoid bad habits (such as loosing your temper) and to do more good deeds (pray to God, help other people in need). It is a month where we reflect upon ourselves and hopefully after the Ramadhan ends, we will still continue the good habits that we have gained during the Ramadhan.

So, for those who will be fasting, I want to wish you all :

Selamat menunaikan Ibadah Puasa!

August 18, 2008


Today, August 17th, is a public holiday in celebration of Indonesia’s Independence Day. This year it is Indonesia’s 63rd year of Independence.

When you come to Indonesia during this time, you will find all over the country, houses and streets decorated with red and white flags & banners. Games & competitions are also usually held by schools, offices and neighbourhoods as part of the celebration. While for students who attend public school & for civil servants, the day usually starts off with a flag ceremony (upcara bendera) at their respective school/workplace.

Today I spent the afternoon watching the games that were held by my neigbourhood. Although the types of games/competitions held are only restricted by one’s imagination, these are a few of the typical games that you may encounter :

- Bike decorating (Lomba hias sepeda)

- Biting a spoon with marble on it. The fastest one crossing the finish line without dropping the marble is the winner. (Lomba kelereng)

- Kerupuk (deep-fried crackers) eating competition (Lomba makan kerupuk)

- Climbing an oiled pole that has various goods hanging on top (Lomba panjat pinang) Unfortunately I don’t have a picture of this. It wasn’t held in my neighbourhood this time.

Selamat 17 Agustus everybody! Merdeka!

August 16, 2008

Indonesians & Chit-chat

I had just read Bram's post on an article titled "Small Talk ala Indonesia" and although I don't agree 100% with it (I don't think that sex is a topic that Indonesians talk freely about; being married (or in my case, not yet married), having kids are on the other hand common topics), I must admit that it does give a quite representative picture of small talks that we must tolerate here in Indonesia. Just hours later, I found myself in a similar bothersome situation as mentioned in the article.

Setting : 2 o' clock in the afternoon. I'm feeling sick, so I ask my boss for permission to leave work early. I go to the taxi stand at the back of my office building.

Driver : Good afternoon
Me : Good afternoon. To ...... (I say the name of my street)
Driver : What kind of office is there?
Me : (A bit surprised that he asks this question, but then again, it is still working hours, so I quickly think nothing of it) No office. It's my house. I don't feel well.
Driver : Why don't you feel well? Maybe you work too hard.
Me : Maybe.
Driver : Yeah...probably you often don't eat on time.
Me : (Getting annoyed) Don't know.
Driver : Do you usually work late? Maybe you have caught "masuk angin"?
Me : (Terribly annoyed) Hmm.
Driver : This it near the Bajaj workshop?
Me : Yes
Driver : I have a friend over there. I was meaning to stop by.
Me (Replying) : Oh.
Me (Thinking) : I'm only answering with 1 syllable words. Can't you take a hint, I don't feel like talking?!

We are now approaching Sudirman street. The driver turns and takes the slow lane, while actually it would be better if he had taken the fast lane.

Driver : Yesterday I was taking a passenger, a girl, to that area. Had a nice long talk but I was kind of suspicious about her.
Me : (in an attempt to stop him from talking) So what, it's her life. Don't think much about it. Anyways, why did you take the slow lane? Is there traffic jam on the fast lane at this hour? It doesn't seem so. It would've been better to take the fast lane, or not?

Driver gruntly replies something and then doesn't talk the whole trip home. Mission accomplished.

Sorry Mr. Taxi Driver, that I had to bite your head off, but hey...I already told you that I didn't feel well. Did you expect me to endure having small talk with you?!

August 9, 2008

Traditional Indonesian Bathroom

I recently got a query from my colleague overseas who is drafting up a questionnaire for a multi-country study on bathing habits. Because of this, I was aware that our bathing habits may be quite unique.

First of all, it is common to shower at least two times a day : in the morning (before you start your activities) & in the evening (after you get home). Many of my friends who study abroad, can't get rid of this habit. That is why they still shower twice a day even though it is winter. They often think I'm nuts when I don't shower that day because I think the weather is too cold. But of course now, I always shower twice a is hot here in Indonesia!

Second, the bathroom itself is a bit different. It is now common to have a bathtub or shower in the bathroom, especially for the higher social class. But the majority of Indonesians still use a water container & bucket to bathe. You use the bucket to get the water from the water container & pour it on yourself (you don't get into the water container, don't think that it is used like a bathtub!)

Sit-down toilets are more common than showers/bathtubs, but still squat toilets are widely used. And then of course, you have the issue of us not using toilet paper. Yes, we use water, not toilet paper. (what is weird for you, is common for us..... And what is common for you, is weird for us :P)

So maybe now you are wondering how a traditional Indonesian bathroom looks like? Well I got this picture off the Internet (sorry, I forgot to write down the url).

Be rest assured though, that the majority of well-established malls & hotels have the standard toilets/ bathrooms like in the Western countries :)
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