Tradition

Adolf was eating his nasi rames at a warung along the road to Kúta. Our tehmpe was served with sambal. “It is interesting”, he said, “how Indonesia is dealing with the modernization.” I nodded and had a bite of my ayam goreng. It’s great that Indonesians only use Gods cutlery, alias, their hands. Saves lots of dishes. What do you mean with “modernization?”, I asked.

The traffic continued while we were eating and discussing the national changes. “I mean, look at all those motorbikes!”, Adolf said and pointed to the 20 bikes, waiting in front of a red traffic light.Some people are afraid that we’re loosing our roots, that we’re forgetting our culture. We so badly want to catch up with the Western world but we fail.”
I nodded again and gave it a thought.
It’s true though, that some technologies are just not ready for the Indonesian society yet. Try to talk to an Indonesian about biopetrol or electric cars to reduce the emission of CO2 and he would just lift up his shoulders.
So what? The most important thing is that he would get from A to B and the motorbike is the best way: it’s cheap and fast because you can avoid the traffic jam, which supposed to be one of the worst in the world. Part from India, I heard.  And the smog, well, that’s just life, isn’t?

My impression of Indonesia was not that it badly failed in its attempt to becoma part of Western civilization, rather, I got the impression that their cultural heritage is much stronger than other countries I’ve visited so far. For example, on a cultural festival in Yogyakarta, multiple regional dances were preformed. In Madiun I visited a typical shadow puppet play (wayung) and in Bandung, traditional dances contests were held for young children. No, I did not have the impression that Indonesia was loosing its roots, rather, I had the feeling they were holding it tighter and tighter. Working as a professional puppet player or dancer would actually provide you a good monthly salary. Tradition might more appreciated and higher valued than in Western countries. But then again, how many tourist does Java receive every year? Not as much as Bali.

Bali was the exception. When I arrived in Kúta, the main tourist area of the island, I was in shock. Since when can you wear shorts and skirts (or less) here?Tank tops? Bill boards of Quicksilver, Billabong and Roxy were decorating the dark sky. Alcohol was freely advertised with happy hours.  It was a small culture shock, coming from Java, where covering up is a must and alcohol consumption is rarely found. But for the first time since 3 weeks, I felt safe enough to walk on the streets by my own after sunset. No people coming up to me, staring at you or asking for a picture. No one wants to touch you or asks for money. Bali is used to tourists and yes, on this island it might be clear that Indonesia is struggling with its roots.

Outside of Kúta, most tourists visit temples. There is more than one temple complex on Bali and one of the most famous one called Pura Ulun Danu Bratan.,situated on the middle of the island, next to the lake Bratan. This place is overwhelmed with tourists who come in big tour buses, which are obviously not made for the small roads. At least they have A/C, I reckon. “Oh god, more tourists!”, Adolf said and looked disappointed.  I smiled, “yep, welcome to the world of tourism! Have you ever been a tourist in your own country?” Adolf shacked his head. Never. “Ah well, then this will be a new experience for you.”  And as soon we were approaching the Pura Ulan Danu Bratan you could hear French, German, Dutch and several Asian languages floating through the air. Adolf wandered away from the mass to find a more peaceful and quiet spot. Just next to the lake there was some stagnant water where some children were fishing. Adolf smiled and said “if they are going to catch a fish in that, I would be amazed.” The children were up to their thighs in the mud and dirty water, kept on filling a wicker basket.  Adolf explained me that this was a traditional way of fishing and that he had done it as well when he was young. Personally, I cannot remember that I ever fished as a child the way those children were fishing and I was only amazed by the way they done it.

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *