All 52 teachers and their families met at the school at 7pm.on the Saturday before school started. At 8pm we were on the 3 buses, sitting in our assigned seats. Each teacher brought his or her spouse and children. Single teachers brought a parent. Around midnight, we stopped at a mosque to pray. The teachers explained to me that the 3rd (or possibly 4th,) president of Indonesia (they weren’t sure) was buried in one of the graves near the mosque. He had helped to spread Islam in the country.
At 3 am we stopped at another mosque and this time the teachers brought their backpacks and carry ons into the mosque. They asked me if I wanted to take a bath. I hadn’t brought a change of clothes. All of them had. They went into the bathing / cleansing / purification area of the mosque and every one, even the children emerged with clean clothes on. Then there were official prayers, not just the random say prayers on your own, like they did as a group at the first mosque. A man came into the women’s section and I’m not sure what he said but after he left about 2/3 of the women, who didn’t have on the long white prayer robes, went through the gate and stood on the other side. At my own mosque, it’s okay for women who are not praying to sit on the edge of the stairs, but I guess it’s not okay at this mosque. I excused myself and stood about 10 feet away from my friends.
Then we all got back on the buses and drove to the new bridge that goes from Java to Madura. I think its a few years old now. Each bus paid the toll, drove across the bridge, circled around to the return lane and started back across the bridge. Next to the roadway were souvenir stands and we stopped and spent about 20 – 30 minutes buying souvenirs to document that we had been on the island of Madura.
At noon we arrived at a really neat Safari Park. The kids on the bus were excited and adults and children cheered as we drove under the banner proclaiming the entrance to the park. All the little kids were invited to stand at the front of the bus leaning on the front window, looking out. Some of the teachers started making jokes – oh, look, there’s an ant! But eventually the buses drove past elephants, hippos, lions, giraffes, lots of different deer, buffalos, bears and other wildlife in their natural habitats. There was no fence between the tigers and the cars and buses. But there were guards standing around with guns. In between the different wildlife sections there were electric fences and cattle guards and automatic gates. I think they were automatic gates – they were open every time I saw them.
When we finished with the drive through tour, we all got off the buses and were given boxes of rice and cooked veggies and some meat and a little plastic cup of water. The park had an amusement area, playground, and baby zoo and water park. It also had a mini-mosque so the teachers could get in another set (or two) of prayers. The prayers involve washing with water, standing and reciting Arabic, bowing, kneeling, touching your head to the floor, reciting more Arabic prayers, and sitting leaning on your left hip, glancing to the right and left and reciting more prayers in Arabic. And then the sequence gets repeated. It’s mandatory that Muslims pray 5 times a day.
I walked around with some of the teachers and we watched their kids go on the amusement rides. Then I went back to the bus and hung out with some of the other teachers. At 3:00 almost all the teachers and their families were back, but a few were missing. My vice principal talked about the concept of “rubber time” in Indonesia and we waited till around 4:00, then some of the male teachers went out looking for the rest of the people in our group. They came back with a few. Around 6:00 the last teacher and his family showed up and we all got back on the buses and headed back to school.
We stopped at one more mosque for prayers. At 11:00pm we were back at school and I walked the 15 minutes back to my house.
The next day school started at 7am. All the students and teachers were lined up in rows on our soccer field, assembly ground. The kids assembled, reported to the leader, saluted the leader, saluted the head teacher and one teacher gave a half hour speech. Then one by one, every single one of the 900 students in my school, went down the list of teachers and apologized individually to every teacher for the wrongs they had committed. The boys held hand together and bowed to the female teachers. The girls took my hand and pressed it to their cheeks or foreheads. When they were finished with the teachers, they continued the line so that every student greeted and apologized to every other student. Each teacher also greeted and apologized to every student and every other teacher.
Then the teacher in charge made an announcement and all the students cheered. All the teaches went back to the teacher room and I asked my co-teacher what we would teach today. She said, maybe we wouldn’t teach till tomorrow. Today the students will clean the classroom. After an hour of hanging out in the teacher room, giving away the gifts I had bought in Bali, (I had saved a few special ones for specific teachers but the rest I just let the ones who descended on my desk pick through and take what they wanted.) Then I walked around campus and came back to discover there was a meeting with the principal going on. Oops. I looked on the announcement board. No announcement. I guess everyone just knew that if classes are cancelled we have a teacher meeting. It’s good I was sitting down in time to sign my name to the official roster of who was present for the meeting.
At first they were talking about jilbab / headscarf colors. Then the teacher, who was the last one to come to the bus the day before and held people up for 2 hours, asked for forgiveness and apologized for being “alone.” And not with the other teachers, just with his family. Several other people apologized for things and asked for forgiveness. I didn’t understand most of what was happening.
It seems pretty good. The first day back at school after a long vacation, nobody wants to do any work anyway. Everyone just wants to hang with friends and find out what they did on vacation. This day seemed to accomplish that. It felt good to start the season off with asking for forgiveness for all the wrongs we have committed.