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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Pray Day

Pray Day

Students and the big drum on the porch of my mosque.

Today is an all day prayer day. There is no teaching at my school. All 900 students, 60 teachers and staff and several hundred parents, grandparents and other dignitaries have gathered in the large mosque and have been praying for 3 and a half hours. I just took a break and came back to the teacher room. We are all praying so that the seniors will pass the national exams.

All the teachers got a notice yesterday stamped with the official school seal that we were to wear white clothes today. My ibu-mama loaned me a frilly white shirt and some white pants that are a little bit tight. My co-teachers also told me to wear make-up and jewelry. In fact, one of the teachers was doing a good business selling bracelets and jilbab jewels for $1 - $3. I bought one of the strings of sparkly plastic peals and pinned it on my jilbab where the scarf part goes around the back and attaches to the top of my head. The shirt sleeves are almost down to my elbows, so I needed to wear the arm warmers too, so that I’m covered to my wrists.

It was raining hard so the tent which was set up yesterday was flooded and all the activities had to move to the giant mosque next door. There was a steady stream of people arriving from 7:00 till 9:30. It’s called “rubber time.” There are many reasons why things don’t start on time and a giant rainstorm means that usual method of transportation – motorcycle - just isn’t as easily accomplished. I was impressed with how many grandmothers came. Every single person was wearing white. Most shirts are long so that when you sit, the bottom of the shirt touches the floor. Some are down to your knees. This is a lot of clothing to be wearing in a hot tropical climate. The men wore either short or long sleeves and their heads, hair, neck and ears were exposed.

There prayers have now shifted from chanting Arabic to a speech in Indonesian. I can sit on the floor for a few hours but then my old bones just beg for a little padding. Actually about 10% of the teachers are in the teacher room now. The prayers are being broadcast over the loudspeaker system, so I guess we’re still praying. There are also dishes of snacks here – boiled peanuts, cassava and bananas – each served separately.

I asked how long the prayers were going to last. No one knew. The students were told to bring a rice box – the equivalent of a lunch box. It isn’t considered to be a meal unless there is rice. I think the people in the 6 little shops which make up our canteen are there, but maybe they are busy preparing food for someone else.

I just asked one of my co-teachers what the speaker is saying and she told me that he is imploring people to ask Allah for help. The speakers, distinguished Islam men called Imams wear a shawl around their necks. At least that’s what I look for to tell who the dignitaries are.

All the teachers were served an elaborate meal – buffet style. We get our plates of rice, cooked vegetables, piece of fish or chicken, fried tempe and sit on the floor. Most of the teachers eat with their hand.

Now the meal is finished and we all go home early! I really do pray that the seniors pass the National Exams. Our teachers will go to other schools to monitor the testing so that the urge to help the students is reduced or eliminated. Last year every one of our Seniors graduated. It’s important for schools to have everyone graduate. That’s a lot of pressure on students and people who are grading the exams. Prayers and mandatory passing -Education is a different system here in Indonesia!

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