August 17th is Indonesia's Independence Day. Being an American, I have a certain expectation for what occurs on this day. I'm used to barbecues, parades, fireworks, and booze. Lots and lots of booze. This is not the case here in Indonesia. For one, they don't drink like Americans. They also don't have parades, barbecues, or fireworks. What they do have is a flag ceremony. This ceremony is pretty special and simply honors the Indonesian flag. My friend Andin told me of this ceremony and had me wake up super early on a Saturday to attend it. She picked me and we went to the Governor's office only to find it deserted. We were both told it started at 8 and were confused as to what happened. Instead, she decided to take me to her high school as they may have been doing some celebrations of their own. They weren't. This day was quickly becoming uneventful. As we were about to leave the school, a few cars full of students in uniforms pulled up and we were told that the flag ceremony was being held 2 hours later, so we had some time to kill.
We finally made it to where the ceremony was taking place which was at the football (soccer) stadium in the middle of town. It's a very big ceremony too, at least here in Palangkaraya. The Governor comes to town and a lot of military personnel are there and are part of the ceremony. Many politicians are present in the crowd, which is also filled with schools and regular spectators. Andin took it upon herself to tell the military people, the ones blocking the entrances with big guns, that I was an American reporter. Being white and having a camera, it worked and I was given access to wherever I wanted to go with my translator in tow.
I walked right up to the red carpet and waited for the Governor to arrive.
Once he did, the ceremony started. It consists of a bunch of different branches of the military standing in formation on the field, along with a couple of high schools, surrounding a giant flagpole. The governor and vice governor stand at attention and salute them for quite a while. Then, another set of military personnel come out marching with a single female carrying a ceremonial tray (for lack of a better term). They march up to the governor and the girl walks up to him to receive the flag.
After she gets the flag, she rejoins the marching brigade, they do a lap around the field, and come to the flagpole where she hands it off to be raised. It's simple, but quite impressive.
Everyone in attendance then salutes the flag and 4 armed soldiers stand around it on guard for the rest of the day. After the ceremony, the press that was standing around me the whole time decided to make me part of their story so I was briefly interviewed. There was also an old Indonesian army veteran there that was 113 years old. You read that right. He was in incredible shape for his age and he was just as excited to meet me as I was to meet him. I had to get his picture. Here he is.
The rest of the day was uneventful. I went home after this and didn't do anything. Like I said, they don't celebrate their Independence the way we do.
The next day, Andin told me that her high school was celebrating that day so we went back over there. Schools throughout the country all have games and activities that everyone participates in, including my school. I wanted to go to this high school because they had one activity I couldn't find happening anywhere else. It's called Panjat Pinang which translates (roughly) to climbing a nut tree. So they have this tree, probably about 30 feet tall, and they cover it in oil. They hang a whole bunch of prizes at the top and then have teams of 4 kids try and climb it to get the prizes.
The history behind this game is that it was created when Indonesia was colonized by the Dutch. The Dutch colonists created it, basically, for their entertainment and would place wagers on who would make it to the top. Now it's a tradition. It's pretty hilarious to watch kids try and climb it. Eventually, the teams make it up, after numerous attempts and only after the majority of the oil is wiped off by the climbing participants.
The next day, my school had their celebrations. These consisted of a day of games for all of the kids. The older kids compete in basketball, tug-of-war, and a bunch of other games. One is a form of bobbing for apples, but instead of water and apples, they stick coins in the outside of a watermelon and then cover it in butter. The kids have to get the coins out with their teeth. It's just as gross as it sounds. They also have to fill a bottle with water from a sponge in a "whisper down the lane" type fashion and pass a rubber band to one another with straws in their mouths.
The younger kids have different competitions. They had to see who could put on a uniform the quickest, drop a straw into a bottle, drop a pen in a bottle that's tied to their backside, race while balancing a marble on a spoon, tug-of-war, and a hands free eating contest.
All in all it was a fun day. They even made us teachers compete in the hands free eating contest and tug-of-war against the all male security team. We didn't win, but it was fun. I took tons pf pics throughout the day, but, unfortunately, don't have any pics of me competing. Sorry guys. But check out the gallery of the weekends festivities.