We have finally reached the goofy costumes and weird food part of our Peace Corps evolution. I knew it was out there, but just didn’t know when we would hit it.
You may have seen in Amy’s post about our swearing-in ceremony, we were wearing ‘batik’ clothing, which is a short or long-sleeve shirt with intricate patterns printed on them, worn for all occasions. During training we were told that if you were unsure of what to wear to any event, “you can’t go wrong wearing batik.” In Batu we all had some batiks made and tailored and my host family surprised me with a really nice batik for me to wear to the swearing-in ceremony. They are beautiful and colorful and look great in person, when surrounded by others wearing them. However, I’m sure that in the pictures we post over the next two years, you will have lots of enjoyment at our expense from these clothes. My mom has already compared one of my shirts to John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever.
Now onto the food….
Since arriving in our village near Ngoro, we have really excelled in the ‘community integration’ area, thanks to our new host mom and her sister (Amy’s principle). In just the first week here, we have attended two house warmings, a wedding, three family reunions, and an engagement party where the engagement happens in front of both families (about as awkward as it sounds).
It was a pretty tiring week, but we had a number of great opportunities to meet many people in the community and to try some new and interesting foods.
For the most part, Indonesian food has been wonderful. A little heavy on the rice (you haven’t eaten a meal, unless you’ve eaten it with rice), but the food has been really great. Most of you know of my last host family’s fried chicken addiction—eating it up to 12 meals in a row, including breakfast—but the other food has been great, too. With the exception of a couple meals of organ meat, we had largely been spared from anything other than general Southeast Asian goodness. That changed this week.
A ‘selamatan’ is a generic term used for any number of celebrations—house warming, the purchase of a new motorcycle, a new owner of a company, etc. (all things that happened in our last village). For a house warming selamatan, the traditional food is goat satay. Following the prayers for the new house and the pre-prayer meal of various ricey/sweet appetizers, we chowed down on some wonderful goat satay.
The surprise came later, however, when the head of the goat was brought out (boiled, but still in its purely goat form) with a large knife. Next, the plate with goat head and knife was passed around the circle of men, with each cutting off a few slices and eating it. I was fortunate enough to be second in line for goat head, so it definitely still looked like a goat head when I got it. With some help from the other guys there, I got a nice piece of the goats cheek along with a slice from above his ear. Later, the goat made it to the circle of women and Amy looked on in awe (or was it disgust?) as one of her new coworkers proudly dug out the eyeball and popped it in her mouth.
The next day, I joined a few of my coworkers on a 20km bike ride to visit another teacher at the hospital. Following the visit, they invited me to lunch for one of many traditional Javanese meals, made up of words I could not understand, but knew I hadn’t tried yet. Later they explained that what I was eating was made up of pineapple, some vegetables (maybe cauliflower?), and cow lips. And cow lips aren’t a cute name for a local fruit or something, they were lips from a cow. A little chewy, and an odd taste, but overall not that bad.
With goat head and cow lips in the first week, I can’t wait to see what we get next week.