Two weeks ago, teachers at both of our schools started talking to us about the “marching” parade that would happen on Saturday (September 8th). Both schools were talking about about what costumes we would wear; the necessary marching practice we would have to undergo, because this was also a competition, of course; and an ongoing debate over the distance of the march—my school believed it would be 7km, Amy’s school thought 12km.
We were hearing so many discussions that seemed disjointed, that at one point as we were discussing this, Amy said, “do you think there is more than one parade?” Of course there was. We didn’t realize this until after the first parade, when we weren’t given costumes and later told that we would have to get fitted the next week in order to be ready for the parade on Saturday (September 15th).
Both parades were in commemoration of Indonesia’s Independence Day, which occurred on August 17th, but aside from some local celebrations (like this one), the major celebrations in town were postponed until after Ramadan and Idul Fitri
The first parade, also known as the “long march”, was 12km (about 7.5 miles). What is most fascinating is that people here really don’t walk much, for pleasure or otherwise—likely due to the unrelenting heat. Therefore, a 12km march was pretty extreme. Both of our schools participated and we were decked out in our schools’ sport uniforms. Amy’s school took the competition aspect of the long march more seriously than my school as they stayed in uniform position and moved at a good clip. My school took more of a meandering approach, stopping multiple times to rest, and getting passed by at least 20 other groups.
The second parade was a much bigger deal. This one was complete with floats, costumes, drum line bands, dance teams…the works. Every school, mosque, church and social organization (like martial arts clubs) participated. Half of my students (about 300) participated with my school and I was deemed the grand marshall of our section. I walked up front in modern-traditional Javanese clothing (like what you would see at a wedding here), flanked by some students in traditional female wedding dress. This was followed by a flock of similarly dressed girls, then our flag team, then some boys dressed as soldiers, then our Scout representatives, and so on. Amy’s school dressed as different representations of Indonesian life and her class dressed as traditional fishermen. She was spared though, and wore a more flattering Balinese costume.
The march began in the streets of our nearby town and population center, Ngoro. The streets were absolutely packed with people, to the point where we couldn’t advance at times due to the overcrowding of the street. In our procession, my school also had a pickup truck with a giant bullhorn on top—Blues Brothers style. Over this speaker, every 20 feet or so they would announce something along the lines of:
“Our school is the best in Indonesia, we have extracurricular activities, including Scouts, Martial Arts, Music, and an American teaches here…Mister Will, Mister Will.. from America. Come get your picture with Mister Will”.
I was bombarded by pictures, people yelling, waving and cheering. The only equivalent I could think of would be if a martian landed in DC and decided to take part in the Cherry Blossom parade.
But it was also equally awesome. We don’t live in an area that attracts tourists or really any outside influence, so us living here is really strange to the people from this area, but most seem to really appreciate it and everyday the people here make us feel more comfortable.
As you may have heard, some of the recent anti-American sentiment has spread to Indonesia (via mostly-peaceful protests). The day before the parade, the State Department released a warning that Americans living here should stay away from large crowds. Well, this situation was the exact opposite of that, but it would have been impossible to feel more welcomed, appreciated and loved than we both did on Saturday. My favorite part about the parade and living here in general is seeing little kids’ faces light up when they see us and we acknowledge them. If we accomplish nothing else in our two years here, I hope that we’ve at least left a positive impression on these young people on behalf of the US.
Enjoy these pictures from the two marches!