In Indonesia, today (April 21) is a day to celebrate education and all the girls who run the world. It’s Kartini Day, and lots of activity was afoot at SMAN3 Pangkal Pinang today.
But first, who is Kartini? In a sentence, she is a famous Javanese woman who lived during the turn of the nineteenth century and who strongly believed in the importance of education for women. You can check out her Wikipedia page and this Jakarta Post article for more info.
Truth be told, I forgot Kartini Day was coming up until an announcement was made during yesterday morning’s daily teacher meeting at school. The announcement had several parts:
a) There would be no class in the afternoon because the teachers had a meeting to prepare for Kartini Day festivities. (Does anyone else see the irony in canceling class to plan for a holiday that is all about education? Just me? Okay…)
b) All of the men would participate in a cooking competition and students would have a talent competition at school on Kartini Day.
c) We have specific clothes to wear for the holiday.
From what I’ve heard, at many schools in Indonesia all of the ladies — students, teachers, and staff alike — wear a kebaya on Kartini Day because supposedly Kartini used to teach in a kebaya. At SMAN3, however, all teachers (men included) were told to wear traditional clothes from their hometown. For me this meant I was in jeans and a Harley Davidson t-shirt (thanks, Uncle Dave ^2!!) while everyone else was in their finest fabrics. Waduh.
But at least I was dressed properly for yesterday’s 3 hour (!!!) teacher meeting, during which our headmistress and fearless leader, Ibu Kun, lectured everyone about creating a reading culture. I paid attention as much as possible, but I also took advantage of my back row status. For much of the time, I drew sketches of an outfit I want to have made out of fabric I got for my birthday back in December. I also joined Ibu Isnaini in sketching the teachers who were sitting across the aisle facing us. It turns out some of those teachers had the same idea and we shared drawings and laughs after the meeting.
The meeting concluded with teams being announced for the following day’s (a.k.a. today’s) cooking competition. Despite the gloomy rain outside, the teachers’ room was abuzz with excitement and bold boasts of anticipated future accomplishments. In an American setting, there definitely would have been some betting going on.
This morning, Kartini Day started as any normal school week starts: with a flag-raising ceremony (called upacara) and a speech given by the headmistress. But today, the flag bearers, the student readers, and the class leaders were all female whereas normally it is all boys with the occasional girl. They did a fine job.
Afterward, I took photos with some of the female students in class 11 and then went back to the teachers’ room to eat breakfast. I was mid-bite into my bun when Meybi, an excellent student and great beatboxer, came over with a folder and informed me I would judge the students’ talent competition. Although I planned on watching the competition, I’m never thrilled when last-minute things like this are sprung on me. But Meybi is so sweet and I did want to watch the students, so there was no way I was going to say no. Ten minutes later, I found myself at my own table in the auditorium in a comfy chair with judging rubric in hand.
The competition was fun: Meybi did his beatboxing and other students did singing, dancing, and there were even a few stand-up comedians thrown in. The students in the audience were about as animated as it gets, which kept things interesting. There were two other judges, so I’m not sure who won. I’ll go into school on Saturday to hear the final announcement.
Afterward, I stuck around with the students who had been off to the side of the stage by the soundboard. They took turns playing guitar, a drumbox, and one of my students blew me away by playing “My Heart Will Go On” perfectly on a recorder. I was thankful to have spent so much time doing karaoke and learning Indonesian song lyrics so I could join in some of the singing.
Then I was off to drift around the school, checking out the other various competitions. It turns out that the men’s cooking competition truly was done by the men: cooking stations were set up in the outdoor hallways and all of the bapaks donned aprons and got to work.
Meanwhile, the students had their own cooking competition although their food was made at home and displayed on different tables at school. Everything except the rice and the fruit had fish in it, so I couldn’t have judged the competition. Still, I enjoyed seeing what all of the students made and sampling the few veggie options available.
In my wanderings, I got called into a classroom where a group of nine or ten girls were playing a game with what looked like red beans at first. They had two tabled pushed together and were taking turns flicking the beans around. It turns out that they were seeds from a tree outside (biji saga in bahasa Indonesia). They invited me to play, which I accepted after watching a round. The rules are simple: there are two teams with an equal number of players. The teams each have their turn with the seeds. Each player wants to collect as many seeds as possible. You can collect a seed by scratching your finger on the table between two seeds then flicking one seed at the other. If the seed you flick hits the seed on the other side of your imaginary line and no others, you can collect whichever seed you want. But if the seed hits a different seed (i.e. not the one that was on the other side of the invisible line you drew prior to flicking) or hits multiple seeds or doesn’t hit anything then you are out for the rest of that round. The team’s turn continues until all of the players are out, then the next team collects all of the seeds still on the table and re-scatters them to start their turn of seed-flicking. The game continues until all of the seeds have been collected and the team with the most wins. Sounds easy, but definitely requires some skill. I was always out by the third flick.
When I finally made my way back to the teachers’ room, I was just in time for the announcement of the men’s cooking competition. Apparently the Kepala DINAS Pendidikan (head of the provincial education ministry) was one of the judges. Tensions were high. He started the announcement by saying that everyone was a winner, but then continued to list off teams from last place (a special distinction!) to first. My team (all the language teachers) got third place out of five. The winning team was the administration staff and they were ecstatic. Mam Siti, one of the vice principals and an English teacher, threw water on them like we might shake and spray champagne during a particularly rowdy celebration in the States. It was quite exciting.
That was pretty much it for Kartini Day celebrations at school. Thankfully Kartini Day falls on a Thursday this year, which means that I got a second chance to wear a kebaya at the Bukit Tani English Club that Caitlin and I have taught every Thursday since last fall. The kids appreciated us dressing up and we had a fairly simple lesson for the evening. The topic this week is family, which started by introducing the vocabulary in a family tree and followed with a crossword and a word search I made for them to practice with the vocabulary words. It was a good lesson and I am proud of all the kids who come each week despite the rain, extreme heat, and occasional lack of electricity; Kartini would be proud too.