Death Customs in Aceh

by Dustin, Co-Director, IHF Banda Aceh

This past week we had the unfortunate opportunity to discover more about death customs in Aceh, as one of our SMP students suffered the sudden loss of his father from a heart attack. As per tradition, he was buried on the same day of his death, and we were unfortunately unable to attend, as we heard the news too late.

The following day we visited the family’s home, along with Anggara, our local volunteer, who was close to the family. He was able to explain to us many subtle aspects we would have missed otherwise. He told us about the red bag marking the turn to his house, which is always hung when there is a death to indicate which house is accepting visitors. He gave us instructions on what words of consolation to say to the family, what to bring for a gift, and how long to stay. We were glad to see how well the family looked one day after their loss, and how much of the community had come to support them. After 44 days, there will be another gathering to celebrate the father’s life, and we look forward to the chance once more to share the evening with the family of one of our beloved students.Aceh 1

In class news, a couple weeks ago I had the fortune of teaching SD 1 a couple of the most important words in the English language – “Please” and “Thank You.” I found a most useful instrument of instruction for this in some pieces of hard candy that a volunteer brought us a few months ago. I demonstrated how the magic words work, saying “please” when presented with the candy, and “thank you” after receiving it. They all found the lesson very rewarding, of course!

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A week later, I was delighted to see that they had remembered their vocabulary, and wished to put it in to practice in their free time. Three of the girls decided to play a game, passing a little red balloon, like the red candy I gave out before. One by one, they turned to the person to their left, who then said “please” and “thank you” before and after being passed the balloon. I was amazed at their enthusiasm, going faster and faster, giggling the whole time. I’m proud of how proficient they’ve quickly become at minding their Ps and Qs.

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