By: David, Co-Director Aceh
In the United States, we tend to think of the holiday season as a time of fervor and activity. Decorations get put up, towns and cities organize ceremonious displays, and the populace gets infected with the “holiday spirit.” We even associate the time with dramatic weather in the form of snowfalls blanketing the landscape. It’s an idyllic, idealized time.
In Banda Aceh, about the only similarity is the time of year. Indeed, Christmas and New Years’ celebrations have been rendered illicit. Celebrations are confined to the city’s mosques, which is where the Acehnese who don’t voyage south and east to their families’ villages display their devotion and piety. On New Years’ Eve, the city is under lock and key by 11:00pm.
However there is one other similarity, one that’s a little more relevant to IHF’s daily concerns. Kids stop going to school. We had at most a handful of students at any given time, but that meant they got lots of face time with Vlad and myself. Some days it was 4v4 football, and on others it was checkers and chess. It’s always nice to get to know students better who aren’t in your classes or are but might be a little shy. They certainly enjoyed having their run of the place.
The cultural lessons continued during the weekend as we attended our first Acehnese wedding. Andi, one of our lovely local volunteers, was kind enough to invite the whole IHF family to his special day. Between the extravagant decorations and traditional dress, the event was a stunning visual affair appropriate for the momentous occasion. We were incredibly grateful to have been able to share in the experience, and we wish Andi a lifetime of happiness.