“The Best 4th of July Ever”

Yesterday was Idul Fitri, the celebration at the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.  This is an enormous holiday for Indonesians – basically Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Easter all wrapped into one with Independence Day festivities.

The date changes every year, since the Islamic calendar is lunar.  This year, it happened to be on August 18th.  We had just gotten back from our hike up Mt. Rinjani that afternoon, and after glorious showers jumped right into the celebration!  Lombok is an island with heavy Islamic influence, so the celebration was going full force.

On the way to dinner (Pizza Hut – sometimes you just need that American fix :)), we stopped for my first taste of warung – street food – in the form of roasted corn.  These grilled ears of corn have been a favorite of mine for a long time, and I was overjoyed to see and eat it!

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After dinner, we went out to buy fireworks, along with the rest of the island.  Safety precautions being slightly different in Indonesia, everyone (including 4 and 5 year old children) simply sets off fireworks in the street.

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Shortly after we turned into pyromaniacs, the parade started.  From what I understand, each mosque in town has their own section.  Most start with a banner, followed by “the parade of lights”, then a group of people, a lighted mosque float, and lastly a pick up truck, speakers blasting.

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The wailing music was frequently punctuated with the bursting fireworks, and the whole street smelled of the gunpowder and smoke.  Everything was bright, noisy, bustling.

Thanks to the wise advice of a formerly Indonesia-occupying cousin, I finally embraced the bule status, and danced along with the parade, giving high-fives to the kids excited to see an American and posing for pictures.

Having reached our hotel with the section of the parade we were traveling next to, we had a brilliant idea.  Employing Google Translate and the hotel guards, we managed to get onto the roof of the hotel to watch the happenings below!

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The view was spectacular, and just as I was thinking “this is the best 4th of July ever”, one of the other teachers voiced it.  Not quite American Independence day, but it’s funny how your mind rushes to the familiar.  It was an incredible cultural experience to be part of such an important holiday here.  We were suddenly startled out of these thoughts, though, as we realized that our position on the roof put us just at the same level as fireworks!  They were CLOSE. And by close, I mean ears-ringing-embers-on-my-neck close.  It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I’m sure will stay at the top of my “incredible memories in Indonesia” list!

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