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Merdeka! Merdeka! YOGYAKARTA - With just over two weeks to go, Indonesia is slowly turning into a more colorful country than usual. Independence Day is coming - the 17th of August. That will be celebrated as well. Of course the red and white flags will be everywhere around, but the celebration is more than just raising a flag in the early morning. Like I wrote a year ago, cleaning is done as preparation. Things that haven't been cleaned for almost a year are now cleaned to be finished just a few days short of the 17th - so they don't have to care about it for another year as well.

Many walls will get a fresh layer of paint, often from the same can as last year. Mixed with more than enough water to ensure the wall will not be perfectly white this year again, while if you add one thick layer in one time, you don't have to paint it for many years to come. But maybe it's more something to keep people busy. Working together to clean the neighborhood, kerja bakti or gotong royong. As a foreigner you will get to know the neighbors that aren't living directly around you as well.

Last year the main road to the kampung was fixed with some concrete and stones that were too big, now it has improved. Since a few days, workers are melting tar and mixing it with sand and small stones by hand to make new asphalt. By hand this is then brought to the place where the new layer has to come. Flattened with a wooden bar before the layer is flattened for a last time, most of this work is still done manually. Now the road looks fine and it will survive the coming wet monsoon - starting only in a few months time though, much better than the previous solution which washed away during the first heavy rains.

Making new asphalt here is still done manually. Mixing sand and stones with the hot tar.
Making new asphalt here is still done manually. Mixing sand and stones with the hot tar.

The flag pole and red-and-white flag here are in position by now, like it should be. The colorful decoration lights in the street are installed as well in recent days. My fence hasn't been painted yet and I hope that it will stay that way in the coming weeks, because those people with white paint is not what I am waiting for since it should become green one day. One day indeed, because I realize there will be a 17th of August next year again to get this job done. No hurry, above all the wall looks nice without paint as well for now.

Flags for sale

Since about ten days, around the 17th of July, the first stalls which are selling flags and other red-white merchandise pop up to sell their products. They have one month's time to earn some money on a fixed spot along one of the main roads. Over time, when Independence Day nears, more people start selling the same products, so they will probably not earn too much. A normal flag does between 10,000 and 15,000 Rupiah. That includes everything from production, transport and waiting along dirty roads for entire days to sell them as well.

Outside flags there are also umbul-umbul and other decorations on sale, like pre-produced decorations for platforms, ribbons and small flags which form a chain tied together. Often made from polyester these things, but the plastic ones will do it as well. They are cheaper and after a month they have discolored that much that people don't have to care about it until next year again, when they are replaced with new ones.

Selling flags creates a colorful display when the calendar creeps closer to the 17th of August.
Selling flags creates a colorful display when the calendar creeps closer to the 17th of August.

However Indonesia already is very colorful as it is, the weeks before independence dat - and the day itself of course - are extra colorful. Many merchants color the streets just a little bit more red and white and later the residential areas and offices follow as well. Often they are decorated with somewhat too much of red and white. Luckily this is just for a short while. Shortly after Independence Day, people will start cleaning up and prepare for the holy month of Ramadan which is then just less than four weeks away.

Maybe it's just good as it is, because the overload of colorful advertisements for everything you can imagine already create a somewhat chaotic city-scape. The two-colored flags in the wind everywhere will not depreciate that effect. It gives nice opportunities to make pictures however, for those who are interested in that.

Don't forget; the morning of the 17th of August will be celebrated with a large flag-ceremony in the morning. Everyone is invited and also Dutch people have nothing to fear. The ceremonies start on time, but as a tourist you have to adapt a little bit. It's only once in a year and missing it is not an option as well. The Borobudur temple will still be there the 18th for sure!

Be sure to bring a visit to a village after the ceremony and join the local population; traditional Dutch games are played throughout the day. Indeed, traditional Dutch games, but who cares? It has been almost 62 years now.



Posted in Culture @ 31 July 2007 by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink






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