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Ramadan on Batam: Really closed down? NAGOYA - The afternoon after that, the second day of Ramadan, I made a walk through the town of Nagoya, which is the most important place on the island outside the industrial estates and shipyards which are spread on other parts of the island. Nagoya Hill is the biggest shopping center of the island. Entirely according to Indonesian standards this shopping center - also called 'superblok' - features a big Hypermart supermarket, a Matahari department store, half a floor of mobile communication and one floor of food court of mixed quality. It is directly noticeable that it is an entirely different world than outside. Restaurants outside behave themselves as chameleons by acting they are closed, while they are still open.

Push against a door to be sure if you are allowed in, or just peek over the curtain to see if there are people. Following a small plume of smoke will bring you to those places that are open for business like usual, only hidden behind closed doors or a bunch of banners. Not very strange as well if you consider that you can still eat as a pregnant woman of if you have your period, are ill or too busy working in a less safe situation. And then all of a sudden a regular office job or a day working at the Matahari department store is seen as dangerous. Eating as usual, but as long as no-one else see it. What you don't see doesn't exist, it's that easy.

However it may look like that this pub is closed, it is open 'as usual', but you just have to find out yourself by trying if the door will open.  indahnesia.com
However it may look like that this pub is closed, it is open 'as usual', but you just have to find out yourself by trying if the door will open. indahnesia.com

In the shopping mall itself the situation is even more contrasting. Here no curtains on the big glass panels of the restaurants. The so-called 'food court' at the first floor is still the same as every other normal day of the year. Restaurants are open, chairs and tables are in front of the shops in the public space, and smells of freshly cooked food are present as well. Here people eat and drink like normal, and in fact in plain public. What is the thought behind all this? Very simple, you have already entered the building through the front door and that is about the same as entering a more personal environment. However a mall doesn't really fit into the whole 'personal environment', that doesn't really matter. Front door is front door.

Outside the shopping mall regular life was picked up as well, so it seemed. Most restaurants were still closed, but the girl with the veil was still selling chicken and beef sausages near the entrance of a supermarket, in plain sight along a main road. And that is something you can do here in Indonesia as long as there are no influences from outside which are paying others to hunt down this kind of 'shameless insults' of Ramadan. Whenever you find such a stand, it is safe to other some food and eat it at the spot as well, because it is offered to you like that and for sure they know it is Ramadan. You don't have to worry about that.

Some little things are handled completely different in public. But as said earlier the keyword 'public' is very double in most cases. Smoking a cigarette - one of the favorite things to do for many Indonesians - is usually left behind during daytime, but if they really want to smoke, the cigarette is behind the counter instead of hanging in the left or right corner of the mouth when there are customers. Calendars with 'sexy ladies' are still on their own place on the wall, probably they forgot to cut out some curtains for those images. It's the smaller things that need some adaptation during this month, so it should not be that much to ask. If you ask me, you are in the wrong country if you think people will adapt themselves to you during that month.

Things are not as 'closed' as it may seen at first glance, but it's the small things that make the difference like usual. In this case I just made a little walk through the city center to see how the situation was here in the first days of Ramadan. I am here without any proper planning by the way, but the fact that it's Ramadan now, is no reason at all for me to change my travel schedule. It is a part of Indonesia, so why should you avoid it? That people avoid it, can be explained fairly easy if you ask me, it is just because they don't know about it and might be scared about not getting any food. A missed opportunity I would say.



Posted in Ramadan @ 09 September 2008 by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink






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