All photos and text are property of Dave Forney and may not be used without express permission.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Grass Jelly Drink

Sorry, this is a bit long with words and pictures, but I thought it was pretty interesting. And just to warn you, it gets a little disgusting at the very end.

This past Wednesday marked the end of the Muslim holy month of fasting called Ramadhan. This huge holiday, Idul Fitri, is probably the biggest and most-anticipated holiday of the year in Muslim parts of the world. Picture Thanksgiving and Christmas wrapped up in one--but of course, with a Muslim rather than Christian foundation.

Anyway, everyone from all over seems to travel anywhere and everywhere to be with family and friends for the occasion. There's tons of food and gifts are exchanged. As westerners, and Christians, we are not immune to the festivities. In fact, we are absolutely expected to go visit each of our Muslim neighbors and friends to share a meal with them, and visit on this special day. They would be deeply offended if we did not honor and respect them by showing up at their houses. (At Christmas, whether we like it or not, they will all return the favor by showing up at our house and expecting a meal and tons of snacks as well.)

Most of those that we visit are quite poor. But that doesn't dampen their generosity. They heap loads of traditional foods on plates and fill bowls to overflowing with hot soups of various kinds. You learn quickly that if you eat fast, and make to many comments about how good the food is, they'll re-fill your bowl/plate without your asking AND despite your protests--not unlike the waitresses that refilled my coffee cup a dozen times at Heidi's in Gresham, where my buddy Walt and I used to eat breakfast everyday before work.

By the time you leave the first house, you're stuffed to overflowing, like a popping thanksgiving turkey...but alas, that was just the first of many families to visit. You go to the next house and do it all over again, acting as if you haven't eaten a thing while trying to stuff down more food. And then you do it again...and again...and, you get get the picture. It's actually quite humbling to see their generosity.

Anyway, this year we took the twins along, which added a whole new dimension to the adventure. They were having an absolute blast, being hand-fed to their heart's delight by little Muslim ladies who were all to happy to stuff their mouths and hands full of every type of imaginable sweet and crunchy delectable available in SE Asia. At one point we suddenly realized that Tyler was nowhere to be found. Initially unconcered, (usually that just means that one of the ladies has taken him to the kitchen to feed him more, or out the back to see the chickens or something,) we began to look for him. But soon it became obvious that he was nowhere at all in the house. We took the search outside with an increasing sense of urgency. It was beginning to get dark. Somewhere down the street we heard a male voice yelling, "Ada bayi bule cari kucing di sini!" "There's a white baby looking for a cat here!" Tyler was happily chasing a cat down the street. The neighbors were all to amuzed by the entertainment.

Finally, soaked with sweat and stuffed to the gills, just as we prepared to head for home, I heard a distinctive pop of a soda-style can opening. The can was handed to Joy (she never asked for it, but that didnt' matter. Picture kids and food everywhere and general chaos, as a can is opened and placed into her one free hand by an eager host.) It all took place in my peripheal vision, just one of many details lost in the flood of activity--that is, until after taking a quick sip, Joy's hand, holding the can, shot over in front of me. The non-verbal communication was clear. "I just can't drink it. You drink it." And so, closing my eyes and holding my breath, I washed down a half-dozen meals with a nice, warm, non-carbonated Grass Jelly Drink, complete with little floating chunkies of unknown origin. Ahhhhh. Refreshing! Nothing like a warm Grass Jelly Drink to finish off Idul Fitri.

P.S. On the way home, poor Hudson just couldn't hold it anymore. He lost his "cookies" in the back seat of the car--apparently from shear stuffness. Ya, it can be that bad! He felt much better afterwards. :) The rest of us held it "together," but we all skipped a few meals afterwards.


Anonymous said...

Hi Dave,

You have the most incredible way of describing things. Dad and I laughed through this whole story, but felt your agony at the same time. It must have been quite scary when you couldn't find Tyler and drinking that "Grass Jell Drink" after all the other food; I'm surprised you didn't loose it on the way home like poor little Husdon. Keep the stories coming!


theda said...

I think you need to cut your friendships in half, at least.

You guys are amazing. What an incredible experience for all of you.

Thanks for all the pictures and blow-by-blow.

Love, Theda

Anonymous said...

It is so interesting to get to peek into your lives. I admire your good attitudes through it all. God bless.

Alan said...

Whoa Dave -- thanks for not inviting me to this "party" :) . Yikes, I don't think my tummy could handle the day you described.

Thanks for the colorful report.


Anonymous said...

what a neat thing that is a part of the muslim culture. I can't really see many Americans doing something like having everyone they know over for a meal.

Anonymous said...

Wow...that brought back a lot of memories from our experience last year in Sentani...Grass Jelly Drink and all! :-) We had some of that at one place the Lee's took us to...I thought we were all going to lose it! :-)