USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘Indonesia’
general

Using Car Horns in Indonesia

The informant is a 26-year old web developer who has spent much time traveling for work.


 

What was driving in Indonesia like?

BF: Indonesia was excellent. I never drove, I was always in a taxi. The funny thing is… everyone honks on the roads. Here it’s offensive or rude or abrasive–but everyone is doing it all the time in Indonesia. Sounds like New York City, with all the horns.

Were the roads different in any other way?

BF: Yeah, driving was also really tough because the cards weren’t as good and the roads were relatively shoddy. I guess that’s why everyone honks so much more. It’s funny how it’s not a gesture of rudeness there, but just the way people drive.

 


 

Video demonstrating the extreme use of car horns in Indonesia

Magic
Narrative

Haunted House in Jakarta

Papa’s (my grandpa’s) friend and him were living in Jakarta and in the house they were staying in… a house which they rented… which was haunted because the wife sees all the spirits when the men are out working. There are always noises and sometimes she saw people in the kitchen… doing something in the kitchen, and the husband doesn’t believe her. He says, “I don’t believe. That is nonsense. I wish I could see the ghost. I wish he would show me.” One day he was sleeping, and he looked up and he had a calendar of two girls dancing. He looked at the calendar and it was moving and dancing. The girls pictured in the calendar were moving as if they were real. He was so scared. So from that time on he believed. They eventually figured out that under that house was a cemetery. The ghost followed them from this house to another house they lived in, I even heard stories about it later on. Since that time he was so scared and never mentioned it anymore.

Background: My grandpa was a civil engineer whose work required him to constantly move from place to place. This is interesting to hear secondhand from my aunt, as my grandfather passed away. He told this story to her many years ago. This really embodies the essence of folklore as this version of the story may have been different from the original that my grandfather would have told. I conducted this interview live at my uncle’s house, so this story was told to me in person. I really find this story to be very compelling as the belief of each person who lived in the house varied about the spirits — from the wife and husband, to my grandfather. This was very interesting for me to hear about some of the interesting places my grandfather lived and some of the amazing things he did all over the world.

Childhood
Musical

Indonesian Lullaby

This is a lullaby that the informant’s father used to sing to her and her sister.

Translation

“Miel, go to sleep. Miel, go to sleep. If you don’t go to sleep, you’re going to get bit by ants.” The alternate ending means, “you’ll get bit by a fly.”

Informant’s Thoughts

The informant described this as a dark lullaby, and even mentioned that her sister used to hate the song and that it would keep her up. The informant herself said she never had a problem going to sleep, despite the lullaby being dark. Her father most likely learned it from his parents, since it is meant to be a song that parents sing to their children to scare them into sleeping. The informant doesn’t know of any name for the lullaby, but her father would call it “Informant bobo”, meaning “Informant sleep.”

Background & Analysis

The informant’s parents are from Indonesia, however the informant herself was born in the U.S., but is fluent in both Indonesian and English. The informant and I live in the same residence hall, and for this folklore collection, we got pizzas together and just sat down and ate them in my room while talking and sharing stories. I think it is an interesting, if somewhat backwards logic, that parents sing this song to coerce their children into going to sleep, since in American culture, lullabies are generally supposed to be sweet and gentle songs that “lull” a child to sleep. Perhaps the lyrics are supposed to be a sort of joke and meant to be ignored, however it would be difficult not to take the words seriously when living a country (Indonesia) that is home to a host of exotic insect species.

Childhood
Musical

One Child of God

This is an Indonesian church song that the informant’s mom used to sing when she was younger. Her mom grew up Christian and went to a Catholic, all girls school.

Translation

“‘One child of God goes to church, and then he brings a friend, and they go to church.’ And then it starts over, it’s like, ‘Two children of God, one of them brings a friend, and they go to church.’ All of them go to church together and it’s like this growing…”

Background & Analysis

The informant’s parents are from Indonesia, however the informant herself was born in the U.S., but is fluent in both Indonesian and English. The informant and I live in the same residence hall, and for this folklore collection, we got pizzas together and just sat down and ate them in my room while talking and sharing stories.

The name of this church song is “Satu Anak Tuhan” which mean “One Child of God.” When I asked the informant if this song is sung more in youth groups, she said she had absolutely no idea, but that it was just one of those little songs that you learn when you’re younger. This reminds me a a children’s song that most latin or hispanic people know, and that I myself learned from my dad who speaks Spanish, called “Un Elefante se Balanceaba.” The song begins with one elephant balancing on a spider web, and when he sees that it holds him, he calls over another elephant, and then they are both balancing on a spider web. This song can continue indefinitely. Just as with “One Child of God,” it is mostly children who learn and sing this song, and both were probably created to pass the time on long car rides, or to teach numbers and counting.

Folk Beliefs
Legends
Tales /märchen

Pontianak

Pontianak is a female ghost, or the Southeast Asian equivalent of the vampire. A woman could become a pontianak by committing suicide upon discovering that her husband is cheating on her, or if the woman dies during pregnancy. They live on banana trees, and there are many banana plantations in Malaysia and Indonesia. When I was a kid, my grandmother would warn me not to get too close to banana trees. Or don’t look up when you’re near a banana tree. They like to hang upside down too. I’ve never seen one and I haven’t known anyone who’s seen a pontianak, but they’re usually seen by village folks. Pontianak have long black hair, long fangs, and a white dress, and they usually haunt only men. They don’t suck blood like Western vampires do, but they suck out your organs.

The informant grew up hearing stories about the pontianak. The legend of this creature could be a reflection of expected gender roles in Malaysian and Indonesian societies, and also fertility and faithfulness.

Customs
general

Greetings in Indonesia

 

“When you greet someone in Indonesia, they only touch your hands on the tips very gently using both hands. So if describe it, it’s like you stand facing each other and put your palms together. And then with your hand, you will touch the other person’s hand only on the tips. This is hard to explain in words. They never grab your hand to shake it like in the western way. Also, if you are a young person and you greet the elders, first you kiss the elder’s hand and then you bring the hand onto your forehead gently. That’s how you show your respect. Between females, when they greet each other, they share kisses on both cheeks, also very gently almost not using their lips.”

This way of greeting, for my informant, looked very elegant and polite. She thought it was a better way than the custom of shaking hands in Western culture. It is very polite which is an important part of the culture in Indonesia. It also shows respect to each other and to elders, which is another important part of the culture. This way of greeting is more personal than just shaking hands, it helps to start relationships between people in the correct path.

For myself, I also find this way of greeting to be very elegant. In Korean culture, we also show respect to our elders by bowing, although handshakes are also common. Handshakes can sometimes have different connotations than just greetings however, as we are even taught of the best way tot deliver a handshake in professional situations. A firm but not too overbearing grip is usually recommended, as different pressures can have different meanings. When there is tension between two people, they are often depicted as aggressively shaking each others hand, trying to win over each other with the strength of their grip. In this way handshakes can almost be something condescending or something used to analyze the other. However, the Indonesia custom is not like his as it shows deference to each other and affection in their relationships.

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