Did you know it’s the Islamic new year or the Javanese satu suro tomorrow! HOLIDAY! Oh yeah. And since it’s on Tuesday, there is also a holiday today for some because Monday inconveniently falls in between Sunday and the New Year on Tuesday, so why not make Monday also part of the holiday. Okay! In fact, there is a word for this type of ‘in-between two free days’: hari kejepit.
And how appropriate, because it’s St. Nicolas Day today! Happy St. Nicolas day! YAY! I didn’t put out my shoe last night though, or wake up to chocolate chip muffins in the oven…mmmm. Mom’s chocolate chip muffins. So good. But I know I will still get a package from the magical postman one day, it just depends how long it waits in inspection land in Indonesia.
And speaking of holidayz, while I was in Jakarta, Idul Adha was celebrated. This special time remembers when God spared Abraham’s son Isaac from being slaughtered by providing a ram caught in some bushes just before Abraham was going to plunge a knife into his son. To celebrate, Muslims now plunge a knife into many goats and cows (usually all male, because they are STRONG) the halal way on this day. Then, after the korban, the meat is donated to poor people; they come to the mosque later in the afternoon to get a share of the meat for their family.
(WARNING: I put some hard-core pics of dead animals on this post.)
It’s pretty obvious when Indonesia celebrates. Signs that something big was going to happen started the week before: pens of goats and cows sprung up along the roadsides in a megacity of 20 million people. Then, on the eve of Idul Adha, Abraham’s story was recited over the loudspeakers, and went on all night. Then, wonders of wonders, there was not any macet, traffic jams, on the day of Idul Adha. Truly a miracle.
The korban, the slaughter, happens. I went with mbak Erni and her family. In her kampung, neighbourhood, there were 3 cows, a sheep and about 20 goats lined up. They had numbers on them designating the order of the korban, and also tags to note who had donated the animal.
Now, I don’t eat a lot of meat. Really not a lot at all. I’m only flexitarian when I need to be. And in fact, before coming here, I was vegetarian for 6 years. And this is a pretty intense holiday. So I was asked — why on earth do you want to come see? Are you sure? I guess I was just curious. I had never seen an animal killed before. And since I’m eating some meat sometimes, it’s good to understand the life cycle, and know about this part of the process. And most of all, I want to understand more about muslim culture; it’s very fascinating to me. There are so many aspects that I just cannot grasp (and for that matter, so many aspects of Christianity too). Anyways, since I’m living in a majority Islamic country, why not see 20 goats and 3 cows and 1 sheep get slaughtered??
So first fresh earth was turned up, and a rectangle of dirt was brought to the surface of the world. This was then covered by grass, and a board was laid down as a stable place to lay the animal’s exposed neck. While place of the slaughter was being prepared, men, women and children were gathering around. A dude with a loudspeaker walked about and let us all know when the korban is about to begin. He directed the order, explaining that Siti had donated this goat, and Adi had donated that goat.
For the slaughter, men took the animal, laid it down, and held the legs down and made sure the neck was exposed. While they sang a prayer, one man slit the throat with a long sinister-looking knife, and let the blood flow into the earth. The struggling legs slowly lay still. For the goats, it was one sharp move. For the cow, it was a least 5 or 6 see-sawing strokes. Cows have really big necks. The blood surged and gurgled and the cow made rasping noises since the breath was now through the throat. I felt like crying. My heart was also in my throat. They dragged the cow over to the side, and even when they undid the rope holding the legs to together, the back leg kept kicking. I’m not sure how long it actually took the cow to die, but it seemed like a really long time. The cow’s chest kept on heaving, and moving up and down. I looked away.
But I didn’t look in a very good direction if I wanted some respite. One guy with an ax was hacking one goat’s head off. The spine is pretty strong, it seems; the dude really took some good blows to chop the neck off. And now the goats were being skinned. It was really fascinating. You could see the muscles, tendons, and bones of the goat. The skinning job was a precise art, starting from the hind legs, working the way down. It reminded me of this horrible passage in one of Haruki Murakami’s novels (I forget the title) of a man being skinned alive, and the other man being forced to watch it. Ugh. I turned to Mbak Erni, and she looked at me and said “Cukup, enough?”. Cukup.
We went to her house and had a delicious meal with some meat in it.