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Journey to Indonesia

Journey to Indonesia

With foreign nationals from over 100 different countries working and residing in Addis, the capital could arguably be considered as one the most diverse cities in the world. Inhabitants ranging from the Far East, Africa, Europe, the Americas and the Middle East call Addis Ababa their home – at least temporarily – and it would not be an understatement to say that the city is a melting pot of cultures.

The Indonesian Food and Culture Bazaar – a one day event – was designed to bring members of the diplomatic corps, expats, and Ethiopians together for a day of fun and festivities. This free and open event served as a platform to learn the ways of Indonesia and celebrate diplomacy. Held at the Embassy of Indonesia in Addis Ababa – located off Egypt Street – on May 12, 2018, this all-encompassing event provided an opportunity for people from all around the world to experience Indonesian culture, music, art and most importantly food.

Budi Santoso, Head of Chancery, Indonesian Embassy, said: “The key intent of the bazaar is to promote Indonesian culinary, products, tourism, and culture to Ethiopians, and the growing number of foreigners from the many embassies and international organizations found in Addis.”

What started out as a small gathering of Indonesian embassy staff early morning quickly grew into an intergenerational cultural event that brought together several hundreds of families, foodies, and artisan shoppers for a day of ethnic fare and communicative entertainment.

While arriving at the compound, people received raffle tickets to be used in a lucky draw. Walking past the green landscape towards the gathering hall, guests were side-tracked by the exotic, elaborate sculptures that were carved from stone. Most took a minute to take selfies.

The air was infused with the smell of barbeque. Food was the most popular thing at the bazaar. The food booths showcased a number of Indonesian foods. Among the different kinds of foods, one of the most popular was Chicken Satay (Sate). It is a dish of skewered chicken, marinated in traditional paste for hours and carefully cooked over coals. It was served with a sweet and spicy condiment made from peanuts. Some had it with rice, others with fried noodles.

“Our staple foods are rice, corn and mie goreng (fried noodles),” Agung Wibowo, an Indonesian national, said. “But Rendang,” Agung paused for effect, “is the best food in the world.” Confused by the sceptical faces in front of him, he added: “No, I am serious; it was confirmed by CNN.”  To a certain extent, he was being modest yet sincere. In fact, according to CNN’s 2017: World’s 50 best foods, Rendang was crowned “World’s Most Delicious Food”.

Rendang is a rich and creamy beef stew made by slowly simmering beef in a mixture of coconut milk and several aromatic spices. It is cooked for hours until it is very tender. Because of the time and attention it demands, it is often served at ceremonial occasions and to honored guests.

The majority of the dishes at the bazaar sold for 80 Birr or less. Refreshments such as Eh Teh Manis (a sweet Indonesian iced tea), mango puddings, and Gorengan (fried foods) were presented, among many others.

According to Ochen Isaac, a souvenir aficionado from Uganda, this food and culture bazaar was described as one of the most “impatiently awaited” diplomatic events happening this month. “Apart from the handicrafts and traditional apparels that are being sold, the relaxed food galore and their tantalizing fragrances indeed capture spot-on images of Indonesia.”

The other highlight of the event was the live entertainment, which included traditional Indonesian dance shows and Angklung (musical instrument) plays. The performers were dressed in colorful traditional attires; their dances were dynamic, supplemented with clapping and lots of swift hand movements. Dancers urged attendees to participate in the dances. While some bravely joined the revelry, others were just happy to observe. And those who played the Angklung were happy to give lessons for those interested. Angklung is made from varying number of bamboo tubes attached to a bamboo frame. It produces a rattle-like musical note when shaking the suspended bamboo tubes. This seemingly laid-back instrument attracted a lot of curious individuals.

In a mass full of people wearing an apparel of jeans and t-shirts, it was not uncommon to see individuals dressed in Kebaya.  A vibrant, figure-hugging embroidered blouse for women; it is usually worn with a Batik Sarong that is usually dyed with flower motifs or bright colors and head shawls. And the men, they wore Batik shirts with trousers. Several other nationalities were also dressed in their traditional clothing of their respective countries.

Batik is one of our country’s most developed art forms. Batik is a method of producing designs by using dying and waxing techniques on natural materials such as silk or cotton,” Amirah Rahmadieta, an Indonesian attendee, described.  “It is comfortable and can be worn in both formal and casual occasions, it a very popular souvenir at the booths,” Rahmadieta said.

In addition to the Batik garments, the booths also sold other numerous souvenirs and products made from companies run by Indonesians.  An exhibition table with banners, catalogues, handbooks and gift items of tourism welcomed visitors. A screen also projected various tourist destinations from Indonesia.

For those who wanted more memorabilia, a pop-up photo booth was setup. It allowed attendees to pick a cloth form the available traditional wardrobe selections and take pictures. People were taking turns to try the outfits and take photos all day.

The event stretched in and out the gathering hall, into the embassy’s vast grounds. After browsing and shopping the entire hall, people went out to relax in the beautiful gardens. The activities that took place inside the hall echoed to the open surroundings and people were paying attention. Every hour or so, as the master of ceremonies announced numbers from the lucky draw, a large crowd went inside, hoping their number gets picked. Unusually, a very large number of lucky individuals went home with a prize.

The event concluded with “Poco- Poco”, a popular Indonesian line dance.