Saya bersyukur (I am grateful)

This afternoon, riding home on the minibus (angkot) from the city, I found myself slipping into a thousand-yard stare to the surprised looks, shouts my way, and pointed questions jeered from the street. A long day among days spent sticking out for my appearance and my origins, my kettle was close to boiled up.  But just as I began breathing slowly to lower my blood pressure, the adhan (call to prayer) rang out over the dusky road.  Suddenly, the water bottles and cookies and snacks popped out of bags and everyone in the angkot and joined in, jovially offering goodies to eat and drink to the eight other strangers riding along.

Traditionally, dates are the food of breaking the fast around the world, but sometimes a palmier will have to do.

Here, the days can sometimes be stressful, or hectic, or slow, or entirely mixed, but I live for these moments when the ageless tradition of breaking bread brings a flash of clarity to the question, “What am I doing here?”  The ibu (lady) sitting across the way smiled at me and offered me tofu stuffed with glass noodles and carrots, the mother sitting to my left cracked open seaweed chips and a chocolate milk for her toddler, the high-school-aged girl at my right passed a box of palmier cookies.  In an instant, a smile crept across my lips and stretched so wide that it could not fit.  Far from being a Muslim, or an Indonesian, what I witnessed was the creation of a community that would last as long as one of us remained in the angkot.  We smiled and laughed and thanked each other in Bahasa Indonesia, Sundanese, and English, speeding on into the night.

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