Meet and Greet Week

When I first met Prof. Saldi, he had already compiled a pile of textbooks covering the development of the Indonesian Constitution, corruption of the Indonesian Government, the constitution of the Minangkabau people (specific to the people of West Sumatra), and a variety of essays on Indonesian law. The stack gets larger every time he finds a new semi-related book or article that happens to be written in English.

Aside from the extensive reading, my first week in Padang mainly consisted of getting to know people, acquainting myself with the basics of Indonesian Law, and becoming accustomed to the time change. Also, I somehow managed to come down with the flu, so I’m on all sorts of medications for that.

The amount of people that I met in the first week was truly overwhelming. There are less than ten key members of PUSaKO, but there are dozens of law students (both undergraduate and graduate) involved in its activities. It’s going to take me a while to learn everyone’s names. I am also becoming very familiar with Dean of the School of Law (Fakultas Hukum), Prof. Dr. Yuliandri (whom everyone refers to as Mr. Dean) primarily because he’s our neighbor. I also had the privilege of meeting the president (Rektor) of Andalas University, Prof. Dr. Werry Darta Taifur, who proudly escorted me the brand-new “American Corner” in the University’s main library. I think I was one of the first Americans to visit the “American Corner”, so what started off as a tour turned into a something of a photo shoot. Actually, I’ve been the subject of many pictures lately—probably because foreigners (bule) are quite uncommon in West Sumatra. In fact, I haven’t seen a single bule since I got here. While I'm on the subject of my new Andalas University acqaintances, it is probably important to note that my Papá is Prof. Ilhamdi Tufik, who lectures at Andalas University and represents the University in any and all of its lawsuits. Most students at Andalas think he’s strict and intimidating, but he's incredibly nice to me, and he is always eager to teach me something new about Indonesian law or politics in his broken (but effective) English.

During my first couple of days, I heard a lot about Minangkabau culture. From what I’ve noticed, people here don’t tend to identify as Indonesians; rather, they’re more likely to identify as Minang, which is their regional ethnic group. One notable characteristic of the Minangkabau is that it is the world’s largest matrilineal ethnic group. In a matrilineal society, the family matriarch inherits all property, and is responsible for all members of her family. Once a man gets married, he is lost to his new wife’s family, which is why most parents would rather have girls. The Minangkabau people are very proud of this aspect of their culture and it sets them apart from other Indonesians. Leslie (I call her Celok, meaning sister) is the matriarch of her family, which is largely why there are 12 people living in her house. Those relatives not living in her home usually either work for her or rely on her financial support.

On my third day in Padang, Celok took me to a batik store and bought me some more conservative clothes. I brought a lot of maxi skirts and dresses, which turned out to be too form-fitting or too low cut. Not to mention, the cardigans that I would wear with them were much too hot to be wearing in an environment with 90 degree weather and 95% humidity. The technique of applying wax to cloth to produce a design is very popular in Indonesia, and clothing made from this batik cloth is considered very versatile. It can be worn to a formal event, like a wedding, or when lounging around the house. The batiks are much more appropriate because they’re made from thin cotton, they’re loose, and they cover my arms. While Celok instructed me to try on one item of clothing after another, I learned that my height of 5'3" makes me very tall compared to most Indonesian women. Basically what this means is while I might be a size small in the U.S., I’m a large/extra-large in Indonesia. At any rate, I can’t even begin to describe how much better I feel now that I don’t have to worry about people judging my western fashion sense.

Indonesian woman applying wax to Batik cloth

Batik Shopping