Meet Helista, a 11 year old fat, chubby, cute girl with flary hair. When she was 9, two years ago, it was easy for anyone who lived in the same place with her, found her walking on her way home from school, holding some snacks on her hands. One hand holding a cup of sweet, colorful, unclear ingredients of a drink and the other hand holding fried tofu ball in a clear plastic bag. She bought different snacks every day.
At noon, often she was found sitting in a terrace of a neighbor rather than playing catch-and-run local game with her friends. That is a general picture of her physic and a bit of her casuals.
Living in a quite rural village, Sekebalingbing, doesn’t make her look like the other children who are very shy when talking to people other than their friends. First time I met her, she was different compared to the average kids in the village. She was talk-active with good structure of speech and clear enough articulation of Indonesian, can counter anyone whom she talked to no matter how old they are, respected people older than her, and caring to youngers. These good attitudes can be seen from her interactions and the way she paid attention to people around her. She served sincerely anyone whom she talked to in a friendly, communicative way. And the special thing was that she often paid attention to the behavior and gestures of each person in the class.
Unlike Saturday class with middle teens, Sunday morning class is more vary in students of elementary to senior high level. Unfortunately, the kind-hearted, sincere attention shown by Helista to her friends, especially the boys, turned negatively to her. The boys responded her badly. They showed no interest in the attention given by Helista. And sometimes the boys showing a disturbing feeling or sort of creepy body gesture, refusing her attention. However, such nice attitudes of her, thank goodness, stay on herself until now. She is seldom disappointed even she got bad attitudes from her friends.
This noon, around 3.30pm, I met her when I stood on the steps of the terrace. From far sight there was something unusual on her outfit. She was wearing a niqab (Indonesian: cadar). No matter how being covered she was, I can recognize her at that time because she was the only kid in the village, with unique physical natures. She also realizes that she has uncommon big posture for her age and she is never disappointed when people say that she is fat. This is another good attitude, positive mind of her own. She is so bubbly, except when she gets cold or feeling unwell.
Curious with her new look, I ended my phone call earlier and asked her to come over me. Then I made a 2-minutes recorded interview with her. When I have finished it and went inside, I got a text from her saying that she doesn’t want me to publish the interview video in any social media. “I didn’t have her number, then how she knew mine?” I talked to myself. What Helista did is also positive because for a village child in 5 grade of elementary school like her, where mobile phone and Internet do not reach people broadly in this village, she already know how to find my number without asking it to me in person, so anyhow I think she is already know how to do searching online.
Since she asked me not to post the interview video showing her face, I respect her decision though I feel tickled in my heart for the reason she said. So this writing will not be posted with the said video as my earlier plan. Later you can found here why her decision is tickled though.
This noon is the first time for the girls of youth generation who live in kampong Sekebalingbing and take weekend course with me, wearing niqab together. Start from the youngest, Hilda, a 4 grade student of primary school, to Imas, a 11 grade student of senior high school. They walked together for as far as 3 km, went down from the hill to a place nearby the main road. They attended a public speech by a so-called trendy ustadz (Indonesian: ustad gaul). Wearing niqab, a garment of clothing that covers face except right part of eyes, actually isn’t something new in Cimenyan area.
In the village, there is a religion-based boarding school for women that start operating in around 2009. Visiting the school complex, just for sight-seeing, in 2011, I found the building and it’s environment were quite natural. The school was located in a deep valley where the water flow sourced from Cisanggarung river flowing through this location. The alley to the boarding school was planted fully with bamboos, creating a quiet, shady atmosphere. I also noticed that only students in that school who wearing niqab, no one else out of the boarding school.
Different situation found when in March 2015 I came back to this village for building a house with my husband. Along the main street of the sub-district of Cimenyan, I found pretty much women wearing niqab. Start from street sellers who selling newspaper to local dish, young women passing over the street by motorcycles, to common housewives who didn’t have any activity for living.
Now, when entering the upper area of Pasirimpun Cimenyan we can see the view of women in niqab is quite frequent.
Talking about the outfit, the trend of niqab is successfully blown up by urban fashion designers which is widely welcomed by moslem women, young and old. I saw the trend of wearing niqab is not occurred only in several places but almost with one voice in this country, mostly in big cities like Jakarta, Bandung, Yogyakarta, Makasar and the main districts and sub-districts.
As we might know, religion based groups and communities, including local boarding schools that require students to wear niqab as their uniform, contribute a lot in promoting the wearing of niqab goes viral. And visual da’wah through social media that so massive featured with publicity stunts such as a heroic niqaber riding a horse or playing archery game, even to various glamour, luxury gowns of niqab are presented all the time in social media.
Many of girls and young women are impressed by the visual of the elegance of the outfits.
It is not surprised if the wearing of niqab is accepted widely by urban to rural women in this country as long as their place is reached by the Internet. The swift of information flow especially in visual is easily digested by any age and consciousness.
Moreover, regardless of how the wearers view niqab for their selves, niqab is considered by most of them as a quite protective clothing. And so when I asked to Helista, “what do you think of wearing niqab?”, she said, “I just follow my senior friends saying that there is an order in our religion to not showing our face to non-mahram.” And when I asked if she already asked about it to her religion teacher she said, “No, I haven’t asked yet, I just informed by friends and saw posts in social media.”
Helista and her friends are so adaptable to any change. And it is reasonable when niqab is perceived emotionally by them as their clothing. There is subjectively no ideological elements on how the said girls or those women are moved to start wearing niqab. Wearing the niqab underconciously and emotionally, is just showing of disloyal and unstable wearers as reflected in my student answer when she was asked whether she also wears it at her school, while playing or swimming.
Something in the surface is easily flown by the flow, and something too extreme will soon or later floating up to the surface. Wearables as tool, should give the most reasonable function to the wearers without ignoring the comfort value. Eventually, no one can intervene into anyone decision of wearing certain cloth or not.
For me it is not about positive or negative value when someone decided to wearing niqab in one occasion and putting it off in other occasion, as long as they are still in respectable wears according to local norms. What I concern instead is that most women with low income are commonly working hard for their family. This is contrast to the generation that is too much concern to beauty in surface.
Disadvantaged women from old generation who as old as our grandma or great grandma never complain about their skin exposed to sun. They didn’t wear niqab nor any veils on their head but they worked hard outdoor. However, I must associate objectively the wearing of niqab to the world current climates. Not sure how the climate in the future as the impact of global warming, but if the temperatures getting extreme from time to time, then the instinct of human to wear something more protective is a natural law.
In this case, I see the wearing of niqab by old women in this village is realistic because they do the activities more outside the house. Their version of niqab, however, differs to the version of excessive clothing wore by middle to upper class women. The niqab the village women wore is with pants instead of gown.
Back to Helista pre-story. It was nearly no delay since my family moved to the village in December 2015, because in the first months 2016, children from the village and nearby areas asked me to teach them. There was a funny story that became a background of how the children requested to learn in our home.
One day a mother and her little son stopped by to our house. I said to her that his son looks different from the other children. Then she talked about her son’s supernatural traits and abilities at length. In short, she has a kind of indigo kid. Two weeks later, she came back bringing out all her children for a special purpose. She asked me to teach one of them, her indigo son.
“What should I teach to that boy?”, I said to myself. At first, of course, I refused her request. But then she urged me. Living in a village is unlike in the city that so individualistic. So, before I got work, I spent my time and started teaching that boy at early morning.
Most of the naïve village women didn’t know that I am tied up to professional tasks relating to my living, that I am a working woman and have schedules.
I knew she wanted me to specialize her son as reflected in what she said. As time goes by, I don’t know what was happened when this apparently buzzed the other mothers. A few weeks later, there were 5 women bringing out their children to my house. They requested the same thing.
Since the learning activity was became a buzz, I decided to limit the numbers of children can learn here. My co-worker, Artian, who handle English to Malay transcreation, since then came earlier in the morning. She worked as voluntary teacher for preschool children.
In the third quarter, I decided to pause one class because we get the primary to high senior level students more and more. So, in the first quarter 2017, I offered my other co-workers but no one accepted the offer, except Rachmy Kusumawaty. Then she also worked as voluntary teacher. She tackled English class for students in another nearby village, Cisanggarung.
For travelers who love visiting or urban people who experienced living in rural areas, I am sure, they will falling in love with the village children. That is also what happened to my co-workers above. How can we not loving them, especially when the children showing their enthusiast to know everything and obey to learn.
Their way of thinking is plain and simple, they answer things with their own imagination, and often asking things unexpectedly. Their kindness is also sincere. Even if the children are super naughty, they have something more specific potency hidden within their selves. In general, all children are special.
The request for learning English was started when about more than 20 children came to house and expressed their interest in reading books in our library. The idea itself came from their initiatives. I thought it was because they didn’t get any English lesson in their schools. So for me, English is just a media of learning as I ever told in Learn an Unwavering Mental Health from Children. And my concern on how important the language skills, in general definition, for parents as they are the one party who are responsible for their own children education, First, Don’t Forget Your Mother Tongue, is by putting literacy as a learning agenda for the children.
I have expectation that the children will understand about how to read correctly in order to comprehend what they read. The activities run smoothly and the children showing their thirst for knowledge. Children classic stories and tales in English were shared in the form of hardcopies, storytelling, and by watching the audiobooks in Youtube.
On another occasion, realizing that the children rarely go out the village, in the first year, sometimes I went with the teens class to bookstores. And to let the children know the other world out of their casuals, we also ever watched a movie together in a theatre, although it was held in small batches.
In August 2017, the Odesa Indonesia Foundation featuring Botram, an automobile group, facilitated the children to join their outdoor picnic program. Since then, as the initiative of Faiz Manshur, the chief of the foundation, the children get more books supplies. Over 90 En to Id (vv) dictionaries were donated to the children in Cisanggarung and Sekebalingbing areas by Botram through Mrs. Andini Putri.
The children also granted with best quality imported books and dictionaries from Prof. Arief Anshory Yusuf and his wife Mrs. Arraya through Mr. Budhiana Kartawidjaya, the chairman of the foundation. And lately, the children books collection is more rich thanks to the donation from many donators, especially from a book publisher company, Mizan as well as from individual, such as Mr. Gangsar Sukrisno, through Mr. Ahmad Baiquni and Mrs. Yuliani Liputo.
English classic stories and tales are just a first door to introduce the children to the next doors. As long as we are still alive, the children and us are still having time to keep learning. Children have opportunities as much as the literatures spread all over the world. And I have expectation that they will also go through a door that will push their interest in learning other literatures in classic Javanese, Arabic, Hebrew, Chinese, etc.
Finally, our effort is only to direct and coach the children without coercion to a condition so that they are able to love reading, the true definition of reading, not only text, but also universe as a whole.*** (Siti Nur Aryani April 10 2018)
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