On the 2nd to last night of Ramadan, I saw my sister and her boyfriend Dave off at the KL Sentral station. There, we said our goodbyes and I sent them on their way on the express train to the KUL airport. It was another hot and humid night in KL. I sweat through all my clothes as I wandered around the station with my huge Europe-backpacking bag. I was waiting for my friend Eena from work to pick me up, and from there we would drive 4 1/2 hours with her aunt Yati, (one of my supervisors at SIS) to Johor Bahru for the weeklong Raya celebration. I decided that it would definitely be wise to use the toilet before this long journey so I went to the public restroom, only to leave my cell in the stall. I went back 5 minutes later and it was gone. God dammit.
All was well once I got into the car. We arrived in the small village of Parit Raja at around 1 am. As we drove into a driveway of a huge, beautifully lit, Romanesque compound, I initially thought that we were just stopping by a hotel on the way. It turned out though, that that was just her house.
The next day was the last day of September, as well as the last day of Ramadan. I pretty much wandered around the house and cooked food all day. The village, or kampung, is all centered around one long street that comes off the larger highway. This is the road that runs through Paris Raja.
Daging Rendang, coconut curried beef. I will make it for you all someday.
Making ketupat, which are diamond shaped bamboo sacks filled with rice and boiled. It makes a solid square of rice that you eat with the various mind-blowing curries, vegetables and sauces.
Cuttin' open the ketupat. Ready to eat!
Wearing baju kurung, the traditional Malaysian dress.
There are actually two types of Hari Raya, Aidilfitri, the one which follows Ramadan, and the other one...which I forgot the name of, but is what is celebrated during Hajj or the time to go on the pilgrimage to Mecca. Hari Raya Aidilfitri pretty much consists of visiting everyone at their house. The holiday technically is a month long, but the first week is the most celebrated and sacred. This is when you visit all of your family and your neighbor's houses. In the kampung (or village), anyone can show up at your house at unannounced and you need to welcome them into your home, offer then drinks, snacks, or a meal (if its close to mealtime). All the village children will go from house to house to hang out, watch TV with you and chat it up, and when they leave you're required to give them a few bucks, err...ringgits, and have them kiss your hand.
Yati has 12 brothers and sisters between the ages of 38 and 60 so needless to say, there were A LOT of people to go visit. Every day I went to at least 5 different houses, where I was bombarded with home-cooked feasts at each and every one. Of course I had to eat everything they offered me...And no, I did not fit into my jeans by the end of that week.
Family house visits means lots of catching up/gossiping.
A beautiful traditional Malaysian kampung house next door.
Overload of cute children and babies.
The most important room in the house...
The living room where everyone talked, snacked, had photo shoots and watched Hari Raya TV specials.
This is the bigger city nearby called Batu Pahat.
Me eating with my hands.
As I mentioned earlier, one of Yati's brothers is an important politician in the village (as also evidenced by the huge photos of him plastered all over town) and for the purpose of tradition and politics, he has hosted a huge party in the garden of this house during Raya every year.
It was insanely crowded, with at least a thousand people coming and going all night. They had at least 7 whole roasted lambs over fire pits, with 20 different stalls giving away every Malaysian/Indian/Chinese dish you could imagine.
These kids really liked speaking english to me so they followed me around all night.
The entertainment for the night was a famous singer who was the Malaysian equivalent of Sting. He's the guy in the orange.
Then as all the guests had left by around 12, the Kaprawi's and I continued to dance outside til midnight to 80's Malaysian love song hits. It was an incredible night.
The next morning, Yati, Eena and I left for KL at 6 am to beat the holiday traffic, and by noon we were back in the city.