Friday, April 17, 2009

the Selong that I knew and not

The trimmed flower shrub-lined highways, the tall glass-walled commercial buildings, the modern street and direction signs, even the uniformed policemen patrol cars surprised me. This was not the Selong I knew thirteen years ago.

drying rice (?) by the road
drying rice (?) by the road at Selong, Lombok, Indonesia

Being the capital of Lotim (short for Lombok Timor or East Lombok), the city Selong has always been the epicenter of business in this southeast corner of Lombok. However, way back in 1993-1995, the period of my life that I was its constant visitor – I typically stayed there for a week 4 times a year – Selong was as backwater a town bereft of tourism can be. It was contagiously slow, defiantly unharried and relatively uncrowded.

women going to the market in a cidomo
women going to the market in a cidomo (horse carriage)

Except for the regular Monday cattle market, nothing much disturbed the pace in Selong in the early 90s. Not the constant and inescapable calls for loudspeaker-blared calls-for-prayers by the mosques that are everywhere, not the transiting traffic of inter-island buses (Selong is at the crossroads to many destinations in and out of Lombok, including Sumbawa in the East), nor the daily bustle of horse-drawn cidomo ferrying people from place to place.

colorful bus
a colorfully-painted public bus

I remember vividly jogging almost every day break on the asphalt roads, passing by the small scattering of warung stalls openly peddling freshly cooked food. Now, more than a decade later, there are already numerous eateries and restaurants dotting the streets that are now in paved cement. When before these same thoroughfares were only notable for the wide, relatively clean Dutch-made canals at the side – granted that they often were used as open-air toilets by the people but they were highly effective in controlling flashfloods and sported surprisingly clear running waters – today, billboards and posts with advertisement signage are everywhere.

going to the mosque
menfolks going to the mosque

At its core though, I sense the same religious fervency. Islam was and still is the center of life in Selong. Mosques are still full especially during Friday. From seniors to adults to school-age kids, people still sling their sajada prayer rugs on their shoulders and march cheerfully to their masjid of worship. I witnessed a funeral march and like before, it still is conducted by men, with the women segregating themselves and waiting at the mosques. More and more mosques have sprouted, with few more in various state of construction, as evidenced by scaffolded minarets and the omnipresent men flagging motorists for donations.

minaret under construction
minaret under construction

mean leaving the mosque after the Friday prayers
men leaving the mosque after the Friday prayers

Ah, conservatism runs deep in Selong. This, time probably will not be able to alter.

funeral march
a funeral march performed by men

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