On a crisp, overcast morning in Haines, Alaska, I was on the bow beaming with pride for a country that was not even mine. It was August 17, Indonesia’s Independence Day. So contagious is the pride that our Indonesian crew have for their homeland that I almost thought for a moment that I could speak Bahasa Indonesia. It turns out, that I only know how to say “let’s eat”—makan dulu. That phrase, I thought, may come in handy when Zaandam calls in Semarang. For now, it’s time to celebrate Independence in English. August 17 is a special day on all Holland America Line vessels. Indonesians make up the largest portion of the crew on all of our ships, so when it comes time to celebrate we do it right. In fact, the Indonesian Independence Day Committee began meeting fully two months ago to ensure that everything would run smoothly. Normally we begin the day with a flag raising ceremony and continue with ‘the games’ later on we will have the ‘Family Makan’ (recognize that word?).
This day would be no different as we witnessed the military precision that our crew had only just rehearsed an hour before. To watch this ceremony you would think it was being conducted by life-long military officers. I am told that all Indonesian children are taught military drilling in grade school. The formal ceremony only goes to show how much honor these people give their country. This year is only the 66th Independence Day, so the memories of a time when Indonesia was not free are still alive in many at home.
Shortly after the last salutes are given we were out on the pier for the ‘games.’ The games are a fun way to celebrate and prizes are awarded at the party to be held next month after Ramadan. The tug of war is always fun and almost always results in a victory for the engine officer team. The sailors and the deck officers made it almost to the end, but ultimately the engine took the trophy. Another fun game is the bakiak race. It consists of teams of three standing on two by fours with straps for their feet. As you might imagine it can be quite a show. In the evening the officers volunteered to serve the Family Makan or family meal. Several Indonesian favorites (and some of my favorites) were served. All in all it was a good day and a fitting celebration. I think I am going to work on learning some more Bahasa Indonesia. However for now I am proud to stand with my Indonesian crewmates and to say ‘Merdeka!’
Anthony Garofalo is Zaandam’s human resources manager.