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Merdeka! It’s Indonesian Independence Day

Hello from Stockholm! Yesterday was a very important day on board all Holland America Line ships … it was Indonesian Independence Day. Indonesians represent the largest single nationality on board all 14 Holland America Line ships. You may remember me writing about Philippines Independence Day and Fourth of July, so it’s only fitting that I also talk about this important holiday.

Independence days are very important on board because they allow us to share in and celebrate the many cultures on board. The Indonesian community on board is very well organized and they’ve been working for almost two months to ensure that the celebration is a big one and that it all runs like clockwork.

Traditionally the celebration begins several weeks before the actual day with the Sporting Competition. Chess, billiards, darts, PlayStation (yes, the video game system) and the Indonesian favorite of dominoes are all common during this competition. The participants run though tournament brackets and eventually one will be the winner! The winners are announced at the Independence Day crew party. Our crew party was held on Aug. 16, the day before Independence Day, in order to capitalize on the extra hour generated from the time zone change. The party was a big hit and featured two live bands as well as a DJ. The food and drinks flowed and all in attendance had a good time.

The next morning we all gathered on the bow for the most important part of the celebration, the flag raising ceremony. This was my first Indonesian Independence Day on board and I must say that the ceremony was quite impressive. I am told that all Indonesian children receive basic military drill instruction in primary school. That translated into a very militarily perfect ceremony. It was a beautiful ceremony and it was wonderful to be able to share in it with our Indonesian crew members. After the flag raising, Captain Harris and our Hotel Manager Hans were asked to say a few words. It all ended with a group exclamation of “MERDEKA!” which means “freedom” and a few photos.

Several Indonesian crew perform the flag raising ceremony.

Several Indonesian crew perform the flag raising ceremony.

The Indonesian community stands at attention.

The Indonesian community stands at attention.

The flag-raising squad salutes the flag.

The flag-raising squad salutes the flag.

Then came another tradition: the makan. Makan means meal. It’s a very commonly heard word on board. In fact, one of my favorite expressions on board is makan dulu, roughly meaning “eat first,” signifying that whatever you are doing can wait — it’s lunch time. The makan featured a menu planned by the committee to include some favorite Indonesian dishes like soto ayam, a traditional chicken soup. We have both a Filipino and an Indonesian personnel cook to take care of the needs of the crew so our Indonesian personnel cook took the reins on this one. Just like on Philippines Independence Day, many of our officers volunteered to serve the meal to show their gratitude to our hardworking crew.

All in all, a great celebration and everyone had a wonderful time! Merdeka!

See you out there!

Anthony Garofalo is the crew purser aboard Rotterdam.

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