The Long Dance Goodbye

Alas, all things must come to an end. I am back in the US and yet another adventure is behind me. However, of course, it certainly did not finish easily.
For our last week, everybody from all six arts centers moved to Surabaya, rehearsing for Indonesia Channel, the program’s final performance. This show is a kind of presentation of what everybody learned in their different arts centers. As a result, in order to make it good, essentially justifying the purpose of the scholarship, we spent almost all of our time within our groups rehearsing, rehearsing, and rehearsing. This didn’t bode well for a certain twelve people.
Tensions in the Surabaya team had risen sharply in the final month for myriad reasons (I feel it would make a great book), and the stress of these practice days finally caused everything to boil over. We couldn’t get our performances together, then the steady wave of unnecessary complaints and cultural insensitivity from one faction grew into an incessant onslaught of pettiness, irrelevance and insults that did nothing but drag the group farther into an isolated, moody hole and arguments began breaking out over nothing.
Apart from the group, from which I had become fairly isolated already, the event organizers were painfully disorganized (and three characters somehow still blamed our arts center for it), and in order to get even vague information about important things (like our flights to Jakarta) one had to hound multiple people for hours.
To add even more undue stress to the Surabaya group, our passports were submitted for visa extensions after they had already expired. As a result, they sat for an extra week in a bureaucratic fiasco, and nobody would or could tell us what was happening. Of course, nobody took responsibility for submitting them late, either. Fingers pointed in every direction, trying to deflect blame instead of finding out when we would get them back (at the airport, right before flying out of Surabaya, it turned out).
All of this – personal grudges, unprofessionalism, illegal alienship – hung over our heads all the way through our final performance. After our last rehearsal we were still unsure if the musicians would play the music correctly or if we could dance as well as we wanted to. Things were not looking up, and I put in my headphones, just waiting for everything to be over.
This was not how I wanted the program to end, but it shined a hideous light on many issues that need a serious look on all levels, from the Ministry to the arts centers, in order to have a successful scholarship in the future. Prior to this week I had made Surabaya a home that I love deeply, despite the dozens of problems that I’ve alluded to before. But this last week was so terrible, I was counting the days until its end.
Thankfully the beginning of the final performance rekindled enough of my excitement for being in the program, starting with the costumes. These are one of my favorite traditions. Indonesia is a stylish place and performers always have wonderfully exciting and fascinating outfits. I was thrilled to watch the other group members gradually appear from the dressing rooms in badass garb. My favorite, however, was the Surabaya men’s first costume. We looked dashing.
Photos from Cindy, our paparazzi
We look good
These suits are a danceable variation of the official “Cak Suroboyo” uniform. The city has a set of cultural ambassadors, Cak dan Ning Suroboyo (Mr. and Miss Surabaya), who help visitors connect with the area. The dance in which we sported these flashy costumes was aptly named Cak Ning, a partner dance with the guys and girls welcoming visitors to the city.
And we rocked it! We successfully opened Indonesia Channel 2013. In the end, all of the arts centers did a wonderful job. I loved listening to the extremely diverse music and watching the various dancing styles. This was a hugely cathartic moment (I assume for everybody) that was a huge relief to have finished. We were all desperate to get out from under that pressure, and we did so incredibly well.

Rounding out our emotional extremes for the week, the fateful morning arrived after which we are not likely to ever see each other in a group again (though I’m always hesitant to say “never”). I hate to think about it that way, but it’s a sad reality that showed in everybody’s tears as they parted ways.  Even if it was tough, it’s hard to adjust away from seeing the same people all day, every day for three months. On the bright side, having so many friends around the globe just provides that much more reason to go everywhere (and undoubtedly return to Indonesia) as soon as possible.

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