Members of St. John’s growing Indonesian community gathered on the deck of an Indonesian tall ship Friday to celebrate diplomatic relations between Canada and their home country.
But they were really there for the food.
The KRI Dewaruci visited St. John’s harbour during the weekend as part of its 10-month world tour and the party Friday marked 60 years of diplomacy between Canada and Indonesia.
On board the ship, local Indonesians mingled with crew from their home country, as well as the Indonesian ambassador, Dienne Hardianti Moehario, and Lt.-Gov. John Crosbie.
“Did you ever think you’d be here staring at Signal Hill on an Indonesian boat?” Indra Sarwinata, a fourth-year engineering student at MUN asked his friend, classmate and countrywoman, Intan Permata Sari.
The city’s Indonesian population is small — only about 30 people — and many of them are students such as Sarwinta and Sari.
Sarwinta said they came to St. John’s because they heard the people were friendly and the university was good.
“Once I’m here I see for myself. It’s very true,” Sarwinta said.
Sarwinta was the only Indonesian when he first came to MUN, but now there are 10 undergraduates.
Indonesia has thousands of islands, and the party included traditional dances, music and food from many of the country’s distinct regions.
Piles of chicken satay (marinated meat on a stick), steaming bakso (meatball soup) and Bintang (a popular brand of beer) entice not only the native Indonesians, but Canadians, too.
Ivi Hermanto came to St. John’s 30 years ago to study engineering at MUN but he said he stayed because he made friends here and found good work.
“I’m so used to this place now, I don’t think too much of Indonesia anymore,” Hermanto said.
Still, he said it’s hard to not be able to find the ingredients to his favourite dishes. He tries to cook Indonesian food for himself sometimes, but he said it just isn’t the same as back home.
Sarwinta eyed up a plate of spring rolls, called risol. His mom makes it for him every time he goes home, but he hasn’t had it in ages.
“I can’t really cook,” he laughed.
After gorging at the buffet, everybody danced the Poco Poco, an Indonesian line-dance.
The evening seemed to wind down after dancing, but then a giant platter of steaming tumpeng came out.
A mountain of yellow rice surrounded by barbecued whole chickens, peanuts and fried tempeh, tumpeng is served at parties and festivals as a communal meal.
It was the captain’s birthday and the delicious dish was cooked by his crew to celebrate.
Aldila Nurausuma, who studies earth science at MUN, said he’d rather have tumpeng instead of birthday cake any day.
“No question,” he said.
A bonus was that the night’s event introduced members of the city’s Indonesian community to one another.
One man came to St. John’s seven months ago to work for an oil company. He studied and worked for years in Texas, where he said there was a much larger Indonesian community.
“There are a lot of people that I have never met in the past seven months, that I met yesterday when the ship comes,” he said.