Khatulistiwa: Made in Indonesia

Photo by Permias Austin
Photo by Permias Austin

By Cynthia Miranda

Tables and tents were set up in front of the tower at the University of Texas at Austin, and students chattered excitedly in anticipation. On the stairs leading up to the campus landmark were large letters that spelled out "Khatulistiwa," announcing the celebration on Nov. 11.

The festival titled Khatulistiwa: Made in Indonesia was organized to get people excited about Indonesian culture.

Khatulistiwa means "equator" in Indonesian, which is fitting for its location on the map, said Stephanie Adeline, vice president of the Persatuan Mahasiswa Indonesia Seluruh Amerika Serikat, or PERMIAS. The name translates to Organization of Indonesian Students in the United States.

Students learn to make their own Batik patterns. Photo by Cynthia Miranda
Students learn to make their own Batik patterns. Photo by Cynthia Miranda

The event organizers hoped to make the event bigger this year to demonstrate "Indonesia's contribution to the world" and its place in the international economy, said Adeline.

Images and symbols of Indonesia decorated the area, with quotes explaining the history of the country. The interactive festival allowed students to find out about Indonesia by filling out a stamp map. Students could receive food once they collected five stamps from the booths.

Yanuar Ady Setiawan, a nuclear engineering master's student from Texas A&M, said he enjoyed the interactiveness of the festival. Setiawan is a native Indonesian who also attended Khatulistiwa last year.

"This time, it's more open and more people can see it and experience these things," Setiawan said.

He said he wanted more people to know that the country is "worth the visit."

The festival also allowed students to experience Indonesia through virtual reality. Upon wearing the VR equipment, students were transported to a turquoise-color beach in Bali. The booth organizers also encouraged people to learn Indonesian words through flashcards.

Festival goers could use a virtual reality headset to transport to a beach in Bali. Photo by Cynthia Miranda
Festival goers could use a virtual reality headset to transport to a beach in Bali. Photo by Cynthia Miranda

Ryan Posey, a freshman computer science student at the University of Texas, said the festival helped him learn more about a new culture.

"It's not a good thing to stay inside a certain bubble and to only know everything about your own culture," Posey said.

Another booth taught festival-goers about Batik, an Indonesian traditional method that uses wax to outline clothing patterns. The booth allowed students to look at examples of traditional clothing, and let them trace their own patterns with wax and a batik tracer.

The Batik booth was popular among the students. Haiden Boyd, a freshman biology student, said outlining the flower on the wax was the most memorable.

The biggest booth at the festival allowed individuals to sample a variety of Indonesian foods, such as white rice, grilled chicken skewers with peanut sauce, "rendang" beef stew with authentic spicy sauce, and chicken cooked with coconut milk.

"Indonesians use a lot of coconut milk for their cooking," said computer science master's student Victoria Lestari.

Along with the good food came good entertainment. The celebration hosted multiple performances, from solo to group traditional dances. The traditional dancers were invited alongside the Houston Indonesian Consulate.

Traditional dances were performed. Photo by Cynthia Miranda
Traditional dances were performed. Photo by Cynthia Miranda

The student performers in the A&M PERMIAS group performed songs in both Indonesian and English. The UT PERMIAS group, joined by Adeline, closed the festival by singing a song in Indonesian about friendship.

The afternoon ended with applause and smiles, and an appreciation for the Indonesian culture.

"We are a university that believes in 'what starts here changes the world,' so I think it starts by knowing the world," economics graduate Natasha Thio said.


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Cynthia Miranda is a freshman journalism student at the University of Texas at Austin.