Ibu-Ibu meeting

by Tabitha Kidwell

You may remember that last month, I won the raffle at the neighborhood ibu-ibu (ladies) meeting, and it came along with the privilege of holding the next gathering. As with fashion decisions, I haven’t planned a party in recent memory without the help of my sister, so this was a daunting task. And what do you serve at an ibu-ibu meeting in Indonesia? Normally, I would do a cheese plate, some fresh fruit and vegetables, maybe some chips and guac…. But that would totally confuse these ibus, so I had to call in some reinforcements. I texted Ibu Fitri, the only lady in the neighborhood whose phone number I had, and asked her to go to the store with me. She’s a very nice woman, and used to teach mechanical engineering at one of the best universities in Indonesia. She moved to Salatiga because of her husbands job, and now she is a stay at home mom. As a very well educated stay at home mom, I thought she was probably (over-)qualified to make party food decisions.

The morning of the gathering, I picked her up at her house on my scoopy (a little silly since her house is about one block away) and she said “So, where did you order the boxes from?”

Uh, what? Apparently, the usual custom is to buy little snack boxes that have 3-4 little Javanese sweets in each. I should have known this, having received a box like this at every meeting I have attended, but I had just arrived back in Salatiga the night before and hadn’t thought about snacks until that morning. So it was too late to order the boxes. I suggested going to Wonder Bakery, which isn’t affiliated with Wonder Bread in America but is was actually quite reminiscent of the Wonder-Hostess Thrift Shop down the street from where I had grown up – a palace of baked goods!

“Well, if we can’t get boxes, I guess that works.” She said, visibly disappointed. They really love those boxes.

So we scoopied over to Wonder and I began to revel in the freshly-baked goodies smell. She suggested buying about 40 “snowballs.” You would think snowballs would be white, but I think cultural understanding of snow is fairly low here. These were actually little chocolate cakes that, for some reason, needed to be put into individual wrappers. I suggested just putting them out on plates, and she explained that, yes, they needed to be on plates, but individually wrapped. Whatever. I let Ibu Fitri do her thing. We also got some peanuts and puffed air cheese things (these didn’t need to be individually wrapped), and a box of individually packaged glasses of water.

So I set all this out and got ready for the meeting at 3:30…

… and waited. Nothing ever starts on time here, and even though I know this, I am usually ready at the announced time. At around 3:40, the head of the neighborhood came over, and we tried to make small talk, but mostly just looked at each other. She was probably secretly trying to spy out where I had put the snack boxes and wondering why I had so many individually wrapped cakes on plates. The other ibus trickled in, and around 4, we began our business. I did not win the raffle this time – it actually isn’t so much a raffle but a communal money saving scheme, so each person wins once. My time was over, so I couldn’t win anyways. The business winded down and I was getting nervous since none of the ibus had tried any of the food. No American ibu would just sit around conducting a meeting with those delicious plates of food on the table, but without snack boxes, I think these ibus didn’t know what to do. So at the end of the meeting, finally the neighborhood head said “time to eat,” and we passed around the plates.

And they ate everything. And asked me where I had bought it. And suggested that this week’s winner also go buy these snacks for next time.

Successful party. 🙂

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