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TBS Abroad Week 6: Crowds

By Emily Weaver on March 20, 2019

Week 6- Crowds

When we think of crowds we often think of rushing around from place to place and being packed together, having to wait for people to move, but this isn’t always the case. Sometimes crowds gather for cultural reasons. These places become community centers. This week tell us about the places where people gather. Why are they gathering? What is the atmosphere like in these places? Any particular memories about specific events that you have been to?

Trey Spadone

Community and collectivity are two major aspects of Balinese life. I witnessed this firsthand when I experienced a series of rituals related to Nyepi (Balinese New Year). On Tuesday, March 5th, nearly the entire village made their way to a nearby beach to partake in a purification ceremony called Melasti. The ceremony takes place on a beach since water is seen as the source of life. To get there I rode on the back of Risky’s (my host brother) motor bike in a sea of other beach-goers. It was almost like being in a biker gang.

On Wednesday, March 6th, I experienced an Ogoh-ogoh procession. In the weeks before Nyepi, communities construct these massive, mostly papier-mache sculptures of demons. The idea is that the Ogoh-ogoh are so big and terrifying that they scare any demons that are around away. Basically, the demons get spooked by their own hideous appearance. On the eve of Nyepi, the structures are paraded around the village. The Ogoh-ogoh are ultimately burned either later that night or a couple days after.

The Ogoh-ogoh parade was one of the coolest things I have ever been a part of. For starters, the Ogoh-ogoh were so intricate and certainly spooky. Each neighborhood within the village had its own t-shirt design which was super fun. Men, women, and children both walked in the parade as well as watched from the sidelines.

Emily Weaver

If we’re being completely honest, there are not that many people in Iceland. The crowds that I saw while I was there can not compare to the crowds that we see here in the US. Despite this, people still gather. One place that really stands out to me were the public pools. Every town had one and when asked about them, every local would say their pool was better than those of surrounding towns. These pools were both indoor and outdoor, operating year-round (an impressive feat considering how many months out of the year there is snow!).

The pools were a place for people of all ages to come and relax, play or exercise. Kids could amuse themselves for hours on the slides or creating competitions swimming laps. The adults could exercise and then take a rest in the hot tubs that were likened to the geothermal hot pots, or pools that dot Iceland. These pools were located in in places that everyone had access to, and swipe cards could be purchased to access the pools multiple times. Some of the people in my study abroad group purchased these swipe cards and were able to regularly go to the pool!

I also noticed another place that kids tended to gather often while we were in our homestay. The local town had this big inflatable bounce mat. It was like a trampoline, but it’s not elevated above the ground, making it much safer for kids of all ages to play on it. The one in Ísafjörður was located a short walk from the University Center and my peers and I, even at 20 years old, found ourselves venturing to this space after class. The younger kids were so welcoming to us and they, along with some of our host siblings, allowed us to play games with them. Everyone, from kids to adults, enjoyed the bounce pad; my host mom brought me to the bounce pad on my first day there and jumped around with me and my host siblings as well! It was a nice break from classes and allowed our inner kids to come out.

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