Hello blog readers! I hope you all haven’t started to think that I was eaten by a giant gecko (tokek) or chicken (ayam) or duck (bebek) or mosquito (nyamok), because I’m very much alive and well in Bali. I have been back from Java for about a week and a half, but in that time I have taken two midterms, made two batik pieces (batik = traditional art form here, essentially painting on fabric with hot wax and then dying the fabric), made one silver ring, listened to four lectures about topics like tourism, LGBT in Bali, and the environment, visited two beautiful beaches, drank/ate one amazing young coconut, visited one temple for a dance performance (and saw the eclipsing moon!), and learned (and subsequently became slightly confused by) at least three new Bahasa Indonesia prefix/suffix and passive voice rules. My days are pretty full, from rising to the sound of chickens, going about my day to the sound of upacaras (ceremonies), and then falling asleep at the “late” hour of 9:30 pm to the sound of barking dogs. No joke about the 9:30 – I’ve turned into an old woman here.
While I could go on an on about my time in Bali, I want to instead time travel a little bit and tell you all about the highlights of my time in Java. I knew from the moment that I woke up on our first day in Java that it’d be a very different experience than my previous month in Bali. Why? Because when I woke up it was 4 am, and there was a loudspeaker blasting the Muslim morning call to prayer. Although I felt groggy in that moment as I turned over in my tiny bed and tried to catch a couple more hours of sleep, I grew to enjoy the call to prayer during my time there because it was a daily (well, multiple times a day) reminder that I was getting a taste of a different part of Indonesia. In fact, I believe I mentioned this in my first blog post, but over 86% of Indonesia is Muslim, so essentially my time in Yogyakarta, Java, was a more accurate taste of Indonesia as a whole. Bali is 90% Hindu, which is not to say it isn’t an “accurate” part of Indonesia, but perhaps more of a little bubble compared to the majority Muslim society.
During our two weeks, we mostly studied religion, which included both lectures as well as the experience of living with homestay families. I stayed with a nice little family – a younger couple with a shy little 5 year old son named Adnan. In Bali I live with just an older woman, so I was very happy to have a completely different experience in Java. In Java families eat together around the table (or, as I saw a few times, in front of the television), so each morning and evening I sat with my Ibu (mother) and Adnan and was able to practice my Bahasa Indonesia as I told them about life back home (banyak pohon-pohon! Lots of trees!). A typical evening at my Javanese homestay would look like this: dinner, cooked by my Ibu – usually tasty noodles or a soup (with noodles), chicken sate, or stir-fry – followed by sitting in front of the TV for a little while, then a bucket shower, then bed. I think the Javanese may be really into singing reality shows, because every time the TV was on there would be one playing. My favorite was Mamma Mia, which features mothers singing with their children. The whole culture around watching television was incredibly interesting to me in Java – it seemed to be on all the time, and not just in my family’s house. If I had the ability to do multiple research projects while I’m here, I’d definitely try to study the culture around TV viewing in households. Oh well, I’m not superwoman!
Other highlights from my time in Java included
- A “karaoke night” in the village where our homestays were located, put on my the dean of the Philosophy department at Gadjah Mada University (where we set up camp for the two weeks and had lectures and our normal Bahasa Indonesia class). The Dean gave a lecture on the Indonesian philosophy of Pancasila (which basically promotes religiosity and nationalism, although is a lot more complex than that), and henceforth he became known as Mr. Pancasila to us. The dean was a character, to put it mildly. The karaoke night was mostly just older women from the village singing on a stage, and somehow every song would become a duet at some point as Mr. Pancasila would come out of the shadows and join in. He even joined our group as we sang our only song (besides Heads, shoulders, knees and toes), “Disini Senang.”
- Pesantrens: We visited these Islamic boarding schools twice, and I think they became one of my favorite parts of the trip. The students there were incredibly disciplined, and told us that the wake up every day at 3:30 and go to sleep at 10 pm. That makes me feel like a hibernating polar bear! The students were incredibly sweet, and both times the girls that lead us around were so eager to practice their English with us. A small group of us went to the second boarding school, and learned that we were the first Americans to ever enter the campus. The girls in the dormitory swarmed us as we walked through, and loved to hear when we tried to speak Bahasa Indonesia to them. One girl told me that I looked like her grandma, and called me “Sister Grandma” the whole time. I didn’t think I looked that old! Another highlight was from the first Pesantren, where I was lead around by a girl who spoke fairly good English and wanted to hear all about America. When I joked with her about boyfriends (which are strictly not allowed at the Pesantren), she said. “no boy, no cry!” Amen, sista.
- Prambanan & Borobudur: Our first introduction to Prambanan, the huge (and very old) Hindu temple in Yoyakarta was our second night in Java, when we saw the Ramayana Ballet with the towering temple lit up as a background. If you’re picturing the Nutcracker at a Hindu temple, think again. The dance was nothing like the porietting and tutu wearing dance you’d see in that sort of ballet, but instead very Indonesian, with flat feet (raised toes), bent hands, and curled fingers. See here if you want an example. The classic Hindu story was elaborately done, and my favorite parts was probably when they had REAL fire to show when Hanuman (the monkey god) is captured. The next week we actually visited the two temples – Borobudur, which is the largest Buddhist temple in the world, and Prambanan, and both reminded me a lot of Angkor Wat in Cambodia. The temples are about an hour and a half from each other, so it took the whole day to see both. While we were at Prambanan, here was an international skydiving competition happening, so not only were we able to see super old carvings in stone, but we were able to see super old carvings in stone framed by tiny men with parachutes in the sky. Seemed like a pretty ideal jumping spot to me.
- Malioboro: SHOPPING! If you know me well, you know that shopping is one of my weaknesses. Malioboro is a famous shopping street known for it’s numerous batik stores, souvenir (oleh-oleh) market, and big mall. The mall was a little bit of a let down, although they did have a store that was strangely called Playboy and featured the Playboy bunny, though just sold men’s shoes. If anyone has an explanation for that I’d love to hear it. A friend and I stumbled upon a giant department store selling all sorts of souvenirs, and I left with a massive shopping bag full of pants, mu-mus (my new favorite sleeping attire), and even mangosteen tea for my Ibu in Bali. (side note: she has since drank it multiple nights and each morning tells me that it makes her sleep an extra hour and is curing all her ailments, so apparently it’s magical).
I’m sure I could go on an on about other highlights from Yogya, but I’m afraid I’ve already written a novel. I think that in the end I’m really glad that I was able to leave Bali and get a taste of another part of Indonesia, but in the end I have a special place in my heart for the little tropical Hindu island. Maybe it’s the abundance of trees, or all the offerings on the ground, or the cute little kids in their temple attire, or the trend of less fried food, but Bali is just as wonderful as I thought it was the first time I got off the airplane.
This coming week we go my program director’s village, which is an agricultural village, so we’ll be able to live like the farmers for a little less than a week. From there we head up north, where we’ll do a lot of things including hike Mt. Batur (a volcano!). I hope all is well in the northern hemisphere!
Note: I had a little bit of a hard time uploading pictures to this blog, but I was able to get it to work on my personal blog. If you’d like to see a few more pictures from Java, click here!