Communication across the globe can be unpredictable and intermittent. Sometimes a broken phone conversation, sometimes an unexpected text message at 3am, which is 6pm in Java. Infrequently, email comes through with a burst of photos and stories. The last post on this site contained a small gallery of photos. This time, several narratives by students have reached the USA for sharing with families. Enjoy!
Walking through Solo traffic feels crazy, but still safe. As I walked through the streets I noticed there were not many traffic lights, and lanes are ignored as if they don’t exist, except for the ones going opposite ways. When crossing the street you pretty much have to just walk right into the middle of traffic with the confidence to know people will stop for you. Although this sounds totally crazy and unsafe it actually feels way safer than traffic in America. You see, people here don’t generally have insurance, so if they hit someone they have to pay for all the damage costs and hospital bills. Since people really can’t afford that here, it makes them far more cautious. In Solo, people drive slower, watch out more and are overall much more attentive to other vehicles and pedestrians. Considering that last month in Bellingham I got hit by a car while crossing at the crosswalk while the cars had a red light, the fact that I feel safer walking the streets here says a lot. It is a new experience for sure. The attentiveness drivers bring to the streets here is rather comforting compared to the mindlessness of many drivers in America. The fact that they drive slower here is also comforting.
We met Sun in the evening of our first day in Solo. We were sweaty, hungry, and tired when we arrived at Warung Baru, a small restaurant where Lisa and Suzy had eaten nearly every day during their last trip to Solo. When Sun stepped out of the kitchen and saw Lisa and Suzy there, her eyes lit up. There were exclamations of joy from both sides as a flurry of excited conversation was exchanged. Sun insisted on pictures with everyone and seemed overjoyed to see Suzy and Lisa again. Sun is the owner and main cook at Warung Baru, and all of her food is amazing. We first met Dody on the second day he was our guide on the bike tour we took through Solo. He seemed genuinely excited to show us all of the cool things in Solo. He enjoyed our company so much that he ended up accompanying us nearly everywhere. Whether it was dinner at the orphanage or a batik market, his local knowledge and kindness was a great help. Sun and Dody are just two of the many wonderful people that we have met so far.
We took a cool bicycle tour of Solo. We left after a good breakfast on a hot day. Some of the bikes we were riding were kind of sketchy, but they worked. We biked through the city to a river and were ferried across in 2 groups with our bikes. Some of us were pretty sweaty by this point. After that, our first stop was at an Ikat factory where rows of people worked looms to make colorful rugs. We spent a couple minutes looking and observing them, then we hopped back on the bikes and biked past rice fields to a gamelan forge, where a group of guys were beating a gamelan drum into shape. Every minute or so, the metal would cool to the point that it could not be shaped any more and they would pick it up and put it back into the open forge. Then another guy moved it around to make sure that it was thoroughly heated up so it could be beaten into shape some more. After that, we biked up hills and over a river to a tempe factory where they showed us the process and described the difference between tofu, which only uses part of the soy bean, and tempe, which uses the whole of the soy bean. At this point we were all tired, so we hid from the mid-day sun outside the tempe factory for 20 minutes to cool down and drink water. On our way back into Solo, Elijah took a little spill off of his bike, but got back up and kept going like nothing happened. We stopped for lunch after that and then went to a place that made rice crackers. We saw how they were made, and were given a lot of them. They were really good. After that, we headed back to our hotel and cleaned up then rested. It was a very full day of biking.
I’d like to start my little Indonesian report on the weather with a brief exchange between myself and one of my travelling companions, Tim, after getting off our flight into Jakarta.
“You know, the heat isn’t really that bad here. A little hot, but actually quite a nice temperature.” “And you know it’s midnight right? The time of day when its coolest?” “Oh.”
So, after traveling a few more days while the sun reared its blinding, sweat-inducing head in combination with the tropical humidity, I quickly learned why fitness salons keep the tanning beds and saunas as separate affairs.
Joking aside, we acclimated to the weather here quickly (Being only the start to week two, and the once pleasantly cold showers are now met with caution to avoid freezing), making it quite pleasant. Being one who always has his head in the clouds, the thing that catches my eye all the time is the sky. Specifically, how with the heat, the clouds seem to be in defined layers, yet still blending together in appearance due to the humidity, making for the Indonesian sky-scape to be perhaps my favorite thing to watch roll by while I soak in the splendid sun.
The batik market is amazing. It is a jumble of clothes that all cost less than five dollars. I got three pairs of super cool pants and the other students got a bunch of really cool things as well. It is set up with probably hundreds of booths that people put up daily with pretty much everything you can imagine. You and tons of other people rummage through the piles in the both to find the hidden gems. Most things at this market are not authentic batik but the amount of everything else makes up for it. It is a way for locals to make some money and a way for other locals to buy super cool things, kind of like an Indonesian flea market. From this experience I learned what shopping as a local was like, and it was a great way to practice bartering and speaking in Indonesian! I am having a great time, and thank you again to everybody for supporting this trip!