Indonesia Update #1

What follows is the first of several reports from our 2010 International Expedition to Indonesia.  The source material comes from Lisa K. Beck and Suzy Wittman, our two faculty in the field, along with input from intern Drew Butler and the ten Explorations Academy students lucky enough to be part of this amazing expedition!

Selamat Siang!

We are sticky and happy!  We have landed, flown, landed, flown, landed, flown, and landed again, and have now reached Yogyakarta in Central Java.  This town is very colorful, pretty clean, and very GREEN, with lots of rooftop gardens, tropical flowers, butterflies, and tons of cool birds.

Flying all night/day and into the next day after was odd, creating a surreal sense of place and being.  Our layover in Taipei gave us a chance to walk around the airport and stretch our legs.  We could learn from their culture:  We found a room featuring massage chairs and free tokens!  It was a very relaxing space, not just with the kneading, but with plants and nice colors and a pleasant airy feeling.  Some students exploring the airport discovered a drink with the consistency of runny jello that was also fizzy!

Java and its innumerable surrounding islands are beautiful from the air.  The Jakarta area appears to have much greenery and fields planted and looks very inviting from above.  Red tile roofs are everywhere, and with the intermixed green it is quite pretty, not the shanty-corrugated-shacky look of many large cities overseas.

The weather is very muggy, changing every few minutes from sun to clouds to light rain to torrential downpours.  It rains — RAINS!  Like having a bucket dumped over your head raining.  Rain so saturating as to render a raincoat irrelevant.  But it’s warm rain.  There’s something nice about not having to worry about staying dry.  We’ve all pretty much just accepted our stickiness and it’s all good.

Yogyakarta is our first landing place.  We have a nice hotel here, clean, with large rooms and cool mandala-like murals at the head of the beds. The courtyard is filled with plants and there is a huge fountain/waterfall scene. People are very accomodating and nice.  It was nice to settle in last night after all the flights and ground transportation.

When Suzy got up she was headed for a nice cold shower (it’s the upper 80s at night!) when she heard a sound like a child talking and laughing right outside the room.  After going in and out and finding no one, she searched about — before finally figuring out that the sound was a bird in a cage on a neighboring rooftop!

There have been some stomach issues, and a couple of students have been practicing their vomiting skills due to travel and dehydration, but for the most part everyone is well and adjusting to the feel of muggy sweat.  It was a relaxed morning sleeping, playing cards, and taking a little walk around the neighborhood of the hotel.

The main streets for motor travel are crosshatched with alley-like streets that are dotted with stores, hotel entrances, and residences.  Many caged birds sing outside the doorways in the morning and are pulled in  at night.  Scooters are popular and everyone wears a helmet — must be the law.  Driving is surprisingly tame without the blaring horns or aggressive manuevers you see elsewhere.  The scooters tend to weave in and out, apparently at considerable risk, but no one seems concerned.

Artwork is tremendously visibile all over town.  Everywhere you see lots of public sculpture and murals.  Even the train station looks like a funky gallery!  Folks have been very welcoming and helpful as we struggle with the language barrier.  Some sample Bahasa phrases:  “Di mana kamar kecil” means ‘Where’s the bathroom?’  and  “Tigabelas orang” means ‘13 people.’  These have both been very helpful!

We have secured train tickets to Solo and will arrive at the orphanage tonight.   It will be good to settle into one place for a while and begin building a closer relationship with place.  We are already in love with this country, and though there will surely be times of stress, the kids seem excited and open to the experience.

As we celebrate warmth, moisture, friendliness and beauty, we offer heartfelt thanks to everyone who helped us get to this amazing place.

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