Indonesia Update #4

Exploring the City

(Editor’s Note:  Typically these reports are an amalgam of observations and experiences from staff and students.  On occasion we will include attributed passages from individual students.  Three such passages appear as part of this update; more will be forthcoming.)

We had a fun, though long and hot, day exploring the Yogyakarta area.  We caught a bus (getting bus info and ordering tickets all in Bahasa!) to Kota Gede, a silversmithing village, where we got a demonstration of how filigree is made and learned of a small bitter fruit they use to polish silver.  Some of us were given a sample of the fruit to try at home; the craftsman polished Suzy’s silver bracelet to a shine better than when it was brand new!

Fun at the Orphanage

The students bought a few gifts and explored the downtown area for a while, but the blazing sun soon drove us to the AC of public transit.  Being bus experts by this point, we headed toward the Kraton, or Sultans Palace, where we wandered through the Water Castle, a structure built as a pleasure palace — but now mostly in ruins.  Next we walked through the Bird Market, where hundreds of caged birds of all sorts were for sale.  Kind of makes you wonder about the pet trade and how it is affecting rainforest species.  There were also kittens, animal feed, tubs of maggots (as food for birds, we hope!) and every type of cage imaginable, from simple bamboo to ornate metalwork.  The food vendors in the area were a little frightening, so we made the long hot walk back to our hotel where we had more options.

We ate at a small warung (food stall) near the hotel, and then settled in for much-needed showers and down time.  We had planned to see a shadow puppet play that evening, but everyone was exhausted, and since we needed to get up at 5:30 am to visit Borobadur and Prambanan, we decided to lay low.

The students are hanging in there, and seem glad to be back at a comfortable hotel after the fairly rustic orphanage accommodations.  It’s funny, though, how privilege works:  Once back to relative luxury, the students’ tendency to be picky about food, sleeping arrangements, and so forth, resurfaced.  All part of the learning process!

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After doing some batiking, and seeing how much time and energy goes into making these creations, I find myself looking at them in a new way.  Although the stamping technique is considered cheating, it still takes a lot of precision and patience to make the pattern straight and to put the dye on the fabric without it bleeding through the wax. The process is actually much more complicated than it appears.  Most tourists walk through markets, and don’t even take a second glance at the beautiful patterns and color of the fabric.  Now having experienced making batik, I am drawn to look further at the design, and ponder how long it took these people to actually finish the product.  — Sidney

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I haven’t noticed religion all that much; it seems that the normal Indonesian isn’t particularly strict when it comes to religion. This could be explained by the fact that our interactions with people have been somewhat limited… discussion about religion requires rather clear communication and a good understanding of each other, things that I have not found.  There are, however, the superficial signs of religion: specific attire; bells, singing and chanting coming from places of worship; and the ubiquitous religious charity.  My view used to be that all Moslems were strict.  After seeing things here, however, I’ve had to change that view. I no longer see them as strict; in fact, some are, in certain ways, more lax than people of other faiths I know.  — Graham

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My role in the group has included being a resource for both teachers and students regarding language.  This is not unexpected, since I’m getting an extra language credit.  I’m sometimes asked to tell cabbies or bus drivers where the group is going and how many tickets we need.  I learned a great deal of the language from the kids at the Yayasan Ganungan orphanage, as well as their caretaker, Mas Mul.  I imagine that during the upcoming parts of the trip I will help in communicating group plans and needs to those un-versed in English.  Bahasa Indonesian is a very easy language to learn, as it was designed to be so by the government.  I haven’t learned any of the native languages for they are not as simple.  The grammatical structure of Bahasa is very similar to English, and the simple verb system makes communication and being understood very possible. — Theo

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