Monday, January 31, 2011

Weekend in Yogya

Ab and I headed out to Yogyakarta shortly after school on Friday in an effort to continue my resolution to see more of the country. Yogya is considered the cultural capital of Indonesia because it is considered to be the backbone of Indonesian batik and is home to the palace of the Sultan (who, similar to European monarchs, only has a symbolic role). Since July I have continually been told that I needed to experience Yogya and it did not disappoint!

We took an overnight train that was suppose to arrive in Yogya around 4:30 am and I initially thought that Yogya was the last stop. Unfortunately, when the train finally stopped at 5:45 and we were informed that we were in Solo, we realized that Yogya was not the last stop :). We were a little bleary-eyed, but we were able to catch a bus to Yogya that only took about an hour. It was a little less than an optimal way to start the day, but at least the train didn't continue further than Solo!

Once we found a place to stay for the night and were able to drop our bags off, we headed to the palace for the Saturday performance of gamelan with wayang kulit puppets. When we arrived, we were told that because there was some sort of festival/fair going on, that the gamelan would not be playing. I was initially tempted to leave so that we wouldn't miss too much out of the day, however, we had an amazing tour guide, Denis, who was extremely knowledgeable about the palace and gave us tons of information on what to do in and around the city, including an awesome place for batik paintings that is only open two mornings a week!

After the palace tour, we went to the batik shop recommended by Denis where we got to see the process of how the paintings are made and peruse through an extensive gallery of many different kinds of batiks. Apparently, many of the best batik painters are associated with this gallery, a number of whom are considered the best in the world. I truly appreciated seeing such a variety of batik styles, including an artist by the name of Arifin, an example of whose work is shown below.

After the batik gallery, we headed out Prambanan and then ate dinner at one of the best restaurants I've ever been to in my life. It is a vegetarian place that is dedicated to using local produce that is grown in sustainable ways. Furthermore, the restaurant advocates 'Slow Food,' or taking plenty of time to enjoy a meal together through conversations, games, or reading a book/magazine from their collection. On top of the mission and atmosphere of the place, the food was outstanding (best pumpkin soup I've ever had in my life).

When we set out to return to our hotel, we were passing by the fair/festival that caused the morning gamelan to be canceled. It was absolutely packed and so we dedicated to see what all the fuss was about. It was very similar to a County or State Fair back home, and had a very festive atmosphere. There were a bunch of carnival-type rides, and so we joined in on the fun by playing bumper cars :)

Overall, it was a great weekend and I can definitively say that Yogya lived up to the hype. I hope that I will be able to get back to the city again soon and do some more of the activities that I didn't have time for yet!

Birthdays in Indonesia

Birthdays in Indonesia mirror my concept of what the "holiday" should be. In Indonesia, the person whose birthday it is will give gifts (typically bring some sort of food or provide lunch for classmates/friends/etc) and this makes intrinsic sense to me. On your birthday, you did nothing aside from come out kicking and screaming, thus you should be working to repay this debt on the anniversary of that event, especially to your mother!

Furthermore, I have found Indonesians to be more forth-coming about their ages. Americans are often coy in regards to their numerical age, however, it was recently a co-worker's birthday, and she divulged her age to me without nearly as much concern. Granted, I was playing around in a similar fashion to my grandfather, and so it might be that Papa's strategy is exceeding effective in getting people to share their true age :)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Weekend in Bandung, Part 1

Returning to the United States over the holidays was a trial run for leaving the country for good. In preparation for returning, I pined for all of the locations within Indonesia that I had yet to visit; Borobudur, rain forests, dormant volcanoes, Lombok and Gili, et cetera. Thus, now that I am back in Jakarta, it is my goal to travel within the country every other weekend.

My first trip was out to Bandung with my co-worker Mike, his girlfriend, and his sister. Bandung is the capital of the province of West Java and is a pretty considerable city itself. Mike spent a month out in Bandung last year during his training for the ETA program with Fulbright and so he had considerable knowledge of the area. We left shortly after work on Friday and got in town to find an affordable hotel and get to bed early for a big day on Saturday. Saturday we visited a dormant volcano, Gunung Tangkuban Perahu (also known as the Mountain of the Overturned Boat). The trip out there, including the hike through the woods afterward, was very similar to the area surrounding Mount St. Helens, yet in a tropical rain forest instead of a temperate one! As we made our way down the mountain, we came to some natural hot springs were we were able to boil eggs in one of the pools while we put our feet in another and got a mud massage. After the volcano, we headed to an Indonesia hot springs resort where we could relax a little bit more. Overall, the day was very busy and a lot of fun, yet at the same time very relaxing. The only downer was that I was unable to find my camera while packing on Friday and so pictures will be delayed until I can get copies from Mike's girlfriend.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Laser Game Field Trip

As a reward for doing so well and working so hard during the homeroom challenge, the entire 9th and 10th grades earned a party. Since 9B won, they got to choose what they wanted the party to be, and after deliberation (and lamenting about the irregularity of the weather during rainy season), it was decided that we would all go play laser tag together.

Initially, I was a little concerned how it would go over, but the kids really started getting into it, and those who were most successful were not necessarily the best athletes. Furthermore, we mixed all of the students into four different teams to help integration between classes and grades, promoting the overall unity of the school. It was a lot of fun and was truly a loss that they didn't allow cameras.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Back in the Jak

Returning to Jakarta has yielded a great variety of thoughts and feelings. On one hand, I am very sad to have left so many of my dear friends so soon (and not having had the opportunity to catch up with everyone either), yet on the other hand, I am excited to be back with my friends, students and adoptive culture. The opening of a friend's restaurant, hosting friends and family, and anticipated travel have me very excited for the weeks and months to come. First up is the soft opening of 'Treehouse' this weekend, followed by travel with Mike and his siblings over the next few weekends, and then the countdown beings until my brother, my parents, and Jillian get into town. Lastly, riding with Taurfik (pictured below) each morning has been one of the high-lights of my experience and a daily lesson in the 'Fish Philosophy'/ joie de vivre. You've got to go away to come back :)