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drifting_with_dervla Are We There Yet?


INDONESIA | Sunday, 10 August 2008 | Views [584]

Alright, so. Time to fill in the details of the last week of travelling through Java. I thought touring around Java would be tough, but apparently getting there was the hardest part. To start the bus left Denpasar around two o'clock in the afternoon and I was rather harshly kicked off in rough Javanese (I had no idea what the driver was saying) at around six o'clock in the morning the next day. Not only was I starving the whole trip (for some reason I thought food wasn't going to be an issue), there was no toilet on the bus or ANY stops... so I was definitely feeling the pressure towards the end of the trip as I made the mistake of filling up on water when I realized that we weren't going to be eating any time soon. As soon as I got kicked off the bus onto the street, about a dozen bechak (traditional bicycle-type transport) drivers descend down upon me like a dead carcass and start yelling at me in Javanese and I think I literally stood there for a minute, just trying to take in the situation and what was going on around me in that ridiculously scary, cold, hungry, and tiring environment. Eventually I found an older driver that was the only one to not be breathing down my throat, so I showed him the address to a Losmen I had gotten out of Lonely Planet and we were off. It wasn't until I got to the Losmen, Peti Mas, that I was able to communicate with anyone and I finally calmed down after a big plate of nasi goreng and a shower.

After re-grouping, I hit the streets and ended up meeting up with a university student named Fajar who was nice enough to hang out with me here and there over the next few days and act as my translator/camera man/guide/savior!! I think he felt bad when he saw me standing on the side of the street just looking around at all of the Javanese signs with utter confusion strewn across my face. I can only describe Yogyakarta as a huge New York type city, which can be intimidating in itself, but when there is a complete language barrier, things get a little more difficult to say the least. Right off the bat, I decided to head to the Kraton (Sultan's Palace) and ended up meeting possibly the smartest person I know. Despite the fact that the man I met, Nursalim, had about a fifth grade education, he speaks NINE languages and all self taught, through meeting tourists and watching movies. Can you imagine? He was so humble and simply laughed when I went on about how jealous I was of his knowledge and wish we could switch brains for a year, so I could travel the world as he spoke: Javanese, Indonesian, Malayasian, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, French, Dutch, and Nederlands. WOW! Anyway, Nursalim was a nice guy and showed me around the Palace, giving me the inside scoop and afterwards took me to his buddy's Batik Shop, so I could watch the traditional designing pattern of layering wax and dye to make rather intricate, and very beautiful, patterns and artwork; I ended getting to try making something and got a lovely depiction of Rama and Sinta! After the Batik shop, we parted ways and I headed to the Taman Sari (Water Castle) which was the place that many of the older sultan's rested and holiday'd. The place is essentially a series of giant pools, kitchens, and boudoirs where the Sultan could take his wife, girlfriend, or any woman for that matter. I was told that traditionally, the Sultan would hide in his room and throw a flower out the window and whichever woman was quick/strong enough to grab it first, would win the honor of a night in the Castle with him- ooh la la! The even sexier part of the story being that the water is considered holy, and so no clothes are allowed, if you want to take a dip, you gotta bare it all! In addition to the Taman Sari is an underground mosque and I took some amazing pictures of all the secret passageways and crazy staircases that were used to fend off and confuse outside/unwanted intruders. While leaving the Taman Sari, I noticed a rather strange animal market and discovered that it was the famous Ngasem (or Bird Market) of Yogya. This market is insane, you can buy ANY animal imaginable. Bats, cats, owls, frogs, lizards, hedgehogs.. anything; all legal and each animal stall getting more and more exotic than the previous one- I took some incredible pictures. And sorry to my PETA friends, but I took up a shop owner's offer to buy a pigeon so I could throw it into the anaconda cage and watch him eat it. Sounds gory, but the little kid inside me really wanted to see some snake on bird Discovery Channel action go down, haha! Despite the fact of watching the killer scene, I still managed to have an appetite and of course found a Padang Restaurant close by so I could load up on kare ayam while going over maps to figure out what I would do that evening. And wow, I ended up coming up with the perfect plan. I skype'd my new friend Fajar and asked if he wanted to go to Prambanan temple with me to finally see a performance of the Ramayana, and luckily he said yes! So we hopped on his motorbike, headed out to the temple early so I could take a look around and get some pictures in and I ended up having an incredible night. Growing up, all of my girl pals were in love with 'Romeo and Juliet', but I've always adored the love story of Rama and Sinta and couldn't believe that I was finally able to see it live and for myself and not off of an old video tape at the library. Before the actual performance, there was a gamelan group and since I've been working with the 'gender' instrument over the last few weeks, they let me sit in on a song, so I felt like a real rock star as all the Ramayana-goers stared at me, wondering what the white girl was doing on stage, haha. Of course the performance was incredible and now I can finally cross it off the list of things to do before I die, because it was definitely up there on the top ten. After the show, I headed back home and headed to sleep but got a rude awakening around five am when the Muslim call to prayer kicked in and went on for about an hour, talk about a wake-up-call.

The next day was equally exciting as I woke up early (well, a few hours after the call to prayer) and somehow figured out the public bus system of Yogya enough to transfer four buses from the inner city out to Borobudur Temple, the largest Buddhist Temple and absolutely breathtaking. But back to the public buses in Java. First of all, you can smoke on the bus; so naturally, everyone does, including the bus driver, the eight year old in the back, everyone. And instead of the traditional bus stop where the bus slows down and halts long enough for people to calmly get off and on, in Yogya, a guy leans out the permanently open door, yelling that the bus is about to drive by, and you literally have to run/jump into the bus or you'll be stranded for another hour when the next one comes. But back to Borobudor and it's insane beauty; I mean you really have to spend a few hours there to see every last inch and I had a great time climbing up and down the stairs and going through all the secret passageways and trying to follow the carved stories in the stone walls. I was having a great time walking around with the video camera, taking notes, when all of a sudden I had a group of about a dozen 50+ year old men start following me. After a few minutes, one finally approached me and asked in Indonesian if he could have my autograph. Talk about confused! I don't know if these men had me mixed for an Olsen Twin or what, but the whole lot, and eventually more people later on, had me singing shirts, backpacks, pamphlets, and anything else. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the fan club and all but I still don't understand how/why I got picked out of the crowd and better yet, who they thought I was, haha. Who knows? Anyway, after Borobudor Temple; I went to the Indonesian equivalent of the Guinness Book of Records and saw everything from the world's smallest painting, to Indonesia's biggest man, etc. A real 'Ripley's' Believe It or Not' type place, my kind of joint. After that, I was starving from not eating all day so I got the bus back into town and found a traditional Pecel, or Javanese, type restaurant; where I had saus kacang (peanut sauce), babat (cow skin), and my favourite.. tempe (friend soy bean cake). Great food and at the restaurant some boys told me about a Dangdut (Indian-influenced Indonesian music) show going on later that night, so I booked it to the spot and quickly felt like a dirty old man. Apparently Dangdut shows have a 99.9% male attendance and the main reason being that the Dangdut girls are barely dressed and really don't do much more than sing horribly while shaking their stuff. So after a few songs and feeling rather seedy for being one of the only women in the audience, I took a few pictures of the band for my ethnomusic notes and headed home where I once again slept soundly until the mosque-wake-up-call.

Over the next few days in Yogyakarta, I tooled around town, did some shopping, held more interviews about the Javanese style music/food, and went to a village where they make silver jewelery the traditional way with the air pump going under bare feet. I saw a few more Gamelan shows and talked with a few more University students about the programs offered and the more students here I talk to, the more and more I want to do post-grad work here as living in Indonesia will be all the anthropology practice I need and more, compared to sitting at a desk in San Diego. Taking the bus back to Denpasar was equally traumatizing as I left Yogya at two in the afternoon and didn't get off the bus until NOON the next day. I felt like I'd been to hell and back but I had to regroup because only a few hours after I got back, I had to wash up and get ready for one of my Balinese friend's wedding. And wow, what a spectacle. A picture perfect wedding at the beach with the clear blue water and skies as the backdrop for the ceremony. I'm not a softy, but even I was feeling the love that night. Speaking of feeling the love, the wedding had an open bar and not in the sense of unlimited drinks, but unlimited bottles. So of course it only took about an hour for everyone to get real chummy and start the traditional Balinese dancing and singing, I obviously had a great time and got some incredible pictures.

Saturday/Yesterday was my last full day in Indonesia and I spent it at the Sanur Village Festival. Eating all of the local foods, watching the Gamelan/Balinese performances, and simply hanging out with all of the friends I've made here for the last time. It was a perfect last day. Being out with the whole community, celebrating the local culture on one of the most incredible beaches around. I couldn't ask for more. I was so sad to say goodbye to my friends, but I had to meet up with my Bibi to have Padang food for the last time haha and head home and pack up evvvverything that I've acquired over the last month in Taiwan, Malaysia, and Indonesia. Early this morning I hit up the local market for the last time to take a final look around and then I hit up the Japanese Buffet, where you pay about eight US dollars for all of the sushi, sashimi, gyoza, miso, etc. you can handle- something I wish existed at home!! After that it was off to the airport and now I'm here in Singapore for a bit before I have to head back home for school. I'm feeling really mushy and lonely for Indonesia but I know that this time next year, there won't be anything stopping me from coming back! Well, now it's off to the hawker center to get my first taste of Singapore!




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