Author Archives: amk213

Reunited!

June 18th, 2011

After 40 hours and 49 minutes of traveling, over 21 hours of flying, four flights, and four countries different countries, the American students arrived at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  The Indonesian students met us at the U of M with open arms and warm smiles.  It felt so good to be reunited with the other half of our team.  Now it’s time for a really, really, really long nap.

Selamat Tidur,

~Anne Marie

“An Empty House”

June 16th, 2011

 This morning the Indonesian students began their journey to the United States.  We will be reuniting with them again on June 18, 2011 at University of Michigan, Ann Arbor to continue the program.  All of the Indonesian students were up early tying up any loose ends that still remained such as returning extra clothing to their boarding rooms, throwing last-minute items into their luggage, and saying goodbye to family and friends.  When I walked downstairs this morning, the kitchen and living room was full of the pure excitement and joy that was radiating from the Indonesian students.  All four students were bursting with anticipation for their arrival in the United States.  I couldn’t be more excited for all of them and I am looking forward to helping them experience the United States.  Over the past 10 days, I have been a constant stream of questions for my Indonesian friends and luckily they have been patient with me, answering all of my questions concerning Indonesian culture, politics, and religion.  I am hoping that I will be able to be the wonderful resource that they have been to me.

            Seeing the excitement and eagerness of the Indonesian students also made me realize how grateful I am to live in the United States.  For these students, going to the United States is an incredible experience.  I remember Fira saying last night that if you had told her a year ago she would be going to the United States, she would not have believed you.  (Granted, I feel the same way about Indonesia.)  It makes me realize how many people dream of visiting the United States of America.  ( I realize I am running the risk of sounding pompous right now, but I mean all of what I am saying in the most honest and sincere way.)  Everyday, I wake up in the United States and I go about my daily business, whether that is going to class, visiting a friend, or running an errand.  I think that many Americans, myself included, take for granted our country and what the United States of America provides for us on a daily basis.  I have incredible opportunities and freedoms such as my education or my freedom to speak up for what I believe in merely, because I was born in this country.   We get so wrapped up in the negativity of the media and petty little things of life that we forget what our founding fathers have created for us.  We forget the freedoms that we have and that there are people in the world that would change places with an American in a heartbeat.  Next time I want to complain about the United States, I want to check myself and realize that I am incredibly blessed to live in my country.

            After the Indonesian students left for the airport, the entire house seemed vacant.  Fulvia wandered into my room thirty-five minutes later and said “I don’t like being in my room, it seems so empty without the Indonesians.”  I couldn’t agree with her more, without the Indonesian students the house felt desolate.  It is startling to think that only 12 days ago, we all met.  After spending twenty four hours a day together, we have become one entity.  We have eaten all of our meals together, traveled everywhere together, and spent pretty much every waking moment together for the past 12 days.  After that type of constant interaction, you cannot help but feel the bond that has formed.  Even though all of us come from different backgrounds and cultures, we have been able to bridge the gap and form genuine friendships.

Eventually, we decided that we couldn’t stay in the house any longer and went shopping for last minute souvenirs in downtown Yogya.  When we had finished picking up the last minute items, we decided to go a beach near Parangtritis along the southern shore of Java.  This was absolutely gorgeous and a marvelous way to end our last day in Yogya.  We arrived around three thirty p.m.  and stayed just past sunset.  Although, we could not swim due to a very strong undercurrent, it was lovely to relax on the beach for a few hours.   I would say watching the sunset over the Indian Ocean in Indonesia is a pretty fantastic way to end a terrific phase of this trip.

Selamat Tidur (Good Night!),

~Anne Marie

A Day Full Of Lectures

June 9th, 2011

This morning started with a lecture at the Universitas Islam Negeri Yogyakarta (Islamic State University Yogyakarta) with a seminar by Professor François Burgat. Mr. Burgat is a political scientist and a Senior Research Fellow at the French National Centre for Science. Mr. Burgat has spent over than 20 years in middle-east countries: Algeria, Egypt, Yemen, and Syria.  Professor Burgat shared his experiences and opinions on Democracy in the Middle East.   At the beginning of the lecture, Professor Burgat made a simple and basic point that it is impossible to study the Middle East without studying the history of the Middle East.  Often times, we forget the importance of learning the history and culture of an area.  The history is what shapes and defines the people of an area and determines how the people will react to changes in the future.

During the open question time, a member of the audience asked “Why is the democracy peaceful/ different in Indonesia compared to the Middle East?”  Burgat replied that one cannot draw such a distinct picture that Indonesia is peaceful and the Middle East is not violent.  This distinction is far too strong and too explicit to put these areas into two separate groups.  Burgat focused again on the importance of the area’s history and the culture of the people.  He stated that depending on the culture will determine how change occurs.  Later in the discussion, Carrie asked whether Burgat thought democracy was the best way for social justice and if it was the only way of true, fair government.  He said that it was absolutely the only option, but all democracy looks the same.  Burgat believed that all cultures support the same values even in polar opposite cultures.  The difference is in the superficial appearance is due to the difference in the symbolic systems that define culture.  The symbolic systems of Indonesia are different from the United States, because the Indonesian culture is based around an Islamic symbolic system while the American culture is based around a Christian symbolic system (whether Americans will admit to it or not).  Since an American is grown up in the Christian symbolic system and American culture, this can create a major barrier for understanding the form of democracy in Indonesia and vice versa.  I believe Burgat was trying to show the democracy of America will not be exactly the same as the democracy in Indonesia or any other country, but that is okay as long as it is a form of democracy in which all citizens have an equal say in the decisions that affect their lives.

After this lecture, we returned to UGM for another series of lectures.  The first was Dra Agustine Prasetyo Muniati, Ma, she is a renowned multiculturalism activist.  I found her definitions of interfaith dialogue, faith, and religion very interesting.  Ibu Nunuk stated that dialogue is not only talking but a commitment to action.  It is a promise to work towards the facilitation of interfaith dialogue.  For interfaith dialogue to be successful, the participants do not need to unite under a single religion, but under our faith.  Religion is the institution, ritual, practice, and teachings of God, while faith is the belief and personal understanding in the mystery of God.  By separating these parts of interfaith dialogue theology was very interesting.  It showed that dialogue is not only respecting another religion, but responding to the problems of humanity.  We all have the same problems and need to work together to solve these problems.  Ibu Nunuk was insightful and inspiring with her opinions of interfaith dialogue.

Following Ibu Nunuk, from the Ministery of Foreign Affairs elaborated on the Comprehensive Partnership between Indonesia and the United States.

In the evening, we attended a traditional Indonesian Gamelan rehearsal.  This was absolutely breath taking to listen to the rehearsal, we heard a contemporary song and traditional song.  The traditional Gamelan song was slow and tranquil, it was almost a soft lullaby that was comforting and smooth.  In comparison, the contemporary song was fast paced and exciting.  It began with a powerful and dramatic opening and finished to an ever increasing tempo.  Both were magnificent, unique, and unlike any other music I had heard before.

The more time one spends in a different culture, the more one is able to appreciate the beauty of the culture.  Every day we spend in Indonesia, the more I realize how incredibly blessed I am to be here and how blessed I am to have this brilliant experience.

Selamat Malam!

Anne Marie

Ps. “Ibu” is a term of respect used for an older woman.   It is similar to “Mrs.” in English.

“A New Perspective On Democracy in the Middle East”

This morning started with a lecture at the Universitas Islam Negeri Yogyakarta (Islamic State University Yogyakarta) with a seminar by Professor François Burgat. Mr. Burgat is a political scientist and a Senior Research Fellow at the French National Centre for Science. Mr. Burgat has spent over than 20 years in middle-east countries: Algeria, Egypt, Yemen, and Syria. Professor Burgat shared his experiences and opinions on Democracy in the Middle East. At the beginning of the lecture, Professor Burgat made a simple and basic point that it is impossible to study the Middle East without studying the history of the Middle East. Often times, we forget the importance of learning the history and culture of an area. The history is what shapes and defines the people of an area and determines how the people will react to changes in the future.

During the open question time, a member of the audience asked “Why is the democracy peaceful/ different in Indonesia compared to the Middle East?” Burgat replied that one cannot draw such a distinct picture that Indonesia is peaceful and the Middle East is not violent. This distinction is far too strong and too explicit to put these areas into two separate groups. Burgat focused again on the importance of the area’s history and the culture of the people. He stated that depending on the culture will determine how change occurs. Later in the discussion, Carrie asked whether Burgat thought democracy was the best way for social justice and if it was the only way of true, fair government. He said that it was absolutely the only option, but all democracy looks the same. Burgat believed that all cultures support the same values even in polar opposite cultures. The difference is in the superficial appearance is due to the difference in the symbolic systems that define culture. The symbolic systems of Indonesia are different from the United States, because the Indonesian culture is based around an Islamic symbolic system while the American culture is based around a Christian symbolic system (whether Americans will admit to it or not). Since an American is grown up in the Christian symbolic system and American culture, this can create a major barrier for understanding the form of democracy in Indonesia and vice versa. I believe Burgat was trying to show the democracy of America will not be exactly the same as the democracy in Indonesia or any other country, but that is okay as long as it is a form of democracy in which all citizens have an equal say in the decisions that affect their lives.

After this lecture, we returned to UGM for another series of lectures. The first was Dra Agustine Prasetyo Muniati, Ma, she is a renowned multiculturalism activist. I found her definitions of interfaith dialogue, faith, and religion very interesting. Ibu Nunuk stated that dialogue is not only talking but a commitment to action. It is a promise to work towards the facilitation of interfaith dialogue. For interfaith dialogue to be successful, the participants do not need to unite under a single religion, but under our faith. Religion is the institution, ritual, practice, and teachings of God, while faith is the belief and personal understanding in the mystery of God. By separating these parts of interfaith dialogue theology was very interesting. It showed that dialogue is not only respecting another religion, but responding to the problems of humanity. We all have the same problems and need to work together to solve these problems. Ibu Nunuk was insightful and inspiring with her opinions of interfaith dialogue.

Following Ibu Nunuk, from the Ministery of Foreign Affairs elaborated on the Comprehensive Partnership between Indonesia and the United States.

In the evening, we attended a traditional Indonesian Gamelan rehearsal. This was absolutely breath taking to listen to the rehearsal, we heard a contemporary song and traditional song. The traditional Gamelan song was slow and tranquil, it was almost a soft lullaby that was comforting and smooth. In comparison, the contemporary song was fast paced and exciting. It began with a powerful and dramatic opening and finished to an ever increasing tempo. Both were magnificent, unique, and unlike any other music I had heard before.

The more time one spends in a different culture, the more one is able to appreciate the beauty of the culture. Every day we spend in Indonesia, the more I realize how incredibly blessed I am to be here and how blessed I am to have this brilliant experience.

Selamat Malam!

Anne Marie

Ps. “Ibu” is a term of respect used for an older woman. It is similar to “Mrs.” in English.

Opening Day

June 7th, 2010

This morning was the opening ceremonies of our undergraduate exchange and study trip studying  “Religious Plurality, Democracy, and Multiculturalism.”  The opening ceremony that was very lovely, warm, and welcoming was held at UGM’s University club.  The three participating universities took time to introduce themselves and the participants and advisers stated their excitements as well as expectations for our program.

After the opening ceremonies, the group had a lecture with Zainal Abidin Bagin, Ph.D. the Director of Center for Religious and Cross- Cultural Studies (CRCS), a master’s program at the Graduate School of Universitas Gadjah Mada.  Professor Bagin lectured about “Religious Pluralism & Democracy in Indonesia.”  One of the most interesting points of the this lecture covered Indonesia’s requirement for every citizen to be one of the six religions; Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism, Buddha, Hindi, and Confucianism.  Under the Indonesian constitution, every person must believe in “One Supreme God.”  On each citizen’s identification card there is a section for your religion.  As an American this is very startlingly, because one of my most basic freedoms is the “Freedom to Religion” even if that means having no religion.  In Indonesia, this is not a government recognized path.  This interesting point makes me think about the place of religion in democracy.  Is it appropriate for the government to require you to have a religion?  In the United States, we pride ourselves on being a “secular” nation.  We pride ourselves on being able to hypothetically “separate” church and state, but in actuality is this true?  Is it ever really possible it ever possible to separate one’s personal religious choices from his or her political views?  Many different political opinions and views are shaped and determined by the religious views of the individual.  Look at American political issues such as abortion and stem cell research, these issues are political yes, but depending on a person’s religion can strongly alter or change how a person feels about the issue.  At what point is it possible to draw a line between religion and politics?  Is it possible?

Following the CRCS, we left UGM to visit the Interfiedi, which is an organization that encourages and facilitates interfaith dialogue in Indonesia.  This was discussion was also incredibly interesting.  Three separate individuals spoke to us; the Vice President of this Interfiedi office, a female Islamic religion teacher, and a woman who had grown in a Catholic- Muslim home.  The first speaker made the point that the main challenge to interfaith dialogue is prejudice; “the main policy of the Indonesian government is not set up well to facilitate and encourage interfaith dialogue.”  The goal of the Interfiedi is to work against this challenge by bringing individuals of different faiths together to learn from each other.  They hold workshops and retreats that help allow individuals of different faiths to meet and discuss not only their differences, but more importantly similarities.  These similarities help both sides realize how much in common the two opposing faiths have with each other.  This helps break down the superficial prejudice that often exists between different religious faiths and then build bridges for open and honest communication.

The second speaker was a woman who taught Islam religion classes at a  local high school.  This woman was taking measures to break down the separation created by religion classes in the education system through unconventional teaching methods.  This woman was incredibly inspirational, because of her views on interfaith dialogue, her courage to stand up for what she believes in, and her ability to make change that influences her students in a positive manner.  She was incredibly insightful and had really taken the time to examine what injustices were occurring in the national education system.  The woman had three major barriers that prevented interfaith dialogue; misunderstanding of a different religion, exclusiveness of each religion, and negative stigma towards other religions.  She explained that in the Indonesian education system, depending on what religion one is determines what religion classes one takes from the time he/she enters elementary school until completion of high school.  A student will take religion classes in only his/ her own religion, but will not learn about the other 5 major religions the Indonesian government recognizes.  This prevents students from learning about other religions and allows for rumors or stereotypes to be generated quickly.  As a result, the prejudices are then perpetuated due to the exclusivity of the religion classes.  This negative stigma is hard to challenge, because  there is no way to break down these stereotypes.  The students are not provided with the means to get past these false prejudices.

The teacher also made an important observation about her own transformation from only seeing the preconceived judgments to being open towards other faiths.  She realized that she had to first change her own mind and realize that “God is all loving and compassionate and only God judges.”  She told us that the judging of any person should be left up to God and instead we should emulate God in His all loving and compassionate nature.

The final speaker was Angitta, a woman that was incredibly open and honest about her faith journey while living in Indonesia.  Angitta had been born into a family that was a interfaith marriage.  Angitta’s father was Muslim and her mother was Catholic.  Throughout Angitta’s entire life, she struggled with her faith identity and more importantly her personal identity.  This woman was constantly being torn between two sides of her family; both sides felt that if she chose the other side it would be disrespectful and they would not longer speak to her.  Even within families, the prejudice against other religions can arise and tear families apart.  Angitta was also constantly being forced to declare her religion, but she was unsure of her beliefs.  Angitta shared a story from when she went to get her I.D. card.  The clerk asked her what religion to be designated on her I.D., unsure Agnitta asked “What if I do not have a religion?”  The clerk’s response was “We will just put Islam and it will be fine.”  Agnitta felt trapped and being forced into a something that she was not.  She was offended feeling that her true views were not being expressed nor could she confine herself to one specific religion when she did not follow the tenets of Islam.  Agnitta came to realize that for her “faith is finding what soothes your heart.”  It is about finding the ideas, values, morals, and beliefs that make you feel at peace with the world.  Agnitta felt that “His [God’s] love is not segmented.  There are values and traditions to enrich us and make us more complete.”  When we look at interfaith dialogue through this lense, it becomes much to easier to reach a mutual respect for a different religion.  It allows one to see the beauty of the religion and the reasons why one finds or feels comfort in his/her religious traditions.  It allows us to see past the superficial differences and understand that religion serves the same purpose of providing followers with peace of mind and trust in something/someone that is greater than themselves, but through different practices, rituals, symbols, and traditions.

Selamat Malam!

Anne Marie

Ps. Selamat Malam means good evening.

June 6: A Day of Introductions and the “Amazing Race”

Yesterday (June 6) was our first full day in Yogyakarta, Indonesia and what a day it was!  The American delegation arrived Sunday, June 5th  to Yogyakarta and was able to settle in to our lovely new home.  After 39 hours of traveling, four flights, and over 7500 miles of traveling everyone was looking forward to taking a shower, a lovely Indonesian meal, and a good night’s rest.  Yesterday morning, the American students and advisers had a lovely family breakfast together while we waited for our Indonesian counter parts to arrive.  We tried multiple new foods including Indomie (equivalent to American Ramen noodles, but with an cooked egg and MUCH better seasoning) and Lontong, which is a is tempeh wrapped in white rice then all wrapped in a steamed banana leave that is closed using two small spears on the ends.  Kate Wright, the University of Michigan adviser, went down to the end of the street and purchased the Lontong from an older woman with a small cart.

Around 9:00 am, the Universitas Gadjah Mada (UGM) students arrived to our home in Yogya.  We played a fun name game and quickly learned each other’s names.  After our introductions, we were split up into pairs and were sent on the “Amazing Race.”  We were given a location in Yogya that is well known or is a common tourist attraction.  Then we were sent out to visit the location and to learn about the history or the area.  Following the adventure, we had to make a presentation about what we learned about and make the other teams jealous of our location.

I was paired with Anisia, who also goes by Nisia, to visit the Taman Sari which is also known as the “Water Castle.”   Fulvia was with Fira, Ellen was with Binar, and Carrie was with Fikar (these are also are rooming pairs with the exception of Carrie and Fikar.)  The four pairs all left from our home together to hop on the public bus transportation and head out to our specific destinations.  Soon all of the pairs were chatting away getting to know each other better.  Eventually, each pair split up along the bus route depending on their final destination.  Nisia and I were the last to get off of the bus and we made our way to the water castle.  First we had to cross a busy street to begin our journey.  In Indonesia, the roads and driver’s side position are all opposite from the United States roads and cars… this was a little frightening.  Since I was so unsure of myself, Nisia ended up grabbing my arm in a protective motherly way… it was as if I was a little kid again who needed to be walked across the street by their mother.  We made our way to JL. Kadipaten Lor which is the street where the Taman Sari is located.

The Taman Sari was a recreational garden for the Sultan and his family and it was built by the first Sultan of Yogya.  There are many different areas and components of the Taman Sari ranging from a mosque to a kitchen to a private meditation area for the Sultan to separate and distinct pools.  Each has its own function and importance as well as architecture or structural aspects.  One of the most striking to me was a courtyard area that demonstrated the religious pluralism of the area.  This was an courtyard used for festivals and dances and located within this courtyard were four identical pavilions.  The roofs of each pavilion were in a traditional Chinese architectural style.  The door ways into each pavilion had the shape of a typical Islamic mosque door way.  Over an exit door way, there was a large Hindu symbol.  Finally, the exit door from the courtyard  was a traditional Javanese style door.  It was incredible to see all of these religious and cultural architectural elements located in one area demonstrating the acceptance of many different faiths in one location.  While in the Taman Sari, Nisia and I had a fantastic Indonesian tour guide who explained to us the history and background of the Taman Sari.  He kindly showed us throughout the area.  While walking around, I was struck by how the surrounding homes are integrated into the Taman Sari.  There were many houses that are interspersed and located within the Taman Sari.  To me, the Taman Sari seemed to be such a historical area that should be preserved and maintained.

Afer our lovely tour, Nisia and I took a becaka (peddy-cab, which is a pedal bike that has a small carriage attached to the front for passengers to ride in) back to the bus stop to head home.  This was very exciting, because it was my first time in the becaka. Nisia and I made our way home using the Yogya bus system for lunch.

Later in the afternoon, each group presented about the local attraction that they visited.  Ellen and Binar won the competition and made everyone jealous by their fun adventure to the Gembira Loka Zoo.  In the evening, all of the students participants from both countries went to a dinner together.

Terima Kasih

Anne Marie

Ps. “Terima Kasih” means “Thank you.”  It can also be shorted into “Ma Kasih.”

June 6: Halo, halo

Hi Everyone! I’m Anne Marie and I a rising Junior at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa.  I am studying Biology and Religion Studies at Lehigh with a minor in Health, Medicine, and Society.  I have been fortunate to have previous experience studying abroad including trips to Australia, Italy, and Israel.

In the summer of 2008, I was able to participate in a International Sports Specialists Inc., Down Under Sport Cross Country Program (www.downundersports.com/).   In this program, we traveled to Australia and competed in cross-country races against Aussies and fellow Americans.  It was an incredible experience.  We were able to spend over two weeks exploring and learning about Australia and the Australian culture as well as spend time running and competing.

In the summer of 2010, I spent 8 weeks studying abroad and working in Rome, Italy with IES Abroad (https://www.iesabroad.org/IES/home.html).  I took a language class to learn Italian as well as a class about the economics, politics, and business culture/policies of Italy which was associated with my internship.  My internship in Rome was with When In Rome Tours (http://www.wheninrometours.com/) writing articles for the website about Italian tourism attractions, Roman culture, and my silly experiences as an American living in a foreign culture.  Again, this was a fantastic opportunity that allowed me to be immersed in a foreign culture.  It forced me out of my “comfort zone,” considering I did not speak a lick of Italian prior to my time in Rome.

This spring break, I was able to take an abbreviated study abroad trip with Lehigh University.  Spring semester, I participated in a class called Religion 195: Explorations in Dialogue (http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?ie=UTF8&hl=en&msa=0&msid=205590540407804456397.00049e2766bb7eb4d6e23&ll=32.067447,35.025101&spn=0.499832,1.056747&z=11&iwloc=00049e276a694099b092e).  This class studied how the three major monotheistic religions: Islam, Judaism, and Christianity, interact and communicate.  As a class, we examined what challenges exist for open communication and interaction between these three religions. For spring break,  a portion of the class took at 10 day trip to Israel to travel throughout the country to participate in experiential, hands-on educational “field trip.”  Since this trip was only 10 days, it was a whirlwind of a trip.  This was another phenomenal experience that allowed me to have a deeper understanding of these three religions due to the hands-on learning.

Now I am participating in this Indonesian Study Tour which is the collaborative study abroad in Indonesia and the United States.   I am incredibly excited for this trip, because this program will provide all participants perspective into a foreign culture in a manner that is unlike any other program.  It will allow all participants to understand and experience a foreign culture through the eyes of a native.   I am looking forward to spending time with the Indonesian students and being able to experience and see Indonesia through their eyes.  Having the Indonesian students able to answer any and all questions immediately with a depth of knowledge will give us insight into their beautiful culture in a brand new way.

As a Religion Studies major, I am very excited to learn about the religious culture of Indonesia.  Indonesia’s population is over 85%  Muslim and making it the world’s largest Muslim population (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Muslim_majority_countries).  The Muslim percentage of total population in United States is only 0.8%.  This is an incredible difference and as a result the culture and politics will be strongly affected due to the different religious influences in each country.  I am looking forward to learning more about the Islamic faith and how this faith shapes and defines Indonesian and Javanese culture.  I hope that this trip, blog, and my experience will encourage other students to visit or study abroad in Indonesia.

Ps. “Halo” is Indonesian for “Hello!”  Be on the lookout for more Indonesian phrases!