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