Hello everyone! My name is Carrie and I study Political Science at the University of Michigan. It’s hard to believe that in the Fall I will begin my senior year, where has the time gone?? My time at Michigan has been full of wonderful and meaningful experiences and it looks like this trip to Indonesia will turn out to top them all!
After our long journey to Yogyakarta, we have finally settled into our lovely apartment and met the Indonesian students! Fikar, Nisia, Binar, and Fira are incredibly nice and so much fun to be around. After first meeting each other and playing some “get to know you games” we were split into pairs and sent on a scavenger hunt through the city. I was paired with Fikar and we later dubbed ourselves the “Dynamic Duo,” because we are just that awesome. We were assigned to go to the Taman Pintar (which translates literally to “Smart Garden”) and the Buddha Prabha Temple. Unfortunately, the Taman Pintar was closed on Mondays so we made our way to the Buddha Prabha Temple. There, we met Mr. Narji who is the “keeper” of the Temple. Fikar acted as the translator and we asked a lot of questions in our attempt to better understand the practices of the people who pray there. We learned that Tridarma believers pray there and those consists of Confucianists, Buddhists and Taoists. We also learned that Buddhism has five sects and that Confucianism is not a religion but rather a tradition. We were lucky to meet Alex, a Confucianist who had come to the temple to pray, and ask him a few questions about Confucianism, the temple and his beliefs. Alex spoke English so I wasn’t lost in translation this time! Alex told us that because Confucianism is not a religion, they are less concerned with morals but because they believe in karma, this causes Confucianists to have good morals. Alex also told us that you pray to a certain god depending on what you want to pray for. There are also gods that if you pray to, you may receive some of their powers which will serve you well when you die. If you have received some of the god’s power then when you die, you go to the seventh sky or seventh heaven and from there, you help people. However, if you don’t go to the seventh heaven then you are reincarnated to live another life. Learning about Confucianism was very interesting and it was great to talk to Alex about the tradition. At the end, we wanted to take a picture with Alex and so the three of us asked permission from the gods, it was a cool experience.
After the temple, we made our way to the Vredeburg Fortress (Benteng Vredeburg). The Dutch built the Fortress in 1760 and abandoned it in 1941 when the Japanese came. In 1949, the Dutch tried to come back and take it over again but the Yogya people fought back. At first, the fortress was used military barracks by Indonesians and then is was used as a prison for PKI members. In 1987 it became a museum and now hosts many cultural festivals. While we learned a lot on our scavenger hunt, we were the last group back to Wisma Cempaka and therefore did not win the scavenger hunt.
I can’t believe it’s Thursday already, every day is filled with amazing and educational activities. On top of that, we have delicious food for every meal. My favorite has been the nasi goreng (fried rice) and the sate ayam, which is basically spicy barbecued chicken. All the Indonesians are worried about the Americans digestive track and so they make sure that we stay away from really spicy food.I’m just a little worried about when the Indonesians come back to the United States, our food doesn’t quite compare. My favorite drink so far has been the mango juice, it’s so sweet and creamy. The coffee here is also delicious but unfortunately, we ran out yesterday! I want to get some to bring back to the U.S. The coffee is super fine, finer than espresso, and you put in twice as much sugar than coffee.
I’m so excited for the days to come and every day my Indonesian is getting better– yesterday, I ordered for myself! Everyone has been telling me that Indonesian is actually a fairly easy language to learn in a couple of months, none of the objects have genders and there’s only present tense! Ellen and I are really looking forward to taking Indonesian in the Fall and we’ve already decided we’re going to wear our batik to class, we’re going to look so legit.
We have more lectures on democracy today that I’m really looking forward to and will blog about later!