Trip update!

My apologies for the delay in updates during this fantastic study abroad experience I’m having.  I have a few excuses, mainly a bad case of a stomach virus/fatigue post-Indonesia.  So now I have put myself in the challenging position of sharing all of the amazing adventures I had during my last week in Yogyakarta into one long blog post.  So on Saturday June 11 we went to visit a Pesantren over night and for those who don’t know what a Pesantren is (like me prior to being on this trip), it is an Indonesian Islamic boarding school.  We stayed at the Pesantren Pabelan, a lovely place located about an hours’ drive from Jogja.  As we drove through the outskirts of Jogja the beauty of the Indonesian countryside struck me.  All of the lush vegetation and green rice fields that blanketed the landscape were truly breathtaking.  I loved all of the tropical trees as they reminded me of images that I had only seen in books or in movies.  I must admit that as we approached the Pesantren, I was nervous about what staying overnight at a boarding school would be like.

When I first arrived I inhaled deeply, letting the country air fill my lungs as my eyes scanned the Pesantren with anticipation.  We were led into a building that was set up in a rather formal manner complete with a large banner welcoming us to the school.  We first met with the principle and other important faculty and staff to have our first q/a and discussion about the Indonesian education system (in this context) and of the school itself.  One of the most interesting aspects of schooling in the Pesantren is that students attend classes seven days a week!  This certainly made me feel like a pansy for whining every Monday, year after year about having to go to school a whopping five days a week.  Another aspect of the Pesantren that struck me was how little many of the students will get to see their families throughout the year.  Though I suppose this wouldn’t be uncommon for all boarding schools.  To my knowledge, the testing system in Indonesia for primary education differs from the American system in that they have large nationwide test as opposed to the smaller, regional testing we have in the U.S (MEAP, IOWA test, etc…) Oh but now, I can’t wait to talk about my favorite part of our visit to the Pesantren…meeting with the STUDENTS!

So we met with approximately 20-30 students from the upper level grades so that they could practice their English and we could ask questions them questions about their school and anything else we could think of (that was easily to understand and/or translate) and vice versa.  So we asked them questions about what they like to for fun and those brave enough to respond told us that they enjoyed sports, music (Justin Beiber) and participating in girl/boy scouts.  As many high schoolers are at that age, quite a few students were shy but some asked us questions that were along similar lines to the types of questions we asked them.  Oh yes and I almost forgot to mention one of the ways that they punish students that misbehave.  If a student does something bad like skip classes or go off campus, they have to get their heads shaved.  The principal explained to us that this form of discipline acts as a way to bring down that oh so frustrating teenage sass/cockiness by way of touching on one of adolescence’s biggest fears…standing out.

Anyway, so after we talked with the students they were given time to hang out with us more informally.  And as soon as I got up from my chair, several giggling girls greeted me.  Sandra was especially eager to talk to me and one of the first things she said to me was that I was her “idol”.  Now if that doesn’t make your day then I don’t know what else would!  She and her friends were sooo sweet and she immediately took me by the arm and took me straight to her room.  Their smiles and laughter made me feel so giddy that I found myself just as happy to be with them as they were to be with me.  Sandra told me about her aspirations to be a singer, go to America, meet more Bule (foreigners), and oh yeah…how awesome she thought I was 😛 She even gave me this adorable bracelet with her name on it.  I will definitely keep it forevah!

Funny story about my lovely ladies at the Pesantren, they were all significantly older than I thought they were.  Okay so the entire time I’m in her pink Barbie, girly girl room I had this notion in my mind that I was chatting with kids’…twelve, thirteen year olds. NOT.  When I asked Sandra how old she was she told me that she was seventeen and one of her other friends was eighteen.  I couldn’t believe it at first, especially when I think of what my friends and I were like at those ages.  It really made me realize how differently culture and religion can shape one’s development.  And I can certainly say that I was nowhere near as giggly or smiley as those girls.  Nor would I have been all that enthusiastic about meeting college students from some foreign country.  I must admit that in seeing how they acted at seventeen and eighteen years old, it made me feel kind of like a rebel during my adolescence.  Anyway, after hanging out with them and watching Carrie play football with some of the boys we had dinner and then another discussion and q/a with some of the teachers from the school.  In the morning we got to witness part of their boy/girl scout ceremony, which was suuper cool, and I had wished that we could have stayed for all of it.  But we had to go so that we could visit Gereja Ganjuran (Church of Ganjuran).

The Church of Ganjuran is this amazing Catholic Church that was built by the Dutch in 1924.  The church was so beautiful and there was intricately carved Javanese style ceilings and a lovely open-air design.  I loved seeing how Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary were adapted to look like Javanese figures rather than the typical Western artistic interpretations of such important biblical figures.  We saw a few other religious institutions and I may be a bit out of order in talking about them so bare with me.

In Jogja we went to the Masjid Perak Kotagede, a mosque located in an area of Jogja where a lot of silver and silver jewelry is sold (fun fact).    We got a chance to talk with important people from the mosque to ask them questions about Islam and the mosque itself.  We got to observe the men’s’ afternoon prayer and I also got a chance to walk around the inside of the mosque.

We also got to visit  Seminari St. Paulus for a few hours.  The kind men at the seminary gave us a tour of the grounds and shared with us some very compelling stories about the tremendous ways that they helped those devastated by the 2010 eruption of Mount Merrapi.  They showed us a video that really gave me an idea of the shear destruction that the eruption caused.  The video also proved to me the goodness of human nature that shows in times of crisis.  They explained to us that after the eruption, they welcomed anyone and everyone with open arms to provide them with food, clothing, shelter and hope after such devastating events.

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