Category Archives: 2. Welcome to Indonesia!

A half a world away

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!




June 7: Our program has officially started!

Hey there! I’m back again. Oh yeah, before I do anymore writing I would like to introduce myself before hand. My name is Zafira Rahmania Nur Shabrina. I am in my first year of study in the faculty of Psychology, Universitas Gadjah Mada. I am very fortunate to be a participant in this program since the requirements were to be in the third year of study. This is not actually my first experience abroad, I have lived in Australia for approximately six years. But this is my first experience abroad for an exchange or study trip. So I’m really excited!

Multiculture and religion became an undirect interest to me since I was a little girl. This was then reinforced when I was “accidentally” asked to participate and become and Assistant Researcher in Center for Indigenous and Cultural Psychology, UGM ( Again, I am very fortunate to be able to participate as a delegation for CICP in the 9th Binneal Conference of Asian Association of social Psychology which will be held in Kunming, China at the end of this July. Through this event, my paper which was co-written by Banyu Wicaksono and Taufik Yunanto became published. The concerns of the paper is regarding the difference of level in closeness to strangers that Indonesia has compared to western countries. This too, in my perspective, is very multicultural. I am hoping that my participation in this study trip-exchange and CICP can give a reciprocal benefit to each other.

Now back to our main activities!

Starting the day very early in the morning to run some “errands” across campus, I was nearly late for the opening ceremony at University Club which was to start at 09.30. Heaving a huge sigh of relief I entered the building and bonded with the other participants who were currently having a light chat with the vice-president of the university.  Soon after, the ceremony started. It started off with a speech from university supervisors from the United States: Kate, and Jack. The rest of it was also pretty much introduction (from Program Coordinator, Vice Presidents of the University, Indonesian Supervisor) which was really quite interesting. It was especially great too hear about the participant’s personal motivation: wanted to know how it felt to be in a South-East Asian country; show the better side of Indonesia; and so on. The program was officially opened through a speech done by Professor Ainun Naim, University Vice-President for the Administration Bussiness.

The ceremony ended and the US and Indonesian participants were splitted up, and each were to discuss their country’s custom and norm that needs to be understood by their counterpart. So the Indonesian decided to go to Annisia’s boarding house for the discussion and the US students headed for Graha Sabha Permana. As the customs and norms were already explained to the US participants by Kate, we decided to explain to them about Yogyakarta instead. We named it: 10 must-do’s in Yogyakarta! Half an hour after the split discussion, we met again and presented it. It came out that there were many things we had to know about the American customs and norms. It was actually pretty familiar with the customs and norms that were implemented in Australia, in which I have lived in, but maybe I never thought of it that much. Well not until today, that is.

The next agenda was a lecture from Mr. Zainal Abidin Bagir, Ph.D. He is the Director of the Center for Religious and Cross-Cultural studies, a Master’s program at the Graduate School, Universitas Gadjah Mada ( The idea of this center is to study different religions, not their (the student’s) own religion. There were various sorts of religion that became an interest. On that caught my most is the indigenous religion. It may be a subject that most faculty of religion would never bother to teach, but it is great to see that Universitas Gadjah Mada takes respect for those with very different beliefs (say not in the 6 official ones) as well as actually make research and study it.

The lecture was very interesting. It was basically about religious pluralism. Mr. Bagir explained how hard it is to understand the role of religion in democracy. What with all people trying to “protect” their religions and not wanting it to get mixed up with others, it becomes complex to even create a harmonious democratic life. Let alone create a system for the religions to actually unite and participate as one in creating policies and such other beurocrational matters. This then becomes even more complex when we pay attention in the diversity intrafaith, for example: in Islam. In Indonesia it is understood that there so many variety inside Islam itself. The biggest groups are Muhammadiyah and Nahdatul Ulama. As we know, there are also mainstreams that are still in conflict regarding its categorization as a Muslim. Ahmadiyah, to be frank. This variation intrareligion is a form of freedom pf religion that has started to surface after the Reformasi “1998”. This Reformasi brings both good and bad: the good is that minority is then given a chance to express them selves; the bad is that more unintended conflicts and negative new parties elicited which would not have if it was still in the new era. Another consequence of the new democracy era is decentralization, creating a weaker law inforcement. As you can see the problem is very complex and hard to solve. It becomes harder for thegovermnt to position themselves in a strategic place. So it too became a hot and intense discussion amongst Mr. Bagir, the participants, and supervisors. The discussion unfortunately had to end and we were to proceed to our next destination.

The last destination of the day was “Dian Interfidei” which is an NGO for Interfaith studies and actions. The Interfidei consisted of diverse members which I personally thought was great. The discussion started off with a brief history and an explanation of the activities done. So basically the acts of peace in interfaith is done by Interfidei in Central Java and Eastern Indonesia. Many inter-religion dialogues are done there. This very brief explanation was continued with a discussion that turned out to be very interesting and touching. One of the committee of the interfidei is a teacher who teaches religion in highschool. She shared the experience of once being one who did not believe in peace inter-religion and how she went to a multicultural and interfaith workshop that eventually changed everything. She now often takes her students out on class trips to the Women Prison and “Pesantren Waria”, which is obviously something no other religious teachers would do. Her point is that everyone was born as human and we are to treat them as human, whatever they did or whatever they chose to do. Another committee that was active in the discussion is Anggita. I am personally very fond of her. She told a life story that took all our breaths away. The room was so quite I could have dropped a rice and everyone would notice. The main part of the story is that she grew up from a different religion parents: a Muslim father and a Christian mother.

Our Home-Wisma Cempaka

“The Committee”


Day One Scavenger Hunt!

This was my first day in joining this program, “US-Indonesia Partnership Program”. I was informed before that I had to be at Wisma Cempaka Putih by 8.15. And in this day I arrived at the Wisma at 8.00. When I arrived at the place, I saw my American friends sitting and having talk in the kitchen room table. I came there then I saw my friends. Then I talk to them and having a brief introduction with them and their supervisor.

The first session is introduction game facilitated by Mas Indra. In this game each of us explain a brief about ourselves, lika our hobbies, our background, or something like that. In here, after we told something about our friends, then we would chosen by another person to tell about the information of the person given by facilitator. In this game, the lessons that I got, are about how to know the friends quickly, and remember what they said. In this game, we could know our friends briefly by listening our friends presentation and our re-explanation when we were chosen.

After we know each other, then Mas Indra turned us into the next part which is pairing session. Mas Indra has several envelopes to be given to our foreign friends which all of them consist of clue that correlated to their mate. The paper inside the envelopes will lead our friends to meet their partner or pair. They have to sound like what the paper pictured. When the paper had the bird image, then they have to sound like a bird. This game was very fun. Since I’m the onle male participant, then my partner has the free pass paper. In this program my partner is Carrie, a student from University of Michigan.

In the scavenger hunt, we were planned to visit Taman Pintar and Buddha Prabha Temple, but sice the Taman Pintar was closed, so we change our destination to Vredeburg Fortress.

The Glory of The Temple

In the temple the first impression that I got, the place was so beutiful. When we came there we interviewed with Mr Narji as a keeper, and Alex as a preayer who were in there. We ask alot about the place and the beliefs. That temple is a worship place for Tridharma beliefs. Tridharma is consist of three different beliefs, which are Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism. The Buddhism which on this place is Buddha Prabha. There are five sects in Buddha: Matrea, Mahayana, Prabha, etc. In this temple, its the place for Buddha Prabha praying.

The ornaments in the place are very cool. The statue in the entrance describing the road of human to reach the perfectness. The paints in the wall are very dynamic. The paints are symboling the history of the Buddhism in Indonesia. But until now the exact sequence of the paintings is unknown.

The statues are very symbolic. Every statue placed there has its own ancienty:

  1. The Eight Fence Pillar means that the temple is under protection of The Eight Gods
  2. The Fire pagoda  has the function as a place for burned praying paper.
  3. A couple of Pillar Dragon and Eight Gods means that in ancient time, its used to be the prison for God and The Invisibles
  4. The Gold Fur Lion as a symbol of bravery
  5. A couple of God’s Children riding the peacock as a symbol of harmonity.
  6. A couple of gold lotus symbolize the purity
  7. Kirin as a holy creature from haven
  8. Three gods door as a god’s guide.
  9. The wall of stone
  10. The paintings on wall, that describe the war between the good spirit and evil spirit in heaven
  11. A couple of gold crab, as a symbol of smart and intelligence.

The live of Buddha religion in Yogyakarta is peaceful so far. There are no intrareligion and interreligion conflict of Budhha until now. The master or bikku of this temple often join in Forum Persatuan Umat Beriman (FPUB) every month. They held a dialog forum to maintain their realtionship and to prevent the problem between them.

The Historic Fortress

The Vredeburg Fortress is located in the south of Malioboro street in Yogyakarta. When I visited this place, the guidance section is closed, but the administration office is opened. So, I was lucky I could have interviewing with Mr. Bambang without having sunny walking through al the buildings, sence I’ve only limited time.

Right know this place is functioned as a museum. But, the fortress has the long historical story. The Sri Sultan HB I built this fort in 1760 because of the request of the dutch . With the reason of sold defense, the Dutch governor ask the Sultan to make the fort more permanently.  The “Vredeburg” word means “Peace”. Its as the manifestation of the harmony relationship between the Palace and the Dutch.

After the Independce day of Indonesia, this fortress has transformed into several function of it. The government functioned this place as a barrack of Indonesian Military soldier. This place also has ever functioned as a prison for PKI members. And in 1987 thiss place was officialy functioned as a public museum.

Today, there are 90 diorams exist here, and also a lot of festivals held in this place. The diorama tell us about the fight of Yogyakarta people to maintain their territory during the war. And also, in this place is often held the festival. The nearest festival is Festival Kesenian Yogyakarta, which been planned in 20th of june until 5th of july. There are a lot of another festivals held here. This fort can be a place to accomodate the side who want to held event or festival. But the fortress also has its own festivals.


Opening Ceremony


Our students, Fulvia and Anne Marie from Lehigh University, and Carrie and Ellen from the University of Michigan, at the opening ceremony hosted at Universitas Gadjah Mada.  We were met by the Vice Rector of the university, who welcomed us and spoke of his hopes for continued collaboration between the three universities.

My First full day in Yogyakarta

Yesterday we got to meet the Indonesian students who will also be participating in the program with us.  We went outside to play a little “get to know you” icebreaker game.   The game entailed that we share some basic info about ourselves (name, year in school, hobbies, favorite bands, etc…) and later we were presented with a picture of another person and had to recall what each other said when presented.  I knew immediately that this would prove to be a bit of challenge for me since I don’t have an impeccable memory but thankfully I didn’t embarrass myself too terribly and overall the game was a good way to learn a bit more about the people I will be spending the next month with.

After the icebreaker we were given envelopes containing a picture of a specific animal while the Indonesian students were given envelopes with the names of the animals.  Our job was, based on the picture we were given, to make the sound of the animal in our envelope which then matched us and determined our roommates for the next two weeks.  My animal was a cat and I was paired with Binar! Binar is in her senior year of college at Gadjah Mada and is studying international relations.

Once we got paired with our new roommates we were given yet another envelope but this time it contained a picture of a place in Yogyakarta.  We  were given 30,000 rupiah and with our Indonesian partners, we had to go the location in our pictures and then report to the rest of the group later on.  The goal was, based on our presentation, to make the other groups envy us.  Indra (one of the program coordinators) told us that the group that had the best presentation as well as the first group to arrive would win some kind of reward.   Well…I’ll have you know that me and Binar had an amazing location, we got to go to Gambira Loka Zoo!  At first  when she told me that we were going to a zoo I was a bit worried that the standards to which the animals were kept would not be up to par the zoos with the United States.  And I was worried that the animal lover in me would be disturbed and uncomfortable with the way the animals were being cared for, however, Gambira Loka was quite lovely!

First we went into the Laboratorium Pendidkan Alam which was basically like a little museum that had information about Indonesian plants, insects, crustaceans, and other little critters.  After that we walked around the park and I couldnt believe how beautiful it was.  There were gorgeous tropical plants everywhere and lovely streams and canals to gawk at.  Then we came to the zoo area with all of these amazing animals.  One of the first animals we saw were elephants and it was suuper cool because they were trumpeting and running around and splashing in the water…I love elephants. We also got to see tigers, orangatans, monkeys, crops, tapirs, hippos, kangaroos, ahh the list goes on.  We took tons of pictures and videos from Gambira Loka so I am making good use of my camera already!

It was a bit unfortunate because due to lack of a USB cord, I was unable to upload the pics and videos for our presentation.  However, when it came time for us to present our powerpoint, our enthusiasm as well as the good quality of my little camera allowed everyone to get a pretty good idea of the magic that was Gambira Loka and in the end…we won!  Now what we won was the chance to take everyone else in our group to Gambira Loka on Thursday.  I’m excited because I want to ride an elephant and a camel since I couldn’t do it yesterday because I was wearing a skirt.  So basically me and Binar rocked the scavenger hunt yesterday!

After that the Indonesian students took us to dinner at this fantastic restaurant The House of Raminten.  I had the nasi goreng abon which is Indonesian style fried rice topped with sweet seasoned beef….DELICIOUS.  I seriously love Indonesian food and I wish that someone would open an Indonesian restaurant in Ann Arbor!  Today we are going to have the opening ceremony of our program and will also be going to a lecture of some sort.  I will update later.  So in conclusion Indonesia is pretty darn cool and so is Binar! I’m looking forward to what’s in store for us over the next 2 weeks 🙂