Category Archives: 5. Last days in Yogyakarta: Learning batik and Javanese dance, Ramayana ballet at Prambanan Temple

Finals days in Jogja continued…

In addition to the various organizations and religious institutions we visited, we also got a chance to go on a field trip to Borobudur.  Borobudur is this huge ancient Buddhist temple in Magelang (same town as the Pesantren) that has these amazing intricately carved stone depicting different parts of the Buddha’s life.  So many people were there and I could certainly see why people would flock from all corners of the earth to see something as ancient and breathtaking as Borobudur.

My final few days in Jogja were great!  We went to some more organizations that had primary focuses on religious pluralism and multiculturalism and we got to learn about Batik painting and Javanese dance.  Now I’ve always been more of an artsy type of person so all of those activities were sooooo much fun for me.  I absolutely love Javanese dance, I think it is so beautiful and I love to watch their graceful movements along with the gamelan.  Oh and I also really loved learning about Javanese puppetry and getting to play around with some of the puppets when we got the honor of meeting with a Javanese puppet master.  Ugh, I can’t say enough good things about those experiences and I wish that I could go back in time and do it all again.  But considering that I don’t have a time machine, I’ll just have to find a way to live in Indonesia and do all of these fantastic things again.

My last day and night in Jogja was incredible.  We got to have an amazing dinner and see the Ramayana Ballet as part of our farewell dinner.  Then on our last night we went to a nearby beach and enjoyed freshly grilled corn on the cob while watching the sunset.  Definitely one of those moments in life that you just can’t capture in a photo or with a video camera.  No, this was a moment that I took in and saved in my memory forever.  Even in writing this now, I long to be back there, I miss Jogja! Sigh…

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“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

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.