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Farewell Java

Our time in Java was distinct from the rest of our trip because we were fortunate to spend time with other families. We started our 12 days in Java with 3 wonderful days staying with our children’s Indonesian teacher and her family in Bogor. We were warmly welcomed into their home and treated as special guests even though we didn’t really know each other already. We were taken to visit great places such as a forest research station with an excellent swimming pool, to a tea plantation, and a drive through zoo. All of which were enjoyable for both families. The great advantages of staying with another family are myriad, e.g.

  • The 4 children played happily together,
  • We adults enjoyed conversations together,
  • We learnt a lot about the culture and customs because our hostess in from Java,
  • We learnt a bit more Bahasa Indonesian,
  • We didn’t get ripped off or have to negotiate for anything the whole time!

Similarly in Yogyakarta we spent part of three days with the friend of our Bogor hostess. She has a daughter who was great company for our daughter who gets frustrated that her younger brother sometimes rebels against the intricate rules of her games. Like in Bogor, we enjoyed the same benefits and our time with our new Yogyanese friend was a highlight.

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Amazing Prambanan

Some aspects of Java that will always stay with us:

  • We got to stand on an active volcano for the first time (despite both of us having doctorate degrees in geosciences),
  • Exploring beautiful UNESCO World Heritage listed Borodobur and Prambanan temple complexes (these made me recall our trip as a childless couple to South America and seeing amazing architectural feats specifically Macchu Picchu),
  • Wandering through labyrinthine alleyways with colorful homes, smiling, friendly people and surprising discoveries,
  • The gorgeous countryside on the train ride between Bandung and Yogyakarta,
  • Sate ayam!

I was sad to leave Java and I can imagine living there if the opportunity was to arise. The people are polite, kind, friendly and generous and they really love children. In advance of our trip many people exclaimed about the wonderful street food in Penang, Malaysia however no one really talked about Indonesian food. I really enjoy the food in Java and happily munched away on hawker food, particularly the sate ayam skewers cooked fresh over hot coals by the roadside. Indonesians love to try regional dishes so the homogenization of food evident in Australia and the USA is not as prevalent here. The sheer number of food vendors indicates that Indonesians love to snack and when I asked our Indonesian friends they said that snacks are very popular and don’t count as a meal as long as they don’t include rice (and the inverse is true that it’s not a meal without rice). With our mostly Palaeo-friendly diet we have flourished in Indonesia with the myriad cereal grain-free meal options.

Java is a place of contrasts and I suspect it is standing on the cusp of change with a growing middle class with disposable income, advanced education and expectations of experiences and opportunities. Over 80% of Indonesians are Muslim and there are literally mosques in every neighborhood making it easy for men to get to a mosque to pray 5 times per day. Women dress in a variety of ways from the occasional black loose outfit like an Arab abaya covering all but the eyes to tight knee length pants and tight tshirts with uncovered hair. Outside of Utah, Saudi Arabia and Poland this is the most obviously religious culture I have visited. However, we saw transvestites busking on street corners in Yogyakarta which is an obvious sign of tolerance. It’s lovely to see signs of integration of preexisting religions with Islam, for example on the entrance to the grand mosque in Kotagede is a carving of Ganesh. When we lived in Bologna, Italy for one month in 2012 we saw many closed and abandoned churches and heard from friends that attendance rates are declining. I wonder if the same will happen one day in Indonesia as the younger generations move to cities.

We had minor fears in advance of suffering from illnesses, bag snatching, over crowding and culture shock but only the first of that list visited my husband and I and left our children alone. At times the attention of Indonesian tourists and villagers was overwhelming for all of us but especially our children who don’t want to be touched or photographed and at times we felt like victims of ripping off but these experiences did not dominate our impressions. One thing that we won’t miss is being woken at 415am by the adhan blasting from loud speakers in Yogyakarta.

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This entry was posted on January 18, 2014 by in Travel and tagged , , , , , , .
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