This country, like many others, is characterized by certain sounds. In the mornings, I awaken to cat fights, confused roosters who fail to understand when the sun actually rises, and the call to prayer at the mosque right by my house. If we sleep through all that, then hearing the ice-cream-truck-like, bandstand jingle of the sari roti bread bicycle cart always wakes me up. This bandstand music was popular enough with an older generation of Indonesians for me to hear a bandstand version of “How much is that doggie in the window?” playing on the radio as I sat in Gadjah Mada University’s (UGM) computer library.
Indonesia looks a lot like Burma, complete with the lesser-developed buildings and ubiquitous little packets of instant tea and coffee hanging from street stalls (warung). My home stay, run by a well-traveled catholic couple, is in a very nice house near the university. Anna (another USINDO student from Michigan) and I have the entire top floor for now. We have two balconies overlooking the garden where the jasmine tree sits, and the scent of jasmine wafts up to us on some nights.
My home stay family is not quite what I expected. Hosting is a business to them, so we are not really part of the family as I had initially hoped. Still, they do seem to sincerely care about their guests. Ibu and Bapak (our host parents in their 70s, whom I refer to by these respectful titles for an older Indonesian woman and man) eat dinner with us every night. Ibu always tries to prepare a variety of well-thought-out options. She seems genuinely disappointed if we can not make it to dinner, and dinner often lasts long after the meal is finished. The conversations are varied and range from informative to deeply personal. Bapak is a little less outgoing than Ibu, but very interesting and kind. Their daughter Mita, her son Alex, and their nephew Dimas, live on the bottom floor as well.
I have enjoyed rediscovering my old loves such as the bucket shower (bak mandi). Since Burma, I had forgotten how refreshing, efficient, and enjoyable these were. As I usually do, I am also enjoying the unusual brands. I recently purchased uniquely-Indonesian, alcohol-free, clove mouthwash which is very good. I have also been enjoying Vick’s ginger cough drops (sold in ridiculous quantities at times) and searching for my China favorites such as grapefruit juice, Halls vitamin C candies, and cake-flavored Oreos. I am sure I will have a nice collection of new Indonesian favorites by the time I leave.
Wednesday, I made an effort to further my long-time, obscure, bucket-list ambition of trying every fruit known to man with the exception of tomatoes and olives. I bought some familiar options such as rose apples and star fruit, but also introduced sawu and a white and purple fruit which the Indonesians I asked could not name. My tutor, Ukky, had not even tried the bua white and purple fruit. It tasted very much like a combination of melon and cucumber. She said that our sawu was not ripe enough and suggested finding us another later. It was too sweet and stuck to one’s teeth in a weird way. I have since been delighted to find little star fruits which have fallen from trees onto the street.
I will try to update more frequently so that I will not have to leave so much out. I have already seen many of the major sights here (Borobudur, Prambanan, The Sultan’s Palace, an Indonesian Wedding, Goa Pindul Caves, Alun Alun Square, and Malioboro Street) thanks to USINDO’s top-notch efforts. I recently discovered Jogja’s expat magazines and will journey into that community soon enough.
Since too much has been happening to cram it all into a few laundry-list blog entries describing my daily activities, I think that I will devote entire entries to the salient aspects of my experience. Possible future titles include: “Indonesia’s Art Cars” (on the Burning Man-like, LED peddle-cars that circle around Alun Alun blasting music), “Pencak Silat and Jogja’s Martial Arts Scene,” “Strange Fruit” (exotic fruits here), Raminten and the Trans community here, and a page full of examples of “Funny Things Found in Indonesia.” Stay tuned to see if any of these actually materialize.