Friday, December 18, 2009

Exploring jakarta

a couple of weeks ago me and the other american exchange students and florence, a girl from belgium, met up with some friends who were going to show us a bit more of the crazy city we live in. everyone met at one mall and then came to get me at another. the day started clear but as soon as i got to the mall the sky split and it started pouring rain. they were still on their way so i rode escalators up and down for about 20 minutes while i waited for them. one of the people guiding us today came to get me, because all the others were waiting in the shelter of the busway stop. he had an umbrella but i wasn't so well equipped, so he called over a little kid to escort me. these kids are everywhere, carrying umbrellas and accompanying you until you don't need them anymore. at first it was awkward because he was so short and we were both trying to fit under the little umbrella. after a bit he handed it over to me and that was better. we could finally walk right. it was weird though. i mean in a way, to me, it felt kind of like the poor kid was my servant, holding the umbrella for me, the rich bule. theres times almost everyday when something like this happens. just some little culture bit that i'm not used to that re-underlines what exactly it was that drew me to doing foreign exchange in the first place. i just have to tell myself, if it seems weird at first, that that's just the way it is here. sometimes i think too much about what its like in america, forgetting that i am just about as far away from america as it gets.

so anyway, back to the trip. we got off the bus in the chinese district and went to a chinese hindu temple. it was so amazing. we got there at prayer time so almost all the people there were burning incense by the altars to the different deities. the air was full of swirling patterns and trails of smoke and it smelled incredible. after a while it really started to burn your eyes and by the time we left i felt like i was going to start crying (probably looked like it too) because my eyes were burning. by every altar there were offerings, fruit, flowers, cakes, and at one there was fish and chicken. All the statues of the deities were so beautiful. we all rubbed a buddha's belly for good luck as we left the temple. just as we were leaving, a muslim call to prayer rang out from the mosque. it was so cool to be there amidst the two religions. i can't believe how lucky we were to be there at that time, to hear the call to prayer after seeing the chinese hindus pray silently with incense. two religions coexisting so close to each other, creating a moment in my life i will always remember.

from there we walked through the crazy streets to a noodle house for lunch. the noodles were fantastic. they were homemade and so fresh and delicious. i will never be able to eat chinese food in america again. seriously. you guys have no idea what you're missing. after we ate we walked to a market area and saw a store full of stuff for the temples. there was a wall of incense. there were also all these paper things, like versace sandals and a louis vuitton wallet and cigarettes that you burn at the temple to send to the deceased in heaven. we saw an old man selling pork. a crazy cook pot in which there were intestines, tongue, ears, and a snout. the seller put the two halves of the snout together over and over again and it was pretty repulsive. why anyone in their right mind would want to eat a pig snout is beyond me. then we moved on to an area of mostly traditional chinese pharmacies. we watched a lady weigh out some mushrooms and saw lizards on a stick that are supposed to help with asthma. there was also a guy selling cobras. we got on public transportation and rode to kota tua, to the old city of jakarta, to go to the wayang museum.

kota tua is so cool. the buildings are all from the colonial period, such a different style from all the other buildings in the city. wayang are traditional puppets. and the museum was full of all different kinds of styles of wayang, from all over indonesia. its really cool to see how different regions design the wayang, every region is different. after we'd looked at everything in the museum we heard an ondel-ondel show going on outside so we ran out to see it. ondel-ondel are these like giant dolls that people wear and dance in. i can't describe it. look it up. anyway, the dance was really awesome but sort of eerie. its just scary to see the giant ondel-ondel moving around and then look down and see the tiny feet of the dancer inside. after the dance we went back inside the museum to buy souvenirs. the guy selling them to us was so hilarious. he told jillian she could dance like a javanese girl and that she looked like bella from new moon and that i looked like alice. then he said he was giving us a student discount because he loved americans (and said florence looked american so she counted) so everything was Rp. 10.000, or 1 dollar. he then told us he used to have an american girlfriend who was like 1 meter 60 or something, i can't remember what exactly but the girl must have been a giant, and she studied batik and since jillian was wearing batik and i guess somehow looked like his girlfriend (?) he gave her a free ondel-ondel figurine. then, so the rest of us wouldn't be jealous, he gave us free bookmarks and a hug. he kept saying he loved america and hitting on jillian and by the time we finally got out of there me and jillian were laughing so hard i think we were near tears. we got out just in time to see the last bit of a traditional betawi dance, which was absolutely incredible. we got back on the busway and rode to the national museum.

at first all around there were pieces of ruins from temples which were so beautiful and amazing. it amazes me how much people are able to create, changing a rock to a statue so incredible you can't believe that it was made by humans. we went to a huge room that had stuff starting from tribal in papua going to just about every island. There was traditional daggers, pottery, jewelry, costumes, really everything imaginable. indonesia is so rich and varied in cultures i can't believe it. for representation of some of the cannibalistic tribes there were weapons and jewelry with bones. one necklace had a jaw bone on it. we wandered around some more and then got into 2 taxis to go to grand indonesia. ending the day where it started. we got dinner and then our guides left, setting the bules loose in the mall. we ran up a down escalator and found the small amusement park. me josh and omar rode the rocket ride and the merry go round. probably the oldest people there, easily having the most fun. it was a really incredible day.

so far december has been relaxing. i haven't been going to much school because for a week they were doing exams so i didn't go at all and then there have just been days off every now and then. on tuesday actually me and my friends skipped school to go see a movie. not much is going on though, because our break starts on the 18, so when we go to school we just sit in the classroom and hang out. there are no classes. i haven't seen any of my teachers in weeks. all i can say is, if this was america, no students would be there. i don't know why anyone bothers to come here, but they do. i really cannot believe that already its almost christmas. has this year just flown by? its been 4 months. four amazing, confusing, but absolutely wonderful months. why is it that normal years take forever to pass but this one, the year that i wish would never end, is going by faster than i can comprehend? i guess that's just the way life is. i love it here, if that wasn't made completely obvious by the last couple sentences then here it is. i have only started to love it more since the language barrier started to lift. still not perfect, but worlds better than i was.
that's all for now. cheers


Harper said...

oh fernie it sounds amazing:) chinese food here is crap, too. the spring roll was like in bread. eww. i ate a käsekreiner in vienna :) almost a vienna sausage... love you!!!

lifeorganizer said...

fern I am indonesian student and applying for YES too. how many YES student for Indonesia this year. I hope we can be just like friend and share info(s) about YES and Indonesian culture.. :)BTW happy holiday and Christmas