It’s been a couple of months since I’ve arrived in Indonesia. So far, I’ve been humbled and impressed. This marks the longest I have spent in Indonesia. Before, it was 3 and half weeks.
Many of my friends and family have been constantly asking why I moved. Many offered their opinions as they would rather enjoy a life in America instead of being here. My response catch many off-guard as I want to have a career that’s different, where an adventure and contributing to the welfare of the Indonesian people is mandatory. Having been an International Development Studies major, it only felt right to pack up my bags. I am forever grateful for the support I received for my crowdfunding campaign, because now I’m working for an exciting start-up that focuses on communicating urban environmental issues. One of our main initiatives is to provide educational outreach and traveling to Jogja was exactly for this. However, I found this outing to be more like reacquainting with an old friend than just another work trip. Jogja has always been close to my heart, despite having visited only several times in my life. I think it’s because both of my parents are from this cultural center that creates this attachment. Although my mom was born in Solo, she spent most of her youth in the Sagan neighborhood. My pops grew up in the Kota Baru part of the city. With this intimate bond to the city through my parents, it makes me feel as if Jogja is a part of my life, too. Hearing my parents recount their experience, compels me to relive myself. The Malioboro area was one such place that my parents used to hang out when they were my age. I closed my eyes and I can imagine them navigating through the hustle and bustle of this lively street. Seeing couples walk together on that warm, summer evening further helped me relive their Jogja. It’s just surreal that I’m here again but now making my own memories. In past visits, meeting family was the purpose. This time, I went to visit schools for work duties. We visited SMA Negeri 9, SMP 2 Muhammadiyah and SMK 6 Yogyakarta. The program we were carrying out was called Ecomapping. It’s an initiative our company is working in coordination with a German organization called GIZ to make schools more green and instill environmental awareness within the students. After work hours, I managed to sneak in some exploring and family time. Despite the limited opportunities available, we still managed to visit some of Jogja’s gems. The Sultan’s Palace – Ngayogyakarta Keraton Hamengkubuwono – was our first stop. It was stunning. I have only managed to visit the Alun-Alun Bringin Trees in the South, where people would blindfold themselves and try to walk between the trees – Mas Angin. I’m a sucker for history and culture so being able to walk through the Sultan’s palace it was such an honor. Witnessing previous Sultan’s artifacts as well as encountering real life Abdi Dalam – Palace Workers – carrying out their activities was truly a pleasure. Beyond this, we ventured off to Candi Prambanan. This is one of Indonesia’s crown jewels as it is one of the largest Hindu structures in Southeast Asia It was my first time as well since in previous visits, I had only been able to visit the marketplace where people sell trinkets. It was funny because I had to go through the foreigners’ entrance. Then, they made me and my German friend wear a Kain – traditional textile. When we met up with our friends, I was shocked they didn’t have to wear one. Many of the other tourists began to set their gaze upon us – gossiping about us being a couple, our kid’s skin color and how I could have landed a Caucasian partner. It was an exciting and simultaneously exhausting experience visiting all of the structures. It felt like home when I stayed at Paku Mas. My uncle worked here so it was as if I was staying at his place. For the first time, I stayed here as a guest as I had only came to visit and eat dinner in the past. You can feel that the Javanese culture is alive here with the abundance of traditional ornaments surrounding you. I have an affection to this hotel because of my past memories I created here as a kid running around all over the complex. Thankfully, Paku Mas served Gudeg for my first meal as I waited for 4 years for it. It is a traditional Javanese dish where sliced jackfruit is simmered for hours with spices and palm sugar along with tofu and tempe. My first bite was instant euphoria. Thank you Paku Mas for making this trip that much more intimate. During my stay, I eventually linked up with my mom’s side of the family in Sagan. When I arrived at my grandparents’, something was different. I would walk in and find my Grandpa sitting in his chair and my grandma on her bed. But now both of my grandparents were gone. They had passed away in the years between my visits. Memories of our interactions are all that is left – walking with my grandfather to the mosque, hearing his stories of the old days, etc. We visited their graves around the corner of our house as it is a tradition to say a prayer before performing the fasting practice of Ramadan. Family knows no distance and I think the unconditional love that they showed me helped make this trip bearable as the stresses of the work aspect of the trip would have taken a toll on me. The highlight of my trip however was being able to visit Masjid Syuhada in Kota Baru. This one particular masjid is so endearing because my grandfather was a Kiyai and he would give sermons here on Fridays. Because I have never met him, being able to pray on Friday here allowed me to envisage what it would have been like to be in his presence. I almost cried but somehow didn’t. Thank you everyone who donated in my cause which enabled me to experience such a fulfilling opportunity.