Scott’s never really bought in to the idea that every moment should be productive. Karen holds to this as a fundamental truth. Somewhere along the way, we have moved to somewhere in the middle, between the two extremes of work aversion and workaholism. Scott really values downtime and relaxation, but he’s learning not to squander the life he has left just lazing around. Karen is slowly learning that just because you aren’t ‘busy’ or working, doesn’t mean you’re just wasting your life away. She’s learning to relax once in a while, learning to stop always looking for something to “accomplish.”
We have a lot to get done right now. We’ve done some sight-seeing here in beautiful Yogyakarta. There’s even an active volcano nearby that erupted as recently as 2010, blasting hot rocks and ash over the surrounding countryside. Mount Merapi is the stereotype of the pacific rim volcano. Like something you’d see in a cartoon. Conical with a flat cone at the top. It’s a mesmerizing site at sunrise.
But sight-seeing, as fun as it is, is not really the point of this 10-day layover. We need to prepare our workshops for delivery in Nepal for the NDI’s week-long capacity-building school for political partiess in a couple of weeks. We also need to plan our travel to India September to December. India requires some planning. For one, India is chaotic and frustrating. If you’ve ever been there on your own (ie., not part of an organized tour), you’ll know this to be true. The other factor is that we’ll be there in high season, which is good for the weather, but bad for the crowds and accommodation availability.
So what have been “accomplishing”? Quite a bit, actually. It’s an exciting and interesting time to be here in Yogyakarta. Every year during the end of Ramadan, many Indonesians, especially from Jakarta, travel here to Yogya to celebrate and relax. The end of fasting each day has been greeted by vigorous and loud prayers, fireworks, and people flooding the streets to partake in the tasty offerings allowed for consumption starting at sunset. The fried tempeh and fried tofu, rice and chillies in banana leaves are particularly good. The special kind of coffee call Kopi Jos is not even describable. Scott lost his mind when he had his firt one. It’s just fantastic. Kopi Jos is a strong jar of coffee into which a glowing red-hot piece of charcoal is added. The resulting sizzle is what gives the drink its name — “Jos!” It’s also incredibly delicious. Something in the chemical interaction between the boiling hot coffee and the red-hot chunk of coal result in something rich and full of coffee pleasantness.
The day before yesterday was Eid (pronounced “eed”), here called Idul Fitur. There were parades across the city starring thousands of colourfully-dressed (and unbelievably cute) children dressed up and carrying lanterns. Many children carried Spongebob Squarepants lanterns and balloons… We’re not sure what spiritual role Spongebob Squarepants plays now in the modern Indonesian Islamic holiday, but clearly the character is warmly embraced by many in the celebrations. To a lesser extent, Angry Birds characters are also a favourite…
In the days leading up to Eid, we did a walking tour of local village neighbourhoods, especially along the riverside here. For all of our tours we used this amazing organization: ViaVia Jogja Travel: Tours and Courses. Totally sustainable, tours are designed to maximize benefit for the local people and tour guides (all of which are women). It was really interesting. As we walked we encountered local people tending to their bird cages, very popular here, preparing evening meals, caring for children as they played outside, and generally just getting on with life.
We visited the ancient Buddhist temple of Borobudur, which is strikingly similar to the ruins of Angkor Wat. We went there at sunrise, leaving our guesthouse at 5:00 AM. It was lovely.
On another tour….We also got to see the many ancient Hindu temple ruins that cover the entire area, including the most famous complex at Prambanan. We did this tour by motorcycle. It was a total blast! Our guides took us along the winding, scenic routes through villages and rice fields.
For the last few days we’ve been working… Trying to be “productive.” Our guest house, or more accurately, our home stay, is lovely. It’s called De Pendopo. The family who owns it is sincerely wonderful. Budi, the dad, actually worked for NDI Indonesia at one point. His wife works for the World Bank. They were thrilled to learn we’ve worked for NDI. This is a very quiet place to stay. They are not taking any guests this week because of the holidays, so we feel especially lucky to be here. Good thing we booked months ago.
Later today we plan to do some shopping. Yogyakarta is ground zero for traditional Javanese handicrafts, including batik. So we’re going to pick up some sarongs and longyis for ourselves (for Burma) and for some friends.
On August 23rd, we travel back to Jakarta by night train. We’ll be in Jakarta for three more nights before we fly back to Nepal.