One of the first things that you notice about Indonesia, and something you are reminded of all through the day, is that these are some of the friendliest, kindest people on earth.
Wherever we go, we are greeted by Hello!, salamet pagi/siang/sore/malam or OBAMA! (accompanied by a big thumbs up). Meeting the people is a great joy and I only wish I could speak Bahasa Indonesia so as to interact more deeply.
Below are a collection of photos from the bustling city of Yogyakarta in central Java, accompanied with a little story about the person or how I got the picture. One thing I love about countries like Indonesia is that people are open, and often eager, to having thier photo taken. For a naturally shy person like me who usually photographs Alaskan landscapes, this makes it easy.
My wife is a school-girl magnet. On our first real day of sightseeing we met this group of school kids outside the Sultan’s Palace. The grown man is their teacher and it was the first time they’d ever spoken English to a westerner. The girls gathered around Kristi and I chatted with the three boys. Kristi is now Facebook friends with the girls.
“What is your favorite Premier League football player?” one of the boys asked me. That was a trick question for an American.
They all seemed like really good kids. I hope the are successful in life.
These students stopped me on the street and asked me to do a survey about clean air.
STUDENTS: Where are you from?
ME: USA, America, United States (I always toss out all three. One is bound to stick, with two others drawing blank stares.)
STUDENTS: What do you think of Yogyakarta?
ME: It is great. Nice people, great food.
STUDENTS: How many country have you wisited?
STUDENTS: (Wide eyed, not sure if they heard correctly) 45?
STUDENTS: What do you think of clean air?
ME: (pregnant pause) Um…It is good? Clean air is good?
STUDENTS: One final question. How much money do you have?
ME: (looking to Kristi for help) Um, repeat the question? (After the question was repeated like 3 times)
ME: We are middle class in America/USA/United States?
Standing on a street corner, we suddenly realized we’d drawn the attention of a large Muslim family. Someone in the family finally worked up the nerve to ask for our photo, then we all took turns getting photos taken together.
The funny thing: before each photo was taken, they all sported beaming smiles and open body language. As soon as the camera went up, they all assumed rigid poses and stoic facial expressions. You wouldn’t know they were laughing instants before the pics were taken.
A warung, or street food stall. We had a meal of fried fish and jackfruit curry. The bowl of chili sauce that accompanied our meal was some of the hottest I’ve ever tasted, causing rivulets of sweat to pour down my face. I love hot food, by the way. The young children liberally slathered their food with the fire sauce and ate it like it was no big deal. When I was like two years old I evidently ate a jalepeno and cried for days. These kids are tough.
Everywhere else I’ve been in Asia, the motorcycle taxi, or Tuk Tuk, is configured in an opposite way. The motorbike portion is in front and pulls the carriage. I like that better. Riding a tuk tuk in Indonesia is not for the faint of heart as the driver swerves into oncoming traffic to overtake bikes and pedestrians and vehicles hurtle towards you overtaking from the opposite lane. If I suddenly stop updating this blog, that is probably how I died.
So, the guy with the tripod in the center arrived about 45 minutes before sunset, scouted his location, adjusted his graduated filter and waited for dusk. Meanwhile, a tour group of about 75 locals kids mobbed him, wanting to get the same photo. They shouted at the numerous people who dared get in their way. Their shouting was futile – I don’t think they ever got the shot without others in the way.
If you looked at all these photos and read the captions, you probably feel like the girl on the back of the bike, who looks a little tired and bored. Life is lived out in the open here, which makes for great people watching and close interaction for the locals, but is hard when you are a tired kid fighting off sleep on the back of a motorbike.
Planet Bell Note: Wifi has been very elusive on this trip even though we’ve been in the more touristy and populous islands of Java and Bali. It may take a while to answer comments and posts may be a little sporadic. And to my fellow bloggers: I’ll catch up on your adventures when I get a chance.
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