Taking the Jakarta Jump
On September 23rd, 2004, eleven thousand miles after boarding a plane in Charlotte, North Carolina, I disembarked in Jakarta. This is what's been happening since...
Friday, June 16, 2006
My Fellowship in Jogjakarta is rapidly approaching its end. It's been a breathtaking, eventful year, both professionally and personally, and I wouldn't have it any other way, though everyone here could have done without the earthquake and the volcano, and I wouldn't have minded forgoing the wart...
All the teachers I've been building with this year survived the quake, but only two-thirds of them managed to pull themselves back to the seriously damaged campus for the final, and extra week of classes they requested. Of these 15, at least four lost their homes, and for the most part their towns, 2 are fairly seriously injured, and as a group they eleted to have class in the lobby of our building, feeling too skittish to concentrate in a 2nd-floor classroom far from the doors and open skies. They are wonderful group, full of promise, and I will miss them.
Wednesday, June 14, 2006
The Circle Game
I'm not in Gaza. I'm not in Israel. I'm certainly not in Iraq. Or New Orleans. But I was in DC on 9/11, and I watched the Pentagon burn for several nights, though I didn't know anyone who died. I only saw their families' and Government's reactions. And now I am in Jogjakarta, and I've finally seen the altered states we enter into when inexplicable pain transforms our relationship with our environment. Not to say I've never grieved or been close to grievers, but so many -- that's different and informative. Yuli tracked down a friend of hers from university, and found she'd lost her mother. An old woman wanted to take us to the spot where they buried her daughter-in-law carrying her first grandchild six months along. We begged out, but her son was nearby, asking someone, more than two weeks after the fact, "Where's Nia? When does she come back?" In the days after the quake he had seemed the most together of that area's victims. Another resident shows us where the earth opened up, swallowed a river, and ruined any hope their generations-old kampung now has of surviving on their homeland.
The convoy drives daily, and they see hundreds of victims everyday. The majority still smile, trying to shake off their personal disaster and 'soldier' on. They take the shovels and clear the homestead. They team with others and tear down walls anticipating rebuilding. They may complain about their invisible government, or how little their children now have, but they smile, and somehow I know their families will recover.
A significant percentage remain visibly stunned, but still functioning. They walk their children through the rubble, they sit on salvaged couches, beds and balays by the side of the road a few meters from their tents and uncleared land. They eat, they stare off into the distance, but they are there. They, too, may still find a path to recovery.
But the others. Grief and shock turning to rage and madness. In Allah and God a possible answer, and this can only be explained as an act of Allah and God. There is nothing acceptable on which to vent the grief and rage, of which there is so much. So I have to wonder what any humans think they can gain from committing acts that fuel such emotions? I used to hear modern poetry about ending the cycles of hatred and war… once in awhile a politician would actually make it into office having talked about these cycles. But it's been a long time since that happened anywhere. Instead we only hear reports of humans creating situations like the one I'm living now, and threats to make more of them. So much ignorance, all over the world.
Saturday, June 10, 2006
Didn't really provide enough detail in the "surreality" post: at halftime an Indonesian cover band played a couple of reasonably pleasant cover tunes. After the match, the band came back, here between the earthquake and the volcano, and sang a few more songs. Right now, between the quake and 'no, seemingly with no thought to the physical context, what are they singing? "What a Wonderful World". What a wonderful people, I say...
World Cup '06: Surreality
Today as many days this week, I've been sitting in a favorite resto of ours, updating the convoy blog, and catching up on itnernet-related work and communications. The connectivity here is the best I've found in Jogja, and it's free.
At about 7 PM, waiting for Yuli to get back from the hills, the Dixie Diner suddenly was overrun by Indo-style football hooligans, settling in for the England-Paraguay match, now almost over. Go England!
But here's the surreality bit: I'm an American, in a quiet ancient Javanese city, being attacked as I type by quakes from the south and a volcano from the north, surrounded by young Javenese men and women, rabidly involved in a match involving European and South American teams... As a matter of fact I'm finding myself pretty British, as I did over two World Cups in Europe (1990 London and 1994 Poznan). This time, however, four continents and two natural disasters are involved in this scene... and nearly everything stops for this tournament.
Thursday, June 08, 2006
Tuesday, June 06, 2006
The Convoy's mission and a typical day in the life are up now at www.indoquake.blogspot.com
If anyone coming across this site wishes to contribute, please stay tuned for details.
Thursday, June 01, 2006
Mountain of Love: The Gift of Giving
May 15, two weeks and many centuries before the current nightmare, we watched the beautiful volcano across the sky from my balcony finally blow off some steam after a few nights spent sipping cocktails as bright orange tracers streamed down the blackness. We'd all been holding our breaths and blocking traffic on bridges hoping for a glimpse of something. The hotels in Kaliurang we'd visited just two weeks before were now closed until further notice, the towns around evacuated. The show was on.
Wednesday, May 31, 2006
There is what remains of a becak in the middle of this photo. A bicycle-carriage, this vehicle was undoubtedly the only means of transport for the family that lived in this house, by their ricefield, some 20 KM from Jogjakarta. The man in the family must have powered it into town nearly everyday, to the tourist centers or near the better restaurants or hotels, where he waited most of the day for the one, two, or three transport jobs he would get. The he would power it back home to his wife, and/or children, and/or grandchildren with the $1, $2, or $3 dollars his calves and hamstrings had earned him. Meanwhile his wife did what was necessary at home and in the fields, of which they were certainly tenant farmers, getting 25% of the harvest every three or six months. They wee not in evidence when Yuli caught this sight -- The question is only which bit of sky are they sheltering under nearby, and how many others are with them, in the same plight?
Elsewhere, it was complete and utter devestation, with countless people on their sleeping mats, if they were lucky, or the wet ground or road, if they were not, awaiting tents, tarps, blankets, towels for baby blankets, any kind of nourishment, in ad-hoc homemade shelterless community "shelters". And this, on Day 4.
I find this the most harrowing of Yuli's pics. The reason you can barely make out the dwellings on the other side of this paddy is because they are not there. Yuli found this scene repeated throughout her drive yesterday. There are no dwellings, and the farmers here, tenant farmers, have no transport, and will be able to retain only 25% of this baby rice crop when it is harvested... in two months. The quake hit at the end of the month, which means they have no money. And no aid has found them thus far.
Pictures from Sat through Monday are below the narrative of the last few days, which is next.
Saturday: I feel the Earth Move
Mom and Claude aren't even back in
Sunday: My City of Ruin
Monday: Reason To Believe
I called Cahyati again and got the same response. Yuli and Emma stuffed lunch sandwiches made from the buffet into Yuli’s bag, ate breakfast and headed south. I packed up the room, checked out of the hotel, and began the wait for a taxi, present now, but rare. I ran our stuff home, then went to the site of my workshop, intent on finding Cahyati (whose name means “the light”). At the seminar site, the American Corner of Gadja Made University (UGM),
Settled Down Like Rain
The situation is settling. My former radio show host, Orly, who lost a lot of her SMSed me that she was happy her family were alive, and that now they “just have to live without roofs”, as it would be impossible to rebuild it. How’s that for optimism?
One village of rice farmers (most of the worst hit are rice farmers), had just finished a harvest, so they have rice. But their buildings fell down Saturday, and the pounding rains soaked their rice crop. They dried it in the hot baking sun today, cooked it, and ate it, and made themselves sick.
This is the new mall that opened just a few months ago, which should never have been built in the first place. It smelled troughout of multiple quick money-laundering schemes, and seeing as no one was hurt in its collapse, and no one could have been making a profit on their business within, I'm thrilled it now stands as a lesson to all concerned. Let's pray they learn.
Tuesday, May 30, 2006
Sunday, April 23, 2006
Under the Sea
On nearly an impulse, upon the discovery of a surprise national four-day weekend (these appear unpredicably now and then), and with mom and Claude's visit next month, we decided to off to the sea and become divers...
So there we were a few days later on Lombok, the next-door polite and quiet neighbor to relatively raucous Bali. We'd spotted a just-about-right in all ways resort on the beach on the Internet, and Julia'd done her magic thing about the prices, and there it was, our bungalow for four nights...At the beachside front edge of this tranquil garden, with only the occasional hawker, a pack of beach dogs, and the crashing of the waves. We didn't see the sun for four days (will this rainy season EVER end?), but who's counting anymore now. It's absence didn't affect our adventure,
whose hosts we found right next door to our bungalow in the dining room.
Our plans now fixed (Julia did that magic thing with money again, and I played along), we went to the beach to learn about crashing Indian Ocean waves, currents, and crunchy sand in nasty places... Orange shirt courtesy of Hilton Head, NC, circa 1998.
So the next day, after the swimming pool lessons it was on the kit,
Out to the beautiful blue Gilley islands,
Where there are no cars or roads...
Imagine what's going on down there, then go find out for ourselves with our instructor Pak Lulu...
2 dives later, a little euphoria, and after our exam the next morning, we're Open Water certified and ready to go diving with Claude next month...
Last Stop in Kaliurang: The Japanese Caves
So we were heading back to Jogja in the car when Julia pointed to a sign that said "Japanese caves -->". Having just finished Neal Stephenson's fabulous Cryptonomicon, in which a great deal of the story hinges on Japanese caves buried in dense Philippines jungle, I couldn't resist. We were all a bit tired out after our morning hike, and needing to get home, but a quick stop seemed the thing to do.
The attendant assured us the caves were just a kilometre over that way, and yes, the walk was easy and sandals were fine... besides tickets were only a nickel apiece. Who could say no? We chuckled at the sign below, posted at the entrance to the park:
This sign is a joke. OK, it isn't really a joke... but yes it is, really a joke. It says "no litter here", and maybe but I don't remember for sure, MAYBE there really wasn't any litter right there. In it's larger context, however, it means "no litter in this area" which probably meant in the park area. I still haven't found a way to understand how such a huge percentage of a population can make such a dumping ground of their entire living space -- work and office areas, outdoor areas, gardens, driveways, streets... nothing is spared... That's why the walk in the jungle below and observing the "buffalo soldiers" and "sand haulers" working in their pristine habitat is so interesting... it's just the city and townfolk who befoul their space...why?
Anyway -- on with the the little cave excursion...
Neal Stephenson knew what he was talking about. The trek to the caves was anything but a walk in the park. The three of us were getting pretty bitchy after about twenty minutes in fairly broiling sun sliding around in sandals. We'd already seen the views, after all, and this was just supposed to be a little hop over to some WWII relics to inform my imagination of scenes described in that fantastic novel...
So we took a seat at a thoughtfully-provided rest bench, and, if only she'd taken off her sunglasses, we had ourselves our first near-perfect pic.
And at last, after nearly 30 minutes straight uphill in sandles, following our gruelling sweat-soaked morning hike, our "short stop" on the way back home delivered us here. We'd even stopped to ask a bunch of teenagers hanging out on the path if we'd lost the way, and they pointed us around the corner saying "just over there".
They were giggleing behind us as we trudged on. When we finally got to the three little holes in the mountainside, and that's all they were, I remembered the ticket seller in his booth by the smelly neglected pool at the bottom of the hill. It sure had seemed like a nickel wasn't much to support the upkeep of a local tourist sight.
And there is no support. Absolutely no information up here. No way to know the Japanese blasted these caves, or when. And the truth is, no one cares... here on this mountain of love... among the giggling teenagers as a middle-aged bule jumped the queue trailing two beautiful young Asian women... after taking flash photos in all 3 fully-occupied caves we were back out of there and heading down the hill in a hurry! I even tried to discourage one European family from continuing on their trek to where we had just been led. No success, I fear.
To everything a season
Can't begin to explain, but this IS seasonal coloring, or maybe this tree is just sick... but it's the only non-green I have seen in 20-odd months in Indo. And two weeks ago on our last visit it was green. On that seasonal note -- Julia brought a couple of plants onto my patio in December. Soon after that, they were just sticks in dirt, and I figured the leaves had been a tasty snack for our little lizard friends, or for our lizard friends' tasty snacks. But last month I saw leaves all over these two plants, and a week ago they sprouted honest-to-God roses! How cool is that??? Seasonal plants still know when it's supposed to be winter even when there is no winter!!! Do they teach that in grade school?
On the return visit the weather was better and I expected a five o'clock monkey show, so I actually scored some almost OK pictures of the tribe that flies through the jungle and over our railing when we visit Kaliurang. This was a newbie, however, and one of a kind. I forget what the hotel staff called him, but the poor guy's a loner -- the only one of his species here (boy, does THAT sound familiar!), and is forever crashing through the trees and dropping to the jungle floor tagging along behind the resident "natives" -- who are much smaller but greater in number. The others are further along down the road...
Return to the Mountain of Love
We had such rich weekend that we went back for more two weeaks later. Something ominous about all that smoke, dontcha think? Well, hiked up to the vest viewpoint again, and this time I bought one of the pics of the last time Merapi wasn't feeling too loving: here it is...
You know, it's hugely embarrassing to admit this, but I've had a spectacular view of Merapi from my balcony for the last seven months in this house, AND NEVER NOTICED! You think maybe I don't need two floors? Truth is, it's rarely visible because it's been rainy and cloudy nearly the whole time... but
The tigers and monkies and all the non-male, non-twenty-to-thirty something population of the mountain have fled their homes on Merapi, because she is apparently not feeling too happy. That lava-bed floor in the pics below will soon be covered with a fresh gift, and I may still be watching from my balcony. Here's hoping it all ends OK. More special sand and other gifts for the local industries...
Mountain of Love
A weekend in Kaliurang, at the base of Mt. Merapi, one of Java's most active volcanoes. Much to learn here, about how many ways this mountain is loved, and loves in return. We watched tourists, mountain-dwellers, and wildlife interact with the smoking beast for a couple of wonderful days. It started here.
At first, quiet was difficult to find. The whole weekend proved to be a fascinating experience in observing two utterly separate cultures use the park, jungles, and the Mountain of Love, Merapi. Today was the day of the tourists... this gentleman was sure we were going to collapse at some point and he would then be able to feed his family for a week on the proceeds from the water sales he would score. We played hide and seek (actually, more like "red light, green light", but I eventually stopped and let him pass us so he would get the message. There wasn't much on this first hike that let us feel we were in the wild, but it was still an interesting walk, and we scored the guide for the next day's adventure during it.