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Yogyakarta Day 3: Friday, August 4, 2017

David painting batik

David Black paiting a batik floral design at the Museum Batik Yogyakarta

Before going up to my room the day before, I sat down with the concierge at the front desk as they had a sign saying they could work out any tour we wanted. I had some specific things I wanted to still see and do in Yogyakarta, so I designed a custom tour. But knowing that I would need to take it easy in the morning due to the strenuous day I had the day before, I decided to start the tour at 1:00 and have the morning to do what I wanted.

Vine covered tree

I walked past this tree, covered in vines, on my way to the museum.

When I woke up after a nice sleep in, I showered and dressed and headed down to the lobby for breakfast. It had been too early the day before to eat the complimentary breakfast buffet, but I was hungry this morning. They had some good items, such as a delicious bread pudding, fruit, and different juices.

Types of canting

Canting (pronounced “chanting”) are pens that hold the batik wax (malam) and come in different styles and spout sizes depending on the types of lines or dots desired.

I looked over my computer to see what to do this morning. I hadn’t made it to the Kraton yet – they are supposed to have nice dancing and wayang puppet shows. I also wanted to learn more about batik and perhaps take a class, but was afraid that would take too long. One other place I had researched was the Museum Batik Yogyakarta. I discovered it was very near my hotel – only about two blocks away. So I grabbed my camera and a bottle of water and headed out.

Drawn cartoon

The first step is to draw a pencil line drawing or cartoon that is traced through the cloth.

I walked to the intersection near the hotel, then turned east and walked two blocks. I turned north for half a block, then took a smaller alleyway back west and around to the entrance to the museum (I had to follow the signs). I must have been early or before opening time, because they didn’t have anyone ready to purchase my ticket. But they got their act together and I paid a small fee to enter. The museum itself began with a display of different types of canting, some from various provinces or with various types of openings, for doing single and double dots or lines, etc. It had a display of how to make the wax for batik, called malam, and of different dye stuffs. It showed some small stoves designed by this museum to use a votive candle to melt the wax. It showed how patterns are drawn.

Waxed lines

The traced pencil lines on the cloth are then draw over with malam (wax) using a canting.

I wasn’t allowed to photograph the batik samples themselves, but they were OK with my photographing the process. The museum itself was rather dark without much lighting, so I hope I held still enough to get some photos in focus. A lady came to act as a guide for me by this time, and I photographed a variety of cap designs. They had a huge embroidered tapestry of the Last Supper (based on Da Vinci’s painting) and of Jerusalem (the lady who started this museum was a Christian).

Caps

Alternatively, a design can be stamped or printed onto the fabric by dipping these copper strip patterns, called “cap” (pronounced “chop”) into the malam wax and pressing it onto the cloth. The museum had many caps on display.

I also took photos of a woman doing some batik waxing and of their store. I bought some malam wax and the burner kits, and they gave me samples of bark used for dyes (possibly sandalwood). All of this was packaged into a nice bag.

Painting dyes

Samples of batik dyes. They are now made from synthetic materials, but the museum also had displays of natural dyestuffs. In this case, the dyes are painted on with a brush between the waxed lines, something like paint-by-numbers or watercolors. They had these samples so visitors could practice painting designs.

I was the only one touring the museum, and it was a bit out of the way, but I learned a lot and got some good photos of the procees. Combined with what I got at the workshop two days before, and my own class in Jakarta, I now have good footage to use for a video on batik.

I walked back to the hotel and laid down for a while to cool off in the air conditioning. Noon time prayer started, and two different mosques were calling out the salat. I recorded some video of it, because the stereophonic sound was quite compelling. The muezzins in these mosques are very good.

Hotel circles cap

A cap with circular patterns in the Hotel Jambuluwuk lobby.

Preparing for third color

To get multiple colors in batiks that are immersion dyed, the wax must be applied several times to different areas and on both sides of the cloth. Here, a lady is waxing an area to cover a color so that the batik can be dyed a third color.

Historic batik

I wasn’t allowed to take close up photos of most of the batik patterns, but my guide did allow me to take this photo showing the samples of batiks they had displayed at the museum.

Dutch and royal patterns

A combination of influences are seen in this batik, where the patterns in the background represent Indonesian royalty. The floral patterns are a Dutch influence.

Single color batik

A single-color batik, with the wax removed to leave white un-dyed cloth.

Styles of canting

Different styles of canting. Based on my trials at school, using a canting is tricky as the wax has to remain at just the right temperature; too hot, and it will be too thin and run or splatter. Too cool, and it will solidify and plug the spout of the canting.

Painted batik

A hand painted batik. The wax acts as a barrier to prevent colors from spilling or spreading, and it is then boiled out to leave white lines where the wax was.

David tracing cartoon

I am practicing tracing a cartoon design through the cloth.

Kit for sale

The museum had a gift shop with batik kits for sale, including a small folding paper stove with votive candle for melting the malam, wedge-shaped chunks of malam itself, cantings, dyes, and patterns. I didn’t buy entire kits, as I figured we already had the dyes from our tie dye experiments and I can get embroidery hoops easily in America. So I purchased several stoves, more malam, and more cantings for my students. They through in a bag of the reddish bark in the jar, which I believe is sandalwood.

 

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Yogyakarta Day 1: Wednesday, August 2, 2017

 

Motorized becak

This is the motorized becak driver I rented to get from Malioboro Street back to the Hotel Jambuluwuk. Many becak are essentially backwards tricycles – seats supported by two wheels mounted before a single wheel and seat on which the driver sits and pedals. This one was mounted on a motorcycle frame, which made for a faster ride and some fun video. I would have walked, but I was out of water, overheated, and hungry. It only cost about $5.

After walking along Malioboro Street in Yogyakarta for about an hour, I finally decided that I had seen enough for now and was in need of food. I didn’t feel like walking all the way back to the Hotel Jambuluwuk in this heat and I was out of the bottled water I had been carrying, so I hailed a becak driver. This one had the customer seat mounted on a motorcycle, and we took off after I climbed aboard. I took some fun video of us weaving through the streets. Within a few minutes we were back at the hotel.

I drank some bottled water (I was a bit dehydrated) and ate some snacks I had bought at the Alpha Mart. I laid out the purchases I had made – my new garish multicolored leather hat, my artistic batiks, the wooden bicycle and colorful dress – and took photos of them to send to my wife for approval. I rested for a while, then was ready to head out on my next expedition.

Becak driver

This was my second becak driver, this one on a traditional pedaled frame. He took me from the hotel down to the Kraton, which wound up being closed, then to a restaurant for supper. This is a common way for people to get around here – you see becaks all over the city.

This time I wanted to head to the historic Kraton area of Yogyakarta. I had a map and could have walked, but decided to try a pedicab (becak) instead, since it wasn’t very expensive. It didn’t take long to find one, as they park at most intersections or can be hailed as they peddle past. This driver spoke pretty good English and when I explained where I wanted to go, he said the Karaton was most likely closed by now (it was after 5:00) but he knew a place to get some good batik. Of course he did. Everyone here seems to have their connections.

There are times that I have felt guilty as a “wealthy” and decadent American, for example having poor pedicab drivers drive me around the city. I have to keep thinking that this is a normal and accepted way of getting around here, and that the becak drivers choose this as their livelihood. I don’t try to negotiate them down to prices so low that they can’t make a living; $4 for a ride of about one mile is considered a good fare here and it certainly saves me time and sweat. A good thing for both parties. Having me for a fare is certainly better for them than sitting around with no fare at all. I refuse to feel guilty for helping people make a living.

Keraton

The Karaton or administrative center of Yogyakarta. When the Dutch controlled Indonesia, this was the government center for this part of Java, and is still a center of culture, with dances, wayang puppet shows, and gamelon orchestra performances daily. Unfortunately, by the time we got there, it was closed. I didn’t get the chance to return. My becak driver did take me to a batik store he knew, where I bought two nice scarves.

So I climbed aboard and off we went. The city has fairly flat topography with a dip around the river. He had to work a bit to get us up the hill on the other side. We cut across to the road that parallels Malioboro Street, then headed south to a large grassy area and old white colonial style buildings in the heart of the town. As he said, these buildings (the Karaton or old administrative capital) and the museums nearby were closed. We continued on a couple of blocks, then turned west and went down a more narrow road with batik and clothing shops on both sides. We stopped in front of one he said had a good selection and I went in. The front part of the store had clothing that was a bit beyond my price range, but I found some inexpensive yet beautiful scarves in the back. I bought one for my daughter and one for my sister.

Jogja map-s

A map of Yogyakarta. The map I had from the Hotel Jambuluwuk was better, but still not very detailed. The roads are not this straight, except for Malioboro Street itself. After buying the scarves (yellow circle) my becak driver took me to a restaurant (green circle) on the other side of the Karaton where I ate fried chicken (ayam goreng). I then walked (purple lines) up Jalan A. Yani and Malioboro. I stopped at a Dunkin Donuts across the street, then continued on the west side all the way up past the train tracks before realizing I had gone too far, then doubled back, but still missed my road, went back north again until I finally rented another pedicab at the north end of Malioboro St. I should have marked the location of my hotel on my map before I left (located on this map as the red circle).

My driver was waiting for me as I came out – I suppose having a guaranteed fare was better than looking around for one even if he had to wait for me while I shopped. We pumped up the gentle hill back to the Karaton and I told him all I wanted was to find a place to eat, as I was very hungry by now. My snacks had not kept me going very long. He said he knew a good place, so we circled around the grassy area to the east side. A road led due east away from the Karaton, and in less than a block we stopped at an open-air but covered restaurant similar to others I’ve eaten at here in Indonesia. I insisted to my driver that I was done and wanted to walk back to the hotel from here, so he finally left after I paid him.

Malioboro Street 2

Malioboro Street near the Karaton looking north.

I ordered some Ayam Goreng (fried chicken) as that seemed a safe bet. It was inexpensive and not a large portion, but was the best tasting fried chicken I had in Indonesia. I figured I could find some additional snacks along Malioboro Street.

It was twilight as I left the restaurant (evening comes early in the tropics) and the action on Malioboro Street was just ramping up. There were stalls selling a variety of foods (I never did try the gudeng stew that is a specialty here – I didn’t dare eat from the street vendors selling it) but the food, which was out on display in steaming pots, looked very enticing. Then I saw a sign across the road for Dunkin Donuts, so I stopped in and had two of them. I was now good to go.

Food stall

Food stalls along Malioboro Street near the Karaton.

As it grew darker, I walked down the street, sometimes on the sidewalk, somethings further onto the street past the carriage drivers where there was more room, sometimes I entered the shops or stopped to look at the open stalls. There were a lot of tourists, including Indonesians and Europeans or Australians, and it all had the air of a bazaar or fleamarket. I’m not much into shopping, as I have said before, but this was as much a cultural experience as it was shopping, so I just went with the flow and enjoyed it.

Food stall 2

More food at a buffet restaurant on Malioboro St. We had been warned at the Embassy not to eat food from a street vendor, and I had just eaten fried chicken anyway, which I topped off with two Dunkin Donuts across the street.

I found some very colorful (and cheap) shirts for my two younger sons and a wallet for myself as a Christmas present. I took some photos. I passed a Chinese temple. I came to train tracks and crossed them, and eventually ran out of stores. I hadn’t been paying much attention to where I was, so I finally pulled out my map and realized I had gone too far for my street back to the Hotel Jambuluwuk. I must have missed it in the dark. I walked back across the railroad tracks, but didn’t see the cross street I was looking for and decided maybe I hadn’t gone far enough, so I back stepped again – I finally realized that I didn’t exactly know where the entrance to my road back was. I wasn’t really lost, as I knew I was on Malioboro Street (that was obvious) but it is a long street. And my feet were getting very tired.

Malioboro Street 3

Malioboro Street looking north, just after sunset.

I found a group of becak drivers hanging out at the end of the last stores and asked one for a ride back. He knew where my hotel was (great!) but I didn’t have the right change to pay him, so I gave him a 100,000 rupiah bill that I fished out of the reserve pouch that I have velcroed under my pants on my left calf. He got change with another driver, and gave me back two bills. I thought he had taken his fare out already and had given me one 50,000 and one 5,000 bill (we had negotiated for 45,000 or about $4), but he actually gave me back two 50,000 bills. It was difficult to negotiate since his English was sketchy and my Indonesian is even more limited.

Malioboro at night

Malioboro Street at night.

I got aboard, happy for a chance to sit down. He peddled back the way I had come – I had gone much further than I had thought – and turned onto my road back, which I don’t know if I would have ever recognized in the dark as it isn’t a very wide road. We peddled across the bridge and he pumped me up to the road leading to the hotel (Jalan Gajah Mada). We pulled up to the hotel, and he asked for his money. I thought I had already paid him (that he had taken his pay from my 100,000 bill), so I told him I had already paid. It took the help of the doorman at the hotel for us to communicate and for me to realize the fault was mine. I not only paid the driver my negotiated amount but a good tip besides. He was much happier.

Shopping spree 2b

The results of my second outing to Malioboro Street. I bought two T-shirts for my sons, two scarves, and two printed batik style shirts (very inexpensive). The brown tailed cap is the style of hats in Yogyakarta. The wooden bicycle was purchased earlier in the day, along with the colorful leather hat.

This was the only time in Indonesia where I had major trouble with a language barrier, and it was my own pride as an American that got in the way, making assumptions and being too suspicious of someone. I thought he was trying to rip me off. He wasn’t. I learned to be more careful of my money and to pay attention to the bills more. The 50,000 and 5,000 bills are both blue, so they look similar but are for widely different amounts.

It felt good to get back to my room. I left a message at the front desk to give me a wake-up call for 3:00 in the morning, and ate a few of the snacks I’d brought back from my stop at the Alpha Mart earlier. I had a bottle of red Stroberi Fanta that I drank from and left by my bedside, but I must not have put the lid on all the way. Sometime during the night, I bumped the bottle off the nightstand and a small amount of the red pop spilled onto the carpet. It was to be problem, because by the time I discovered it, I wasn’t able to get the stain out.

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Yogyakarta Day 1: Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Dragon batik-undistort

A Chinese dragon batik to be displayed as art, done by a master.

On my first afternoon in Yogyakarta, Indonesia I walked from the Hotel Jambuluwuk to Malioboro Street. On the way, two people diverted me to a batik exhibition. Although I was a bit suspicious that so many people wanted to help me find the place, I wanted to buy some authentic batik, not just prints. So off I went.

Batik art 4

Traditional Javanese fold art batik, for sale at the batik exhibition.

The batik workshop was just off of a main road that runs perpendicular to Malioboro Street. It is a school for training batik master artists. It takes four years to complete the program. Examples of student and master works were stacked up along the walls and hanging up everywhere, each in a temporary wooden frame labeled with a letter. The price list depended on the letters, and the pieces I really liked were too expensive for me. I knew I would probably spend more here than for all other souvenirs combined elsewhere, but I had found what I was looking for: true artistic batik, not prints. These are not for clothing but to frame and hang up.

Abstract artist

Batik artist showing an example of his work. His designs are abstract and polychromatic. He also explained the process to us.

There were many styles, such as abstract works with mainly blues and purples, loosely drawn images in oranges, reds, and crimsons which I liked a great deal. Some were realistic, some were stylistic. I finally found the cheapest ones in a corner marked “K” and found a particular style of dotted outlines showing images of Buddhas and Ganeshas from Borobudur and Prambanan. There was a small volcano image done by the orange-crimson stylist that I picked out. I was able to put them up against an LED light to see how the light transmitted through the cloth.

Batik art

Stacks of batik art awaiting sale at the “exhibition.” Prices depended on the status of the artist and size of the batik: student works sold for less than masters’ works, and smaller less than larger. You can see the styles of various artists here – the abstract artist of the previous photo on the bottom right, the folk art style at the bottom middle, and so on. I spent quite a bit of time looking for the least expensive yet attractive batiks that also provided a sense of Yogyakarta.

In a side room people were demonstrating how to do batik to the many tourists there. I was the only American, but there were Australians and Europeans from various places watching. A young man was talking about how batik is done while a woman demonstrated the process. I videotaped what he was saying. He was the artist who did the blue-purple abstract works. After he was done, another artist came up for the next group. He was the master who did the free-style red and crimson works, including the volcano I quite liked. I got some good photos and videos here.

Woman with canting 3

A woman demonstrating the process of batik. She is dipping her canting pen into a pot of melted malam, or batik wax, and tracing the wax along drawn lines on the cloth. Some artists pre-draw intricate patterns, others draw freehand. Some paint dye inside the lines, others create a more general dyed pattern with the wax keeping areas white like a blueprint.

I decided, after quite a bit of searching, to buy three of the student projects with the dotted outlines – two Buddhas, one in shades of magenta with a craquelure finish and one in blues. The other was a yellow-green Ganesha. Then I decide to buy the volcano, which I showed to the artist. He confirmed it was one of his, and even posed holding it up – but he insisted on taking it out of its frame and putting the frame around himself, since he was the greatest work of art. Funny guy. Altogether I spent about $70 U.S. for these four pieces. That’s less than $20 each, which is not bad for original batik art. Perhaps if I had time to search I could have found cheaper stuff, but here I had the added value of meeting the artists themselves. Despite the agents pulling us in to this place, I did not feel ripped off or hustled while there. It saved me time and I got to see some truly beautiful pieces, as you can tell from my photos, which really don’t do them very much justice.

Most valuable artist

A piece of batik that I bought, and the artist who created it. This is a painting of Mt. Merapi, near Yogyakarta. He felt that he was an even greater piece of art, which is why he is framing himself. The piece of the dragon and the horses are also his works.

Shopping spree 1

Altogether I bought four pieces of artistic batik, three by a student that had similar designs – two of buddhas from Borobudur and one of a Ganesha from Prambanan. For these pieces, the student used wax dots to follow outlines, but different areas of cloth were also waxed and dyed separately; the outer areas were also crumbled by had to make a craquelure pattern. The Gunung Merapi piece is on the right. My crazy leather hat is in front. I two other items were bought later, as described in my next post.

Batik art 5

This is a nice piece – I like the play of colors, but it was a bit out of my price range.

Batik art 3

A highly ornate piece where the colors are painted between the lines of wax.

Woman with fan-horses batiks

Two different styles of batik: on the left, the design is pre-drawn on cloth and the wax added to the lines, then the areas between are painted in with dyes like a paint-by-numbers picture. On the left, a free-hand design is drawn with wax, then the entire piece colored in one pass. Sometimes a cross between these two methods is used by waxing over large areas and dyeing others, then alternating.

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Jakarta Day 9: Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Group shot on hotel stairs-s

The Teachers for Global Classrooms 2017 Indonesia cohort. This was our last activity together before going our separate ways.

Waiting in batik 2

The group waiting for our tour bus wearing our best batik.

With our final session completed, we had one more event together: our final dinner. We dressed in our finest batik and took photos on the stairs in the hotel lobby. Then we boarded the bus and drove out of the city to a restaurant called Talaga Sampireun. It was my last experience with Jakarta traffic. At one point, the bus was stalled in a traffic jam and men with packages of snacks on their heads were walking between the cars selling them, then running to the side when the traffic started to move.

Batik clothing

Waiting for the bus wearing our batik.

The sign for the restaurant promised that it would be a “culinary experience by a lake.” It was laid out as a series of huts surrounding ponds with coi fish and was a very nice place. We took photos and talked, and the food arrived. It was delicious, and my favorite was the honey grilled shrimp on skewers.

Mid road salesman

Selling snacks to cars stuck in traffic. Entrepreneurs will pop up wherever there’s an opportunity, and Indonesia is no exception.

There were geckos climbing the walls, the first I had seen in Indonesia. I took a few photos of them. We were reluctant to leave, knowing this was the last time we would all be together. We had shared a mutual experience of learning and teaching in Indonesia even though we were in different cities, and this bonded us together.

Talaga sampireun

Our tour bus and the Talaga Sampireun restaurant sign. We had to travel for an hour to the outskirts of Jakarta to get to this place, which was a beautiful departure from other places we’d visited. It promised to be “a culinary experience by a lake.”

Some of us were extending our trips and had early departures the next day; those that were going home tomorrow would be leaving the Jakarta airport at 10:00 pm, so they were going to see the old city of Jakarta on their way out. I had wanted to get my experiences in Yogyakarta and Bali started, and the wording on the itinerary originally sent to us made the excursion tomorrow sound optional. It actually wasn’t, but my arrangements were already made. I have enjoyed Jakarta, but I want to see even more of Indonesia and am eager to get going with the limited time I have left here.

Restaurant pathway

Pathway to the restaurant rooms, which were built as separate huts overlooking ponds with koi fish. It was very quiet and peaceful here.

We said our last goodbyes in the lobby. I arranged for a taxi to take me and Nikki Moylan to the airport, as she had a flight around the same time as me. Her husband was joining her in the morning. I spent the rest of the evening repacking my bags, including the stuff I had left at the concierge desk while in Banjarmasin. I was hoping to put at least one bag into a locker at the airport and leave it there for the next five days, so I packed accordingly.

Doug and Mike-s

Doug, Mike, and Sarah at the restaurant as we have our final meal together.

And so the official part of my voyage here has ended. I will be entirely on my own now, to see how well I can survive by myself in Indonesia. I am almost out of the snacks I brought from America which have helped me in the evenings when I’ve been too tired to go find a meal. Now I’ll have to survive on Indonesian food and my limited Bahasa Indonesia knowledge. What will I learn in the final five days of my journey? I’ll report on that through more blog posts and in my final reflections once I am home.

Huts and lillypond

The restaurant consisted of separate huts around walkways and lilly ponds.

Come here little fishie

At the restaurant, feeding the koi fish.

Jennifer Nikki Ursula

Jennifer, Nikki, and Ursula at the restaurant.

Glow globes at sunset

Glow globes over the water at sunset.

Glow globes at night

Glow globes at night.

Sitting at table 2

Our group at the restaurant waiting for the main courses to arrive. It was served family style, from central plates, and included delicious honey prawns.

Geckos

Geckos on a pillar at the restaurant. This was the only time I saw them in Indonesia, and they were all over the place, perhaps because of the lilly ponds.

Group freestyle-s

Group shot at the restaurant. Freestyle!

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Jakarta Day 8: Monday, July 31, 2017

Sticky notes

One of our activities was to write down our guiding questions on a large poster paper, then write sticky notes to add observations or suggestions to each other’s questions based on our own experiences in the field.

Now that we had completed our field teaching experience and had returned to Jakarta, it was time for reflection and evaluation. What had we learned from all of this? How will this impact our teaching going forward? How will we answer the guiding questions we chose at the beginning of this experience?

We met in a conference room near the elevators on the second floor after having breakfast. It was nice having the larger buffet at the Le Meridien Hotel.

We started by reflecting on our guiding questions through writing them up and conducting a gallery stroll. My own question was: How do different human cultures approach the common problems or needs of humanity? This is a very general question, so I further defined it through some sub-questions:

1 – How do we solve the need for materials (for shelter, food, clothing, transportation, etc.)?

2 – How do we solve the need for self-expression (through art, humor, play, etc.)?

3 – How do we solve the need to understand the universe and its mysteries (through science and religion)?

Let’s look at each of these as I have answered them so far. I will add more and create final reflections after my five day extension, where I will be exploring these ideas further.

Question 1: How do we solve the need for materials (for shelter, food, clothing, transportation, etc.)?

Sasirangan swatches

We saw how humans have a desire to decorate and design through art. We we don’t need to dye cloth, but all cultures do it as these samples of sasirangan testify.

This has been an ongoing quest of mine over the last ten years as I have created the Elements Unearthed project and this website. I have explored how the chemical elements and materials were discovered, how they are made, how they are mined, refined, and turned into finished products. I continued this project while in Indonesia, although more will come later this week. I’ve brought my students along for the ride.

I took students to record video of a tour of Novatek, a synthetic diamond manufacturing company in south Provo, Utah. I had an adult student at the time that worked there and organized the tour. He acted as our tour guide and explained the history of how Tracy Hall invented the process at Bell Labs. He showed us how graphic dust is compressed and heated to form industrial diamonds for oil drills. He showed us the tetrahedral press I had seen in operation as a high school student. My students turned the footage into a short video that is on this website under the Videos tab.

Dyeing green cloth

Dyeing cloth green to make Borneo sasirangan.

But that was only part of the story. Now I have been to the Cempaka diamond mines to see have natural diamonds are recovered from deposits laid down millions of years ago. I have written about it on this blog site, and my chemistry students will turn the photos and videos into a final product for YouTube.

Dyed cloth

Dyed cloth hanging up to dry in Banjarmasin at the sasirangan factory, although it won’t dry very well in this rainstorm.

Through my batik class in Jakarta and seeing the sasirangan made in Banjarmasin, I have continued to research how fabrics and dyes are used for make clothing, following up on what we’ve been doing in my chemistry and STEAM it Up classes. This will also continue later this week.

This is all to say that this question is still being answered and will continue to be. My quest to understand materials isn’t over yet.

Question 2: How do we solve the need for self-expression (through art, humor, play, etc.)?

This is probably the most culturally unique question, as every culture has its own methods of self-expression. However, there are some common threads that I have observed here in Indonesia compared with American or western culture. We all have a need to self-express, despite it taking different forms.

Batik pattern

A batik pattern ready for dyeing. The wax (called malam and a brownish-yellow color) is applied to a penciled pattern on both sides of the cloth, then the cloth is dyed leaving the dyed portion white.

All cultures and people have a sense of the beautiful. The batik I’ve seen at the Museum Tekstil Jakarta and the sasirangan in Banjarmasin is beautiful to me, even though I don’t understand the origin of the patterns. We all have a love for colors and textures, and although the details change with culture, this love is ubiquitous in all societies.

Nikki and Jen doing batik

Nikki and Jennifer practicing batik. The small wax pen, or canting, is held at a 45 degree angle to apply the wax resist. This is definitely an art form and takes great practice.

All cultures include physical art (painting, carving, sculpture, fabrics), music, dance, puppetry, drama, etc. These take uniquely beautiful forms in different cultures – for example, the gamelon orchestras popular here that use percussion instruments, xylophones, cymbals, and drums. This might not be your particular taste in art, but the more you research its history and meaning, the more interesting it becomes. I didn’t much care for Beijing Opera in Taiwan, but that is because I didn’t understand its symbolism and history. The more we study other cultures, the richer our appreciation of their art becomes. Yet despite the differences, I am amazed at the similarities. I can enjoy and recognize harmonies and melodies from a traditional Banjarese band without ever having heard one before.

Traditional band

Traditional Borneo band in the lobby of the Swiss Belhotel in Banjarmasin.

Another form of self-expression is in the stories and jokes we tell that describe and explain the human condition. I found the Indonesian people to be ready with a smile and a joke, to be a humorous and kind people and the sort of people I would like to hang out with if I could understand their language better. We might have different beliefs and life experiences, but we are more alike than different, and we have the same goals and desires in life.

I often think that the best thing that could happen to humanity would be to meet a truly alien intelligent species, whether they are hostile, friendly, or indifferent. Seeing that we are all humans, all brothers and sisters in a very real sense, would unite us more effectively than any international movement ever could.

Question 3: How do we solve the need to understand the universe and its mysteries (through science and religion)?

I saw directly from my experience teaching science and engineering lessons in Banjarmasin that science and math are the truly universal languages. I was afraid of a communication breakdown as I attempted to teach my lessons, but with the help of Nazar’s excellent English and our universal understanding of scientific principles that the students were able to understand. I was able to teach them despite cultural and language barriers.

Laying down planets

Laying out the planet rings for the human orrery activity.

This was the question I most wanted to explore, knowing that I would be going to a largely Muslim country. I tried to observe the daily lives of my host teacher and his family as well as the people around us – the other teachers at our school, the people we met daily, the students at the schools we visited, etc.

I am a Christian. I have studied world religions and lived for two years as a missionary in Taiwan, where I experienced the religious practices of the people (and myself) every day. I have been to Israel and Jerusalem where I saw Judaism and Islam practiced. But this was the first time I saw Islam closely and on a daily basis, and try to build some bridges of understanding.

Buddha-s

A statue of the Amita Buddha at the Fwo Gwang Shan monastery near PingTung, Taiwan.

As I have found elsewhere, people of all faiths have much in common. The first is their faith itself, the desire to believe in something beyond themselves, a truth higher than themselves. Religions, if practiced purely, should teach people to do good and to be better citizens of the world. They should teach us to respect each other. It is only when people misinterpret their religions and see hate where they should see understanding that we get the extremists that cause so much damage.

Duomo-s

The cathedral and baptistry in Florence, Italy. The large dome (called the Duomo) dominates the skyline of the city and was designed by Brunelleschi.

This can happen in any religion. Back in the Middle Ages, the Crusaders were the terrorists of their day, slaughtering innocent people in the name of their supposed faith. In one horrible case, they killed Armenian Christians in Jerusalem just because they didn’t look like the sort of Christians they were used to. Whenever we start treating people in other cultures as “foreign” or “other” than ourselves, we start thinking of them as less than human, and it becomes all too easy to justify persecution or prejudice or worse.

This can only be overcome by understanding the others – getting to know them personally and seeing that we are more alike than different, that we have much in common. This trip to Indonesia has had that benefit for me, as I hoped it would. I tried to see all the people I met as potential friends if I could just learn how to communicate with them. We have common ground to build on.

Large temple-s

A large Buddhist temple in southern Taiwan.

This journey is not over, and I will continue to explore Buddhism and Hinduism as I travel to Yogyakarta and Bali later this week. I will report more fully on these ideas once my trip to Indonesia is over.

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Borneo Day 9: Saturday, July 29, 2017

 

Pedicab and food cart

A pedicab and customer, with a food cart, on the streets of Banjarmasin. Notice also that traffic drives on the left side.

This was my last full day in Borneo and a day for catching up on sleep, resting, writing, uploading photos, more resting, and visiting the Duta Mall twice.

Pedicab load

A fully-loaded pedicab. I don’t think you can get anything else on this pedicab – the passenger is completely packed in. Notice the large load and side bags on the motorcycle in front. Many people only own a motorcycle and must carry produce and everything else on them. They become experts at balancing loads!

After getting in late last night from our trip to Loksado, we had no plans until 7:15 pm, so Craig and I slept in. It felt good to have an unstructured day. I started the process of uploading my photos and videos from my camera. I took over 450 photos and over 100 videos yesterday, and the hard drive space on my computer is getting thin, so I had to transfer most of my videos so far to my external hard drive and upload the photos and videos from my camera in five sets.

Pedicab passengers

A typical pedicab with passengers in Banjarmasin.

Meanwhile, I took a shower, ate breakfast just before it ended at 9:55, and sent out my laundry (they came to my room to pick it up and delivered it crisp and clean later that afternoon). I wrote to my wife and sons to describe my trip and to promise photos that evening.

Bamboo load

Another example of an overloaded motorcycle. This one has a side cart attached loaded with bamboo.

Craig and I walked to the Duta Mall again to get lunch. It started out overcast, but by the time we got to the first intersection the sun was out and it was hot and humid. My sunburned face wasn’t happy, but there wasn’t much I could do about it. I took some photos of pedicabs, bicycle-based restaurants (resto), and the small lanes that wound past masjid near the canals. I did this because I have been thinking the past few days about what photos I still need to take, of things that most people would find fascinating that I might not be noticing.

Canal and mosque

Canal, houses, and a mosque in Banjarmasin. They refer to this city as the Venice of Indonesia, and with over 50 canals and rivers, one can see why.

I’ve commented a few times in this series of blog posts that I’ve felt at home here in Indonesia. This is largely because I lived for two years in southern Taiwan as a missionary for the LDS Church (Mormons). This was 36 years ago (1979-1981) and Taiwan then was very much like Indonesia is now, except with lots more bicycles and no cell phones. The language was harder, as they used Chinese characters instead of Latin letters, but over two years I got to speak and read the language fairly well and felt comfortable living and teaching there. Taiwan had pedicabs, scooters, three-wheeled carts, ox carts, taxis, bicycles, street-side vendors with entire restaurants on their carts, and many more things that I’ve also seen here. So I got used to it; it was just how things were in Taiwan. Indonesia has felt familiar, like coming home after a long absence.

Selamat datang

Alleyway leading to a mosque along the canal. The says “Salamat Datang” which means “Welcome.”

But that means I’m not paying attention to what Americans would find remarkable or at least unusual about Indonesia. I want to build bridges of understanding, and I can’t do that by assuming people already understand or have accurate knowledge of this place. Understanding takes accurate information, so I’m trying to see with the eyes of someone who’s never been to the Orient before, instead of through the perceptual filters of my previous experiences. Today, as we walked to the mall, I tried to see Banjarmasin from fresh eyes and take photos that would help convey a true sense of this city to those who have never been to Indonesia.

Food cart

A typical food cart, pushed by hand along the streets. People will stop their motorcycles or cars to purchase snacks from these vendors. They are also built around bicycles or motorcycles to provide even better mobility. This one is selling amplang, a type of fish cracker popular here in Banjarmasin.

I realize that everyone looks at the world through perceptual filters; that these color all that we see, think, and do. We have few perceptions of Indonesians – mostly Americans don’t know very much about this country – and Indonesians certainly have both bad and good perceptions of Americans. I hope the students at SMAN 1 Mandastana no longer see us as the typical stereotyped ugly, obnoxious American tourists. I hope they see that we don’t all act and think like some of our national leaders; that some of us have open minds and hearts.

Duta Mall

The Duta Mall, with accompanying mosque, in Banjarmasin.

At the mall, we decided to eat hamburgers at A & W. The photos on the sign looked good, but the end result burgers were not quite the same. The bacon substitute was a bit chewy, but the overall flavor was good. I also had a mug of root beer without ice and curly fries (exactly like Arby’s). Then I had a chocolate shake for desert, which was basically a chocolate milk with soft serve ice cream added to the top like a chocolate float, but tasty.

I took some photos of stone lions to go with the cover of my great science fiction novel if I ever get it done and published. Back at our hotel after another hot and humid stroll, I stripped down and fell asleep on my bed as the air conditioner cooled off the room.

Dead Stone Lion

A stone lion guarding the entrance to the Duta Mall in Banjarmasin. I am writing a science fiction novel with the title “Dead Stone Lions.” It is a murder mystery time travel cyberpunk thriller that takes place mostly in Taiwan, hence the stone lions.

After an hour’s nap, I woke up and continued the photo uploading process. I looked up maps of the Loksado area and drew in our route. I put on my swimsuit and took a dip in the pool and read a bit of Most Likely to Succeed. They talked about how teaching students for a knowledge economy is now obsolete, a conclusion I came to a few years ago when I realized that all my precious content knowledge, acquired over years of hard study, was basically useless now that any student with a smart phone could access far more information than I knew with the swipe of a finger. The important thing now is teaching students what to do with the information that is now a free (and freely available) resource. But our school systems are still geared to the model of transmitting facts, not teaching students the critical thinking skills needed to make sense of the facts.

Duta dancer

Traditional dancer competing for the Miss/Mr. Duta Mall contest.

Indonesian schools seem to struggle with the same challenge, based on my observations of the chemistry class – the students did very well at listening and taking notes (with excellent handwriting), and the teacher did a great job of presenting and transmitting information. But they have little to no experience with how to use or apply that information, especially if they have never used the equipment and chemicals at their disposal or learned the process of scientific inquiry. We all have so far to go.

Dayak dancer

Dancer performing a traditional Dayak dance with machete and shield.

Back in my room, I finished uploading the photos. I transferred the best to my cleaned-up folder. There were 138 of them out of 450 – and many of the 450 were excellent as well. These were the ones that were good enough and unique enough to share.

David with Dayak

We posed with the dancer afterward. I don’t think he was really after my head – at least I hope not!

At 7:15 we were met in the lobby by Nazar and his family. The children wanted to eat American food, so we went back to the mall and ate supper at Pizza Hut, which was actually fairly close to the original even though the pepperoni wasn’t made from pork. Nazar said it would all be halal (the equivalent of Jewish kosher for Muslims). We had stroberi Fanta to drink. They presented us with gifts they had bought for us, including a woven bag for my wife, a boxed piece of sasirangan, a red-white-and-blue sasirangan patterned cap, a wooden Lok Baintan boat, fans, and keychains (including one of the bekantan monkey). Then, at Nazar’s wife’s insistence, they took us to a store in the mall and bought us batik shirts. Mine is brown and gold and very nice. Their generosity was amazing, as has been everything they’ve done for us on this visit. They have treated us as honored guests, and I hope someday to return the favor.

Buying batik

Nazar and wife purchasing batik shirts for Craig and I. Mine is the one hanging at the front of the rack, in browns and golds. This is an upscale printed batik chain found in malls throughout Indonesia.

There was a Miss/Mr. Duta Mall contest going on, and I videotaped a girl doing a traditional dance. A college-aged man dressed in Dayak costume performed a dance with wooden shield and machete sword, then agreed to take photos with us afterward. We drove back to the hotel and Craig presented Nazar’s family with gifts he had brought and we took final (almost) photos in the lobby.

Craig and David and Nazar family

Craig Hendrick and David Black with Muhammed Nazaruddin and family in the lobby of the Swiss Belhotel in Banjarmasin, South Kalimantan, Indonesia.

I spent the rest of the evening cleaning up photos, sending the best of the best to Becca and the boys, and packing. I somehow managed to get all the gifts and my souvenir hats into my suitcases, including my still damp black shoes. I got to bed sometime around midnight.

Swiss Belhotel rainbow

Rainbow over the Swiss Belhotel in Banjarmasin at the end of our last full day in Borneo.

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Borneo Day 2: Saturday, July 22, 2017

Bark hats

Hats made from the inner bark of the breadfruit tree, I couldn’t find one that fit, or I would have bought one.

Our first full day in Borneo was a Saturday, so we were going sightseeing. Craig and I met for breakfast in the buffet downstairs from the lobby. The food was pretty good, but not as extensive as the Le Meridién. The orange juice (jus jeruk) was delicious, and they had fresh pineapple and the small Indonesian bananas that are sweeter than what we get in America. They have an omelet bar where we could get scrambled eggs, and small waffles with honey. There were also some Indonesian and Italian foods, such as penne pasta, that were good but not exactly what I wanted for breakfast.

Nazar picked us up at 8:15 along with his wife and oldest daughter. We drove out of town on the Jalan A. Yani back toward the airport. The road was busy with early morning traffic – people heading to work or to market. We passed motorcycles laden with ducks and chickens, bundles of noodles, or other items to sell. The morning markets were obvious as there would be hundreds of parked motorcycles and many stalls by the roadway. We traveled on through the roundabout by the airport and continued on past it toward the city of Banjarbaru.

Bark britches

A bark shirt and britches, made from the inner bark of the breadfruit tree.

Our first stop was the Lambung Mangkurat Museum, about 36 km from Banjarmasin. This is a museum of Banjarese and South Kalimantan history and culture, built for the Ministry of Education in the 1970s. The central building is shaped like a stylized Banjarese house with a red roof. We first went into a side building that showed Banjarese art, including weaving and the sasirangan that is Kalimantan’s equivalent to batik. It is more like tie-dye and doesn’t use a wax resist process. It also displayed clothing such as loincloths, trousers, shirts, and hats made from the inner bark of the breadfruit tree, which is pounded until soft and formed into clothing.

Bark clothing

Clothing made from breadfruit bark at the Kalminantan culture museum. This type of clothing is still made for ceremonial purposes by the Dayak people of Kalimantan.

Sasirangan patterns

Here is a description of the different types of patterns produced by sasirangan techniques.

Next door was a display of pottery, including some local wares and jars that dated back quite a long time to the Buddhist and Hindu kingdoms of the 8th Century and from the Dutch colonies in the 17th through 19th Centuries. Some of the pieces shown were brought here from China from the Sung and Ming Dynasties. Quite valuable! Who knew I would see them here?

Sasirangan red stripes

Sasirangan is Borneo’s answer to batik and is more like tie dye (actually, I believe tie dye probably started as sasirangan). Here is a nice shirt with a wavy pattern.

The main building housed a variety of historic displays, including bones from the indigenous pygmy elephants that used to live here. A subspecies of Asian elephants still lives in a small area of northern Kalimantan. There were tools from primitive cultures going back to Java man. They had royal costumes and Dutch cannons, gamelon orchestra instruments and recreations of thrones and other artifacts. They had displays about Pengaran Antasari, a hero who led a revolt against the Dutch.

Sung dynasty bowls

Bowls and vases traded to Banjar rulers by Chinese merchants. These pieces are of Sung Dynasty age and origin.

Outside the main building in a shaded area under the stairs was a model of Borobudur. It is a giant Buddhist temple shaped like a mandala near Yogyakarta. I will be visiting there on my five-day extension trip in two weeks.

Kalimantan pottery

Native pottery from Kalimantan.

We got back in the car and continued on.

Piring bowl

A large Ming Dynasty bowl, or piring.

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