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Bali Day 1: Saturday, August 5, 2017

Prambanan from air

Prambanan temple complex as seen from the air on my flight to Bali from Yogyakarta.

My flight to Bali was fairly early, so I arranged for a taxi to pick me up at the Hotel Jambuluwuk at 6:15, giving me just enough time to eat breakfast. There wasn’t any of the excellent bread pudding this time, and I didn’t really eat much, but it was enough to tide me over. I checked out of the hotel and had to pay $25 for the Stroberi Fanta I had spilled on the carpet. I must have knocked it over in the middle of the previous night, and the lid wasn’t on as securely as it should have been. Their efforts to clean it had only been partly successful, and they would have to bring in some professionals to clean the spot. Mine wasn’t the only spot on the carpet, but it was the most obvious.

Ratu Boko from air

The hilltop palace of Ratu Boko, which I had visited the night before, as seen from my airplane on my flight to Bali.

The taxi drove me to the airport and I unloaded my bags and found a baggage cart to help me carry them inside. This airport is small and crowded and it took a few minutes to make it to the Garuda Indonesia counter, where my two checked bags were 11 kg overweight, total. I had to pay about $30 for the extra baggage fees, then worked my way through security. It was divided into three lines, but still took some time. I was glad I had given myself some extra time.

Jambuluwuk patio breakfast

My breakfast on the patio of the Jambuluwuk Hotel on my last morning in Yogyakarta.

I waited in the main lounge and wrote entries for these blogs on my computer. I almost failed to hear the final boarding call for my flight, and hurried to hand my boarding pass to the gate attendant and walked out onto the tarmac. My flight was a small jet and I was the second to the last person to board. I was located on the right side by a window with a good view.

Other temple from air

Prambanan isn’t the only temple complex in the area. This set of temples, called Candi Sewu, is a bit further northeast, as seen from my airplane window.

We taxied a short distance and turned around to face into the wind and revved up for take-off. We bounded off the tarmac and were airborne. I knew from seeing jets flying over Prambanan and Ratu Boko yesterday that I might be able to see both from this side of the airplane, so I watched carefully. I could see the Ratu Boko hilltop, and then we passed just to the left of Prambanan, so I had an excellent view out my window and took some photos. I also saw other temple complexes in the area; Prambanan is not alone. One temple that I saw below me is called the Candi Sewu.

Smoking volcanoes

We took off to the northeast and once we passed the line of volcanoes that form the spine of Java, we turned east-southeast and flew to the north of more volcanoes, a perfect view from my right side window.

But I have to admit some jealousy to the people on the left side of the plane, who got excellent views of Mt. Merapi as we passed by. We crossed the line of volcanoes that form the spine of Java, then turned east. I could see rice fields and roads below showing patterns of settlement; the houses and businesses lined the roads, then as smaller side roads were paved, the businesses and houses followed, with rice paddies just beyond. As we gained altitude, volcanoes showed their heads above the scattered clouds. Now I wasn’t jealous anymore, because I could now see each volcano clearly out my window as we passed it.

Mt. Bromo caldera

I had an amazing view of the Gunung Bromo caldera with its smoking fumerole in the center. This would have produced more ash and dust than several Tambora-class explosions combined. The composite volcano cone in the background is Gunung Semeru .

The mountains form a chain, some giving off puffs of smoke. We approached a larger volcano than the others, lying behind a large circular caldera with a central column of smoke. This must be Gunung Bromo. I took several good photos of it as we passed.

We then came to the eastern coast of Java. Beaches and headlands stretched below. In the center of one island there was a narrow strait bisecting the island. I could see pulses of waves entering the strait and traveling along it, emerging out the other side of the island. It would be quite a view to be down there overlooking the thin passage.

Bromo Caldera and Semeru

This is the same view as my flight from Google Earth, only without clouds. The caldera is rather squarish, with a no-man’s land of fumeroles and barren plains surrounding the active vents. Mt. Semeru in the background.

Fluffy white cumulus clouds gathered as we crossed the strait between Java and Bali. I saw a small jet below us turning before the banks of clouds as it started its approach into Denpasar Airport. We turned and followed it in. I took some videos of the amazing clouds as we dropped toward the island.

Java coastline

The southeastern coastline of Java as we crossed to Bali. This area is a Taman Nasional (national park).

On our approach to the airport I could see the beaches and resorts here on the southeastern flank of the island. Inland, there was a large structure under construction; I learned later that it was a huge statue of Buddha, which will be the largest statue in the world when it is done. If it is ever done. They’ve been building it for twenty years, and there’s been a great deal of cost overruns and possibly some corruption along the way. Supposedly that has all been smoothed over and the statue is scheduled to be completed next year.

Coastal islands slit

The thin strait through the center of the island to the left was interesting – the waves coming from the south (top in this photo) traveled slowly through the strait. It would be fun to be down there and see it – no doubt very beautiful. There are so many places in this world to explore!

The plane landed smoothly and we taxied to the main terminal. We climbed down the small stairway built into the plane and walked across the tarmac to the building, passing through an ornate gateway colored orange and white. A sign said, “Welcome to the last paradise on Earth.” I hoped it was right.

Clouds over Bali

We flew through some incredibly fluffy cumulus, following another plane down to the airport at Denpasar on Bali.

In the main terminal I found a baggage cart (wheels are a wonderful thing) and claimed my bags at the luggage carousel. Everything went smoothly, and I walked outside to look for a taxi to take me to Ubud.

Bali airport

After landing at Denpasar, we taxied to the terminal and climbed down the stairs to walk into the main building. This airport is more modern than the one in Yogyakarta and serves as an international hub.

I negotiated a bit with the driver, who said it would take two hours to get there because the traffic is bad. I settled for 400,000 rupiah as the fee, or about $30 US. Maybe going on the meter would have been better, or maybe not, because he was right about the two hours. This is about what I would pay for a shuttle from Salt Lake to Orem, where I live, so even though high by Bali standards, I was OK with it. As it turned out, the driver earned every rupiah.

We drove out of the airport and headed north on one of the roads to Ubud, which is a cultural center further north from the busy, touristy southern beaches around Kuta and Denpasar. Although laying on a tropical beach sounds great, I didn’t come all this way to lay around. I wanted to learn about Bali, and Ubud sounded like the best headquarters from which to do that. I had found an inexpensive bungalow for only $26 per night, with excellent reviews.

Gate to paradise

We walked through this traditional Balinese gate to reach the terminal. It represents the path through the sacred mountain. Architecture is quite different here than on Java or Borneo.

The traffic up this road was slow. I found out later that there are wider and better roads, but this one was the most direct. As we crawled along, I dozed a bit, but eventually started paying more attention once we got out of the city proper. There were many small businesses along the road, many of them in this area carving stone statutes of Buddhas in various poses. I saw shrines clothed with gold or black and white checkered cloth. There seemed to be lots of small temples, and everything was covered in green moss, grasses, and lichens. There were also places carving large cross-sections of trees into wood sculptures, some making elaborate tables, others carvings of Hindu gods and goddesses.

Last Paradise

This sign welcomed us to the paradise of Bali. It may be a bit of an overstatement (there are still other paradises) but it was still nice to see that I had arrived.

The traffic was unrelenting until we finally took some narrow side roads. The driver was getting frustrated, as this was taking longer than he thought and he was missing out on other fares. There wasn’t anything I could do about it; apparently, tourism has reached Ubud because of the book and movie Eat, Pray, Love about a journalist that found love here. Julia Roberts starred in the movie. It sounds like a chick flick to me, but maybe I’ll have to watch it just to see the places I will recognize. Now everyone comes here. And I thought I was being smart about staying away from the party scene in Kuta.

Wooden faces

After getting my luggage at the baggage claim, I found a cart and wheeled everything outside, where I negotiated with a taxi to drive me to Ubud, about 40 miles away in the interior of Bali. I didn’t want to get stuck in the touristy parts of Kuta and Denpasar, as I was here to learn about history and culture, not hang out on the beaches. On the way to Ubud the traffic was slow and it took close to two hours to reach Ubud and find my bungalow. On the way, we passed many shops such as this one carving Hindu sculptures, or statues from volcanic ash, or many other types of souvenirs.

It turns out that Ubud isn’t just one compact town but is more of an area of interconnected villages with a network of winding roads that are little better than paths. It reminded me of Kota Gede. After some wandering around through hills and rice paddies and along narrow roads, we came to what appeared to be the main part of town, at least according to the many foreign tourists and motorcycle renters. We found the entrance to the lane my bungalow is on: Jalan Kajeng. It was barely wide enough for one car, but we squeezed in and traveled along it. My printout of the Ubud Wins Bungalow did not give a house number, so we kept driving up the alleyway. The driver finally stopped and asked someone, at the only place in the road wide enough to stop. The person said to keep going; the bungalow was at the end of the lane. We finally found a small sign on a wall just before the road took a sharp left turn.

Large statue at roundabout

Large statue inside a round about on the road leading north out of Denpasar.

The owner’s wife and son saw my taxi arrive and came down to take my larger bags. I paid my driver a good tip, and that brightened his expression. The Ubud Wins Bungalows are built on the side of a steep hill with tall stairs made of green-covered concrete leading up about 30 feet around a family shrine and a papaya tree, then over and down to my corner room. Just carrying my carry-on bags was very difficult up the slippery stairs. I don’t know how her son managed my large red bag.

Buddha statues

A workshop specializing in stone carvings of the Buddha. Most Balinese are Hindu or Buddhist, with Islam being a minority religion here.

My room had a porch in front with couch and chairs, then a large glass door and window into a big room with a bed and dresser and tiled floor. I brought in my bags and tried to figure out the air conditioner (I finally got it working later that night). I was tired and lay down to get some rest before venturing out to explore Ubud.

Reclining Buddha

More stone statues of the Buddha at a workshop on the road to Ubud, Bali.

I was in paradise, the legendary Bali of song and story. It just didn’t feel quite like it yet!

Rice farmer on bicycle

A rice farmer on a bicycle passes a family compound flying the red and white Indonesian flag. His conical hat is the traditional hat of rice farmers in Bali. I have to get me one of those!

Family shrine

A household shrine. Notice that shrines are wrapped in cloth. The gold represents prosperity, the white and black checked cloth represents wisdom and that there are good and bad aspects in all things.

Balinese side road

There were narrow side roads leading away which invited me to explore. I already knew that two days wouldn’t be nearly enough time here.

Bali paradise

The sign said that we were visiting paradise, and everything was green. Even the rocks and cement were growing green lichens on them.

Gate to household

A traditional gateway leading to a family compound in Bali.

Stairway to heaven

Arriving in Ubud, we passed this stairway leading up through a gateway that represents the path through the sacred mountain. The man is wearing traditional Balinese clothes: a white shirt, a sarong (wraparound skirt), and a turban style cap.

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Yogyakarta Day 3: Friday, August 4, 2017

David with actors

Actors in the Ramayana Ballet with David Black at Prambanan in Indonesia.

We returned to Prambanan after our excursion to the hilltop palace of Ratu Boko. It was almost dark as we parked in the lot near the Trimurti outdoor theater. Haru gave my tour ticket to the people at the gate for my regular admittance. There were performers in costume standing near the entrance and I took my photo with them. I also purchased a couple of snacks – a Happy Cow and another ice cream treat. I was starving, but didn’t want to buy a whole meal.

Gamelon players before show

Gamelon percussion orchestra playing before the show.

Haru had to return to the hotel and said another driver would meet me after the performance, so I went in. There was a small gamelon orchestra playing as I found my seat. It was on a stone bench, but we were given seat cushions. Even so, the bench was hard. There weren’t many people there, and some of the seats that were more expensive were vacant. I thought of moving, but I could see the stage well and the temple formed a perfect backdrop. I waited a few minutes for the show to begin.

Gamelon orchestra and temples

The main gamelon orchestra and stage with the Prambanan temples in the background. It was quite a setting, with the dramatic temples of Brahma, Shiva, and Vishnu lit up behind the stage.

The Ramayana is an ancient Hindu epic and one of the longest pieces of literature ever written at 24,000 verses. It rivals the King James Bible and the Complete Works of William Shakespeare in sheer size. But the Mahabharata is still longer. Take the Bible, the Illiad and the Odyssey, and the works of Shakespeare and put them together, and that is still short of the size of the Mahabharata. When I had researched this ballet, I had seen that this night’s performance would not be the whole story but only the first half. I figured that would be about right.

Gamelon instruments close

The main orchestra, consisting of gamelon percussion instruments including gongs, cymbals, and drums.

A large gamelon orchestra with many gongs and bells and xylophones was located behind the stage on both sides of a central staircase. They began to play and a group of singers acted as a backup band. Two people came out to introduce the performance, and then it began.

Cheap seats

Most of the audience sat in the more expensive seats in the middle. I took a seat in the moderately cheap seats, but the view was really all the same. The benches were stone with pads to sit on and became a bit uncomfortable after two hours. And they only performed half of the Ramayana.

The Ramayana tells of the romance of Rama with Sita and his struggle to rescue her after her kidnapping by the demon king Ravana. The ballet began with Ravana and his demons and demonesses (is that a word? The spell checker liked it, so it must be) plotting to overthrow the goodness of Rama, his mortal enemy. Rama was the seventh avatar, or incarnation, of the god Vishnu, which is why Ravana hated him. I didn’t understand the singing, but the dancing was easy enough to follow, although very stylized. Then Rama, while hunting, spied the beautiful princess Sita (an avatar of Lakhsmi) walking with her father and fell in love. Their love was mutual, although her father was against the idea. To convince the father to let him marry Sita, Rama took him hunting.

Demon dance

The ballet began with the dance of demons as their king, Ravana revealed his desire to destroy Prince Rama, who is really an avatar of Vishnu.

Ravana spied on all of this and saw a chance for his revenge. He transformed into an old man walking with difficulty leaning on his cane, and when Sita was alone she saw him stubble and fall down. Rushing to his aid, the fake old man tied her wrists and led her away. Garuda, the vahana (vehicle) of Vishnu, spied all of this with his eagle’s eyes.

Hatching an evil plot

Ravana, the Demon King, hatches his evil plot.

Meanwhile, Rama and Sita’s father were out hunting and encountered a herd of deer (the dancers had deer horns on their heads). After an encounter with the Queen of the Deer (what was said here I don’t know but there appeared to be some disagreement going on), Sita’s father relented to have Rama marry his daughter. I think. At least their dancing appeared more friendly.

Good vs evil

Rama arrives in a confrontation of good versus evil.

I was growing tired about this time and lost the thread of the story a bit during the dancing deer. Somehow Garuda was shot by an arrow but managed to tell Rama and Sita’s father that Sita had been kidnapped before dying and ascending into heaven in a blue fog.

Rama and Sita

Rama falls for the beautiful Sita, but her father isn’t so sure about this.

Somewhere in here Hanuman, the Monkey God, and all of his monkeys did a dance – I think Rama tried to fight Ravana but was defeated, so he enlisted the aid of the monkeys. Then the ballet ended rather abruptly. That was when I remembered that tonight’s performance was only the first half of the story. Probably a good thing, as I was falling asleep even on the hard stone bench.

Kidnapping Sita

Ravana pretends to be an old man who stumbles, and when Sita tries to help him, he kidnaps her and binds her with cords. Garuda the eagle tried to warn her, but he was shot down.

It was an interesting spectacle to watch but it was difficult to stay up on the story since it was sung in stilted Javanese with the performers only dancing. This is a ballet, after all. It is a classic tale, going back over 2000 years and was probably first written as early as 400 BCE by the sage Valmiki Muni. It is carved into the walls of Prambanan temple itself. The gamelon instruments were a bit loud to handle for the two hours of tonight’s performance, but it was a fascinating experience until my exhaustion got the better of me. I took some great photos from my vantage point with the temple lit up behind. I also got some good videos of it.

Back, evil temptress

Meanwhile, Rama is attempting some male bonding time by going hunting with his future father-in-law, but they are warned of Sita’s kidnapping by the Queen of the Deer. Notice the little horns.

Afterwards, we went down on the stage to take photos with the performers and I got some close ups of the gamelon instruments. My replacement driver met me at the gate as I exited and we drove back to the Hotel Jambuluwuk. I was tired and slept in the car much of the way back, then woke myself up enough to get my bags packed as much as possible for my flight to Bali the next day. I had arranged for a cab to pick me up at 6:15 so that I would have 15 minutes for breakfast.

A little bird told us

Garuda is revived just long enough to tell Rama where Ravana has taken Sita before departing into a blue fog.

This had been quite a day. There are still more things to see and do in Yogyakarta, but in three days I’ve done many things and gotten a feel for the city and its surroundings. I’ve done as much as could possibly be expected without driving myself to complete exhaustion, and I pretty much did that today. I kept thinking that my wife would love it here, since she was a humanities major in college. I hope some day to return here with her.

Monkey dance

They enlist the help of Haruman the Monkey God and his army of monkeys. This is where the performance ended for tonight, only half way through the Ramayana. The whole performance takes four hours.

Posing after

Posing with the audience after the show.

Gamelon cymbals

Gamelon cymbals. Each brass kettle creates a unique tone, like a bell.

Temples at night

The dramatic backdrop of the Prambanan temples at night, with the temples of Brahma, Shiva, and Vishnu from left to right.

 

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Yogyakarta Day 3: Friday, August 5, 2017

Prambanan from distance

The Hindu Temples of Prambanan near Yogyakarta, Indonesia.

After our abortive attempt to find a true chocolate factory, Haru drove me out of Kota Gede, which is a more difficult task than one might imagine. This being an ancient city, the roads were not built to accommodate modern traffic and are narrow, winding, and labyrinthine. After winding around through some small lanes we finally reconnected with the main highway out of Jogja and headed east past the airport.

Temple complex gate

Gateway to the Prambanan temple complex.

We stopped at a place where we could get a discount, and I paid 600,000 (about $50) for admittance to both Prambanan and the mountain temple of Ratu Boko. We then drove the short distance to Prambanan and parked in the large parking lot.

Temple of Shiva with tree

The largest of the temples at Prambanan is dedicated to Shiva, the Lord of Destruction and an essential part of the cycle of birth, life, death, and rebirth.

Haru showed me to the entrance and I walked through, and I could finally see the temples peeking through the park’s trees. Some of the trees were massively tall, bigger than anything in America except redwoods and sequoias.

Corner temple

A smaller corner temple at Prambanan, this one dedicated to Garuda. Beyond the central complex lie a series of four rings of small pervara temples which are still mostly in ruins following an earthquake in 2006.

I explored the temple complex, which was built by the Hindu dynasties of Sanjaya and Mataram in the mid 9th Century. It was started with one temple to Shiva built by Rakai Pikatan, then extensively expanded by successive Mataram kings, who diverted a river to enlarge the temple complex, then built a series of smaller pervara temples ringing the main complex. Most of these are still in ruins, but a few have been restored.

Statue of Chandra

A statue to Chandra, one of the Hindu pantheon of gods. The Chandra X-Ray space telescope is named after this god.

Building Prambanan here signifies that the central Javanese kingdom had shifted from the Mahayana Buddhism of Borobudur to Hinduism. The main court and central government center were nearby, and all the important religious ceremonies took place here. As many as 200 monks or brahmins lived and worked in the complex and its surroundings. Yet within about 100 years the kingdom shifted its capital further east in Java, perhaps because of an eruption of Mt. Merapi nearby. Prambanan was slowly abandoned and fell into ruin, just as Borobudur was.

Huge temple

The central Shiva temple and flanking side temples are truly huge. These photos don’t really give an accurate sense of scale.

Local people forgot its origins, although they knew about the complex. Parts of it were used for constructing houses. An earthquake in the 16th Century further damaged the structures. A legend called the Rara Jonggrang grew up that the temple had been designed and built by demons and giants. During the British occupation of Indonesia, Colin Mackenzie, a surveyor for Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, came across the ruins by accident in 1811. A complete survey was undertaken, but the site remained in ruins for decades before restoration efforts began by the Dutch in the 1930s and continue to this day. A major earthquake in 2006 damaged the buildings again, and the surrounding pervara temples are still largely in ruins.

Prambanan Map

A map of Prambanan. The pervara temples form four concentric rings around the central complex, which contains the large Shiva temple (which has separate chambers for his children and wives, including Durga and Ganesha) and two flanking temples to Vishnu and Brahma (the three major trimurti Hindu gods). Three smaller temples are dedicated to the vahana or mounts of the trimurti gods: Garuda, Hamsa, and Nandi. There are also two small temples tucked in for Lakhsmi and Sarasvati and four gates to the cardinal directions and a number of small shrines.

Prambanan centers around a large, ornate building dedicated to Shiva, the Hindu god of destruction. Stairways on each side of the main temple lead up to chambers housing statues of Shiva and gods or goddesses associated with him, including Durga and Ganesha. A porch rings the building. Friezes are carved into the walls of the porch showing the stories of the Hindu gods, including Haruman, the Monkey God. Many of these scenes are from the Ramayana, which I will see later tonight. It tells of the romance of Rama with Sita and his struggle to rescue her after her kidnapping by the demon king Ravana.

Durga

Durga, a consort of Shiva. Her statue is in a separate chamber on the north side of the Shiva temple. This statue is also the origin of the legend of Loro Janggrang, the “maiden of stone.” When Prince Bandung Bondowoso’s attempt to build 1000 temples in one night was foiled by King Boko’s daughter, he turned her into stone with the help of his demon army.

On either side of the Shiva temple stand two smaller but still large temples dedicated to Vishnu and Brahma. In front of these are three slightly smaller temples dedicated to the vahana (vehicle or animal mount) of each of the trimurti gods: Nandi, Garuda, and Hamsa. Still smaller temples were built at each of the four cardinal direction gates, and four more at the corners of the inner complex, as well as two even smaller shrines. Beyond all of these lie a quadruple ring of 224 small pervara temples for individuals and kings. Altogether, the complex is laid out with precise symmetry and planning like a giant mandala, the product of an advanced civilization.

Kidnapping of Sita

Friezes carved into the walls of the walkways show scenes from the Ramayana. In this case, Sita is being kidnapped by the Demon King.

I spent about an hour and a half exploring the complex and taking photos and videos from many angles. I asked several people to take my photo, something I have a hard time remembering to do. One lady was from Hamburg, Germany and spoke excellent English. She had lived for a year in Evanston, Illinois.

Arjuna and Monkey King

In order to free the kidnapped Sita, Rama and Sita’s father make an arrangement with Haruman the Monkey King.

The path to the exit (keluar) took me way out around the temple but did offer nice views framed by trees of the entire complex. On the way out, the exit takes you through a phalanx of coconut, concessions, and souvenir stalls, but I have enough of those and will have a hard time fitting what I have in my suitcases anyway.

Lord Shiva

Lord Shiva, god of death and destruction, as portrayed on the walls of his temple at Prambanan, Indonesia.

This is the first Hindu temple I’ve seen. I studied Hinduism as part of a World Religions class at Brigham Young University, and know that there are three central gods: Brahma the Creator, Vishnu the Preserver, and Shiva the destroyer. Each has his consort or wife, such as Parawata (Parvati) for Shiva, Lakshmi for Vishnu, etc. There are also lesser gods, such as Ganesha the Elephant God (son of Shiva and Parvati), Saraswati the Goddess of Wisdom, and Haruman the Monkey God. Each god can have different avatars or incarnations. For example, Vishnu has ten, of which nine have already existed, including Buddha (according to Hindus, Buddha is a form of Vishnu), and Krishna. The tenth avatar of Vishnu (Kalki) is yet to come at the end of the world. As a major research paper required of all students at BYU, I researched the recurrence of Messiah figures in various religions, and was astonished at the similarities between the Jewish Messiah, Jesus, Kalki, and the Hidden Imam.

Water spout

A waterspout at the corner of a temple at Prambanan. The planning involved in just creating a water drainage system for the torrential tropical rains is amazing to me.

My impressions and feelings about Prambanan are mostly awe at the central planning and architecture needed to carry out such a coordinated project. This whole complex, like Borobudur, had to be planned in advance, cleared out of the jungle, with blocks quarried from andesite rock (the only type available locally, given this is a region of composite volcanoes). Those rocks had to be transported, shaped at the site, and fitted in place. It is a huge complex, requiring advanced construction techniques using hand tools. Even the water drainage system was carefully thought out. I have no idea how many people worked on this, or the power of the leaders who commanded it, or the devotion of the people who worked, prayed, and sacrificed here. It is a monument to faith, which I can understand, as my own people build monuments to their faith around the world in the form of our temples.

Many temples

Many temples at Prambanan.

All of this and within a century the government moved to another location and allowed this incredible site to be forgotten. The feeling of history is palpable here, as it is in places like Jerusalem and Rome that I have visited. Americans have no idea of the depth of history that surrounds so many places in the world. Now our modern civilization overlies and surrounds all of this, with a mosque just across the main road to Prambanan.

Temples and moon

The moon rising over the temple complex at Prambanan.

Indonesia sits on major trade routes between the Indian Ocean and East Asia, and its history is a long tale of cultural influences, migration, and conquest. One of my most important goals is to see how these influences and religions shape the daily life of the Indonesian people. I saw how Islam affected the lives of Nazar and his family and the students at his school. Yesterday I saw how Buddhism was practiced here, and today I saw ancient Hinduism. Tomorrow I will begin to explore Bali to see the daily actions of Hindus there.

David with Prambanan complex

David Black with the Prambanan temple complex behind.

David at Prambanan

David Black at Prambanan near Yogyakarta, Indonesia.

Juxtaposition

An airplane takes off from the Yogyakarta airport, juxtaposed with the temples of Prambanan. I was to see this exact view the next morning, but from the airplane looking down.

Prambanan through trees

Prambanan temples through the trees.

Wood carver and shop

On my way exiting the Prambanan complex, I had to pass through a phalanx of souvenir shops including this woodcarving shop.

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And notes on my TGC Seminar Trip: Feb. 16, 2017.

tgc-sign

Sign for Teachers for Global Classrooms, a teacher exchange program of the U. S. Department of State. We met in Washington, D.C. on Feb. 16-18, 2017 to prepare for our international experiences.

I’m in the Salt Lake International Airport waiting for my flight to Washington Reagan National Airport. It’s been almost a year since I last visited D.C., and that was for the Einstein Fellowship interviews that I did not succeed at. That was a nice trip, with good weather, even if the results were disappointing. I’m hoping the weather will be all right. It is supposed to be in the 50s during the day, not that I’ll get any chance to be out by day. This is a quick trip – a reception tonight, followed by a full day of meetings tomorrow and a half day Saturday morning, then I have to get to the airport for my 5:00 flight home.

I am looking forward to meeting my cohort of fellow teachers who will be traveling with me to Indonesia in July. When I found out in December that I would be traveling to Indonesia, I started researching all the possibilities, knowing that I couldn’t get to all of them, but wanting to learn as much as possible. The more I study the country, the more excited I become. There are so many great places to visit there that are scenic, scientific, and cultural. If I were to rank the places I would most like to visit, it would be in this order:

Indonesia greatest hits

Locations of my top picks for things to see in Indonesia.

Borobudur

Borobudur, an 8th Century Buddhist temple near Yogyakarta, Indonesia and a World Heritage Site.

  1. Yogyakarta and Surroundings: This is a cultural center on the island of Java that has been described as the “soul” of Indonesia. It is famed for its marketplaces selling silver, batik, shadow puppets, and the local gudeg, a type of stew served with rice. About an hour north is the famed Buddhist site called Borobudur, built in the 8th century and lost to the jungle for many years before its re-discovery in the 1800s. It is built over an earthen mound in the shape of a mandala, with hundreds of stupas containing statues of various forms of the Buddha as well as hundreds of carved relief panels depicting Gautama’s life.
    Prambanan

    Prambanan, a Hindu temple near Yogyakarta.

    Nearby is the Hindu complex of Prambanan, also with hundreds of small temples and statues of various Hindu gods ranging from Brahma through incarnations of Vishnu, Kali, Shiva, and Ganesha. The city of Yogyakarta was also the capital of a sultanate and has Islamic mosques. And as a bonus feature, not far north of the city is Gunung Merapi, a very active volcano that last erupted in 2010 and wiped out several villages. The Earth Science teacher in me would love to see that.

  1. Sulawesi and Surroundings:
    Bunaken-Manado

    The coral reefs of Bunaken near Manado, Sulawesi, Indonesia.

    This island is shaped like a giant cursive K with a curled top and boasts beautiful scenery and biological and cultural diversity. A TGC team stayed on North Sulawesi in Manado three years ago and had an amazing experience, including snorkeling at Bunaken, a series of islands off the north coast, and a visit to a national park with giant tarantulas and miniature primates. There are also the Toraja people, known for their inverted boat-shaped houses and interesting burial practices. It is also is the cacao growing center of Indonesia.

    Bali - corrected

    3D Rendering of Bali, a popular destination in Indonesia. The major city is Kuta on the peninsula to the south. I hope to explore Ubud in the hills in the center of the island.

  1. Bali or Lombok: This whole island is one beautiful, cultural paradise. Probably a bit too touristy for my taste, but it would be a shame to visit Indonesia without at least a day or two here. There are amazing white sand beaches, beautiful scenery including temples perched on rocks along the coast, the famous rice paddies near Ubud, a sacred monkey forest, and much more. If Bali is too busy, then the neighboring island of Lombok is a good alternative, including snorkeling and beachcombing on the Gili Islands and a visit to a sea turtle hatchery. And, of course, a large double caldera with the active Gunung Batur.
Bromo

Mt. Bromo (Gunung Bromo) on Java in Indonesia.

Toba Crater-s

3D Render of Toba Lake. The massive caldera has filled up with water. When it erupted 74,000 years ago, the ancestors of humanity almost went extinct from six years of winter without summers.

  1. Mt. Bromo or Other Active Volcanoes: A popular place to visit on Java and a series of active volcanoes, including Gunung Semeru, with incredible views. Of course, I would also like to see Tambora or Krakatau or even lake Toba. I realize no matter where I go, there will probably be active volcanoes galore (my kind of place) but it would be cool to visit the famous ones. Mt. Toba sent up so much ash, when it erupted 74,000 years ago, that it created six years without a summer in what was already an ice age. The ancestors of humanity almost went extinct.
Tambora from sky

The caldera of Gunung Tambora, which erupted in 1815 and caused the Year Without a Summer, which led to crop failures and starvation worldwide. The explosion of Toba 74,000 years ago was even worse – the dust lead to a six-year winter.

  1. Orangutan Watching: One place is a sanctuary called Bukit Lawang on Sumatra, not too far north of Lake Toba. But the original place is Kalimantan (Southern Borneo), where you can take small boats up a river to see the orangutans in the wild.
Komodo dragon

I would love to meet one of these. Just at a safe distance . . .

  1. Komodo Dragon Viewing: We will probably get to touch a real dragon at an international zoo/village in Jakarta, but it would be fun to see them in the wild on the island of Komodo itself.
Ambon

The city of Ambon in the Maluku Islands, where Columbus was trying to reach when he ran into a little problem . . .

  1. The Spice Islands: The Maluku or Banda Islands, which lie east of Sulawesi, are the original Spice Islands that caused so much history. Cloves, nutmeg, and pepper are native to these islands. It would be fun to say I’ve been where Columbus meant to go. Nearby are the Raja Ampat Islands with incredible marine biodiversity.

 

These are my top picks. I know I my not get the chance to see any of them – everywhere I’ve researched Indonesia, the possibilities are exciting and I’m sure I’ll enjoy wherever I get to go. I’ll learn a great deal, meet amazing people, and bring back memories for a lifetime.

Child of Krakatoa

Anak Krakatau (Child of Krakatoa). This island exploded in 1883 and caused a tsunami that killed tens of thousands of people. Now the child is quietly growing in the submerged caldera.

Opening Reception:

My flight to D.C. went smoothly, and it was a new Boeing 757 with video players on the backs of each seat. Instead of pulling out my iPad and watching “Star Trek: Into Darkness” again, I watched the first episode of the National Geographic Mars program (they only had one episode available or I would have watched more), then saw “Dr. Strange” again, and began watching “Inferno” with Tom Hanks and Felicity Jones. It seemed like a quick flight.

I got off the plane and got my bag at Carousel 3, then picked up a taxi to the Fairmont Hotel near Georgetown. I walked downstairs and picked up my registration packet from Ashley and Sara with IREX. Sara will be travelling to Indonesia with us in July. I checked into my room and read through the packet, reading up on the biographies of my cohort.

Toba comparison

Putting these volcanoes side by side, the big historic eruptions of Tambora, Vesuvius, and Krakatoa are insignificant compared with Toba, which put so much dust into the stratosphere that it blocked sunlight for six years. And what of Mt. St. Helens? It’s a tiny popgun in comparison. Should it worry me that the three biggest known eruptions were all in Indonesia? Not at all. I would be like Pliny the Elder – last seen running toward Vesuvius as it erupted.

The opening reception was held on the lowest level in the ballrooms. Ryan Hagge and his wife were already there, with their new baby. He is acting in the stead of Scott Jones, our school director. He surprised her with a ticket to D.C. so she could explore while he was in the administrator meetings. I began to meet my cohort while eating horse doovers, including Jennifer from Louisiana with her administrator. I met Sonja, who is going to Senegal, and her administrator. Then after a few welcome remarks, we got together as groups and I met most of the rest of our cohort. They are a very diverse and interesting bunch, and I can tell that we will get along well. We have a mix of subjects, ranging from science, technology, ESL, migrant education, English, and social science as well as a range of grade levels. I also met Sofia, who is part of the TEA/ILEP program and will be one of our host teachers. She is from Ambon in the Maluku (Spice) Islands and she showed us some pictures. It looks amazing.

Wisata-Malioboro-Yogyakarta

Malioboro St. in Yogyakarta.

I am totally excited for this opportunity and what it will bring to my perspectives and what I can bring back for my students. What an adventure lies ahead of me!

I’ll report on the rest of my Symposium experience in the next post.

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