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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 6: Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Sasirangan hanging up

Sasirangan patterns hanging up to dry at the factory along the Martapura River in Banjarmasin.

After resting for a couple of hours, we met Nazar, his wife, and his older daughter in the lobby. He was taking us to see how sasirangan, the Banjarese form of tie-dye, is done. As we drove across the river the clouds that had been gathering all day were turning dark black and rain was immanent.

Threatening clouds

Threatening storm clouds over Banjarmasin. This is supposed to be the dry season.

We crossed the Martapura and traveled along a series of ever smaller roads leading us along the west bank. The dyeing process requires a lot of water, so the factories are located inside some of the Banjar style houses along the river we had seen on our trip to Lok Baintan. As we drove along the roadway just to the west of the river, the skies opened up and the rain began. Nazar commented that this wasn’t normal for the dry season. It came down in torrents and buckets, and before long it was impossible to tell where the rainflow ended and the river began – it was all just one sheet of water. We parked under and overhang at the factory outlet and watched the rain for a minute. I took some photos and video.

Rainstorm on river

The rain begins – it came down so fast it became hard to tell where the runoff ended and the river began.

This was quite a storm, but not the worst I’ve ever seen. I’ve been through the edge of a typhoon in Taiwan, and I was once in a downpour in Minneapolis in April 1986 that was beyond belief. The rain there came down so fast that the drainage system couldn’t handle it, even though the city is along the Mississippi River. The pressure in the drains was so great that manhole covers were being blown into the air and fountains of water eight feet high were geysering out of the holes. On my way to the airport a short time later, my shuttle van drove through what looked like a shallow puddle that wound up being five feet deep. The engine got wet and stalled. They had to call another shuttle van to come get us – it drove more carefully into the “puddle” and I had to climb out the window and over to the second van with my suitcase so they could take me on to the airport.

Sasirangan choices

Sasirangan samples in the factory showroom. You can find all types of colors and patterns.

As we were looking at samples in the sasirangan store, a load thunderclap and lightning stroke boomed out and the power went out. I was able to use my flash for photos, but not for video. Craig got his cell phone out and set it to flashlight mode so that I would have some light. We crossed the road to the dye factory on the other side along the river. A man showed us how they use stencils to trace the traditional patterns onto white cloth. The cloth is then tied tightly with small ties to follow the pattern of the stencils. Parts that aren’t to be dyed in the first color are covered in plastic bags.

Tied green cloth

Died green cloth with the ties in place. Where the ties gather in the cloth, the dye won’t penetrate and will leave white places, just like western tie dye. This may be the origin of tie dye.

Next door were the dye vats. Since dye works better in hot water, the room was like a sauna with steaming vats of various colors. My camera wanted to fog up, but I did get some good photos and video. The men there were wearing gloves and dipping the cloth repeatedly into various colors. The bags are moved to the previously dyed areas so that other colors can be applied where the bags had been. The cloth is then rinsed and hung up to dry on railings between the two buildings, something a bit hard to do in this rain.

Plastic covered parts

Dyeing the sasirangan cloth. The dye area was a sauna bath from the steaming hot dye vats. To protect color in areas, plastic bags are tied on to prevent the second color from reaching the first color.

The rain soon let up, and we returned to the outlet store. We looked through the colors; there were many beautiful combinations, and I bought two different bolts of cloth. One was purples and magentas, the other oranges and brick red. These will be for gifts for my sister and daughter.

Dye vats 2

The dyers used rubber globes to repeatedly dip the fabric into the dye vats. The power was knocked out by a lightning strike nearby in the storm. Between the humidity from the rain and the steaming dye baths, this room was like a sauna. They had many types of dye powders and could do any combination of colors and patterns.

Now that the rain was ending, we got back in the car and drove through winding streets to find a restaurant for supper. Nazar knew an excellent place for bakso nearby, and we drove past alleyways and along narrow roads to get there. The late afternoon light after the storm provided a silvery golden cast to everything as it reflected off the wet pavement along the alleyways. It was extremely humid after the rain, but the air was cooler and quite comfortable, so I rolled down my window to get better photos. We passed a cemetery, including the memorial to a local hero. After a few minutes, we reached the restaurant. Nazar’s son rode a Gojek to the restaurant and met us there. I had beef bakso and chilled bottled water for supper, and it was excellent. I like bakso a great deal, and have had some good stuff, but this was the best I had anywhere in Indonesia.

Alley near bakso place

Alleyway near bakso kitchen after the rainstorm.

Bakso kitchen

Bakso kitchen in Banjarmasin where we ate after visiting the sasirangan factory.

Bakso soup

The best bakso in Banjarmasin.

Road after rain

Traveling through the narrow streets of northern Banjarmasin after the rainstorm.

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Borneo Day 2: Saturday, July 22, 2017

Colorful jewelry

Colorful jewelry in the souvenir shops of Martapura, a center for jewelry manufacture and diamond polishing.

After visiting the diamond pits of Cempaka, we were all hungry. We dropped off Nazar’s friend at the Indomaret store and drove further along the road to Martapura. Nazar pulled off at a roadside open-air restaurant specializing in soto lambongan, a type of soup that has various types of meat, boiled eggs, rice, noodles, and other ingredients in a tasty broth. It was interesting that they only had one food item on the menu with two choices – a large bowl or a medium bowl of soto, and then 15 drink choices. Each area of the country has its own variety of soto, as we were to find out the next day.

Soto lamongan

The sign of the Soto Lamongan restaurant we stopped at for lunch. Soto is an Indonesian soup that is made differently in each province. Soto Lamongan was the only food menu item, but there were 15 different drink choices. It was very good!

We drove on to Martapura, which is the diamond cutting, polishing, and jewelry-making center near the diamond mines. We stopped at a central plaza and walked through a market where they were making jewelry. Since there aren’t very many large diamonds coming out of the mines, this jewelry uses various types of semi-precious gemstones and colored glass to make rings, necklaces, bracelets, and other forms. It was interesting to watch them making the settings.

Colored stones

Semi-precious stones and glass beads for mounting into jewelry.

We then walked downstairs where there is an open-air bazaar with cross streets and stalls and shops selling all kinds of souvenirs and other items. There were more jewelry stores with many types of colored beads hanging up. There were stores selling sasirangan clothing, the Borneo style tie dye cloth, stores selling hats and T-shirts, stores with electronics, wood carvings, and even Banjarnese style miniature boats.

Brooches

Beadwork and brooches in the Martapura jewelry district.

I found several woven reed hats that actually fit my big head (figuratively and literally), which were inexpensive and in the style that devout Muslim men wear. There were some bark hats that were very cheap, but they didn’t fit. I also found a beaded Dayak style hat for my son, Jonathan. They had Dayak breadfruit bark hats, but I didn’t buy one because none were big enough to fit my head.

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.

As it was Saturday, and Nazar and his family had missed Friday prayers to pick us up at the airport, we stopped next door at the largest mosque in Martapura, the Masjid Agung Al Karomah, brightly colored with yellow walls and blue domes. Nazar and his wife went inside for prayers as Craig, I, and his daughter waited outside and took photos.

Beads and jewelry store

Beadwork and jewelry at a shop in the Martapura souvenir district.

As I had expressed interest in buying a Javanese black hat similar to the one President Widodo wears (and most officials in the government), Nazar asked around and found a stall at the open-air bazaar next door (next to the souvenir market and bling bling stores). With a little trial and error, we found one that fit my large head for a good price. My hat collection is continuing to improve. Some people collect spoons or stamps or thimbles of a country. I collect hats that symbolize the culture of the places I visit, and I have them hanging up in my den at home.

Borneo batik

Sasirangan hanging up in a store in Martapura’s open air bazaar.

My hat collection started when I was 13 and bought a large black ten-gallon hat at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. I have hats from around the world including some my sister has bought for me on her own travels. They include a Tyrolean cap from Bavaria, a Palestinian kafia that I bought in Nazareth, a fez from Jerusalem, banana hats from Taiwan, a cowboy hat from Phoenix, a sombrero from Chichen Itza, a huaso hat from Chile, an embroidered hat from Istanbul, a tri-corn hat from Colonial Williamsburg, a wizard’s hat from the Shakespeare festival in Cedar City, a Greek fisherman’s cap from San Francisco, a goat skin cap from Ghana, and various hats from JPL and other NASA facilities. One of my favorite hats is a dark blue leather cap I bought in a gift shop near Disneyland on a band trip when I was a senior in high school. I wore this frequently as a freshman in college, along with a brown leather jacket, tan pants, and a black turtle neck shirt. Yep, I was stylin’.

Stone beads

More stones and beads for jewelry making.

On our way out of town, we stopped at a roadside stall to get a snack that is famous here, consisting of small lumps of fried dough with a coconut and sugar coating. They were a bit sweet for my taste and the texture was interesting, but I enjoyed the flavor. It had been a long day and I dozed off as we drove back to Banjarmasin. Nazar dropped us off at the Swiss Belhotel and I took a shower and a nap in my room.

David by Martapura mosque

David Black by the main mosque in Martapura, called the Masjid Agung Al Karomah.

I was running short of clothes and attempted to launder some underwear, shirts, and pants in my room’s sink using some Tide liquid detergent I had brought, but despite lots of scrubbing I couldn’t entirely get the smell of sweat out of my clothes. I hung them up to dry around the bathroom. I will have to bite the bullet and send out my clothes to be laundered by the hotel, despite the high cost.

Martapura mosque

The Masjid Agung Al Karomah in Martapura, South Kalimantan.

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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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