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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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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 2: Thursday, August 3, 2017

Borobudur panorama-s

A panoramic image of Borobudur, a 9th Century Buddhist temple near Yogyakarta, Indonesia.

 

Borobudur model

A model of Borobudur, a 9th Century Buddhist temple north of Yogyakarta, from which I experienced sunrise on Aug. 3, 2017.

My second day in Yogyakarta began very early with a 3:00 wake-up call. I had signed up for an all-day tour to sites around the area of Jogja, as it is called, starting with a sunrise tour of Borobudur, an 9th Century Buddhist temple at the base of the central Java mountains.

Borobudur through trees

A view of Borobudur temple through the trees.

I quickly showered and got ready. Down in the lobby, I got some cash out of the ATM machine to cover my expenses for the day. My tour included only the car and driver; I would have to pay admission to each stop. It had seemed the best way to get the combination of places I wanted to visit. As it turned out, I should have gotten some extra for tips and a lunch that was more than expected.

Buddha-mountains-blue sky

One of many Buddha statues carved from volcanic ash at Borobudur Temple near Yogyakarta. The hills to the east are the rim of an ancient caldera, and rise up beyond to Gunung Sumbing, the peak just to the left of the Buddha’s head.

My driver arrived at 3:30 and I loaded into his car. It was pitch dark still, and the streets were deserted. This was the least traffic I saw all the time I was here. We drove north out of Jogja, passing along a road similar to the one I’d traveled on to get to the Meratus Mountains in Borneo. We passed through several smaller towns, and I dozed off, but the jostling of the road kept waking me up. We turned toward the northwest and after about 40 minutes on the road, arrived at the parking lot.

Yogya area google earth

We traveled northwest of Yogyakarta on Highway 14 to Magelung, where Borobudur is located, about a 40 minute trip. To the east of the gray-green dot of Borobudur lie the foothills leading to Gunung Sumbing. Mendot Temple (next blog post) lies on a direct line between Borobudur and Mt. Merapi.

My driver (I have forgotten his name) took my money and paid for the entrance fee, which included a small cloth printed with a batik pattern of the temple stupas. I picked up a flashlight, and he told me he would meet me back at the bottom when I was done. I followed the pathway and the people ahead of me.

Borobudur predawn

Stupas at Borobudur in the pre-dawn light, looking east-southeast.

It was too dark still to see anything, and the weather was a bit drizzly and foggy. We came to a gate and some stairs that led upwards, and I could see some flashlight beams climbing the temple above me. I began to climb too, afraid that there might be too many stairs for my legs to handle. Although they were uneven, with some stairs taller than others, it wasn’t too bad and the cool pre-dawn temperatures made things better. I took my time, because dawn was still a long time away. There were several levels with pathways leading off in both directions but I stayed on the main staircase, figuring that I could explore better when it was light.

Stupas at Borobudur in early light

Dawn approaches at Borobudur.

I reached the top sooner than I thought I would and circled around the large central stupa to find a spot away from everyone else and their lights. It was still drizzling lightly, but as the first light of dawn began to creep around the eastern mountains, I found a quiet place to sit down. I tried to lie down to rest a bit, but someone came around and told us not to sit or lie on the central stupa (I hadn’t seen the signs). I moved to the overhang at the edge of the top ring of smaller stupas and found a nice spot away from others’ lights where I could watch the dawn come on.

Borobudur cross section

A cross section diagram of Borobudur. Built on a natural hill or volcano, the temple is divided into three main sections representing the foot (Kamadhatu), the body (Rupadhatu), and the head (Arupadhatu). Pilgrims begin at the bottom and circumambulate around the levels, working their way up as they view carvings depicting the life of the Buddha, until they reach the central stupa at the top. This journey represents the journey to enlightenment.

Stupas in the mist

The stupas hold statues of the Buddha. Here, a light drizzly mist set in just before sunrise, hiding the hills to the east.

The drizzling intensified, then tapered off and quit. The clouds began to dissipate, and the sky continued to lighten. It is said that Borobudur is spectacular, and I’ve seen photos, but the reality is always so much better. I tried taking some photos and videos but it was still too dark.

Borobudur stupas 2

The stupas are located in a triple ring around the large, central stupa at the top of the complex. A believer will start at the bottom and walk around each ring, seeing carved reliefs depicting the Buddha’s life, and reaching the top level which represents enlightenment or nirvana.

I walked around the central stupa to make sure I wasn’t missing anything. To the direct south the most people were clumped up, but they were beginning to break apart and start exploring as the light grew. I returned to my spot and continued to wait. It was peaceful, and I could almost imagine I was the only person there, enjoying the solitude of this temple. Then someone would walk by with their flashlight on and shine it in my face. But overall it was a tranquil, meditative experience.

Buddha and toes

The tops of some of the bell-shaped stupas have been removed, revealing the Buddha statues within.

Dawn came on and I began to take more photos. The sun was still hidden behind clouds that came and went, but as the morning progressed the clouds burned off to a brilliant blue sky with a few puffy clouds. I took many photos and video clips of me walking along the pathways. I tried to avoid getting people in my shots, but it was difficult. As I descended to lower levels, there were fewer people and I could take photos easier. Some of the stupas, which look like bells with diamond or square holes in them, have been removed. Inside there are statues of the Buddha sitting in lotus position. Most of the stupas are still intact, and there are 72 of them as you can see.

David with central stupe

David Black at Borobudur, with the large central stupa in the background. The smaller stupas, or bell-shaped structures with the lattice designs, each contain a seated Buddha statue and form three rings around the central stupa.

There are nine levels to the temple, including two circular levels at the top. The lower pathways are enclosed in balustrades. They are laid out in a complex pattern that forms a mandala from above. In addition to the Buddhas in the stupas (72 of these), there are other Buddhas sitting in niches (504 Buddhas in all), with 2672 bas relief wall panels depicted events from the Buddha’s life. There are rain spouts shaped like mythical monsters (very similar to the gargoyles of medieval cathedrals in Europe). There are stone lions guarding the stairwells and pathways. And everywhere there are Buddhas and more Buddhas.

David at Borobudur with mountains

David Black at Borobudur in Indonesia. Notice that the stupa next to me has square holes whereas the stupas on the next two levels down have diamond shaped holes. The hills behind me lead up to the crest of Mt. Sumbing.

Borobudur was built around 800 CE by the Sailendra Kingdom of southern Java. It was designed by the poet-architect Gunadharma and took thousands of workers to carve the blocks of andesitic volcanic ash into these shapes. The entire temple is built over a mound of earth, perhaps a natural hill. It has four main stairways to the main compass points and is the largest single Buddhist temple in the world. Used for about 100 years, the temple was abandoned when the seat of government moved elsewhere.

1-Crowds at Borobudur

The area around the central stupa was very crowded with tourists, especially on the southern and eastern sides. We had a light drizzle of rain just at sunrise, which was unfortunate, but then the skies cleared and it was a beautiful, sunny day.

The temple was reclaimed by the jungle and partially buried by volcanic ash flows, until being rediscovered by the British under Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles in 1814. It has been rebuilt and repaired to its former glory, with several major renovations. The largest problem now is the wear of so many tourist feet on the stairs, so they have been partially covered with wood to protect them. I am one of those tourists, and I tried to show this monument all of the respect it deserves.

BUddha and water spout

In addition to the stupa Buddhas, there are many others inside niches and elsewhere around the walls of the lower levels, for 504 Buddhas in all. The grotesque face in bottom right is a gargoyle rain spout. This candi, or temple, is carefully planned so that rainwater will drain through the various levels.

As part of the religious observances here, devotees start at the bottom of the pyramid and walk the pathways in a clockwise fashion, circling around the temple (candi in Indonesian) completely before ascending to the next level. Tales of Siddhartha’s life, his past lives, and his teachings (Dharma) are part of the relief panels seen on the walls. The pilgrim’s journey through Buddha’s life and teachings represents the journey to Enlightenment as the pilgrim ascends through the nine levels and three main sections representing the Feet (Kamadhatu – the bottom casement and hidden foot reliefs – this represents worldly desires), the Body (Rupadhatu – the square section of seven levels with Buddhas sitting in niches representing the World of Forms), and the Head (Arupadhatu – the upper open round platforms with 72 stupas representing the World of Formlessness, where earthly desires and suffering are stripped away). The large central stupa at the top represents enlightenment, and is dedicated to Vairocana, the Great Sun Buddha. It was built with two inner chambers (now empty – the contents have probably been plundered) and had a golden Chattra on top that has been removed.

Buddha mural

Around the walls of the lower levels are carved reliefs depicting scenes from the Buddha’s life. Born Siddharta Gautama, the Buddha lived a life of luxury free from pain or disease until he left his walled palace. He then met a sick man, and old man, and a grieving widow and realized that life if suffering, that suffering comes from desire, and that desire can be eliminated through following the Eight Fold Path to enlightenment. Buddhists visiting this temple start at the lower levels and walk up in a spiral pattern, reviewing the Buddha’s life as they reach the highest level of the temple, representing the head or nirvana (enlightenment).

As the clouds cleared the nearby mountains glowed green and provided a perfect backdrop to the meditating Buddha statues. I took photos of the entire temple – it is truly huge – as I climbed down from the circular platforms to the lower levels. I took photos of the sun’s interplay with stone, air, and clouds. I descended to the lower levels and finally to the casement, taking photos of the whole structure that I can assemble into a panorama.

Ranks of Buddhas

Ranks of Buddhas in the lower levels of Borobudur. The day started cloudy and drizzly, but the clouds cleared out and the sky turned bright blue with brilliant green vegetation around the temple.

I walked back to the ticket area along a pathway lined with red andong flowers and met my driver. This has already been a day worth remembering. The sunrise wasn’t as colorful as some might be, but the blue sky and green mountains, the tranquil temple and the peaceful ambience made this an experience that I will often return to in my memory. Whenever I get stressed out or busy, I can come back here in my mind and meditate as the sun rises over Borobudur.

4-Guardian lion

The stairwells are guarded by stone lions such as this one.

8-Temple and mountains

The south face of Borobudur and mountains to the west. The entire temple sits on a stone casement or bottom level, but inside the core is a natural hill.

Walls of Borobudur in sunlight

The lower levels of Borobudur, bathed in early morning sunlight. Pilgrims start at the bottom and work their way up, but I climbed to the top before dawn with a flashlight, then walked down through the levels. The top area was very crowded (it took some doing to take photos without people in them), but the lower levels were much less crowded and more serene.

Stairway

View through a stairway leading down from the top of Borobudur. This temple was abandoned about 100 years after completion and was largely reclaimed by the jungle, until it was rediscovered by a team under Sir Thomas Raffles in 1814. It was cleared and repaired several times since. Recently, the steps have been covered and reinforced because of cumulative wear from tourists like me.

Hills in the mist

View south from Borobudur in the pre-dawn mist.

Buddha hair detail

Buddha details with the mountains behind. The long ear lobes represent long life and wisdom in Buddhist iconography. This is one of 504 Buddha statues at Borobudur.

Chariot carving

A scene from the life of the Buddha, one of 2672 carved relief panels at Borobudur.

Borobudur corner

A corner of Borobudur as seen from below, standing on the lower casement level. The walls form pathways and rings, laid out in a complex mandala structure.

Red plants

Red andong plants lining the pathway back from Borobudur. These are commonly seen throughout Indonesia. The gardens surrounding Borobudur were beautiful.

 

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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 9: Tuesday, August 1, 2017

 

Presentation to Novianti and Dewi

Sarah presents Novianti and Dewi with awards for their service as our in-country consultants for the Teachers for Global Classrooms program. This was our final day together, and we concluded by reflecting on our experiences.

Continuing our final reflections and to debrief our field experiences, we were tasked today to ask ourselves some questions:

1 – During our exchange __________ , so I now want to __________ .

2 – Experiencing ____________ inspired a new perspective because ____________ .

3 – Before my time in Indonesia, I thought ____________ but now ___________ .

Here are some of the answers I came up with:

Water taxi

Another water taxi as we neared the dock in Banjarmasin. This was Sunday, which to people here is like Saturday for us – a day to enjoy the river and the morning.

1 – During my exchange, I saw Banjarmasin, which is a city barely above sea level. Now I want to do more to mitigate climate change.

David by Martapura mosque

David Black by the main mosque in Martapura

2 – Experiencing Muslim culture inspired a new perspective because I saw how many things we had in common and how our faiths are similar.

3 – Before my time in Indonesia, I thought that I wouldn’t be able to feel at home here with different foods, climate, and daily practices. Now I realize that I can feel at home and even thrive here. It makes me want to explore other places in the world and learn of more cultures.

Bakso soup

The best bakso in Banjarmasin.

We talked of our roles as education ambassadors and trying to understand the cultural iceberg – that the practices and behaviors we see are on the surface, but what drives them – the beliefs and values and attitudes – are the rest of the iceberg, hidden underneath. We have to infer these values from the practices we observe. Various institutions of influence are the currents that move the iceberg of culture. Do we try to impose our own values on Indonesians, or do we merely observe while keeping an open mind? To what extent has western culture imposed itself upon them? What parts of their culture come from core values that may be different than our own?

We did an exercise to try to grapple with any lingering emotions we may have. We created a T-chart of the emotion we were feeling and the memories they were associated with. My emotions include awe at the beauty I had seen rafting down the Amandit River on Friday, a feeling of connection and oneness at seeing the Southern Cross for the first time, a feeling of trepidation at eating Soto Bang Amat and other dishes where I didn’t know exactly what was in them, a feeling of disappointment at seeing trash around the waterfall above the Dayak Village, and appreciation for the generosity and kindness of Nazar’s family. There are many more, but these were the ones I decided to reflect upon. How are these emotions influencing (for good or bad) the stories I am telling through these blog posts?

We talked about the danger of the single story – telling our experience from only one viewpoint. I decided at the very beginning, during our symposium in February, to tell generative rather than contaminating stories. This is not because everything has been universally rosy and positive here. I’ve certainly had challenges. But I’ve deliberately tried to tell what I’ve experienced from a positive perspective and to build bridges in a world that seems bent on “othering” and polarization. I want to strengthen civility instead of discord and contention, and to promote peace through international understanding. The more we learn of another culture, such as that of Indonesia, the less we will be likely to see them as others. My whole goal has been to further this outcome – that as you read what I’ve posted, you’ll come to appreciate the people and culture of Indonesia.

Education values poster

Part of our analysis and reflection today was to divide up into groups to summarize what we had learned about different aspects of the Indonesian education system. This is a poster my group put together, in my handwriting.

We practiced the types of stories we will tell when people ask us how it was in Indonesia – the two-minute elevator spiel to the 30-minute coffee table conversation. We pretended to be different people such as an administrator or a barely interested colleague and then trade places. We talked about the final take-away: if we could encapsulate our experience in a single statement or paragraph, what would it be? My answers are in the previous post about my guiding questions, and I will come back to them at the end after I return home and write my final reflections.

We wrote a letter to ourselves to remind us of what we have learned and what we intend to do from here on. As of this writing, I still haven’t received it. I can’t remember exactly what I said. Something profound, I hope.

Craig with pole

Craig Hendrick posing on the raft. We asked Amli if we could take a turn at pushing the raft. He waited until a quiet spot and let us pose. It is trickier than it looks to keep your balance on the flexible raft. Notice how the water comes up through the bamboo poles.

We ended the day by doing a shout-out circle; we shared what impressed us about the other teachers. This has been a great group to work with, and Craig was very patient with me and my enthusiasms and constant photo taking through our experience in Banjarmasin. I expressed appreciation for him and for several others that I have learned from. I admitted to everyone that one thing I took away from the experience is that I needed to buy a smart phone.

Group explains poster

Kristy explains her group’s poster as Wendy, Matt, Kate, and Nikki look on.

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Jakarta Day 8: Monday, July 31, 2017

Mosque and tower

A modern styled mosque in front of a high rise office building as we walked to supper in Jakarta.

For supper, four of us walked from the hotel to a nearby shopping center building called Citywalk. There are no sidewalks on the sides of roads, but there are pathways if you know them. I didn’t, and followed Doug and the two Jennifers around corners, through alleys and small staircases, around parking lots, and finally to the Citywalk Center. We thought there might be some shopping we could do there, but it wound up being more of an office building with food courts on three floors, most of which were Japanese food. This whole building must be owned by Japanese interests. We looked around and found a place that served fried chicken. I got some Hawaiian and Louisiana Rub flavoring on my boneless ribs, French fries, and a refillable blueberry Fanta.

We talked of many things, and Doug asked us where we wanted to go to next in the world. I’ve thought about this, and talked to my wife about it, and we are saving up for a Mediterranean cruise, from Spain to Italy to Greece. It will take several years to save up enough for all four of us, but at least we’ve begun.

In the meantime, I plan to apply for the Einstein Fellowship program again; although my experience interviewing and not being selected wasn’t very positive last time, I am willing to give it one more shot. If that doesn’t pan out, then I will take the plunge to get my PhD, something I’ve always wanted to do, not because I think having a PhD is necessary per se, but because I now have the experience that will help me make sense of the theory I will learn and be able to apply. I want to contribute to fundamental research on project-based learning, global education, and STEAM education and test the theories I’ve developed over the years. I know I will never work long enough to pay off the investment, but I’m not going to do this for the money but for what I know I need to learn and the time it will force me to spend on a dissertation and research. I also want to contribute to teaching as a profession by training new teachers, something I’m already doing informally.

This coming year will therefore be my last one teaching at the middle and high school level. I plan to make it my best one ever, and to apply to several other opportunities to travel, such as the Transatlantic Outreach Program or Goethe Program for a 10-day trip to Germany next summer to study their STEM organizations, or the Grosvenor Fellowship with National Geographic to spend 10 days on a research vessel in Iceland or elsewhere, or to spend a week at Space Camp in Alabama, or to travel to Chile for the Astronomy Ambassadors program. There are still many other opportunities, grants, and awards I will apply for, one last time. We’ll see what happens.

When Jen spoke of her desire to go to Ireland, I told them stories about my ancestors and the coincidences in my heritage and life. I’m afraid I talked too much, but they seemed interested. After an hour of talking, we walked back to the hotel and I spent the rest of the evening writing up these blog posts.

Although the formal part of this experience is almost over, I don’t want it to end. I am still learning so much, but eventually I have to go beyond learning and start to share what I’ve learned. That’s why I’m spending so much effort to write these blog posts, so you can share my experiences and maybe learn from them. Eventually, what I’ve learned will be reflected in what and how I teach.

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