Sierra Phillips on Learning to Dance in Java and More [Video]

Senior Sierra Phillips sends this update on her summer activities:

One of the community leaders in the village taught our group how to do a local dance that mocked Dutch colonialism. Needless to say, we left the professional dancing to him. Check out a video of it below!

Hello CSOC fanatics! This summer I travelled to Indonesia with professors Gareth Barkin and Ben Lewin, along with eight other students. As professor Barkin’s previous post highlighted, we spent last spring semester in a course, CSOC312 (Indonesia and Southeast Asia in Cultural Context), where we researched individual projects to continue while in Indonesia. Once the end of the semester came along, all of us were bitting at the bit to get on that plane to Indonesia! Forgetting, of course, that before we arrived at our destination we had a very long day of travel ahead of us.

One excursion we took was to the Buddhist temple of Borobudur. This picture was taken at one of the smaller temples that surround it, looking out towards the mountain ranges, and depicts one of the many “headless Buddhas” in the area.

As many researchers say, travel is all about anticipation and reflection. I can barely remember how exhausted we all were on our flights, but I can recall the first moment I saw a glimpse of Java from the plane. From that point on I absolutely loved my time in Indonesia! Our stay in Yogyakarta, central Java, was nothing I would have expected, but I came away with the experience of a lifetime. We made long-lasting connections with the students at the Universitas Sanata Dharma, spent our mornings learning Bahasa Indonesia, and our afternoons soaking up the smell of Durian (a very peculiar fruit), and experiencing a culture completely different from our own. I will spare you the details of the entire trip, but I would like to highlight one weekend.

After teaching them how to play the game, our classmate Ned decided to give the community kids his frisbee.

We spent a weekend on the slopes of Mt. Merapi, the site of the devastating volcano eruptions last October. The weekend here is among my collection of favorite parts about this trip. We stayed with local families in the community of Ngargomulyo, ate large amounts of food and snacks, and communicated as best we could in a mix of English, Bahasa Indonesia, and the local dialect. What stood out to me the most was the sense of family and community that was present in the village, which ultimately inspired a piece of my senior thesis that I am conducting this year.

As a senior, I am conducting a year long research study exploring the destruction and creation of community in Tacoma. While I was in Indonesia we came in as complete strangers, and left with love in our hearts for all those we met. I was inspired me to write my senior thesis on the disappearance and re-creation of community in the United States, and in Tacoma specifically. I am thrilled about the opportunities that I have in front of me to see how our communities attempt and succeed at building communities across ethnic, religious, and socio-economic divides.

Classmates Katie and Annie trying a durian dessert from a street vendor.

I guess I should end this with my sincerest thanks to everyone who put together and attended this trip. The class was phenomenal and I had one of the most meaningful trips of my life. I am now certain that I want to research, study, and travel abroad as an anthropologist after graduating from UPS, I encourage anyone who is interested in having the experience of their lifetime to talk to Professor Barkin about applying.

Selamat Jalan! (“Good-bye and safe travels” in Bahasa Indonesia!)

– Sierra Phillips, CSOC/IPE ’12

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