Erika sent us these thoughts on her recent visit to Jogjakarta. Coming soon, her photo essay!
As part of the class “Southeast Asia in Cultural, Economic and Political Context” I got to spend the last week in May in Jogjakarta, Indonesia. There were some things about Jogja that seemed exactly as I expected them to be, like the traffic, how nightmarish crossing the road was, and how crowded the streets felt sometimes. But there were also so many things that were absolutely great that I hadn’t been expecting.
For one, it was a very interesting experience being in a country that’s primarily Muslim rather than primarily Christian. Being around so much outward expression of Muslim religiosity (tons of women wear headscarves there) really reinforced the idea for me that Islam and its worshippers are just as diverse as worshippers of any religion we’re familiar with in the States. Muslims are like anyone else, and the way they understand their religion likely varies from person to person. There are some extremists, but that’s true of Christianity and most other religions. Also, people kept saying to me that the call to prayer, which happens several times a day, might get on my nerves (especially if it woke me up at 4 AM), but I never found it annoying. Even though I couldn’t understand what the guy was singing, I was drawn in by his gorgeous, mournful-sounding voice. Every time I heard it, it felt as sudden and surprising as when I’m doing homework in the piano lounge in the SUB, and someone randomly comes over to the piano and starts playing it beautifully.
Something else that was great about my visit to Jogja was the group of Indonesian college students who came to most of our activities with us, acting as our guides during our time there. It seems kind of silly to me now, but I was initially quite surprised to find that we have a lot in common. I had conversations with two of the girls I spent the most time with in Jogjakarta about the character Sheldon from the sitcom The Big Bang Theory, and about how we liked the band Paramore in high school (and still kinda do…). Moreover, it turned out that we had a number of the same kinds of hopes for our futures. It was just really cool to be talking to these women from a country that’s thousands of miles away from my own about things I imagined were confined to my own cultural background. In general, the Indonesian students were super down-to-earth, intelligent, and funny, and I hope that I get to see them all again someday.
For now, I’m pretty excited about being Facebook friends with them and having statuses in Indonesian pop up on my newsfeed. My trip to Indonesia is going to be something I remember for the rest of my life. Being there and getting to know the Indonesian students has helped me to begin seeing places and people for what they really are rather than what I imagine them or want them to be. I’m very grateful to them and the trip for that, and I hope I can see more of Indonesia someday.