So, as it turns out, my arrival in Jogja seems to have been extremely well-timed. [Side note: I'm experimenting with the spelling of Yogya/Jogja -- although the two spellings are both correct and interchangeable, I'm starting to feel like going with the phonetic version might be easier ... we'll see.] My classes start in five days, which means that until then I'm just taking my time getting adjusted and playing tourist -- generally this is an awesome way to spend one's time, except "tourist" is a game that is really no fun to play by yourself. Luckily, I haven't had to play it by myself. There were two other Shansi fellows visiting Emma/Jogja this week -- Michelle, who is about to start her second year in Banda Aceh (on the northernmost tip of Sumatra, which is the big island west of Java) and Anne, who is about to start her second year in China -- and although they left this morning for Aceh, sadly, I still got the chance this week to figure out that, as luck will have it, they are both pretty rockstar adventuring partners.
This blog post's featured installment of said adventure began at 8AM on this past Tuesday morning, and took the form of a four hour bike tour through a cluster of small farming villages on the outskirts of Jogja. Annie and I met up with Michelle and Sarah (who's going to be the first-year Shansi fellow in Michelle's post, but is in Jogja for two months doing language study) at this café downtown called ViaVia, where they run these tours out of. The café is pretty touristy, with a Western menu and English-speaking staff, but has a really nice atmosphere and organizes all these awesome cultural activities to help foreigners get a deeper taste of Java, including batik workshops, cooking courses, city walks, temple trips, and, of course, bike tours. (It's actually part of a larger network of ViaVia cafés all over the world -- there are a couple in Africa and South America, and even one in Spain! Too bad I didn't know that while I was there.) Our guide was Dita, a round-faced, smiley young Indonesian woman (although generally Indonesians are always smiling all the time -- too bad Thailand got to the nickname first). After introductions, we headed to the "garage" to pick out our bikes, which turned out to be an open courtyard across the street with a bunch of old-school bicycles with the curvy handlebars and scooping "women's bike" frames. There weren't a whole bunch that were small enough for me, but I picked out a sweet peach-colored bike which was adorable, although the brakes were a little sketchy. I figured if I really had to make an emergency stop, I could always swing my legs through the scooped out frame and do it foot-to-ground style. That's what those frames are built for, right?
We had to bike for about 15 minutes on a larger road heading out of Jogja, but then we turned off the main road onto this little dirt lane and it was like someone had flipped the metropolis switch. Within about thirty seconds we had totally left the traffic and bustle of the city behind, and were weaving our way through a little village of tile-roofed houses and dodging chickens as they crossed the road. It really gave a whole new meaning to the old joke, and the answer went something like "Because something yummy to scrounge around in the dust for was on the other side, and wouldn't it be thrilling to almost get hit by an old Dutch bicycle while trying to get to it." Part of the tour was a chance to check out some of the "house industries" in these villages, and our first stop was a krupuk factory. "Krupuk" are these Indonesian rice cake chip things that are made from tapioca flour (I think?) and various seafood flavorings, such as fish and shrimp, and by "factory" I mean a family's garage where they manufacture these things by the thousands and sell them to markets in Jogja. The basic process involves first making the dough, which they then stuff into this cylinder with a wheel on top, and when you spin the wheel it compresses the dough and squirts it out the bottom of the cylinder in a long dough noodle. There was one dude sitting on top of the machine spinning the wheel with his foot and fanning himself while jamming to Indonesian pop music (basically the hooked up job) and three guys squatting under the cylinder catching the dough noodle on the tops of little circular cans to make the krupuk pieces as it squirted out (basically the shaft job). After they formed the krupuk, each of which look like an oval of intricately folded noodle yet take approximately 1.5 seconds each to catch from the noodle squirter machine, they steam them and then lay them out on these huge crates in the yard to sun-dry for two days. Here's a picture of the krupuk lying out to dry: