11 September 2009

Oh, Right -- I Live Here

With my fourth week of teaching winding down (one whole month now! I must be a pro ...) it seems apPROpriate (sorry, I just couldn't help myself) to weigh in on the difference between visiting a place, and actually living there -- particularly in the light of the fact that next Thursday I jet off with Brittany and her friend Alex for 10 days in Lombok, the small island just east of Bali.  We have a week off of work for Lebaran (also known as Idul Fitri), the celebration that concludes the month of Ramadan during which everyone and their dog goes home to be with their family.  Since our families live a little too far away for a week-long visit, Brittany, Alex, and I, along with our proverbial dog, are keeping our chins up and treating ourselves to a beach vacation to ease the pain.

So with my very first vacation coming up, complete with prospects of having a beer or two on the beach and maybe even donning a tank top that -- eek! -- leaves my shoulders bare, naturally I've been considering what exactly it is I'm doing in Yogya that makes me NOT just a tourist.  Besides the obvious fact that tourists don't get jobs in foreign countries and settle down there for twelve-month periods of time, what defines a dweller (as opposed to a visitor) comes down, in my view, to the little things.  For example, I never go out in public with my shoulders exposed (hence the thrilling prospect of my potential vacation wardrobe), I always greet the clerks whose stores I enter, and I try to remember whenever I can never to hand anyone anything with my left hand (since that one's for wiping, dontchaknow).  I'm working really hard on my dead fish handshake.  Oh yeah, and I study Indonesian for four hours a day, five days a week.  I don't think the tourists do that.

Being a dweller, however, doesn't mean that I don't do visitor-y things.  After all, don't New Yorkers check out the Met every once in a while?  I'd like to think so.  In that spirit, I've been trying to have one "tourist" adventure per weekend that gets me out to see a little more of Yogya, so that, at the end, I don't tragically find myself never having visited the city I've been living in for a year.  Admittedly, while I have been having said tourist adventures, I have been a lazy blogger.  I'm going to work harder to post more frequently, but in the meantime, I'll give you a little something I like to call the Drive-By-Blog-Post.  Buckle your seat belts!

Jamu is the term that refers to a special type of Indonesian herbal drink that has very specific medicinal healing properties.  For example, there is jamu for migraines, jamu for high cholesterol, jamu for getting pregnant, jamu for not getting pregnant, jamu for helping you find your one true love, etc.  A couple of weeks ago, I went to a jamu restaurant with Emma, Brittany and Patrick, which in itself was pretty spectacular -- besides the full-size models of horse-drawn carriages in the courtyard, string lights hanging from the terraces, and live horses in stalls in the back (WTF?) there were also skinny male waiters with hipster-boy haircuts in muscle shirts and tiny black vests.  Wow.  As for jamu, I decided to cover all my bases and ordered jamu for masuk angin, which literally means "the entering of the wind" and can refer to a whole host of ailments, including but not limited to coughing, sneezing, and other various and sundry bodily ejections of air.

My jamu, which mostly tasted very strongly of ginger, is in the tall glass to the right; the little glass to the left contained some kind of fruity syrup meant to be a chaser, but which was actually kind of gross.  The flower is just for cute points.  I'm not sure if my jamu kicked the wind out or not, but either way I'm not complaining.  I wonder if there's a jamu for breaking off abusive relationships, such as the one I'm currently carrying on with Cokelat Monggo.  (CM being the abuser and I the abused, in case that was not clear).  I'll investigate and get back to you.

Kota Gede is the silver district a little to the southeast of Yogya, where beautiful and renowned silverwork is produced and sold to dwellers and visitors alike.  Two Sundays ago Brittany and I decided to take an excursion down there, which for me was just about checking it out, as I left my gift fund at home.  In the end that was probably a good thing, since after only two workshops-worth of glass cases lined with thousands of intricately designed, ornately decorated rings, earrings, necklace charms, silverware, letter openers, and small figurines, I was pretty overwhelmed.  Maybe all that glitters really is ... erm, silver.

Above you can see the different stages in the process of a small piece of silver that will probably end up being part of a pin, as well as Brittany checking out some potential gifts.  And before you start getting jealous, know that yes, I promise I will go back with my wallet.  There were definitely a couple of things in Kota Gede that had the names of a few main squeezes of mine written alllllll over them.

Downtown at the Taman Budaya (Cultural Center) last month there was the second annual Jogja Art Festival, which showcased a whole slew of paintings, sculptures, and mixed-media artwork done by young contemporary Indonesian artists. Emma and I made it on the very last day of the exhibition, and thank goodness we did, because would we really have wanted to miss any of this?  No, no I don't think so.

Yes, this is a map of the world with bombs floating over the U.S., which gradually morph into hearts floating over Asia.  Also, there is no African continent.  Also, the sculpture in the middle has antlers.  Don't ask.  It's deep.

Yes, this is a sculpture of a big sow painted with the American flag, suckling nine small piglets painted with the flags of other nations and religions, among them Britain, Canada, China, Judaism, and Islam.  Hmm.

Yes, this is a series of phalluses arranged in order of increasing size, painted with the image of Michael Jackson to depict his transformation from black-skinned child superstar to white-skinned tragic king of pop.  If I may digress, in my General English class last week for our "Slang Word of the Day" warm-up, I taught my students the word "baller," as in "to be very cool."  Later in the class, during our discussion of heroes, one of my students brought up Michael Jackson and very aptly referred to him as a baller.  ("Michael Jackson is a baller.")  At the time, I applauded my student's spontaneous employment of a recently-learned vocabulary word.  Suddenly, said employment takes on a whole new meaning.

Anyway, there's JAF for you.  Who ever said art shouldn't be political?  Definitely no one in Indonesia.

So there you have it -- the Drive-By-Blog-Post.  As a visitor, needless to say, I've had the opportunity to experience some pretty astounding things, running the gamut from magic juice that will keep me healthy to MJ à la ... well, I'll keep this PG.  Jealous yet?  If so, you can keep being a little jealous, but don't be TOO jealous because tomorrow, as a dweller, I get to grade 35 General English papers on the topic of "My Personal Hero."  Based on the presentations that were given this week in class, I think it's safe to say that I will be reading mostly about my students' mothers and Jesus Christ.  So actually, maybe you should keep being jealous.  

Visitor or dweller, then?  I guess that's neither here nor there.  What is also neither here nor there is my impending vacation, since that does, in fact, have a precise location.  So it seems that as a dweller in Yogyakarta I get to read papers about how Jesus is a baller, and as a visitor to Lombok I get to sit on the beach (maybe even in a tank top?) soaking up the equatorial sun and lounging by the edge of the Indian Ocean. I think they call that win-win.  Happy Lebaran.


  1. I love the Michael Jackson phalli, they remind me of Russian stacking dolls. And the pig of America reminds me of the Iowa State Fair, which involves, among other wild fun, a lot of walking around and looking at pigs and their piglets. The proverbial dog is not a bad idea, much cleaner (Islamically and practically speaking) than actual dogs.

  2. Hey shputzdarling - I've been reading. Also, I would totally read your 35 essays on Jesus Christ And My Mother As Personal Heroes. :-p Post excerpts?


  3. Haha, my favorite Drive-By-Tourist. actually, my favorite blogger <3.

    Umm, that contemporary art looks incredibly cool. Considering I was just in the Met about the week ago, I think they clearly need to take a hint from Indonesia (not that there weren't some fab pieces there as well).

    I hope you have a great time at the beach-sounds like a nice get away. Please tell us, if you can, the highlights of your paper grading : )

    Love you oodles!!!