15 May 2010

A Week in the Life of a Grammar Monkey: Saturday (Part 6 of 7)

Solo was sweet.  It's actually a lot like Yogya from what I could tell, but having my own personalized tour guide in the form of my awesome friend N just put the icing on the cake.  Sweet, like I said.

Trains run between Yogya and Solo all day, so I just took myself to the train station at 8:30 this morning and was in Solo by 10, where N met me at the station.  Our first stop was the Puri Mangkunegaran, one of Solo's two palaces, where, touring the compound and the incorporated museum exhibits, I got to see all manner of ancient Javanese artifacts, including sword-cum-headdresses, miniature currency, and gold-plated genital covers that the king and queen supposedly wore when they were separated, just to be sure there'd be no monkey business on the side.  People must have been a lot smaller back then -- and that's all I'm going to say about that.

Next stop, the Kraton Kasunanan (the main palace) where we got to wander through a lovely grove of huge leafy trees in an open courtyard and see more old Javanese artifacts, like the royal carriages from the 1800s with wheels whose diameter was taller than me.  (Can you imagine if I got wheels like that on Maurice?)  The palaces were nice, but I think the fun part really started after the kraton, when we went to N's aunt and uncle's restaurant for lunch.  I got to try the traditional Solonese salad, which consisted of a mix of vegetables, egg and beef floating in a dark broth, and chat with N's aunt and uncle, who seemed just tickled pink that an American who didn't look like an American but nevertheless was a real American was sitting in their restaurant.  (For the record, this has been a theme throughout my travels in Indonesia -- the most common sentence people to say to me, after "Where are you from," would have to be a tie between "But you don't look American!" and "But you look Indonesian!".  Occasionally it can be annoying to be told I don't "look" like my nationality, but mostly it's fun to bust up people's preconceptions about the face of America.  And if they're serving me delicious food, then hey -- I'm not complaining.)

After lunch N and I headed to a well-known batik museum and workshop, which was absolutely amazing -- I had never seen so much beautiful batik in one place before, and getting to tour the workshop in the back (and pose with the artisans for the requisite photos) was a huge treat.  Apparently all the fine linework is done by the women, and the men handle all the stamping -- when I asked our museum guide why, he said because the stamps are too heavy for the women, so the men have to do that part.  The feminist in me growled reflexively at learning this, but then I thought about whether I'd really want to be yielding ten-pound iron stamps dipped in boiling wax -- and then I decided it was probably fine to leave that task to whoever wanted it. Also it was pretty amusing to look out across a big warehouse room and see forty shirtless men stamping intricate patterns in wax onto large pieces of cloth.  I'll get some pictures up soon, so be sure to check back.

Last on the list was picking up some srabi, a traditional Solonese snack that's like a thin crepe with a mound of sticky rice in the middle topped with chocolate and bananas (GAH so delicious) and then N put me on the train back to Yogya with a promise to come again soon.  The verdict: Operation Field Trip a resounding success!  I made it back home in time to go out to dinner with Luna (because how could my day be complete without a meal with my partner in too-much-free-time-crime?), and I didn't even pop my slug.  Score.

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